Ex Voto
by Samuel Butler
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"Michel Ang. RSTI" (Rossetti) "Scul: Da Claino MDXC Etate an. VIIL"

This exactly tallies with the dates given in the two editions of Caccia.

The date is thus satisfactorily established, but the authorship of the work is less easily settled. All the authorities without exception say that the sculptor was a certain Giacomo Bargnola of Valsolda, who was also called Bologna. Fassola describes him as a "statuario virtuosissimo e glorioso per tutta l' Europa," and Torrotti calls him "il famoso Giacomo Bargnola di Valsoldo [sic] sopranominato Bologna." All subsequent writers have repeated this.

At Varallo itself I found nothing known about either Bargnola or Valsolda, but turning to Zani find Bargnola under the name Paracca. Zani says, "Paracca, non Peracca, ne Perracca, ne Perrazza, Giannantonio, o Giacomo, detto il Valsoldo, Valsolino, e il Valsoldino, non Valfondino, ed anche il Bargnola, e malamente Antonio Valsado Parravalda." He says that he was a "plastico" and restorer of statues, came from the neighbourhood of Como, was "bravissimo," and lived about from 1557-1587. There was a Luigi Paracca from the same place who was also called "Il Valsoldino" and a Giacomo, and an Andrea, but of these last three he does not say that they were noteworthy.

Nagler mentions only a Giovanni Antonio Parracca, who he says was called Valsolda. He says that he was a sculptor of Milan, who made a reputation at Rome about 1580 as a restorer of antique statues; that he only worked in order to get money to spend on debauchery, and died, according to Baglione, young, and in a hospital. His words are -

"Paracca, Gio. Antonio gennant Valsoldo, Bildhauer von Mailand, machte sich um 1580 in Rom als Restaurator antiker Werke einen Namen, arbeitete aber nur, um Geld zur Schwelgerei zu bekommen. Starb jung im Hospital wie Baglione versichert."

I have had Baglione before me, but can find no life of Paracca either under that name or under that of Bargnola, and suppose the reference to him must be incidental in the life of some other artist. I will again gratefully accept a fuller reference. I do not believe a word about Paracca's alleged debauchery. Who ever yet worked as Nagler says?

We have, then, to face on the one hand the authority of all writers about the Sacro Monte, and on the other, the exceedingly explicit claim made by Rossetti himself in the inscription given above. Probably Bargnola began the work and Rossetti finished it. It is not likely that the extremely circumstantial statement of Fassola should be without any foundation, but again it is not likely that Rossetti would have claimed the work if he had not done at any rate the greater part of it. If Bargnola died about 1587, he could not have done much, for in the 1586-1587 edition of Caccia it is expressly stated that the chapel alone was done "Di questa e fatta solamente la chiesa." And if he had lived to finish the work, he, and not Rossetti, would have signed it. We may conclude, then, with some certainty, that he died before the chapel was finished, but may think it nevertheless probable that he was originally commissioned to do it.

The question resolves itself, therefore, into how much he did, and how soon Rossetti took the work over. It must be remembered that Michael Angelo Rossetti is a name absolutely unknown to us. Zani, Nagler, Cicognara, Lubke, Perkins, and all the authorities I have consulted omit to mention him. I find abundant reference to three, and indeed five, painters who were called Rossetti, two of whom— doubtless nephews of Michael Angelo Rossetti,—did the frescoes in this very chapel we are considering, but no one says one syllable about any Michael Angelo Rossetti, and it is a bold thing to suppose that an unknown man should have succeeded so admirably with such a very important work as the Massacre of the Innocents chapel, and have lived as the inscription shows to the age at least of fifty-seven without leaving a single trace in any other quarter whatever.

The work, at any rate in many parts, is that of one who has been working in clay all his life, and was a thorough master of his craft, and this makes it all the more difficult to suppose it to be a single tour de force. On the other hand, such tours de force were not uncommon among medieval Italian workmen. Gaudenzio Ferrari's work in sculpture is little else than a succession of tours de force, and in other parts of the work we are now considering, there is a certain archaism which suggests growing rather than matured power.

We should not forget, however, that an inscription in terra-cotta cannot be surreptitiously scrawled on like a false signature on a fresco or painting. Here the signature was made with pomp and circumstance while the clay was still wet, and was baked with the figure on which it appears. Too many people in this case would have to know about it for a false inscription to be probable. As for the evidence of Fassola, we must bear in mind that he is a notoriously inaccurate writer; that he did not write till nearly a hundred years after the work was completed; that Torrotti is only an echo of Fassola, and all subsequent writers little more than echoes of Fassola and Torrotti. On the whole, therefore, the more I have considered the matter the more I incline towards accepting the signature, and giving the greater part of the terra-cotta work to the man who claims it—that is to say, to Michael Angelo Rossetti, sculptor, of Claino. Signor Arienta tells me he has found a Castel Claino mentioned in an old document, as formerly existing near Milan. He is himself inclined (though knowing nothing of Paracca when I last saw him), to see two hands in the work—and here he is probably right, but I hardly think Rossetti would have signed as he did if Bargnola or Paracca had done the greater part or even half of it.

Proceeding to a consideration of the frescoes, we find that two of Herod's body-guard, standing on his left hand, and corresponding to the one on his right, on whose collar the sculptor signed his name, have also signatures on their collars, obviously done in concert with the sculptor. The signatures are as follows:-

"Battista Roveri Pictor Milane AEta XXXV" and "Io Mauro Rover Pictor."

Fassola says that the painter of the chapel was "il Fiamenghino." If he had said the painters were "i Fiamenghini" he would have been right, for Signor Arienta called my attention to a passage in Lanzi, in which he has dealt with three painters bearing the name of Rovere, two of whom, if not all three, were called "i Fiamenghini." The three were Giovanni Mauro, Giambattista, and Marco, which last painter does not seem to have had anything to do with the Massacre of the Innocents. Lanzi calls Gio. Mauro a follower, first of Camillo, and then of Giulio Cesare Procaccini. He describes them as painters of great facility and invention, but as seldom taking pains to do what they very well might have done, if they had chosen, and his verdict is, I should say, about right. He adds:-

"I find them also called Rossetti, and they are still more often described as 'i Fiamenghini,' their father, Richard, having come from Flanders, and settled in Milan."

Signor Arienta explained to me that it was through this surname of Fiamenghini, by which the brothers Rovere were known, that Giovanni Miel D'Anvers was supposed to have had any hand in the frescoes on the Sacro Monte. This last-named painter was court painter to Carlo Emanuelle I. Bordiga knew this, and seeing he came from Antwerp, concluded that he must be "il Fiamenghino" mentioned, and all subsequent writers have followed him.

Signor Arienta also tells me that some twenty years or so later these same two painters signed some frescoes at Orta as follows:-

"Io Battista, et Io Maurus Aruberius, dicti Fiamenghini, pinxerunt anno 1608 die 9 Octobris."

Doubtless their mother's name was Rossetti, and the Michael Angelo RSTI who claims the sculptured work, and was some twenty years their senior, was their uncle.

He also told me that one of the figures in the frescoes of the Massacre of the Innocents chapel is wearing a collar with a clasp on which there is an oak-tree, for which "Rovere" is the Italian, and that he holds this to have been a portrait of the painter.

Fassola says that under the glazed aperture which is in front of the piece there is placed a small terra-cotta car drawn by a child and loaded with a head, or ear, of maize, a goose, and a clown; he explains that the maize means 1000, the car 400, the clown 90, and the goose "per il suo verso"—whatever this may mean—4, which numbers taken together make the number of infants that were killed. He adds that there is another like hieroglyphic, which, as it is not very important, he will pass over. I find no mention of this in Torrotti, nor yet in Bordiga, but when people call attention to a thing and then say nothing about it, I generally find they have a reason. On a recent visit to Varallo I examined the two hieroglyphs; the second is also a small terra-cotta car or cart drawn by a child, and containing the bust of a monk, a die, and two or three other things that I could not make out. The treatment of these two hieroglyphics alone is enough to show that they were done by a thorough master of his craft. No doubt the import of the whole was known by Fassola to be sinister, but I must leave its interpretation to others. He adds that the graces vouchsafed at this chapel are chiefly on behalf of sick children.

I may conclude by saying that though nothing has been taken directly from Tabachetti's Journey to Calvary chapel, the sculptor, whoever he was, has nevertheless plainly felt the influence, and been animated by the spirit of that great work, then just completed.


We now begin the series of chapels that deal with Christ's Manhood, Ministry, and Passion. The first of these is


The statues are of no great interest, and of unknown authorship. The frescoes are by Orazio Gallinone di Treviglio, but they are not striking. The date of the chapel is about 1585. It is mentioned in the 1586 edition of Caccia, and it is added that the water of the fountain would be brought there shortly so as to imitate the Jordan. This was done, but the water made the chapel so damp that it was turned off again. The graces, according to Fassola, are chiefly for married ladies.


This chapel is given as completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia, and had probably been by this time reconstructed by Tabachetti, to whom the work is universally and no doubt justly ascribed.

That the figures of Christ and of the devil have both been cut about may be conjectured from their draperies being in part real linen or calico, and not terra-cotta; Christ's red shirt front is real, as also is a great part of the devil's dress. This last personage is a most respectable-looking patriarchal old Jewish Rabbi. I should say he was the leading solicitor in some such town as Samaria, and that he gave an annual tea to the choir. He is offering Christ some stones just as any other respectable person might do, and if it were not for his formidable two clawed feet there would be nothing to betray his real nature. The beasts with their young are excellent. The porcupine has real quills. The fresco background is by Melchior D'Enrico, and here the fall of the devil when the whole is over is treated with a realistic unreserve little likely to be repeated. He is dreadfully unwell. The graces in this chapel are more especially for those tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, for people who are bewitched, and for those who are in any wise troubled in mind, body, and estate, "as the varying views of the pilgrims themselves will best determine."

Bordiga says that the chapel was begun about 1580, and completed in 1594, but he refers probably to Tabachetti's reconstruction, for in the portico there is an inscription painted by order of the Bishop, and forbidding visitors to deface the walls, that is dated 1524, and the back of the chapel has many early 16th century scratches.


This chapel is given as completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia, so that Bordiga and Cusa are wrong in dating it 1598. In the poetical part of Caccia it is described as recently made and "ben ritratto." The woman of Samaria is a fine buxom figure, but the paint has peeled off so badly both from her and from the Christ that it is hardly fair to judge the work at all. I should think it was very possibly an early work by Tabachetti, but should be sorry to hazard a decided opinion. The frescoes are without interest. The graces at this chapel were chiefly for women who wanted to abandon some evil practice, and for rain when the country was suffering from long drought. This last is because Christ said to the woman of Samaria "Give me to drink."


The chapel alone was completed by 1586 and 1590, so that we may be certain Tabachetti had no hand in it. The statues are said to be by D'Enrico, whom we meet here for the first time. Bordiga praises them very highly, but neither Jones nor I liked the composition as much as we should have wished to have done. Some of the individual figures are good, especially a man with his arm in a sling, and two men conversing on the left of the composition, but there is too little concerted and united action, and too much attempt to show off every figure to the best advantage, to the sacrifice of more important considerations. They probably date from 1620-1624, in which last year Bordiga says that the frescoes were completed. These are chiefly, if not entirely, by Cristoforo Martinolo, a Valsesian artist and pupil of Morazzone, who, according to Bordiga, though little known, has here shown himself no common artist. Again neither Jones nor I admired them as much as we should have been glad to do. "All infirmities of fever, and paralysis," says Fassola, "if recommended to the Great Saviour at this place will be dissipated, as may be gathered from the many voti here exhibited."


Of this chapel the walls are alone mentioned as completed in 1590. So that Bordiga and Cusa are again wrong in saying that the frescoes were painted about 1580. It is not good. The walls were probably raised soon after 1580. Donna Mathilde di Savoia, Marchesa di Pianezza, a natural daughter of Carlo Emmanuele I., was among the principal contributors. The graces were "for those who had had bad falls or any accidents whereby they had been rendered speechless, stupid, senseless, and apparently dead."

It will be observed on referring to the plan facing p. 68, that this chapel is given as on the ground now occupied by Christ taken before Annas, and faces the Herod chapel on the Piazza dei Tribunali. This may be a mere error in the plan, but the plan is generally accurate, and it is very likely that a change was made in the middle of the last century when the Annas chapel was built.


This is on the highest ground of the Sacro Monte, the Transfiguration being supposed to have happened on Mount Sinai. Inside the chapel they have made Mount Sinai, but Fassola says that it was originally quite too high, and the Fabbricieri had ordered it to be made lower, "so as to render it more enjoyable by the eye." It was begun at the end of the sixteenth century, but is mentioned as being only "founded" in the 1586 and 1590 editions of Caccia, and the work seems to have got little further than the foundations, until in 1660 it was resumed; Fassola, writing in 1671, says that the chapel was "levata in alto da terra l'anno del mille, sei cento e sessanta," or about ten years before his book appeared; it was still in great part unpainted, and he makes an appeal to his readers to contribute towards its completion. From both Fassola and Torrotti it would appear that only the group of figures on the mountain was in existence when they wrote. They both of them make the extraordinary statement that these figures are by Giovanni D'Enrico, whom they must have perfectly well known to have been dead more than a quarter of a century before Fassola wrote, and many years before the figures could possibly have been placed where they now are. It is much as though I, writing now, were to ascribe Boehm's statue of Mr. Darwin, in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, to Chantrey. The figures on the mountain are among the worst on the Sacro Monte. I see that Cusa ascribes the figures of Peter, James, and John only to D'Enrico, but the ascription is very difficult to understand.

Bordiga does not say who did the figures of Peter, James, and John, but he gives the Christ, Moses, and Elias to Pietro Francesco Petera of Varallo. The fourteen figures at the foot of the mountain he assigns to Gaudenzio Soldo of Camasco, a pupil of the sculptor Dionigi Bussola. In 1665 Giuseppe and Stefano Danedi, called Montalti, and pupils of Morazzone, "painted the cupola of the chapel with innumerable angels great and small exhibiting the most varied movements." Giuseppe had the greater share in this work, in which may be seen, according to Bordiga, signs of the influence of Guido, under whom Giuseppe had studied.

Among the figures below the mountain there is a blind man, and a boy with a bad foot leading him—both good—and a contemptuous father telling the Apostles that they cannot cure his son, and that he had told them so from the first, but the paint is peeling off the figures so much that the work can hardly be judged fairly. When photographed they look much better, and Signor Pizetta tells me he was last year commissioned to photograph the boy, who is in a fit of hystero- epilepsy, for a medical work that was being published in France, so it is probably very true to nature.


Fassola says that this chapel was erected at the expense of Pomponio Bosso, a noble Milanese, between the years 1560 and 1580. It is mentioned as finished in the 1586 edition of Caccia, and was probably completed before Tabachetti came. Bordiga only says that it was finished in 1582. The statues are of little or no merit, nor yet the frescoes. I observe that in Caccia the "tempio" is praised but not apparently the work that it contained. The terra-cotta figures are ascribed by Bordiga to Ravello, and the frescoes to Testa, whose brother, Lorenzo Testa, was Fabbriciere at the time the chapel was erected. There is one rather nice little man in the left-hand corner, but there is nothing else.


The figures in this chapel are ascribed to Giovanni D'Enrico by both Fassola and Torrotti, an ascription very properly set aside by Bordiga, without assigned reason, but probably because 1590 is considerably too early for Giovanni D'Enrico, and there is a document dated May 23, 1590, showing that the fresco background was then contracted for. The sculptured figures are mentioned as finished in the 1586 edition of Caccia, so that D'Enrico could not have done them. They are better than those in the preceding chapels, but they do not arouse enthusiasm, and have suffered so much from decay, and from repainting, that it is hardly fair to form any opinion about them. They probably looked much better when new. The landscape part of the background is by one of the brothers Rovere, named, as I have said, Fiamenghini, and he has introduced a house with a stepped gable like those at Antwerp. Some of the figures in the background appear to be by the painter Testa, who is named in the document above referred to.


This was one of the earliest chapels, and is mentioned as completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia. The figures are of wood, stiff, and lifeless, the supper is profuse and of much later date than the figures, but the whole scene is among the least successful on the Sacro Monte. Originally, but not till many years after the figures had been made and placed, Lanini painted a fresco background for this chapel. Perhaps Gaudenzio brought him from Vercelli on the occasion of the temporary return to Varallo supposed by Colombo to have taken place between 1536 and 1539. If we could know when Lanini was on the Sacro Monte doing this background, we might suspect that Gaudenzio was not far off. Lanini's work has unfortunately perished in a second reconstruction of the chapel. Torrotti in 1686 says that a reconstruction of the Cena chapel was then contemplated, but that Lanini's frescoes were not to be touched. The original Cena chapel may or may not have been on its present site, but the first restoration certainly was so, as appears from the plan dated 1671 already given. The apostles have real napkins round their shoulders. The graces are for people who feel themselves deficient in faith, and intercession may be made here for obstinate sinners.


This chapel, again, has been reconstructed, but the old figures have not been preserved as in the case of the Cena, nor yet has the original site. The original site, according to Bordiga, was apart from the other chapels at the foot of the neighbouring monticello, meaning, presumably, the height on which the Transfiguration chapel now stands. It was at this old chapel that S. Carlo used to spend hours in prayer. It was one of the earliest, and the figures were of wood. Fassola says that it was the angel who was offering the cup to Christ in the old chapel who announced his approaching end to S. Carlo, but the figures had been removed in his time as they were perishing, and the terra-cotta ones by Giovanni D'Enrico had been substituted, with a fresco background by his brother Melchiorre. These in their turn perished during a reconstruction some twenty years or so ago. The graces at this chapel are thus described by Fassola.

"Il moderno e Christo ed Angiolo nel medemo stato rinouati non sono meno miraculosi, perche tutti li concorrenti, bisognosi di pazienza di soffrire trauagli, malattie, ed ogni sorte d' infermita tanto dell' anima, quanto del corpo caldamente racomandandosi al piacere di questo sudante Christo riportano cio che meglio per lo stato di questo, ed altro Mondo fa di necessita alle loro persone."

I find no mention of any original fresco background, though I do of the one added afterwards by Melchiorre D'Enrico, now no longer in existence. As this was one of the earliest chapels, I incline to think that there was no fresco background in the first instance.


Fassola says that this chapel was decorated about fifty years (really fifty-nine) before the date at which he was writing, by Melchiorre D'Enrico. It was then on its present site, but the end of the Cena block was rebuilt some twenty years ago. The present Custode, Battista, tells me he worked at the rebuilding, and taking me upstairs showed me a trace or two of Melchiorre's background. The sleeping Apostles are said to be by Giovanni D'Enrico; they will not bear comparison with Tabachetti's St. Joseph. The benefactor was Count Pio Giacomo Fassola di Rassa, a collateral ancestor of the historian. People who have become lethargic in their self- indulgence, or who are blinded through some bad habit, will find relief at this chapel. I have met with nothing to show that there was any earlier chapel with the same subject, and in the 1586 edition of Caccia it is expressly mentioned as one of those that as yet were merely contemplated, though the Agony in the Garden itself is described as completed.


We now come to the block of several chapels comprised in a building originally designed by Pellegrini at the instance of S. Carlo Borromeo, but not carried out according to his design, and called "The Palace of Pilate." This work was begun about 1590, and according to Fassola was not completed till 1660. The figures, however, must have been most of them placed by 1644, for they are mainly by Giovanni D'Enrico, who is believed to have died in that year. The first of these chapels—the Capture of Christ—and probably several others, comprise some figures taken from earlier chapels. Fassola says that before this building was erected, the old portico built by Milano Scarrognini stood in the Piazza in front of the Holy Sepulchre, that "in its circuit of three hundred paces it comprised several mysteries of the passion." Among these were probably the present Flagellation, Crowning with Thorns, and final Taking of Christ before Pilate chapels. Each of these, however, has undergone some modification.


This chapel is in the Palazzo di Pilato block, though not strictly a suffering under Pontius Pilate. The greater number of the sixteen figures that it contains are old, and of wood, and among these are the figures of Christ, Judas, and Malchus, who is lying on the ground. To show how dust and dirt accumulate in the course of centuries, I may say that Cav. Prof. Antonini told me he had himself unburied the figure of Malchus, which he found more than half covered with earth. We have seen that there are also two figures introduced here which had no connection with the original chapel, I mean of course the old Adam and Eve, who are now doing duty as Roman soldiers. The few remaining figures that are not of wood are given to D'Enrico, and the frescoes are by his brother Melchiorre. Neither figures nor frescoes can be highly praised. The present chapel is not on the site of the old, which I have already explained was on the ground floor of the large house on the visitor's left as he enters the smaller entrance to the Sacro Monte.

The servants were put to lodge above this old and now derelict Capture chapel when the present one was made. The date of the removal is given by Cusa as 1570, who says that the Marchese del Guasto contributed largely to the expense. If the figures were then completed and arranged as we now see them, Giovanni D'Enrico can have had no hand in them, but it is quite possible that somewhere about 1615-1619, they were again rearranged and perhaps added to. Melchiorre D'Enrico has signed the frescoes in a quasi-cipher and dated them 1619. The old chapel, though, I think, originally larger than it now is, could not have contained all or nearly all the present figures. Any second rearrangement of the chapel may have been due to its incorporation in the Palazzo di Pilato block, which we know was not begun till after 1590. That the removal from the original chapel had been effected before 1586 is shown by the fact that the chapel is given in its present geographical sequence in the edition of Caccia published at the end of that year. The work contains no trace of Tabachetti's hand, and this should make us incline towards thinking that. Tabachetti had not yet come to Varallo by 1570.

Of the former chapel Fassola says:-

"On again descending where formerly was the Capture of Christ, and near the exit [from the Sacro Monte] we came to the porter's lodge. It should be noted that under the porter's room, in the place where the Capture used to be, there are most admirable frescoes by Gaudenzio" (p. 22).

With his accustomed reticence where he fears to give offence, he does not say that the frescoes are going to rack and ruin, but this is what he means; Torrotti expresses himself more freely, saying that a chapel, although derelict, containing paintings by Gaudenzio and his pupils, should not be left to the neglect of servants. These frescoes were removed a year or so ago to the Pinacoteca in the Museum. They are not by Gaudenzio, and are now rightly given to Lanini. They are mere fragments, and of no great importance.


This is the one chapel that belongs to the 18th century, having been finished about 1765 at the expense of certain Valsesians residing in Turin. It does not belong to the Palazzo di Pilato block, but I deal with it here to avoid departure from the prescribed order. The design of the chapel is by Morondi, and the figures by Carlantonio Tandarini, except that of Annas, which is by Giambattista Bernesi of Turin. The frescoes are of the usual drop scene, barocco, academic kind, but where the damp has spared them they form an effective background. The figures want concert, and are too much spotted about so as each one to be seen to the best advantage. This, as Tabachetti very well knew, is not in the manner of living action, and the attempt to render it on these principles is doomed to failure; nevertheless many of Tandarini's individual figures are very clever, and have a good deal of a certain somewhat exaggerated force and character. I have already said that from the plan of 1671 "The Widow's Son" would seem to have been formerly on the site of the present Annas chapel.


Cusa says that this chapel, which again is not in the Palazzo di Pilato block, adheres very closely to the design of Pellegrino Tibaldi. The figures, thirty-three in number, are by Giovanni D'Enrico and Giacomo Ferro, and the frescoes being dated 1642, we may think the terra-cotta work to be among the last done by D'Enrico on the Sacro Monte. The figure of Caiaphas must be given to him, and it is hard to see how it could have been more dramatically treated. Caiaphas has stepped down from his throne, which is left vacant behind him, and is adjuring Jesus to say whether he is the Christ the Son of God. If it were not for the cobweb between the arm and the body, the photograph which is here given might almost pass as having been taken from life, and the character is so priest-like that it is hard to understand how priests could have tolerated it as they did. Indeed, the figure is so far finer than the general run of Giovanni D'Enrico's work, and so infinitely superior to the four figures of Pilate in the four Pilate chapels, that we should be tempted to give it to some other sculptor if, happily, the Herod did not also show how great D'Enrico could be when he was doing his best, and if the evidence for its having been by him were not so strong.

To the left of Caiaphas's empty throne are two standing figures, which look as if they had been begun for figures of Christ, but were condemned as not good enough. They may perhaps be intended for Joseph and Nicodemus. Some few of the other figures, which in all number thirty-three, are also full of character, but the greater part of them do not rise above the level of Giacomo Ferro's supers, and suffer from having lost much paint; nevertheless the chapel is effective, chiefly, doubtless, through the excellence of the Caiaphas himself, and if we could see the work as it was when D'Enrico left it we should doubtless find it more effective still.

The frescoes are by Cristoforo Martinolo, also named Rocca. They are not of remarkable excellence, but form an efficient background, and are among the best preserved on the Sacro Monte. They have also the great merit of being legibly signed and dated.


Hard by under a portico there is a statue of St. Peter, repentant, and over him there is a cock still crowing. The figure of St. Peter, and presumably that of the cock also, are by D'Enrico. I can find nothing about the date in any author.

This cock is said to have been the chief instrument in a miracle not less noteworthy than any recorded in connection with the Sacro Monte. It seems that on the 3rd of July 1653 a certain Lorenzo Togni from Buccioleto, who had been a martyr to intemperance for many years, came to the Sacro Monte in that state in which martyrs to intemperance must be expected generally to be. It was very early in the morning, but nevertheless the man was drunk, though still just able to go the round of the chapels. Nothing noticeable occurred till he got to the Caiaphas chapel, but here all on a sudden, to the amazement of the man himself, and of others who were standing near, a noise was heard to come from up aloft in the St. Peter chapel, and it was seen that the cock had turned round and was flapping his wings with an expression of great severity. Before they had recovered from their surprise, the bird exclaimed in a loud voice, and with the utmost distinctness, "Ciocc' anch' anc'uei," running the first two words somewhat together, and dwelling long on the last syllable, which is sounded like a long French "eu" and a French "i." These words I am told mean, "Drunk again to-day also?" the "anc'uei" being a Piedmontese patois for "ancora oggi." The bird repeated these words three or four times over, and then turned round on its perch, to all appearance terra cotta again. The effect produced upon the drunkard was such that he could never again be prevailed upon to touch wine, and ever since this chapel has been the one most resorted to by people who wish to give up drinking to excess.

The foregoing story is not given either in Fassola or Torrotti, but my informant, a most intelligent person, assured me that to this day the cocks about Varallo do not unfrequently say "Ciocc' anch' anc'uei"—indeed, I have repeatedly heard them do so with the most admirable distinctness. I am told that cocks sometimes challenge, and wish to fight, well-done cocks on crucifixes, but it is some way from this to the cock on the crucifix beginning to crow too. One does not see where this sort of thing is to end, and once terra-cotta always terra-cotta, is a maxim that a respectable figure would on the whole do well to lay to heart and abide by.


The Pilate is not nearly so good as the Caiaphas in the preceding chapel, but though there is not one single figure of superlative excellence, this is still one of D'Enrico's best works, and the Pilate is the best of the four Pilates. The nineteen figures are generally ascribed to him; and, I should say there was less Giacomo Ferro in this chapel than in most of D'Enrico's. Possibly Giacomo Ferro was not yet D'Enrico's assistant. The frescoes are by Antonio, or Tanzio, D'Enrico, but I cannot see much in them to admire.

The date is given by Bordiga as about 1620, but no date is given either by Fassola or Torrotti. The nude figure to the left, seated and holding a spear near the spectator, is said to be a portrait of Tanzio, but Bordiga thinks that if we are to look for the portrait anywhere in this composition, we should do so in the open gallery above the gate of the Pretorium, where we shall find a figure that has nothing to do with the story, and represents a "jocund-looking" but venerable old man, wearing a hat with a white feather in it, and like the portrait of Melchiorre painted by himself in his Last Judgment—presumably the one outside the church at Riva Valdobbia. Bordiga adds that Melchiorre was still living in 1620, when Tanzio was at work on these frescoes.


Bordiga says that this chapel was begun in 1606, as shown by a letter from Monsignor Bescape, Bishop of Novara, authorising the Fabbricieri to appropriate three hundred scudi from the Mass chest for the purpose of erecting it, but it was not finished until 1638. The statues, thirty-five in number, are by Giovanni D'Enrico, and the frescoes by Tanzio, but we have no means of dating either the one or the other accurately.

The figure of Herod is incomparably finer than any others in the chapel, if we except those of two laughing boys on Herod's left that are hardly seen till one is inside the chapel itself. Take each of the figures separately and few are good. As usual in D'Enrico's chapels, there is a deficiency of the ensemble and concert which no one except Tabachetti seems to have been able to give in sculptured groups containing many figures; nevertheless, the Herod and the laughing boys atone almost for any deficiency. Bordiga speaks of the frescoes in the highest terms, but I do not admire them as I should wish to do. They are generally considered as Antonio D'Enrico's finest work on the Sacro Monte.

The figures behind the two boys' heads coming very awkwardly in my photograph, my friend Mr. Gogin has kindly painted them out for me, so as to bring the boys' heads out better.


This is supposed to be the last work of Giovanni D'Enrico, who, according to Durandi, died in 1644. The scene comprises twenty-three terra-cotta figures, few of them individually good, but nevertheless effective as a whole. One man, the nearest but one to the spectator, must be given to D'Enrico, and perhaps one or two more, but the greater number must have been done by Giacomo Ferro. The frescoes were begun both by Morazzone and Antonio D'Enrico, but Fassola and Torrotti say that neither the one nor the other was able to complete the work, which in their time was still unfinished; but Doctor Morosini was going to get a really good man to finish them without further delay. Eventually the brothers Grandi of Milan came and did the Doric architecture, while Pietro Gianoli did some sibyls, and on the facciata "il casto Giuseppe portato da due Angioli." Gianoli signed his work and dated it 1679. We know, then, that in this case the sculptured figures were placed some years before the background, as probably also with several other chapels; and it may be assumed that generally the terra-cotta figures preceded the background—which was designed for them, and not they for it, except in the case of Gaudenzio Ferrari—who probably conceived both the round and flat work together as part of the same design, and was thus the only artist on the Sacro Monte who carried out the design of uniting painting and sculpture in a single design, under the conditions which strictly it involves.

In connection with this chapel both Fassola and Torrotti say that D'Enrico has intentionally made Christ's face become smaller and smaller during each of these last scenes, as becoming contracted through increase of suffering. I have been unable to see that this is more than fancy on their parts.

It is also in connection with this chapel that we discover the true date of Fassola's book. He says that they had been on the lookout "during the whole OF LAST YEAR"—which he gives as 1669—for some one to finish the frescoes. "Now, however," he continues, "when this book is seeing light," &c. The book therefore should be seeing light in 1670. It is dated 1671. True, Fassola may have been writing at the very end of 1670, and the book may have been published at the beginning of 1671, but perhaps the more natural conclusion is that the same reasons which make publishers wish to misdate their books by a year now, made them wish to do so then, and that though Fassola's book appeared at the end of 1670, as would appear from his own words, it was nevertheless dated 1671.


Torrotti and Fassola say that the Christ in this chapel, as well as in all the others, is an actual portrait—and no doubt an admirable one—communicated by Divine inspiration to the many workmen and artists who worked on the Sacro Monte. This, they say, may be known from two documents contemporaneous with Christ Himself, in which His personal appearance is fully set forth, and which seem almost to have been written from the statues now existing at Varallo. The worthy artists who made these statues were by no means given to historical investigations, and were little likely to know anything about the letters in question; besides, these had only just been discovered, so that there can have been no deception or illusion. Both Fassola and Torrotti give the letters in full, and to their pages the reader who wishes to see them may be referred. Fassola writes:-

"Hora vegga ogni diuoto se rassomigliando queste statue al vero Christo essendo lauorate accidentalmente, parendo da Dio sia dato alli Statuarij, e Pittori il lume della sua Diuina Persona non si ha se non per mera sua disposizione e diachiarazione d'hauer quiui quasi come rinouata, e resa piu commoda alla Christianita la sua Redenzione" (p. 103).

The work is mentioned as completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia— this, and the Crowning with Thorns, being the only two that are described as completed of those that now form part of the Palazzo di Pilato block. These two chapels do not in reality, however, belong to the Palazzo di Pilato at all; they existed long before it, and the new work was added on to them. Bordiga says that "an order of Monsignor Bescape relating to this chapel, and dated February 1, 1605, shows that there was as yet no plan of this part of the Palace of Pilate." I have not seen this order, and can only speak with diffidence, but I do not think the chapel has been much modified since 1586, beyond the fact that Rocca, whom we have already met with as painting in the Caiaphas chapel in 1642, at some time or another painted a new background, which is now much injured by damp.

Not only does the author of the 1586 Caccia mention the chapel, but he does it with more effusion than is usual with him. He rarely says anything in praise of any but the best work. I do not, therefore, think it likely that his words refer to the original wooden figures, two of which were preserved when the work was remodelled; these two mar the chapel now, and when all the work was of the same calibre it cannot have kindled any enthusiasm in a writer who appears to have known very fairly well which were the best chapels. He says:-

"Da manigoldi, in atto acerbo e fiero, Alla colonna Christo flagellato Da scultor dotto assimigliato al vero Di questo {13} in un de i lati e dimostrato,

E come fusse macerato e nero, D'aspri flagelli percosso, e vergato, Di Christo il sacro corpo in ogni parte, Vi ha sculto dotto mastro in sottil arte."

I think the reconstruction of the chapel, then, and its assumption of its present state, except that a fresco background was added, should be assigned to some year about 1580-1585, and am disposed to ascribe, at any rate, the figure of the man who is binding Christ to the column to Tabachetti, who was then working on the Sacro Monte, and whose style the work seems to me to resemble more nearly than it does that of D'Enrico. Whoever the chapel is by, it was evidently in its present place and much admired in 1586; there could hardly, therefore, have been any occasion to reconstruct it, especially when so much other work was crying to be done, and when it had, in all probability, been once reconstructed already.

On the whole, until external evidence shows D'Enrico to have done the figures, I shall continue to think that at least one of them, and very possibly all except the two old wooden ones, are by Tabachetti. The foot of the man binding Christ to the column has crumbled away, either because the clay was bad, or from insufficient baking. This is why the figure is propped up with a piece of wood. The damp has made the rope slack, so that the pulling action of the figure is in great measure destroyed, its effect being cancelled by its ineffectualness; but for this the reader will easily make due allowance. The same man reappears presently in the balcony of the Ecce Homo chapel, but he is there evidently done by another and much less vigorous hand.

The man in the foreground, who is stooping down and binding his rods, is the same as the one who is kicking Christ in Tabachetti's Journey to Calvary, and is one of those adopted by Tabachetti from Gaudenzio Ferrari's Crucifixion chapel; this figure may perhaps have been an addition by Giovanni D'Enrico, or have been done by an assistant, for it is hardly up to Tabachetti's mark. The two nearest scourgers are fine powerful figures, but I should admit that they remind me rather of D'Enrico than of Tabachetti, though they might also be very well by him, and probably are so.

Fassola says that the graces obtainable by the faithful here have relation to every kind of need; they are in a high degree unspecialised, and that this freedom from specialisation is characteristic of all the chapels of the Passion.


Much that was said about the preceding chapel applies also to this. It is mentioned in the 1586 edition of Caccia as done "sottilmente in natural ritratto," and as being one of the few works that would form part of the Palazzo di Pilato block that were as yet completed.

That this chapel had undergone one reconstruction before 1586, we may gather from the fact that the left-hand wall is still covered with a fresco of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise; this has no connection with the Crowning with Thorns, and doubtless formed the background to the original Adam and Eve. I have already said that I am indebted to Signor Arienta for this suggestion. Bordiga calls this subject Christ being Led to be Crowned, and gives it to Crespi da Cerano, but I cannot understand how he can see in the work anything but an Expulsion from Paradise. The chapel having been reconstructed before 1586 on its present site—as it evidently had been—and being admired, is not likely to have been reconstructed a second time, and I am again, therefore, inclined to give the whole work, or at any rate the greater part of it, to Tabachetti, and to reject the statements of Fassola, Torrotti, Bordiga, and Cusa, who all ascribe the figures to D'Enrico. The two men standing up behind Christ, one taunting Him, and the other laughing, are among the finest on the Sacro Monte, and are much more in Tabachetti's manner than in D'Enrico's. The other figures are, as they were doubtless intended to be, of minor interest.

Some of the frescoes other than those above referred to, were added at a later date, and are said by Bordiga, on the authority of a covenant, dated September 27th, 1608, to have been done by Antonio Rantio, who undertook to paint them for a sum of ten ducatoons. They are without interest.

It was here the Flemish dancer was healed.

His name was Bartholomew Jacob, and he came from Graveling in Flanders. It seems there was a ball going on at the house of one of this man's ancestors, and that the Last Sacraments were being carried through the street under the windows of the ball-room.

The dancing ought by rights to have been stopped, but the host refused to stop it, and presently the priest who was carrying the Sacrament found a paper under the chalice, written in a handwriting of almost superhuman neatness, presumably that of the Madonna herself and bearing the words, "Dancer, thou wouldst not stay thy dance: I curse thee, therefore, that thou dance for nine generations." And so he did, he and all his descendants all their lives, till it came to Bartholomew Jacob, who was the ninth in descent. He too began life dancing, and was still dancing when he started on a pilgrimage to Rome; when, however, he got to the Sacro Monte at Varallo on the 7th of January 1646, he began to feel tired, tremulous, and languid from so much incessant movement. This strange feeling attacked him first at the Nativity Chapel, but by the time he got to the Crowning with Thorns he could stand it no longer, and fell as one dead, to rise again presently perfectly whole, and relieved of his distressing complaint.

Personally I find this story interesting as giving high support to the theory I have been trying to insist upon for some years past, and according to which in a certain sense a man is personally identical with all the generations in the direct line both of his ancestry and his descendants, as well as with himself. The words "Thou shalt dance for nine generations" involve one of the most important points contended for in my earlier book, "Life and Habit." Fassola and Torrotti both say that more pilgrims left alms at this chapel than at any other. In fact they both seem to consider that this chapel did very well. "Qui," says Torrotti, "si colgano elemosine assai," and, as I have said already, it is here that a few autumn leaves of waxen images still linger.

A few weeks ago I saw the original document in which the story above given was attested. It was dated 1671, and signed, stamped, and sealed as a document of the highest importance. I noticed that in this manuscript, it was a voice that was heard, and not as in Fassola a letter that was found.


This is not mentioned in the 1586 edition of Caccia, perhaps as being a poor and unimportant work. Fassola says that some of the frescoes, as well as of the statues, which, he says, are of wood, were by Gaudenzio. The other statues are given both by Fassola and Torrotti to D'Enrico, and the paintings to Gianoli, a wealthy Valsesian amateur who lived at Campertogno. Bordiga gives the statues to Ferro, already mentioned as a pupil of D'Enrico, but whoever did them, they are about as bad as they can be—too bad, I should say, for Giacomo Ferro, and I am not sure that they are not of wood even now. No traces of Gaudenzio's frescoes remain. The chapel seems to have been reconstructed in connection with the replica of the Scala Santa up which Christ is going to be conducted. We have seen that the design for these stairs was procured from Rome in 1608 by Francesco Testa, who was then Fabbriciere.


This is one of the finest chapels, the concert between the figures being better than in most of D'Enrico's other work, notwithstanding the fact that more than one, and probably several, are old figures taken from chapels that were displaced when the Palazzo di Pilato block was made. The figures are thirty-seven in number, and are disposed in a spacious hall not wholly unlike the vestibule of the Reform Club, Christ and His immediate persecutors appearing in a balustraded balcony above a spacious portico that supports it. This must have been one of D'Enrico's first works on the Sacro Monte, the frescoes having been paid for on Dec. 7, 1612, as shown by Morazzone's receipt which is still in existence, and which is for the sum of 2400 imperiali. Of these frescoes it is impossible to speak highly; they look clever at first and from a distance, but do not bear closer attention. Morazzone took pains with the Journey to Calvary chapel, which was his first work on the Sacro Monte, but never did anything so good again.

Of the terra-cotta figures, the one to the extreme left is certainly by Gaudenzio Ferrari, being another portrait, in nearly the same attitude, of the extreme figure to the left in the Crucifixion chapel. For reasons into which I will enter more fully when I come to this last-named work, I do not doubt that Stefano Scotto, Gaudenzio's master, is the person represented. I had to go inside the chapel to hold a sheet behind the figure in order to detach it from the background, so had myself taken along with it to show how it compares with a living figure. It is generally said at Varallo to be a portrait of Giovanno D'Enrico's brother Tanzio, but this is obviously impossible, for not only does the same person reappear in the Crucifixion chapel, but he is also found in Gaudenzio's early fresco of the Disputa in the Sta. Margherita chapel already referred to, and elsewhere, as I will presently show. I should be sorry to say that any other figure in the Ecce Homo chapel except this is certainly by Gaudenzio, but am inclined to think that two or three others are also by him, the rest being probably all of them by D'Enrico or some assistant. Some—more especially two children, on the head of one of whom a man has laid his hand—are of extreme beauty. The child that is looking up is among the most beautiful in the whole range of sculpture; the other is not so good, but has suffered in re-painting, the eyelid being made too red; if this were remedied, as it easily might be, the figure would gain greatly. Cav. Prof. Antonini has very successfully substituted plaster hair for the horsehair, which had in great measure fallen off. The motive of this incidental group is repeated, but with less success, in Giovanni D'Enrico's Nailing to the Cross.

There is another child to the extreme right of the composition so commonly and poorly done that it is hard to believe it can be by the same hand, but it is not likely that Giacomo Ferro had as yet become D'Enrico's assistant. The man who is pointing out Christ to this last-named child is far more seriously treated, and might even be an importation from an earlier work. Among other very fine figures is a man who is looking up and holding a staff in his hand; he stands against the wall to the spectator's right among the figures nearest to the grating. There is also an admirable figure of a man on one knee tying his cross garter and at the same time looking up. This figure is in the background rather hidden away, and is not very well seen from the grating. I should add that the floor of the chapel slopes a little up from the spectator like the stage in a theatre.

The dog in the middle foreground is hollow, as are all the figures, or at any rate many of them, and shows a great hole on the side away from the spectator; it is not fixed to the ground, but stands on its own legs; it was as much as I could do to lift it. I am told the figures were baked down below in the town, and though they are most of them in several pieces it must have been no light work carrying them up the mountain. I have been shown the remains of a furnace near the present church on the Sacro Monte, but believe it was only used for the figures made by Luigi Marchesi in 1826. I should, however, have thought that the figures would have been baked upon the Sacro Monte itself and not in the town.

Of this chapel Fassola says:-

"All the pilgrims of every description come here, because it is at the top of the Scala Santa up which they go upon their knees, and there is plenty of room for pilgrims, as the chapel extends the whole width of the staircase. Those who are oppressed with travail, or fevers, or lawsuits, or unjust persecutions of any description, are comforted on being commended to this Christ." "Vi sono qui," says Torrotti, "pascoli deliziosi per i curiosi e piu dotti."

I daresay that on the great festivals of the Church, some pilgrims may still go up the Scala Santa kneeling, but they do not commonly do so. Often as I have been at the Sacro Monte, I never yet saw a pilgrim mount the staircase except on his feet in the usual way. It must be a very painful difficult thing to go up twenty-eight consecutive high steps on one's knees; I tried it, but gave it up after a very few steps, and do not recommend any of my readers to even do as much as this.


Fassola, Torrotti, and Bordiga all call this one of the best chapels, but neither Jones nor I could see that it was nearly so successful as the preceding. The seventeen modelled figures are by Giovanni D'Enrico, and the frescoes by his brother Antonio or Tanzio. One or two of the figures—especially a man putting his finger to his mouth derisively, are excellent, but the Pilate is a complete failure; and it is hard to think it can have been done, as it probably nevertheless was, by the sculptor of the Caiaphas and Herod figures. Bordiga says that a contract was made with Caccia (not the historian), called Moncalvo, for the frescoes. This was the painter who did the backgrounds for the Crea chapels, but the contract was never carried out, probably because Antonio D'Enrico returned from Rome. It was dated November 1616, so that the terra-cotta figures probably belong to this year or to those that immediately preceded it.


This is better than the preceding chapel, and contains some good individual figures. The statues are twenty-seven in number, and were modelled by D'Enrico prior to the year 1614, in which year Morazzone was paid twelve hundred imperiali for having painted the frescoes, so that it was one of his earlier works, but the Pilate is again a failure. People who have been badly treated, and who have suffered from some injustice, are more especially recommended by Fassola "to try this Christ, who moves the pity of all who look upon Him."

He continues that it was the intention to add some other chapels at the end of the portico of the Palazzo di Pilato, but this intention was not carried out. Bordiga calls attention to the view on the right, looking over Varallo and the Mastallone, as soon as the portico is passed.


The Palazzo di Pilato is now ended, and we begin with the mysteries of the Passion and Death of the Redeemer, the first of which is set forth in


This, having regard to the terra-cotta figures alone, is by far the finest work on the Sacro Monte, and it is hardly too much to say that no one who has not seen it knows what sculpture can do. I have sufficiently shown that all the authorities, not one of whom has ever so much as seen a page of Caccia, are wrong by at least twenty years, when they say that Tabachetti completed the work in 1606. Bordiga refers, and this time I have no doubt accurately, to a deed drawn up in 1602, in accordance with which the fresco background was begun by Antonio Gandino, a painter of Brescia; this alone should have made Bordiga suspect that the terra-cotta work had been already completed, but he does not appear to have noted the fact, and goes on to say that the agreement with Gandino was cancelled by Bishop Bescape in 1604, and that his work was destroyed, the chapel being handed over to Morazzone, who painted it in 1605, and was paid 1400 lire, besides twenty gold scudi. Morazzone has followed Gaudenzio boldly, repeating several of his fresco figures, as Tabachetti, with admirable good taste, had repeated several of his terra-cotta ones, while completely varying the action. The right-hand frescoes, and part of those on the wall opposite the spectator, have been recently cut away in squares, and relined, as the wall was perishing from damp.

The statues consist of about forty figures of men, women, and children, and nine horses, all rather larger than life. They too have suffered from the effect of damp upon the paint; nevertheless, a more permanent and satisfactory kind of pigment has been used here than in most of the chapels; the work does not seem to have been much, if at all repainted, since Tabachetti left it. One figure of a child in the foreground has disappeared, the marks of its feet and two little bits of rusty iron alone show where it was; the woman who was holding it also remains without an arm. I am tempted to think that some disturbing cause has affected a girl who is holding a puppy, a little to the right of this last figure, and doubt whether something that accompanied her may not have perished; at any rate, it does not group with the other figures as well as these do with one another; this, however, is a very small blemish. The work is one that will grow upon the reader the more he studies it, and should rank as the most successfully ambitious of medieval compositions in sculpture, no less surely than Gaudenzio's Crucifixion chapel, having regard to grandeur of scheme as well as execution, should rank as the most daring among Italian works of art in general. I am aware that this must strike many of my readers as in all probability a very exaggerated estimate, but can only repeat that I have studied these works for the last twenty years with every desire not to let a false impression run away with me, and that each successive visit to Varallo, while tending somewhat to lower my estimate of Giovanni D'Enrico—unless when he is at his very best—has increased my admiration for both Gaudenzio Ferrari and Tabachetti, as also, I would add, for the sculptor of the Massacre of the Innocents chapel.

It cannot, indeed, be pretended that Tabachetti's style is as pure as that of his great predecessor, but what it has lost in purity it has gained in freedom and vigour. It is not possible that an artist working in the years 1580-1585 should present to us traces of the archaism which even the most advanced sculptors of half a century earlier had not wholly lost. The stronger a man is the more certainly will he be modified by his own times as well as modify them, and in an age of barocco we must not look for Donatellos. Still, the more Tabachetti's work is examined the more will it be observed that he took no harm from the barocco, but kept its freedom while avoiding its coarseness and exaggeration. For reasons explained in an earlier chapter his figures are not generally portraits, but he is eminently realistic, and if he did the Vecchietto, of which I have given a photograph at the beginning of this book, he must be credited with one of the most living figures that have ever been made—a figure which rides on the very highest crest of the wave, and neither admits possibility of further advance towards realism without defeating its own purpose, nor shows even the slightest sign of decadence. Of the figure of the Countess of Serravalle, to which I have already referred, Torrotti said it was so much admired in his day that certain Venetian cavaliers offered to buy it for its weight in gold, but that the mere consideration of such an offer would be high treason (lesa Maesta) to the Sacro Monte. Fassola and Torrotti, as well as Bordiga and Cusa, are evidently alive to the fact that as far as sculpture goes we have here the highest triumph attained on the Sacro Monte of Varallo.

I had better perhaps give the words in which Caccia describes the work. In the 1586 edition, we read, in the preliminary prose part, as follows:-

"Come N. S. e condotto alla morte con la croce alle spalle, qual si vede tutto di rilievo."

The poetical account runs thus:-

"Si trova poi in una Chiesa nera Con spettacolo fiero accompagnato Da soldati, e da gente molto fiera, Con la Croce alle spalle incaminato Christo Giesu in mezzo a l'empia schiera, Seguendolo Giovanni addolorato, Che di Giesu sostien la sconsolata Madre, da Maddalena accompagnata."

In the 1591 edition, the prose description of the work runs; -

"Come N. S. e condotto alla morte con la Croce sopra delle spalle, quali si vedeno tutto di rilieuo bellissi."

I have no copy of the poetical part of this edition before me, but believe it to be identical with the version already given. The impression left upon me is that the work in 1586 was only just finished enough to allow it to be called finished, and that its full excellence was not yet displayed to the public, though it was about to be so very shortly.

Signor Arienta tells me that Tabachetti has adhered rather closely to a design for the same subject by Albert Durer, but I have failed to find the design to which he is referring.

Bordiga again calls attention to the extreme beauty of the view of Varallo that is to be had on leaving this chapel.


This and the two following chapels are on the top of the small rise of some fifteen or twenty feet in which Bernardino Caimi is said to have seen a resemblance to Mount Calvary; they are approached by a staircase which leads directly to Giovanni D'Enrico's largest work.

Bordiga says that the chapel was begun in 1589 at the expense of Marchese Giacomo d'Adda; he probably, however, refers only to the building itself. It is not mentioned as even contemplated in the 1586 edition of Caccia, nor yet, unless my memory fails me, in that of 1590. It is not known when the terra-cotta work was begun, but it was not yet quite finished in 1644, when, as I have said, D'Enrico died.

The frescoes are by Melchiorre Gilardini, and have been sufficiently praised by other writers; they are fairly well preserved, and show, as in the preceding chapel and in Gaudenzio's Crucifixion, how much more is to be said for the union of painting and sculpture when both are in the hands of capable men, than we are apt to think. If the reader will divest the sculpture of its colour and background, how cold and uninteresting will it not seem in comparison even with its present somewhat impaired splendour. Looking at the really marvellous results that have been achieved, we cannot refrain from a passing regret at the spite that threw Tabachetti half a century off Gaudenzio, instead of letting them come together, but we must take these things as we find them.

On first seeing Giovanni D'Enrico's Nailing to the Cross we are tempted to think it even finer than the Journey to Calvary. The work is larger, comprising some twenty or so more terra-cotta figures— making about sixty in all—and ten horses, all rather larger than life, but the first impression soon wears off and the arrangement is then felt to be artificial as compared with Tabachetti's. Tabachetti made a great point when, instead of keeping his floor flat or sloping it evenly up to any one side, he threw his stage up towards one corner, which is much higher than any other. The unevenness, and irregular unevenness, of the ground is of the greatest assistance to him, by giving him variety of plane, and hence a way of escaping monotony without further effort on his part. If D'Enrico had taken his ground down from the corner up to which Tabachetti had led it, he would have secured both continuity with Tabachetti's scene, and an irregularly uneven surface, without repeating his predecessor's arrangement. True, the procession was supposed to be at the top of Mount Calvary, but that is a detail. As it is, D'Enrico has copied Tabachetti in making his ground slope, but, unless my memory fails me, has made it slope evenly along the whole width of the chapel, from the foreground to the wall at the back—with the exception of a small mound in the middle background. The horses are arranged all round the walls, and the soldiers are all alongside of the horses, and every figure is so placed as to show itself to the greatest advantage. This perhaps is exaggeration, but there is enough truth in it to help the reader who is unfamiliar with this class of work to apprehend Tabachetti's superiority more readily than he might otherwise do in the short time that tourists commonly have at their disposal. The general impression left upon myself and Jones was that it contains much more of Giacomo Ferro than of D'Enrico; but in spite of this it is impossible to deny that the work is important and on the whole impressive.


Neither Fassola nor Torrotti date this work, but I have already shown reasons for believing that it should be given to the years 1524-1528. Fassola says that the figure of Christ on the Cross is not the original one, which was stolen, and somehow or other found its way to the Church of S. Andrea at Vercelli, where, according to Colombo (p. 237), a crucifix, traditionally said to be this one, was preserved until the close of the last century. Bordiga says that there is no reason to believe this story. The present crucifix is of wood, and is probably an old one long venerated, and embodied in his work by Gaudenzio himself, partly out of respect to public feeling, and partly, perhaps, as an unexceptionable excuse for avoiding a great difficulty. The thieves also, according to Bordiga and Cusa, are of wood, not terra-cotta, being done from models in clay by Gaudenzio as though the wood were marble. We may be sure there was an excellent reason for this solitary instance of a return to wood, but it is not immediately apparent to a layman.

We have met with the extreme figure to the spectator's left in the Ecce Homo chapel. He is also, as I have said, found in the Disputa fresco, done some twenty years or so before the work we are now considering, and we might be tempted to think that the person who was so powerfully impressed on Gaudenzio's mind during so many years was some Varallo notable, or failing this that he was some model whom he was in the habit of employing. This, however, is not so; for in the first place the supposed model was an old man in, say, 1507, and he is not a day older in 1527, so that in 1527 Gaudenzio was working from a strong residuary impression of a figure with which he had been familiar many years previously and not from life; and in the second, we find the head repeated in the works of Milanese artists who in all probability never came near Varallo. We certainly find it in a drawing, of which I give a reduced reproduction, and which the British Museum authorities ascribe, no doubt correctly, to Bernardino de' Conti. I also recognise it unquestionably in a drawing in the Windsor collection ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci—a drawing, however, which it is not easy to think is actually by him. I have no doubt that a reminiscence of the same head is intended in a drawing ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, only that the artist, whoever he may be, has added hair (which is obviously not drawn from nature), and has not produced so good a likeness as Gaudenzio and Bernardino de' Conti have done, but about this last I am less certain. At any rate there can be no doubt that the figure represents a Milanese character who in the time of Gaudenzio's youth was familiar to Milanese artists, and who made a deep impression upon more than one of them. This will be even more apparent to those who are familiar with the terra-cotta figures at Varallo, for these can be seen from several points of view, and a fuller knowledge of the head is thus obtained than a flat impression from a single point can give.

It is not likely that the figure is that of a mere model, for it has no, or very little connection with the action of the piece, and is evidently placed where it is—the extreme figure to the left, which is always a place of honour—for the sake of introducing the portrait into the composition. Gaudenzio would not have been so impressed, say, with old Christie {14} as to give his portrait from memory twenty years after he had seen him last, to put this portrait in the place of honour, and to make the work much more emphatic as a portrait than as the figure of an actor in his drama, inasmuch as he has turned the head towards the spectator and away from the central incident. It is more probable, then, that we must look for some well-known Milanese art-world character as the original for which the figure was intended.

We know that Gaudenzio Ferrari studied under Stefano Scotto, and have every reason to think that Bernardino de' Conti—who, I see, studied in the school of Foppa, one of Scotto's predecessors, if not under Scotto himself, must have known him perfectly well. Leonardo da Vinci kept the rival school at Milan, and the two schools were to one another much what those kept by the late Mr. F. S. Cary and Mr. Lee were some thirty years ago in London. Leonardo, therefore, also doubtless knew Scotto by sight if not personally. I incline to think, then, that we have here the original we are looking for, and that Gaudenzio when working at what he probably regarded as the most important work of his life determined to introduce his master, just as I, if I were writing a novel, might be tempted to introduce a reminiscence of my own old schoolmaster, and to make the portrait as faithful as I could.

I am confirmed in this opinion by noting, as I have done for many years past, that the figure next to that of Scotto is not unlike the portraits of Leonardo da Vinci, of which I give the one (whether by himself or no I do not know) that I believe to be the best. I had been reminded of Leonardo da Vinci by this figure long before I knew of Scotto's existence, and had often wondered why he was not made the outside and most prominent figure; now, then, that I see reason to think the outside figure intended for Gaudenzio's own master, I understand why the preference has been given him, and have little doubt that next to his own master Gaudenzio has placed the other great contemporary art-teacher at Milan whose pupil he never actually was, but whose influence he must have felt profoundly. I also derive an impression that Gaudenzio liked and respected Scotto though he may have laughed at him, but that he did not like Leonardo, who by the way had been dead about ten years when this figure was placed where it now is.

I see, therefore, the two figures as those of Scotto and of Leonardo da Vinci, and think it likely that in the one portrait we have by far the most characteristic likeness of Leonardo that has come down to us. In his own drawings of himself he made himself out such as he wanted others to think him; here, if I mistake not, he has been rendered as others saw him. The portrait of Scotto is beyond question an admirable likeness; it is not likely that the Leonardo is less successful, and we find in the searching, eager, harassed, and harassing unquiet of the figure here given a more acceptable rendering of Leonardo's character and appearance than any among the likenesses of himself which are more or less plausibly ascribed to him. The question is one of so much interest that I must defer its fuller treatment for another work, in which I hope to deal with the portraits of Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, and with Holbein's "Danse des Paysans." I have, however, given above the greater part of the information of which I am as yet possessed upon the subject. In conclusion, I may say that I mentioned the matter to Signor Boccioloni the Sindaco of Varallo, and to other friends with whom I have discussed the question on the spot, and found that people generally seemed to consider the case as rather a strong one.

As regards the portraits supposed to be found on the frescoes, they are all so doubtful that I will refrain from discussing them, but will refer my readers to Colombo. The only exception is a portrait of one of the Scarrognini family which is seen on the right-hand wall above the door, the fact of the portraiture being attested by a barbarous scrawl upon the fresco itself.

Caccia says of the work with more enthusiasm than even I can command, but in a style of poetry which I find it fairly easy to render, that we may see among the spectators

" . . . a maraviglia, Vi son piu donne con la sua famiglia;"

which means in English -

"And here you may behold with wondering eyes, Several ladies with their families."

He continues that

"Gli Angeli star nel ciel tutti dolenti Si veggon per pieta del suo Signore, E turbati mostrarsi gli elementi, Privi del sole, e d' ogni suo splendore, E farsi terremoti, e nascer venti, Par che si veda, d' estremo dolore, E il tutto esser non pinto ne in scultura, Ma dell' istesso parto di Natura.

"E se a pieno volessi ricontare Di questo tempio la bellezza, e l' arte, Le statue, le pitture, e l' opre rare, Saria (?) un vergar in infinite carte Che non han queste in tutto il mondo pare, Cerchisi pur in qual si voglia parte, Che di Fidia, Prasitele, e d' Apelle, Ne di Zeuxi non fur l' opre si belle."

"Search the world through in whatsoever part, And scan each best known masterpiece of art, In Phidias or Praxiteles or Apelles, You will find nothing that done half so well is."

In this translation I have again attempted to preserve—not to say pickle—the spirit of the original.

Returning to the work as a whole, if the modelled figures fail anywhere it is in respect of action—more especially as regards the figures to the spectator's right, which want the concert and connection without which a scene ceases to be dramatic, and becomes a mere assemblage of figures placed in juxtaposition. It would be going too far to say that complaint on this score can be justly insisted on in respect even of these figures; nevertheless it will be felt that Gaudenzio Ferrari the painter could harmonise his figures and give them a unity of action which was denied to him as a sculptor. It must not be forgotten that his modelled work derives an adventitious merit from the splendour of the frescoes with which it is surrounded, and from our admiration of the astounding range of power manifested by their author.

As a painter, it must be admitted that Gaudenzio Ferrari was second to very few that had gone before him, but as a sculptor, he did not do enough to attain perfect mastery over his art. If he had done as much in sculpture as in painting he would doubtless have been as great a master of the one as the other; as it was, in sculpture he never got beyond the stage of being an exceedingly able and interesting scholar;—this, however, is just the kind of person whose work in spite of imperfection is most permanently delightful. Among the defects which he might have overcome is one that is visible in his earlier painting as well as in his sculpture, and which in painting he got rid of, though evidently not without difficulty—I mean, a tendency to get some of his figures unduly below life size. I have often seen in his paintings that he has got his figures rather below life size, when apparently intending that they should be full- sized, and worse than this, that some are smaller in proportion than others. Nevertheless, when we bear in mind that the Crucifixion chapel was the first work of its kind, that it consists of four large walls and a ceiling covered with magnificent frescoes, comprising about 150 figures; that it contains twenty-six life-sized statues, two of them on horseback, and much detail by way of accessory, all done with the utmost care, and all coloured up to nature,—when we bear this in mind and realise what it all means, it is not easy to refrain from saying, as I have earlier done, that the Crucifixion chapel is the most daringly ambitious work of art that any one man was ever yet known to undertake; and if we could see it as Gaudenzio left it, we should probably own that in the skill with which the conception was carried out, no less than in its initial daring, it should rank as perhaps the most remarkable work of art that even Italy has produced.


Fassola and Torrotti both say that the terra-cotta figures here are by a pupil of Giovanni D'Enrico. Bordiga says that the three figures forming the group upon the cross were done contemporaneously with the Nailing of Christ to the Cross, which we have already considered, and are in the style of D'Enrico. If so, they are not in his best style, while the others are among the worst on the Sacro Monte, with the exception of one, which I never even observed until last summer, so completely is it overpowered by the worse than mediocrity with which it is surrounded. This figure is perhaps, take it all round, the finest on the Sacro Monte, and is generally known as "Il Vecchietto" or "the little old man." It is given as the frontispiece of this book.

I was led to observe it by a casual remark made by my old and valued friend Signor Dionigi Negri of Varallo, to whom I am indebted for invaluable assistance in writing this book, and indeed at whose instigation it was undertaken. He told me there was a portrait of the man who gave this part of the ground to the founders of the Sanctuary; he was believed to be a small peasant proprietor—one of the "alcuni particolari poueri" mentioned by Fassola as owning the site—who, having been asked to sell the land, gave it instead. This was the story, but I knew that the land was given not later than 1490-1493, whereas the chapel in question is not earlier than 1630, when no portrait of the peasant benefactor was possible. I therefore went to the chapel, and finding the figure, saw what must be obvious to any one who looks at it with attention, I mean, firstly, how fine it was, and secondly, that it had not been designed for its present place.

This last is clear from the hand, which from outside at first appears to be holding a pair of pincers and a hammer, as though to assist at the Deposition, but which proves to have been originally designed to hold a stick—or something round, the hammer and pincers being at present tied on with a piece of string, to a hand that is not holding them. I asked the opinion of Cav. Prof Antonini of Varallo and his son, both of them admirable sculptors, and found them as decided as myself in their admiration of the figure. Both of them, at different times, were good enough to go inside the chapel with me, and both agreed with me that the figure was no part of the design of the group in which it now is. Cav. Prof. Antonini thought the whole right arm had been restored, but it was getting dusk when he suggested this, and I could not see clearly enough to form an opinion; I have the greatest diffidence in differing from so excellent an authority, but so far as I could see, I did not think there had been any restoration. I thought nothing had been done except to put a piece of string through the hole in the hand where a stick or roll had been, and to hang the hammer and pincers with it. Leaving Varallo early on the following morning, I was unable to see the figure again by day-light, and must allow the question of restoration or non- restoration to remain unsettled.

There is a large well-defined patch of mended ground covering the space occupied by the figure itself. There is no other such patch under any other figure, and the most reasonable inference is that some alteration has been made here. The expression, moreover, of the face is not suitable for a Deposition.

There is a holy tranquil smile of joy, thankfulness, and satisfaction, which perfectly well befits one who is looking up into the heavens, as he might at an Assumption of the Virgin, or an Ascension, but is not the expression which so consummate an artist as the man who made this figure, would give to a bystander at a Deposition from the Cross. Grief and horror, would be still too recent to admit of the sweet serene air of ineffable contentment which is here given.

Lastly, the style of the work is so different from that of all the other figures in the chapel, that no solidarity can be seen between it and them. It would be too much to say that the others are as bad as this is good, but the difference between Rembrandt's old woman in our National Gallery and an average Royal Academy portrait of fifty years ago, is not more striking than that between the Vecchietto and his immediate neighbours.

I can find no mention of the figure in Fassola, or Torrotti. Bordiga says, "On the left there is a man in peasant's costume, holding his hat in reverence of Jesus, and said to be a benefactor of the chapel." He does not say anything about the excellence of the workmanship, nor, indeed, have I heard any one, except the two sculptors, Cav. Prof. Antonini and his son, speak of the work in terms which showed a perception of its merit. If the world knows little of its greatest men it seems to know not much more about its greatest works of art, nor, if it continues to look for guidance in this matter to professional critics and society art-dabblers, is it likely to improve its knowledge. Cusa says of it:-

"E fra essi un vecchietto naturale assai pel rozzo costume che veste, e per la semplicita del atto; egli guarda Gesu in atto di levarsi il cappello, mentre con l'altra mano tiene le tenaglie ed il martello. Lo si dice ritratto di un Rimellese, benefattore della cappella."

I asked the two sculptors Antonini if they could help me in settling the question to whom the work should be assigned, and they agreed with me that it could not be given to Gaudenzio. It is too masterly, easy, and too like the work of Velasquez in painting, to be by one who is not known to have done more in sculpture than some two score or so of figures on the Sacro Monte now remaining, and a few others that have been lost. The Vecchietto is the work of one to whom modelling in clay was like breathing, walking, or eating and drinking, and Gaudenzio never reached such freedom and proficiency as this.

With few exceptions even the best art-work falls into one of two classes, and offers signs either of immaturity or decline. Take Donatello, and Luca della Robbia, or, in painting, Giovanni Bellini, John Van Eyck, Holbein, Giotto, and even Gaudenzio Ferarri in his earlier work; take again, in music, Purcell and Corelli; no words of affectionate admiration are good enough for any one of these great men, but they none of them say the last word that is to be said in their respective arts. Michael Angelo said the last word; but then he said just a word or two over. So with Titian and Leonardo Da Vinci, and in music with Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. We admire them, and know that each in many respects surpassed everything that has been done either before or since, but in each case (and more especially with the three last named) we feel the presence of an autumnal tint over all the luxuriance of development, which, while hardly detracting from the pleasure we receive, still tells of an art that has taken not an upward but a downward path. I know that I am apt to take fancies to works of art and artists; I hold, for example, that my friend Mr. H. F. Jones's songs, of which I have given the titles at the end of this volume, are finer than an equal number of any written by any other living composer—and I believe that people will one day agree with me, though they will doubtless take their time in doing so—but with all this tendency towards extravagance I endeavour to preserve a method in my madness, and with most works find that they fall readily into the growing or the decaying. It is only with very few, as with Homer and Shakespeare at their best, the Venus of Milo, the Ilyssus, the finest work of Rembrandt, Giorgione, and Velasquez, and in music with Handel, that I can see no step left unclimbed, yet none taken on the downward path. Assuredly the Vecchietto must be classed with the very few works which, being of the kind of fruit that they are, are dead ripe, without one trace either of immaturity or decay.

Difficult, however, as the problem who made this statue is, it is simplified by the reflection that it can only be given either to Gaudenzio or Tabachetti. I suggested D'Enrico's name to Cav. Prof. Antonini to see how he received it, but—thinking doubtless more of Giacomo Ferro than of D'Enrico—he said "E-whew," and tossed his thumb over his shoulder, as only an Italian can, as much as to say that D'Enrico set about his figures with too light a heart to get a Vecchietto out of them; Gaudenzio, then, being impossible and D'Enrico ordered out of court, it only remains to give the work to Tabachetti, with whose sleeping St. Joseph and with not a little else of whose work it presents much analogy; for the notion that a stranger of name unknown came to Varallo, did this single figure, and then went away without doing any more either there or anywhere else in the least like it, is as incredible as that it is the work of D'Enrico.

As for the question of the source from which the figure came we should remember that the Chiesa Vecchia dell' Assunta was pulled down at the end of the last century; and this, considering the excellent preservation in which the Vecchietto is still found, and the comparatively recent appearance of the disturbance of the ground under his feet, seems the most likely place for him to have come from. There were two opportunities in this church, one of which certainly was, while the other very well might have been, made the occasion for a group of figures with upturned heads. The first of these, of course, is the Assumption of the Madonna, of which Caccia says there was a representation of her "Come ascese in Cielo, con le statue delli dodeci Apostoli intorno di rilievo," and there may very well have been a benefactor or so in addition. The second was the impress of our Saviour's last footprint on the Mount of Olives before He ascended into heaven. This is mentioned by Fassola as a feature of special importance, and as having had an indulgence conceded to it by the Pope in 1488 while it was on its road from Jerusalem. This relic was held in great veneration, and it is easy to imagine that its effect may have been enhanced by surrounding it with figures looking upwards into the heavens towards the clouds that had already received the body of the Redeemer. All this, however, is mere conjecture, for there is not a tittle of evidence in support of it, and we are left practically with nothing more than we can still see within the limits of the figure itself to give a clue either to its maker, or the source from which it came, but we may incline to think that it is the portrait of a benefactor, for no one but a benefactor would have been treated with so much realism. The man is not a mere peasant; his clothes are homely, but they are good, and there is that about him which harmonises well enough with his having been in a position of comfort. Common peasants may be seen in the Shepherd's chapel, and the Vecchietto is clearly of higher social status than these. He looks like a Valsesian yeoman or peasant proprietor, of some substance; and he was doubtless a benefactor, not of this, but some other chapel.

I have said there are analogies between this figure and others by Tabachetti which after all make it not very difficult to decide the question to whom it should be given. We do not, indeed, find another Vecchietto, but we shall find more than one figure that exhibits equal truth to nature, and equal freedom from exaggeration. It is not possible, for example, to have greater truth to nature than we find in the figures of Adam and Eve in the first chapel. There is not one trace either of too much or too little, of exaggeration or of shortcoming; the nude figure of a man and of a woman were wanted, and the nude figure of a man and of a woman are given, with neither more or less modelling than what would be most naturally seen in a young and comely couple. So again with the charming figure of the Virgin sewing in the First Vision of St. Joseph chapel. The Virgin and the Vecchietto are as unlike each other as two figures can be, but they are both stamped with the same freedom from affectation, and the same absolute and easy mastery over the means employed. The same applies to the sleeping St. Joseph, in which case there is a closer analogy between the two figures themselves. It applies also to a not inconsiderable extent to the man with a goitre who is leading Christ in the Calvary chapel. This figure is not done from life, being a repetition of one by Gaudenzio, but it is so living that we feel sure it would have been more living still if Tabachetti had had the model before him from which Gaudenzio in all probability actually worked. At Crea, there are other figures by Tabachetti to which I will call attention presently, and which present not inconsiderable analogies to the Vecchietto. I explain the fact that the analogies are not closer, by reflecting that this is the one of the few cases in which Tabachetti has left us a piece of portrait work, pure and simple, and that his treatment of the head and figure in pure portraiture, would naturally differ from that adopted in an ideal and imaginative work.


The remaining chapels are few in number, and, whatever they may once have been, unimportant in character. The first is


The three preceding chapels are supposed to be on Mount Calvary, and from them we descend by a flight of stone steps to the level of the piazza. Immediately on reaching this we come upon the Pieta. We have seen that this chapel originally contained Gaudenzio's Journey to Calvary, and that the fresco background still, in so far as it is not destroyed, treats this subject, while the modelled figures represent the Pieta. Of Gaudenzio's original work Caccia says:-

"Come fu Christo de' panni spogliato, Montando il Monte poi Calvario detto, Nel mezzo a manigoldi mal trattato, Contemplar possi con pietoso affetto,

Seguito da Maria e da l'amato Discepolo di lui, et e l'effetto Sculto si bene e doitamente fatto Che sembra vero e non del ver ritratto."

"Per una scala asceso al Sacro Monte Si entra nel piu d'ogn' altro sacro tempio," &c.

The words "montando il monte poi," &c., must refer to a supposed ascent on the part of Christ Himself, for Gaudenzio's work was on a level with Tabachetti's present Journey to Calvary which Caccia has just described, and Caccia goes on to say that from Gaudenzio's chapel (the present Pieta) one "ascends by a staircase to" the most sacred chapel of all—the Crucifixion—as one does at present. That the present Pieta and the adjacent Entombment chapels were once one chapel, may be seen by any one who examines the vaulting inside the first-named chapel. Signor Arienta pointed this out to me, and at the same time called my attention to the fact that Gaudenzio's fresco on the wall facing the spectator does not turn the corner and join on with the subject that fills the left-hand wall. A flag and a horse are cut off, and the rest of them is not seen. I sometimes question whether the original wooden-figured entombment was in the chapel in which the present modern figures are seen, but it probably was so.

There was also a fainting Madonna mentioned in the prose part of Caccia as a work by itself and described as follows:-

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