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Florence and Northern Tuscany with Genoa
by Edward Hutton
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There was no Giotto, no Duccio even, in Umbria. Painting for its own sake, or for the sake of beauty or life, never seems to have taken root in that mystical soil; it is ever with a message of the Church that she comes to us, very simply and sweetly for the most part, it is true, but except in the work of Piero della Francesca, who was not really an Umbrian at all, and in that of his pupil Melozzo da Forli, the work of the school is sentimental and illustrative, passionately beautiful for a moment with Gentile da Fabriano; clairvoyant almost in the best work of Perugino; most beloved, though maybe not most lovely, in the marvellous work of Raphael, who, Umbrian though he be, is really a Roman painter, full of the thoughts of a world he had made his own.

Here, in the Uffizi, Gentile da Fabriano is represented by parts of an altar-piece, four isolated saints, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Nicholas of Bari, St. John Baptist, and St. George. It is rather in the beautiful work of Piero della Francesca, and of Signorelli, in the rare and lovely work of Melozzo da Forli, in the sweet and holy work of Perugino, the perfect work of Raphael, that Umbria is represented in the Uffizi, than in the mutilated altar-piece of Gentile da Fabriano.

Piero della Francesca was born about 1416 at the little town of Borgo San Sepolcro, just within the borders of Tuscany towards Arezzo.[124] He was a great student of perspective, a friend of mathematicians, of Fra Luca Paccioli, for instance, who later became the friend of Leonardo da Vinci. His work has force, and is always full of the significance of life. Influenced by Paolo Uccello, founding his work on a really scientific understanding of certain laws of vision, of drawing, his work seems to have been responsible for much that is so splendid in the work of Signorelli and Perugino. Nor is he without a faint and simple beauty, which is altogether delightful in his pictures in the National Gallery, for instance the Nativity and the Baptism of our Lord. Here, in the Uffizi, are two portraits from his hand—Count Federigo of Urbino, and his wife Battista Sforza (1300), painted in 1465. Splendid and full of confidence, they are the work of a man who is a consummate draughtsman, and whose drawing here, at any rate, is a thing of life. On the back of these panels Piero has painted an allegory, or a trionfo, whose meaning no one has yet read. The Uffizi has lately been enriched by a work of his pupil, that rare painter, Melozzo da Forli. Two panels of the Annunciation, very beautiful in Colour and full of something that seems strange, coming from that Umbrian country, so mystical and simple, hang now with the portraits of Piero. Nor is the work of Melozzo da Forli's pupil, Marco Palmezzano, whose facile work litters the Gallery of Forli, wanting, for here is a Crucifixion (1095) from his hand, certainly one of his more important pictures.

Pietro Vanucci, called Il Perugino, was born about 1446 at Castel della Pieve, some twenty-six miles from Perugia. The greatest master of the Umbrian School, for we are content to call Raphael a Roman painter, his work, so sweet and lovely at its best, is at its worst little better than a repetition of his own mannerisms. Here, in the Uffizi, however, we have four of his best works—the three great portraits, Francesco delle Opere (287), Alessandro Braccesi (1217), and the Portrait of a Lady (1120), long given to Raphael, but which Mr. Berenson assures us is Perugino's; and the Madonna and Child of the Tribuna, painted in 1493. The Francesco delle Opere was perhaps his first portrait, full of virility beyond anything else in his work, save his own portrait at Perugia. For many years this picture, owing, it might seem, to a mistake of the Chevalier Montalvo, was supposed to represent Perugino himself, so that the picture was hung in the Gallery of the Portraits of Painters. At last an inscription was discovered on the back of the picture, which reads as follows: 1494, D'Luglio Pietro Perugino Pinse Franco Delopa.

Francesco delle Opere was a Florentine painter, the brother of Giovanni delle Corniole. He died at Venice, and it may well be that it was at Venice that Perugino first met him. Perugino's picture shows us Francesco, a clean-shaven and young person, holding a scroll on which is written, "Trineta Deum;" the portrait is a half-length, and the hands are visible. In the background is a characteristic country of hill and valley under the deep serene sky, the light and clear golden air that we see in so much of his work. The Portrait of a Lady (1120), long given to Raphael, comes to the Uffizi from the Grand Ducal Villa of Poggio a Caiano; it was supposed to be the portrait of Maddalena Strozzi, wife of Angela Doni. The portrait shows us a young woman, in a Florentine dress of the period, while around her neck is a gold chain, from which hangs a little cross. The Portrait of a Young Man (1217) is painted on wood, and is life size.

The Madonna and Child, with two Saints, was painted in 1493 for the Church of S. Domenico at Fiesole, and was placed in the Uffizi by the Grand Duke Peter Leopold in 1756. Madonna sits a little indifferent on a throne under an archway, holding the Child, who turns towards St. John Baptist as he gazes languidly on the ground; while St. Sebastian, a beautiful youth, stands on the other side, looking upwards, and though the arrows have pierced his flesh, he is still full of affected grace, and is so occupied with his prayers that he has not noticed them. On the base of the throne, Perugino has written his name, Petrus Perusinus Pinxit, An. 1493. It is in such a work as this that Perugino is really least great. Painted to order, as we may think, it is so full of affectation, of a kind of religiosity, that there is no room left for sincerity. And yet how well he has composed this picture after all, so that there is no sense of crowding, and the sun and sky are not so far away. Is it perhaps that in an age that has become suspicious of any religious emotion we are spoiled for such a picture as this, finding in what it may be was just a natural expression of worship to the simple Friars of S. Domenico long ago, all the ritualism and affectation in which we should find it necessary to hide ourselves before we might approach her, as she seemed to them, a Queen enthroned, causa nostrae Laetitiae, between two saints whose very names we find it difficult to remember? How often in our day has Perugino been accused of insincerity, yet it was not so long ago when he lived. Almost all his life he was engaged in painting for the Church those things which were most precious in her remembrance. If men found him insincere, it is strange that among so much that was eager and full of sincerity his work was able to hold its own. His pupil Raphael, that most beloved name, is represented here in the Uffizi only by the Madonna del Cardellino (1129); for the other works attributed to him in the Tribuna are not his. The picture is in his early manner, and was painted about 1548. It has, like so much of Raphael's work, suffered restoration; and indeed these compositions from his hand no longer hold us as they used to do, whether because of that repainting or no, I know not. It is as a portrait painter we think of Raphael to-day, and as the painter of the Stanze at Rome; and therefore I prefer to speak of him with regard to his work in the Pitti Gallery rather than here. With him the Umbrian School passed into the world.

IV. THE VENETIAN SCHOOL

Nearly all the Venetian pictures were bought in 1654 by Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici from Messer Paolo del Sera, a Florentine merchant in Venice. More truly representative of the Renaissance, its humanism and splendour, than any other school of painting in Italy, the earlier works of that great Venetian School are not seen to advantage in the Uffizi. There is nothing here by Jacopo Bellini, nothing by his son Gentile; nor any work from the hands of Antonio or Bartolommeo Vivarini, or Antonello da Messina, who apparently introduced oil painting into Venice. It is not till we come to Giovanni Bellini, born about 1430, that we find a work of the Quattrocento in the delightful but puzzling Allegory (631), where Our Lady sits enthroned beside a lagoon in a strange and lovely landscape of rocks and trees; while beside her kneels St. Catherine of Alexandria, and again, St. Catherine of Siena; farther away stand St. Peter and St. Paul, while below children are playing with fruit and a curious tree; on the other side are Job and St. Sebastian, while in the background you may see the story of the life of St. Anthony. This mysterious picture certainly stands alone in Giovanni Bellini's work, and suggests the thoughts at least of Mantegna; and while it is true that Giovanni had worked at Padua, one is surprised to come upon its influence so late in his life.[125]

The influence of the Bellini is to be found in almost all the great painters of Venice in the Cinquecento. We come upon it first in the work of Vittore Carpaccio, of which there is but a fragment here, the delicate little picture, the Finding of the True Cross (583 bis); while in two works attributed to Bissolo and Cima da Conegliano (584, 564 bis), we see too the influence of Bellini.

If Carpaccio was the greatest pupil of Gentile Bellini, in Giorgione we see the first of those marvellous painters who were taught their art by his brother Giovanni. Giorgio Barbarelli, called Giorgione, was born at Castelfranco, a little town in the hills not far from Padua, in 1478. Three of his rare works—there are scarcely more than some fifteen in the world—are here in the Uffizi, the two very early pictures—but all his works were early, for he died in 1510—the Trial of Moses (621), and the Judgment of Solomon (630), and the beautiful portrait of a Knight of Malta (622). Giorgione was the dayspring of the Renaissance in Venice. His work, as Pater foretold of it, has attained to the condition of Music. And though in the portrait of the Knight of Malta, for instance, we have to admit much repainting, something of the original glamour still lingers, so that in looking on it even to-day we may see to how great a place the painters of Venice had been called. It is in the work of his fellow-pupil and Titian that the great Venetian treasure of the Uffizi lies. In the Madonna with St. Anthony (633) we have a picture in Giorgione's early manner, and a later, but still early work, in the Flora (626). The two portraits, Eleonora Gonzaga and Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke and Duchess of Urbino, were painted in Venice in 1536 or 1538, and came into the Uffizi with the other Urbino pictures, with the Venus of Urbino (1117), for instance, where Titian has painted the Bella of the Pitti Palace naked on a couch, a little dog at her feet, and in her hand a chaplet of roses. In the background two maids search for a gown in a great chest under a loggia. This picture, first mentioned in a letter of 1538, was painted for Duke Guidobaldo della Rovere. The Venus with the little Amor (1108) appears to have been painted about 1545. It is not from Urbino. Dr. Gronau thinks it may be identical with the Venus "shortly described in a book of the Guardaroba of Grand Duke Cosimo II in the year 1621." The Portrait of Bishop Beccadelli (1116) was painted in July 1552, and is signed by Titian. It was bought, with the other Venetian pictures, by Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici in 1654. I say nothing of Titian here: preferring to speak of him in dealing with his more various and numerous work in the Pitti Palace. Other pupils of Giovanni Bellini, beside Giorgione and Titian, are found here—Palma Vecchio for instance—in a poor picture of Judith with the Head of Holofernes (619); Rondinelli in a Portrait of a Man (354) and a Madonna and two Saints (384); Sebastiano del Piombo in the Farnesina (1123), long given to Raphael, and the Death of Adonis (592). All these men, whose work is so full of splendour, came under the influence of Giorgione after passing through Bellini's bottega. Nor did Lorenzo Lotto, the pupil of Alvise Vivarini, escape the authority of that serene and perfect work, whose beauty lingered so quietly over the youth of the greatest painter of Italy, Tiziano Vecelli: his Holy Family (575) seems to be a work of Giorgione himself almost, that has suffered some change; that change was Lotto.

Titian's own pupils, Paris Bordone, Tintoretto, and Schiavone, may also be found here; the first in a Portrait of a Young Man (607), full of confidence and force. Tintoretto has five works here, beside the portrait of himself (378): the Bust of a Young Man (577), the Portrait of Admiral Vernier (601), the Portrait of an Old Man (615), the Portrait of Jacopo Sansovino (638), and a Portrait of a Man (649). His portraits are full of an immense splendour; they sum up often rhetorically enough all that was superficial in the subject, representing him as we may suppose he hardly hoped to see himself. Without the subtle distinction of Titian's art, or the marvellous power of characterisation and expression that he possessed with the earlier men, Tintoretto's work is noble, and almost lyrical in its confidence and beauty. In his day Venice seems to have been the capital of the world, peopled by a race of men splendid and strong, beside whom the men of our time, even the best of them, seem a little vulgar, a little wanting in dignity and life.

Two pictures by Paolo Veronese, the early Martyrdom of S. Giustina (589), and the Holy Family and St. Catherine (1136), bring the period to a close. It is a different school of painting altogether that we see in the Piazzetta of Canaletto (1064), perhaps the last picture painted by a Venetian in the gallery.

THE NORTHERN SCHOOLS

Andrea Mantegna was born, not at Padua, where his greatest work is to be found—three frescoes in the Eremitani—but at Vicenza. Here in the Uffizi, however, we have two works of his middle period, certainly among the best, if not the most beautiful, of his easel pictures. In one we see Madonna and Child in a rocky landscape, where there are trees and flowers (1025); the other is a triptych (1111), one of the many priceless things to be found here. In the midst you may see the Three Kings at the feet of Jesus Parvulus in his Mother's arms, while on one side Mantegna has painted the Presentation in the Temple, and on the other the Resurrection. Long ago this marvellous miniature, that even to-day seems to shine like a precious stone, was in the possession of the Gonzagas of Mantua, from whom it is supposed the Medici bought it.

Five male portraits by the Bergamesque master Moroni are to be found here. One (360) is said to be a portrait of himself, though it certainly bears no resemblance to the portrait at Bergamo. I cannot forbear from mentioning the Portrait of a Scholar, which seems to me one of his best works. Moroni was born at Bondo, not far from Albino, in 1525. It is probable that Moretto, who, as Morelli suggests, was a Brescian by birth, though his parents originally came from the same valley as Moroni, Valle del Serio, was his master. Moretto is, I think, a greater painter than Moroni, though perhaps we are only beginning to appreciate the latter.

Three pictures here are from the hand of Correggio: the early small panel of Madonna and Child with Angels (1002), once ascribed to Titian, a naive and charming little work; the Repose in Egypt (1118), grave and beautiful enough, but in some way I cannot explain a little disappointing; and the Madonna adoring her little Son (1134), which is rather commonplace in colour, though delightful in conception.

It might seem impossible within the covers of one book to do more than touch upon the enormous wealth of ancient art in the possession of almost every city in Italy; and here in Florence, more than anywhere else, I know my feebleness. If these few notes, for indeed they are nothing more, serve to group the pictures hung in the Uffizi into Schools, to win a certain order out of what is already less a chaos than of old, to give to the reader some idea almost at a glance of what the Uffizi really possesses of the various schools of Italian painting, they will have served their purpose.[126]

Of the sculpture, too, I say nothing. Vastly more important and beloved of old than to-day, when the work of the Greeks themselves has come into our hands, and above all the Greek work of the fifth century B.C., there is not to be found in the Uffizi a single marble of Greek workmanship, and but few Roman works that are still untampered with. For myself, I cannot look with pleasure on a Roman Venus patched by the Renaissance, for I have seen the beauty of the Melian Aphrodite; and there are certain things in Rome, in Athens, in London, which make it for ever impossible for us to be sincere in our worship at this shrine.

FOOTNOTES:

[121] Alberti, Opere Volgari (Firenze, 1847), vol. iv. p. 75.

[122] Mr. Berenson calls it a Portrait of Perugino, though for long it passed as a Portrait of Verrocchio by Lorenzo di Credi.

[123] For a full account of the Umbrian school see my Cities of Umbria.

[124] In 1416, Borgo S. Sepolcro was not just within the borders of Tuscany of course, as it is to-day, but just without: it was part of the Papal State till Eugenius IV sold it to Florence.

[125] Mr. Berenson calls the picture An Allegory of the Tree of Life, and adds that it is certainly a late work of Giovanni.

[126] Of the Flemish, Dutch, German, and French pictures here I intend to say no more than to name a few among them. The most valuable foreign picture in Florence for the student of Italian art is Van der Goes' (1425-82) great triptych (1525) of the Adoration of the Shepherds, with the Family of the donor Messer Portinari, agent of the Medici in Bruges. In the same sala are two Memlings (703, 778), and a Roger van der Weyden (795). Two Holbeins, the Richard Southwell (765), and Sir Thomas More (799), are in the German room; while Duerer's noble and lovely Adoration of the Magi (1141) is still in the Tribuna, and his portrait of his Father (766) is with the other German pictures in the German room. Some too eloquent works of Rubens hang apart, while here and there you may see a Vandyck—Lord John and Lord Bernard Stuart (1523), for instance, or Jean de Montfort (1115), a little pensive and proud amid the splendour of Italy.



XXIV. FLORENCE

THE PITTI GALLERY

During the last years of Cosimo de' Medici, Luca Pitti, that rare old knight, sometime Gonfaloniere of Justice, thought to possess himself of the state of Florence, and to this end, besides creating a new Balia against the wishes of Cosimo, distributed, as it is said, some 20,000 ducats in one day, so that the whole city came after him in flocks, and not Cosimo, but he, was looked upon as the governor of Florence. "So foolish was he in his own conceit, that he began two stately and magnificent houses," Machiavelli tells us, "one in Florence, the other at Rusciano, not more than a mile away: but that in Florence was greater and more splendid than the house of any other private citizen whatsoever. To finish this latter, he baulked no extraordinary way, for not only the citizens and better sort presented him and furnished him with what was necessary for it, but the common people gave him all of their assistance; besides, all that were banished or guilty of murder, felony, or any other thing which exposed them to punishment, had sanctuary at that house provided they would give him their labour."

Now, when Cosimo was dead, and Piero de' Medici the head of that family, Niccolo Soderini was made Gonfaloniere of Justice, and thinking to secure the liberty of the city he began many good things, but perfected nothing, so that he left that office with less honour than he entered into it. This fortified Piero's party exceedingly, so that his enemies began to resent it and work together to consider how they might kill him, for in supporting Galeazzo Maria Sforza to the Dukedom of Milan—which his father Francesco, just dead, had stolen for himself—they saw, or thought they saw, the way in which Piero would deal if he could with Florence. Thus the Mountain, as the party of his enemies was called, leaned threatening to crush him more surely every day. But Piero, who lay sick at Careggi, armed himself, as did his friends, who were not few in the city. Now the leaders of his enemies were Luca Pitti, Dietosalvi Neroni, Agnolo Acciaiuoli, and most courageous of all, Niccolo Soderini. He, taking arms, as Piero had done, and followed by most of the people of his quarter, went one morning to Luca's house, entreating him to mount and ride with him to Palazzo Vecchio for the security of the Senate, who, as he said, were of his side. "To do this," said he, "is victory." But Luca had no mind for this game, for many reasons,—for one, he had already received promises and rewards from Piero; for another, he had married one of his nieces to Giovanni Tornabuoni,—so that, instead of joining him, he admonished Soderini to lay aside his arms and return quietly to his house. In the meantime the Senate, with the magistrates, had closed the doors of Palazzo Vecchio without appearing for either side, though the whole city was in tumult. After much discussion, they agreed, since Piero could not be present, for he was sick, to go to him in his palace, but Soderini would not. So they set out without him; and arrived, one was deputed to speak of the tumult, and to declare that they who first took arms were responsible; and that understanding Piero was the man, they came to be informed of his design, and to know whether it were for the advantage of the city. Piero made answer that not they who first took arms were blameworthy, but they who gave occasion for it: that if they considered their behaviour towards him, their meetings at night, their subscriptions and practices to defeat him, they would not wonder at what he had done; that he desired nothing but his own security, and that Cosimo and his sons knew how to live honourably in Florence, either with or without a Balia. Then, turning on Dietosalvi and his brothers, who were all present, he reproached them severely for the favours they had received from Cosimo, and the great ingratitude which they had returned; which reprimand was delivered with so much zeal, that, had not Piero himself restrained them, there were some present who would certainly have killed them. So he had it his own way, and presently new senators being chosen and another gonfaloniere, the people were called together in the Piazza and a new Balia was created, all of Piero's creatures. This so terrified "the Mountain" that they fled out of the city, but Luca Pitti remained, trusting in Giovanni Tornabuoni and the promises of Piero. Now mark his fall. He quickly learned the difference betwixt victory and misfortune, betwixt honour and disgrace. His house, which formerly was thronged with visitors and the better sort of citizens, was now grown solitary and unfrequented. When he appeared abroad in the streets, his friends and relations were not only afraid to accompany him, but even to own or salute him, for some of them had lost their honours for doing it, some their estates, and all of them were threatened. The noble structures which he had begun were given over by the workmen, the good deeds requited with contumely, the honours he had conferred with infamy and disgrace. For many persons, who in the day of his authority had loaded him with presents, required them again in his distress, pretending they were but loans and no more. Those who before had cried him to the skies, cursed him down as fast for his ingratitude and violence; so that now, when it was too late, he began to repent himself that he had not taken Soderini's advice and died honourably, seeing that he must now live with dishonour.

So far Machiavelli. The unfinished, half-ruinous palace, designed in 1444 by Brunellesco, was a century later sold by the Pitti, quite ruined now, to Eleonora, the wife of Grand Duke Cosimo, and was finished by Ammanati. The great wings were added later. In May 1550, Cosimo I entered Palazzo Pitti as his Grand-Ducal residence. To-day it is the King of Italy's Palace in Florence.

The Galleria Palatina is a gallery of the masterpieces of the high Renaissance, formed by the Grand Dukes, who brought here from their own villas and from the Uffizi the greatest works in their possession. Like other Italian galleries, it suffered from Napoleon's generals; but though sixty or more pictures were taken to Paris, they all seem to have been returned. Here the Grand Dukes gathered ten pictures by Titian eight by Raphael, as well as two, the Madonna del Baldacchino and the Vision of Ezekiel, which he designed, ten by Andrea del Sarto, six by Fra Bartolommeo, two lovely Peruginos, two splendid portraits by Ridolfo Ghirlandajo, four portraits by Tintoretto, several pictures by Rubens, two portraits, one of himself, by Rembrandt, a magnificent Vandyck, and many lesser pictures. In the royal apartments, among other interesting or beautiful things, is Botticelli's Pallas and the Centaur, painted, as some have thought, to celebrate Lorenzo's return from Naples in 1480. It is, then, rather as a royal gallery than as a museum that we must consider the Galleria Palatina, a more splendid if less catholic Salon Carre, the Tribuna of Italian painting. It is strange that, among all the beautiful and splendid pictures with which the Grand Dukes surrounded themselves, there is not one from the hand of Leonardo, nor one that Michelangelo has painted. And then, of the many here that pass under the name of Botticelli, only the Pallas and the Centaur in the royal apartments seems to be really his; so that when we look for the greatest pictures of the Florentine school, we must be content with the strangely unsatisfactory work of Andrea del Sarto, often lovely enough it is true, but as often insincere, shallow, not at one with itself, and certainly a stranger here in Florence.

The work of Andrea del Sarto, as we are assured, might but for his tragic story have been so splendid; but in truth that sentimental and pathetic tale neither excuses nor explains his failure, if failure it be. He is the first artist who has worked badly because he loved a woman. He was born in 1456, and became the pupil of Piero di Cosimo. There in that fantastic bottega he must have met Fra Bartolommeo, who later influenced him so deeply. Nor was Michelangelo, or at least his grand and tremendous art, without its effect upon one so easily moved, so subject to every passing mood, as Andrea. Yet he never seems to have expressed just himself, save in those tragic portraits of himself and of his wife, of which there are three here in the Pitti (188, 280, 1176). He has been called the faultless painter, and indeed he seems to be incapable of fault, to be really a little effeminate, a little vague, bewildered by the sculpture of Michelangelo, the confusion of art in Florence, the advent of the colourists, of whom here in Tuscany he is perhaps the chief. It is no intellectual passion you find in that soft, troubled work, where from every picture Lucrezia del Fede looks out at you, posing as Madonna or Magdalen or just herself, and even so, discontented, unhappy, unsatisfactory because she is too stupid to be happy at all. If she were Andrea's tragedy, one might think that even without her his life could scarcely have been different. If we compare, here in the Pitti Gallery, the two pictures of the Annunciation from his hand, we shall see how completely the enthusiasm of his early work is wanting in his later pictures. Something, some divine energy, seems to have gone out of his life, and ever after he is but trying to revive or to counterfeit it. Now and then, as in the Disputa (172), which marks the very zenith of his art, he is almost a great painter, but the Madonna with six Saints (123), painted in 1524, is already full of repetitions,—the kneeling figures in the foreground, for instance, that we find again in the Deposition (58) painted in the same year. Nor in the Assumption (225) painted in 1526, nor in the later picture (191) of 1531, is there any significance, energy, or beauty: they are arrangements of draperies, splendid luxurious pictures without sincerity or emotion. It is not fair to judge him by the St. John Baptist, which has suffered too much from restoration to be any longer his work. Thus it is at last as the painter of the Annunziata and the Scalzo that we must think of him, which, full of grandiose and heavy forms and draperies though they are, still please us better than anything else he achieved, save the great Last Supper of S. Salvi and the portraits of himself and his wife. As a Florentine painter he seems ever among strangers: it is as an exiled Venetian, one who had been forced by some irony of circumstances to forego his birthright in that invigorating and worldly city, which might have revealed to him just the significance of life which we miss in his pictures, that he appears to us; a failure difficult to explain, a weak but beautiful nature spoiled by mediocrity.

Fra Bartolommeo was another Florentine who seems, for a moment at any rate, to have been bewildered by the influence of Michelangelo, but as a profound conviction saved him from insincerity, so his splendid sensuality preserved his work from sentimentalism. Born about 1475 at Savignano, not far from Prato, his father sent him to Florence, placing him in the care of Cosimo Rosselli, according to Vasari, but more probably, as we may think, under Piero di Cosimo. Here he seems to have come under the influence of Leonardo, and to have been friends with Mariotto Albertinelli. The great influence of his life, however, was Fra Girolamo Savonarola, whom he would often go to S. Marco to hear. Savonarola was preaching as ever against vanities,—that is to say, pictures, statues, verses, books: things doubtless anathema to one whose whole future depended upon the amount of interest he could awaken in himself. At this time, it seems, Savonarola was asserting his conviction that "in houses where young maidens dwelt it was dangerous and improper to retain pictures wherein there were undraped figures." It seems to have been the custom in Florence at the time of the Carnival to build cabins of wood and furze, and on the night of Shrove Tuesday to set them ablaze, while the people danced around them, joining hands, according to ancient custom, amid laughter and songs. This Savonarola had denounced, and, winning the ear of the people for the moment, he persuaded those who were wont to dance to bring "pictures and works of sculpture, many by the most excellent masters," and to cast them into the fire, with books, musical instruments, and such. To this pile, Vasari tells us, Bartolommeo brought all his studies and drawings which he had made from the nude, and threw them into the flames; so also did Lorenzo di Credi and many others, who were called Piagnoni, among them, no doubt, Sandro Botticelli. The people soon tired, however, of their new vanity, as they had done of the beautiful things they had destroyed at his bidding, and, the party opposed to Savonarola growing dangerous, Bartolommeo with others shut themselves up in S. Marco to guard Savonarola. Fra Girolamo's excommunication, torture, and death, which followed soon after, seem finally to have decided the gentle Bartolommeo to assume the religious habit, which he did not long after at S. Domenico in Prato. Later we find him back in Florence in the Convent of S. Marco, where he is said to have met Raphael and to have learned much from him of the art of perspective. However that may be, he continued to paint there in S. Marco really—saving a journey to Rome where he came under the influence of Michelangelo, a visit to S. Martino in Lucca, and his journey to Venice in 1506—for the rest of his life, being buried there at last in 1517.

Six pictures from his hand hang to-day in the Pitti,—a Holy Family (256), the beautiful Deposition (64), an Ecce Homo in fresco (377), the Marriage of St. Catherine, painted in 1512 (208), a St. Mark, painted in 1514 (125), and Christ and the Four Evangelists, painted in 1516 (159). The unpleasing "Madonna appearing to St. Bernard," painted in 1506, now in the Accademia, was his first work after he became a friar.

Here, in the Pitti, Bartolommeo is not at his best; for his earlier and more delicate manner, so full of charm and a sort of daintiness, one must go to Lucca, where his picture of Madonna with St. Stephen and St. John Baptist hangs in the Duomo. The grand and almost pompous works in Florence, splendid though they may be in painting, in composition, in colour, scarcely move us at all, so that it might almost seem that in following Savonarola he lost not the world only but his art also, that refined and delicate art which comes to us so gently in his earliest pictures. Something passionate and pathetic, truly, may be found in the Pieta here, together with a certain dramatic effectiveness that is rare in his work. With what an effort, for instance, has St. John lifted the body of his Master from the great cross in the background, how passionately Mary Magdalen has flung herself at His feet; yet the picture seems to be without any real significance, without spirituality certainly, only another colossal group of figures that even Michelangelo has refused to carve.



On coming to the work of Raphael, to the work of Titian, we find the great treasure of the Pitti Gallery, beside which the rest is but a background: it is for them really, after all, that we have come here.

Raphael Sanzio, the "most beloved name in the history of painting," was born at Urbino in 1483. The pupil first of his father maybe, though Giovanni died when his son was but eleven years old, and later of Timoteo Viti, we hear of Raphael first in the bottega of the greatest of the Umbrian painters, Perugino, at Perugia. Two works of Perugino hang to-day in the Pitti Gallery, the Madonna and Child (219) and the Entombment (164), painted in 1495, for the nuns of S. Chiara. Vasari has much to say of the latter, relating how Francesco del Pugliare offered to give them three times as much as they had paid Perugino for the picture, and to cause another exactly like it to be executed for them by the same hand; but they would not consent, because Pietro had told them he did not think he could equal the one they possessed. It is really Umbria itself we see in that lovely work, which has impressed Bartolommeo so profoundly, the Lake of Trasimeno, surrounded by villages that climb the hills just as Perugino has painted the little city in this picture. And it is in this mystical and smiling country, where the light is so soft and tender, softer than on any Tuscan hills, that the most perfect if not the greatest painter of the Renaissance grew up. You may find some memory of that beautiful land of hills and quiet valleys even in his latest work, after he had learned from every master, and summed up, as it were, the whole Renaissance in his achievement. But in four pictures here in the Pitti, it is the influence of Florence you find imposing itself upon the art of Umbria, transforming it, strengthening it, and suggesting it may be, the way of advance. Something of the art of Pietro you see in the portraits of Madallena Doni (59), Angelo Doni (61), and La Donna Gravida (229), something so akin to the Francesco delle Opere of the Uffizi that it would not be surprising to find the Madallena Doni, at any rate, attributed to Perugino. Yet superficial though they be in comparison with the later portraits, they mark the patient endeavour of his work in Florence, the realism that this city, so scornful of forestieri, was forcing upon him as it had already done on Perugino, who in the Francesco, the Bracessi, and the two monks of the Accademia, touches life itself, perhaps, only there in all his work. It is the influence of Florence we seem to find too in the simplicity of the Madonna del Granduca (178). Here is a picture certainly in the manner of Perugino, but with something lost, some light, some beatitude, yet with something gained also, if only in a certain measure of restraint, a real simplicity that is foreign to that master. And then, if we compare it with the Madonna della Sedia (151), which is said to have been painted on the lid of a wine cask, we shall find, I think, that however many new secrets he may learn Raphael never forgot a lesson. It is Perugino who has taught him to compose so perfectly, that the space, small or large, of the picture itself becomes a means of beauty. How perfectly he has placed Madonna with her little Son, and St. John praying beside them, so that until you begin to take thought you are not aware how difficult that composition must have been, and indeed you never remember how small that tondo really is. How eagerly these easel pictures of Madonna have been loved, and yet to-day how little they mean to us; some virtue seems to have gone out of them, so that they move us no longer, and we are indeed a little impatient at their fame, and ready to accuse Raphael of I know not what insincerity or dreadful facility. Yet we have only to look at the portraits to know we are face to face with one of the greatest and most universal of painters. Consider, then, La Donna Velata (245), or the Pope Julius II (79), or the Leo X with the two Cardinals (40), how splendid they are, how absolutely characterised and full of life, life seen in the tranquillity of the artist, who has understood everything, and with whom truth has become beauty. In the Leo X with the Cardinals, Giulio de' Medici and Lorenzo dei Rossi, how tactfully Raphael has contrived the light and shadow so that the fat heavy face of the Pope is not over emphasised, and you discern perfectly the beauty of the head, the delicacy of the nostrils, the clever, sensual, pathetic, witty mouth. And the hands seem to be about to move, to be a little tremulous with life, to be on the verge of a gesture, to have only just become motionless on the edge of the book. It is in these portraits that the art of Raphael is at its greatest, becomes universal, achieves immortality.

There remains to be considered the splendid ever-living work of Titian. The early work of the greatest painter of Italy, of the world, greatest in the variety, number, and splendour of his pictures, is represented in the Pitti, happily enough by one of the most lovely of all Italian paintings, the Concert (185), so long given to Giorgone. A monk in cowl and tonsure touches the keys of a harpsichord, while beside him stands an older man, a clerk and perhaps a monk too, who grasps the handle of a viol; in the background, a youthful, ambiguous figure, with a cap and plume, waits, perhaps on some interval, to begin a song. Yet, indeed, that is not the picture, which, whatever its subject may be, would seem to be more expressive than any other in the world. Some great joy, some great sorrow, seems about to declare itself. What music does he hear, that monk with the beautiful sensitive hands, who turns away towards his companion? Something has awakened in his soul, and he is transfigured. Perhaps for the first time, in some rhythm of the music, he has understood everything, the beauty of life which passeth like a sunshine, now that it is too late, that his youth is over and middle age is upon him. His companion, on the threshold of old age, divines his trouble and lays a hand on his shoulder quietly, as though to still the tumult of his heart. Like a vision youth itself, ambiguous, about to possess everything, waits, like a stranger, as though invoked by the music, on an interval that will never come again, that is already passed.

If Titian is really the sole painter of this picture, how loyal he has been to his friend, to that new spirit which lighted Venetian art as the sun makes beautiful the world. But indeed one might think that, even with Morelli, Crowe, and Cavalcaselle, and Berenson against us, not to name others who have done much for the history of painting in Italy, we might still believe, not altogether without reason, that Giorgone had some part in the Concert, which, after all, passed as his altogether for two hundred and fifty years; was bought, indeed, as his in 1654, only seventy-eight years after Titian's death, by Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici from Paolo del Sera, the Florentine collector in Venice. That figure of a youth, ambiguous in its beauty—could any other hand than Giorgone's have painted it; does it ever appear in Titian's innumerable masterpieces at all? Dying as he did at the age of thirty-three, Giorgone must have left many pictures unfinished, which Titian, his friend and disciple almost, may well have completed, and even signed, in an age when works, almost wholly untouched by a master, were certainly sold as his.

Titian's other pictures here, with the exception of the Head of Christ (228) and the Magdalen (67), are portraits, all, save the so-called Tommaso Mosti, painted certainly before 1526, of his great middle period. The Magdalen comes from Urbino, where Vasari saw it in the Guardaroba of the great palace. The quality of the picture is one of sheer colour; there is here no other "subject" than a beautiful nude woman,—it is called a Magdalen because it is not called a Venus. Consider, then, the harmony of the gold hair and the fair flesh and the blue of the sky: it is a harmony in gold and rose and blue.

The earliest of the great portraits is the Ippolito de' Medici (201); it was painted in Venice in October 1532.[127] Vasari saw this picture in the Guardaroba of Cosimo I. It is a half-length portrait of a distinguished man, still very young, that we see. The Cardinal is not dressed as a Churchman, but as a grandee of Hungary. In the sad and cunning face we seem to foresee the fate that awaited him at Gaeta scarcely three years later, where he was imprisoned and poisoned. The beautiful dull red of the tunic reminds one of the unforgetable red of the cloth on the table beside which Philip II stands in the picture in the Prado. From this profound and almost touching portrait we come to the joy of the Bella (18). It is a hymn to Physical Beauty. There is nothing in the world more splendid or more glad than this portrait, perhaps of Eleonora Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino. How often Titian has painted her!—once as it might seem as the Venus of the Tribune (1117), and again in her own character in the portrait now in the Uffizi (599), where certainly she is not so fair as she we see here as Bella and there as Venus. If this, indeed, be the Duchess of Urbino, then the Venus is also her portrait, for the Bella is described in the list of fine pictures which were brought to Florence in 1631 as a portrait of the same person we know as the Venus of the Tribune. But the first we hear of the Bella is in a letter of the Duke of Urbino in 1536, while the portrait in the Uffizi of Eleonora Gonzaga was painted in Venice in that year; and since the Duchess is certainly an older woman than the Bella, we must conclude either that the Bella was painted many years earlier, which seems impossible, or that it is not a portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga. And, indeed, the latter conclusion seems likely, for who can believe that the Duke would have cared for a nude portrait of his wife as Venus? It seems probable that the Bella is a portrait of his mistress rather than his wife, a mistress whom, since she was so fair, he did not scruple to ask Titian to paint as Venus herself. A harmony in blue and gold, Dr. Gronau calls the picture; adding that, "in spite of its faults or of the restorations which have made it a mere shadow of its former splendour, it remains an immortal example of what the art of the Renaissance at its zenith regarded as the ideal of feminine beauty."

If it is beauty and joy we find in the Bella, it is a profound force and confidence that we come upon in the portrait of Aretino painted before 1545,—and life above all. Here is one of the greatest blackguards of history, the "Scourge of Princes," the blackmailer of Popes, the sensualist of the Sonnetti Lussuriosi, the witty author of the Ragionamenti. We seem to see his vulgarity, his immense ability, his splendour, and his baseness, and to understand why Titian was wise enough to take him for his friend. What energy, almost bestial in its brutality, you find in those coarse features and over-eloquent lips, and yet the head is powerful, really intellectual too, though without any delicacy or fineness. Aretino himself presented this portrait to Cosimo I in October 1545, inexplicably explaining that the rendering of the dress was not perfect.[128]

In another portrait of about the same time, the Young Englishman (92), we have Titian at his best. The extraordinarily beautiful English face, fulfilled with some incalculable romance, is to me at least by far the most delightful portrait in Florence. One seems to understand England, her charm, her fascination, her extraordinary pride and persistence, in looking at this picture of one of her sons. All the tragedy of her kings, the adventure to be met with on her seas, the beauty and culture of Oxford, and the serenity of her country places, come back to one fresh and unsullied by memories of the defiling and trumpery cities that so lately have begun to destroy her. Who this beautiful figure may be we know not, nor, indeed, where the picture may have come from; for if it comes from Urbino it is not well described in the inventory of 1631.

After looking upon such a work as this, the Philip II (200), fine though it is, and only less splendid than the Madrid picture, the Portrait of a Man (215), both painted in Augsburg in 1548, and even the lovely portrait of Giulia Varana, Duchess of Urbino, in the royal apartments, seem to lose something of their splendour. Yet if we compare them with the work of Raphael or Tintoretto, they assuredly possess an energy and a vitality that even those masters were seldom able to express. For Titian seems to have created life with something of the ease and facility of a natural force; to have desired always Beauty as the only perfect flower of life; and while he was not content with the mere truth, and never with beauty divorced from life, he has created life in such abundance that his work may well be larger than the achievement of any two other men, even the greatest in painting; yet in his work, in the work that is really his, you will find nothing that is not living, nothing that is not an impassioned gesture reaching above and beyond our vision into the realm of that force which seems to be eternal.

FOOTNOTES:

[127] Gronau, Titian (London, 1904), p. 291, where Dr. Gronau suggests it may belong to the following year; see also p. 104.

[128] Cf. Lettere di Pietro Aretino (1609), vol. iii. p. 238.



XXV. TO FIESOLE AND SETTIGNANO

How weary one grows of the ways of a city,—yes, even in Florence, where every street runs into the country and one may always see the hills and the sky! But even in Athens, when they built the Parthenon, often, I think, I should have found my way into the olive gardens and vineyards about Kephisos: so to-day, leaving the dead beauty littered in the churches, the palaces, the museums, the streets of Florence, very often I seek the living beauty of the country, the whisper of the poplars beside Arno, the little lovely songs of streams. And then Florence is a city almost without suburbs;[129] at the gate you find the hills, the olive gardens bordered with iris, the vineyards hedged with the rose.

Many and fair are the ways to Fiesole: you may go like a burgess in the tram, or like a lord in a coach, but for me I will go like a young man by the bye ways, like a poor man on my feet, and the dew will be yet on the roses when I set out, and in the vineyards they will be singing among the corn—

"Fiorin fiorello, La mi' Rosina ha il labbro di corallo E l'occhiettino suo sembra un gioiello."

And then, who knows what awaits one on the way?

"E quando ti riscontro per la via Abbassi gli occhi e rassembri una dea, E la fai consumar la vita mia."

Of the ways to Fiesole, one goes by Mugnone and one by S. Gervasio, but it will not be by them that I shall go, but out of Barriera delle Cure; and I shall pass behind the gardens of Villa Palmieri, whither after the second day of the Decamerone Boccaccio's fair ladies and gay lords passed from Poggio Gherardo by a little path "but little used, which was covered with herbs and flowers, that opened under the rising sun, while they listened to the song of the nightingales and other birds." Thus between the garden walls I shall come to S. Domenico.

S. Domenico di Fiesole is a tiny village half way up the hill of Fiesole, and on one side of the way is the Dominican convent, and on the other the Villa Medici, while in the valley of Mugnone is an abbey of Benedictines, the Badia di Fiesole, founded in 1028. The convent of Dominican friars, where Fra Angelico and S. Antonino, who was the first novice here, lived, and Cosimo de' Medici walked so often, looking down on Florence and Arno there in the evening, was founded in 1405. Suppressed in the early part of the nineteenth century, the convent was despoiled of its frescoes, but in 1880 it was bought back by the Dominicans, so that to-day it is fulfilling its original purpose as a religious house. The church too has suffered many violations, and to-day there are but two frescoes left of all the work Angelico did here,—a triptych in a chapel, a Madonna and Saints restored by Lorenzo di Credi, and a Crucifixion in the sacristy. Of old, Perugino's Baptism now in the Uffizi hung here, but that was taken by Grand Duke Leopold, who gave in exchange Lorenzo di Credi's picture; but the French stole Angelico's Coronation of the Virgin, now in the Louvre, and gave nothing in return, so that of all the riches of this little place almost nothing remains, only (and this is rare about Florence at any rate) the original owners are in possession, and you may hear Mass here very sweetly.

It is down a lane, again between garden walls, that you must go to the Badia, once the great shrine of the Fiesolans, but since the eleventh century an abbey of Benedictines, where S. Romolo once upon a time lay in peace, till, indeed, the oratory not far from the church was stupidly destroyed. The Badia itself was rebuilt in the fifteenth century for Cosimo de' Medici, by the hand, as it is said, of Brunellesco. Here in the loggia that looks over the city the Platonic Academy often met, so that these very pillars must have heard the gentle voice of Marsilio Ficino, the witty speech of the young Lorenzo, the beautiful words of Pico della Mirandola, the laughter of Simonetta, the footsteps of Vanna Tornabuoni. It was, however, not for the Benedictines but for the Augustinians that Cosimo rebuilt the place, giving them, indeed, one of the most beautiful convents in Italy, and one of the loveliest churches too, a great nave with a transept under a circular vaulting, while the facade is part really of the earlier building, older it may be than S. Miniato or the Baptistery itself, as we now see it; and there the pupils of Desiderio da Settignano have worked and Giovanni di S. Giovanni has painted, while Brunellesco is said to have designed the lectern in the sacristy. Later, Inghirami set up his printing press here, while in the church Giovanni de' Medici in 1452 was made Cardinal, and in the convent Giuliano, the Due de Nemours, died in 1516. Returning from this quiet and beautiful retreat to S. Domenico, one may go very well on foot, though not otherwise, by the old road to Fiesole, still between the garden walls; but then, who would go by the new way, noisy with the shrieking of the trams, while by the old way you may tread in the footsteps of the Bishops of Fiesole? They would rest on the way from Florence at Riposo de' Vescovi, and leave their coach at S. Domenico. By the old way, too, you pass Le Tre Pulzelle, the hostel of the Three Maidens, or at least the place where it stood, and where Leo X stayed in 1516. Farther, too, is the little church of S. Ansano, where there is a host of fair pictures, and then suddenly you are in the great Piazza, littered with the booths of the straw-plaiters, in the keen air of Fiesole, among a ruder and more virile people, who look down on Florence all day long.



And indeed, whatever the historians may say, scorning wise tales of old Villani, the Fiesolani are a very different people from the Florentines; and whether Atlas, with Electra his wife, born in the fifth degree from Japhet son of Noah, built this city upon this rock by the counsel of Apollinus, midway between the sea of Pisa and Rome and the Gulf of Venice, matters little. The Fiesolani are not Florentines, people of the valley, but Etruscans, people of the hills, and that you may see in half an hour any day in their windy piazzas and narrow climbing ways. Rough, outspoken, stark men little women keen and full of salt, they have not the assured urbanity of the Florentine, who, while he scorns you in his soul as a barbarian, will trade with you, eat with you, and humour you, certainly without betraying his contempt. But the Fiesolano is otherwise; quarrelsome he is, and a little aloof, he will not concern himself overmuch about you, and will do his business whether you come or go. And I think, indeed, he still hates the Fiorentino, as the Pisan does, as the Sienese does, with an immortal, cold, everlasting hatred, that maybe nothing will altogether wipe out or cause him to forget. All these people have suffered too much from Florence, who understood the art of victory as little as she understood the art of empire. From the earliest times, as it might seem, Florence, a Roman foundation after all, hated Fiesole, which once certainly was an Etruscan city. Time after time she destroyed it, generally in self-defence. In 1010, for instance, Villani tells us that "the Florentines, perceiving that their city of Florence had no power to rise much while they had overhead so strong a fortress as the city of Fiesole, one night secretly and subtly set an ambush of armed men in divers parts of Fiesole. The Fiesolani, feeling secure as to the Florentines, and not being on their guard against them, on the morning of their chief festival of S. Romolo, when the gates were open and the Fiesolani unarmed, the Florentines entered into the city under cover of coming to the festa; and when a good number were within, the other armed Florentines which were in ambush secured the gates; and on a signal made to Florence, as had been arranged, all the host and power of the Florentines came on horse and on foot to the hill, and entered into the city of Fiesole, and traversed it, slaying scarce any man nor doing any harm, save to those who opposed them. And when the Fiesolani saw themselves to be suddenly and unexpectedly surprised by the Florentines, part of them which were able fled to the fortress, which was very strong, and long time maintained themselves there. The city at the foot of the fortress having been taken and over run by the Florentines, and the strongholds and they which opposed themselves being likewise taken, the common people surrendered themselves on condition that they should not be slain nor robbed of their goods; the Florentines working their will to destroy the city, and keeping possession of the bishop's palace. Then the Florentines made a covenant, that whosoever desired to leave the city of Fiesole and come and dwell in Florence might come safe and sound with all his goods and possessions, or might go to any place which pleased him, for the which thing they came down in great numbers to dwell in Florence, whereof there were and are great families in Florence. And when this was done, and the city was without inhabitants and goods, the Florentines caused it to be pulled down and destroyed, all save the bishop's palace and certain other churches and the fortress, which still held out, and did not surrender under the said conditions." Fifteen years later we read again: "In the year of Christ 1125 the Florentines came with an army to the fortress of Fiesole, which was still standing and very strong, and it was held by certain gentlemen cattani which had been of the city of Fiesole, and thither resorted highwaymen and refugees and evil men, which sometimes infested the roads and country of Florence; and the Florentines carried on the siege so long that for lack of victuals the fortress surrendered, albeit they would never have taken it by storm, and they caused it to be all cast down and destroyed to the foundations, and they made a decree that none should ever dare to build a fortress again at Fiesole."[130]

Now whether Villani is strictly right in his chronicle matters little or nothing. We know that Fiesole was an Etruscan city, that with the rise of Rome, like the rest, she became a Roman colony; all this too her ruins confirm. With the fall of Rome, and the barbarian invasions, she was perfectly suited to the needs of the Teutonic invader. What hatred Florence had for her was probably due to the fact that she was a stronghold of the barbarian nobles, and the fact that in 1010, as Villani says, the Fiesolani were content to leave the city and descend to Florence, while the citadel held out and had to be dealt with later, goes to prove that the fight was rather between the Latin commune of Florence and the pirate nobles of Fiesole than between Florence and Fiesole itself. Certainly with the destruction of the alien power at Fiesole the city of Florence gained every immediate security; the last great fortress in her neighbourhood was destroyed.

To-day Fiesole consists of a windy Piazza, in which a campanile towers between two hills covered with houses and churches and a host of narrow lanes. In the Piazza stands the Duomo, founded in 1028 by Bishop Jacopo Bavaro, who no doubt wished to bring his throne up the hill from the Badia, where of old it was established. Restored though it is, the church keeps something of its old severity and beauty, standing there like a fortress between the hills and between the valleys. It is of basilica form, with a nave and aisles flanked by sixteen columns of sandstone. As at S. Miniato, the choir is raised over a lofty crypt. There is not perhaps much of interest in the church, but over the west door you may see a statue of S. Romolo, while in the choir in the Salutati Chapel there is the masterpiece of Mino da Fiesole, the tomb of Bishop Salutati, who died in 1465, and opposite a marble reredos of Madonna between S. Antonio and S. Leonardo, by the same master. The beautiful bust of Bishop Leonardo over his tomb is an early work, and the tomb itself is certainly among the most original and charming works of the master. If the reredos is not so fine, it is perhaps only that with so splendid a work before us we are content only with the best of all.

But it is not to see a church that we have wandered up to Fiesole, for in the country certainly the churches are less than an olive garden, and the pictures are shamed by the flowers that run over the hills. Lounging about this old fortress of a city, one is caught rather by the aspect of natural things—Val d'Arno, far and far away, and at last a glimpse of the Apennines; Val di Mugnone towards Monte Senario, the night of cypresses about Vincigliata, the olives of Maiano—than by the churches scattered among the trees or hidden in the narrow ways that everywhere climb the hills to lose themselves at last in the woodland or in the cornlands among the vines. You wander behind the Duomo into the Scavi, and it is not the Roman Baths you go to see or the Etruscan walls and the well-preserved Roman theatre: you watch the clouds on the mountains, the sun in the valley, the shadows on the hills, listen to a boy singing to his goats, play with a little girl who has slipped her hand in yours looking for soldi, or wonder at the host of flowers that has run even among these ruins. Even from the windows of the Palazzo Pretorio, which for some foolish reason you have entered on your way to the hills, you do not really see the statues and weapons of these forgotten Etruscan people, but you watch the sun that has perhaps suddenly lighted up the Duomo, or the wind that, like a beautiful thought, for a moment has turned the hills to silver. Or if it be up to S. Francesco you climb, the old acropolis of Fiesole, above the palace of the bishop and the Seminary, it will surely be rather to look over the valley to the farthest hills, where Val di Greve winds towards Siena, than to enter a place which, Franciscan though it be, has nothing to show half so fair as this laughing country, or that Tuscan cypress on the edge of that grove of olives.

That love of country life, no longer characteristic of the Florentines, which we are too apt to consider almost wholly English, was long ago certainly one of the most delightful traits of the Tuscan character; for Siena was not behind Florence in her delight in the life of the villa.[131] It is perhaps in the Commentaries of Pius II that a love of country byways, the lanes and valleys about his home, through which, gouty and old, he would have himself carried in a litter, is expressed for the first time with a true understanding and appreciation of things which for us have come to mean a good half of life. No such lovely descriptions of scenery may be found perhaps in any Florentine writer before Lorenzo Magnifico, unless indeed it be in the verse of Sacchetti. Yet the Florentine burgess of the fifteenth century, the very man whose simple and hard common-sense got him wealth, or at least a fine competence, and, as he has told us, a good housewife, and made him one of the toughest traders in Europe, would become almost a poet in his country house. Old Agnolo Pandolfini, talking to his sons, and teaching them his somewhat narrow yet wholesome and delightful wisdom, continually reminds himself of those villas near Florence, some like palaces,—Poggio Gherardo for instance,—some like castles,—Vincigliata perhaps,—"in the purest air, in a laughing country of lovely views, where there are no fogs nor bitter winds, but always fresh water and everything pure and healthy." Certainly Cosimo de' Medici was not the first Florentine to retire from the city perhaps to Careggi, perhaps to S. Domenico, perhaps farther still; for already in Boccaccio's day we hear the praise of country life,—his description of Villa Palmieri, for instance, when at the end of the second day of the Decamerone those seven ladies and their three comrades leave Poggio Gherardo for that palace "about two miles westward," whither they came at six o'clock of a Sunday morning in the year 1348. "When they had entered and inspected everything, and seen that the halls and rooms had been cleaned and decorated, and plentifully supplied with all that was needed for sweet living, they praised its beauty and good order, and admired the owner's magnificence. And on descending, even more delighted were they with the pleasant and spacious courts, the cellars filled with choice wines, and the beautifully fresh water which was everywhere round about.... Then they went into the garden, which was on one side of the palace and was surrounded by a wall, and the beauty and magnificence of it at first sight made them eager to examine it more closely. It was crossed in all directions by long, broad, and straight walks, over which the vines, which that year made a great show of giving many grapes, hung gracefully in arched festoons, and being then in full blossom, filled the whole garden with their sweet smell, and this, mingled with the odours of the other flowers, made so sweet a perfume that they seemed to be in the spicy gardens of the East. The sides of the walks were almost closed with red and white roses and with jessamine so that they gave sweet odours and shade not only in the morning but when the sun was high, so that one might walk there all day without fear. What flowers there were there how various and how ordered, it would take too long to tell, but there was not one which in our climate is to be praised, which was not to be found there abundantly. Perhaps the most delightful thing therein was a meadow in the midst, of the finest grass and all so green that it seemed almost black, all sprinkled with a thousand various flowers, shut in by oranges and cedars, the which bore the ripe fruit and the young fruit too and the blossom, offering a shade most grateful to the eyes and also a delicious perfume. In the midst of this meadow there was a fountain of the whitest marble marvellously carved, and within—I do not know whether artificially or from a natural spring—it threw so much water and so high towards the sky through a statue which stood there on a pedestal, that it would not have needed more to turn a mill. The water fell back again with a delicious sound into the clear waters of the basin, and the surplus was carried away through a subterranean way into little waterways most beautifully and artfully made about the meadow, and afterwards ran into others round about, and so watered every part of the garden; it collected at length in one place, whence it had entered the beautiful garden, turning two mills, much to the profit, as you may suppose, of the signore, and pouring down at last in a stream clear and sweet into the valley."

If this should seem a mere pleasaunce of delight, the vision of a poet, the garden of a dream, we have only to remember how realistically and simply Boccaccio has described for us that plague-stricken city, scarcely more than a mile away, to be assured of its truthfulness: and then listen to Alberti—or old Agnolo Pandolfini, is it?—in his Trattato del Governo della Famiglia, one of the most delightful books of the fifteenth century. He certainly was no poet, yet with what enthusiasm and happiness he speaks of his villa, how comely and useful it is, so that while everything else brings labour, danger, suspicion, harm, fear, and repentance, the villa will bring none of these, but a pure happiness, a real consolation. Yes, it is really as an escape from all the care and anxiety of business, of the wool or silk trade, which he praised so much, that he loves the country. "La Villa, the country, one soon finds, is always gracious, faithful, and true; if you govern it with diligence and love, it will never be satisfied with what it does for you, always it will add [**Transcriber's Note: undecipherable] to recompense. In the spring the villa gives you continual delight; green leaves, flowers, odours, songs and in every way makes you happy and jocund: all smiles on you and promises a fine harvest, filling you with good hope, delight, and pleasure. Yes indeed, how courteous is the villa! She gives you now one fruit, now another, never leaving you without some of her own joy. For in autumn she pays you for all your trouble, fruit out of all proportion to your merit, recompense, and thanks; and how willingly and with what abundance—twelve for one: for a little sweat, many barrels of wine, and for what is old in the house, the villa will give you new, seasoned, clear, and good. She fills the house the winter long with grapes, both fresh and dry, with plums, walnuts, pears, apples, almonds, filberts, giuggiole, pomegranates, and other wholesome fruits, and apples fragrant and beautiful. Nor in winter will she forget to be liberal; she sends you wood, oil, vine branches, laurels, junipers to keep out snow and wind, and then she comforts you with the sun, offering you the hare and the roe, and the field to follow them...." Nor are the joys of summer less, for you may read Greek and Latin in the shadow of the courtyard where the fountains splash, while your girls are learning songs and your boys are busy with the contadini, in the vineyards or beside the stream. It is a spirit of pure delight, we find there in that old townsman, in country life, simple and quiet, after the noise and sharpness of the market-place. And certainly, as we pass from Fiesole down the new road where the tram runs, turning into the lanes again just by Villa Galetta, on our way to Maiano, we may fancy we see many places where such a life as that has always been lived, and, as I know, in some is lived to-day. Everywhere on these hills you find villas, and every villa has a garden, and every garden has a fountain, where all day long the sun plays with the slim dancing water and the contadine sing of love in the vineyards.

Maiano itself is but a group of such places, among them a great villa painted in the manner of the seventeenth century, spoiled a little by modernity. You can leave it behind, passing into a lane behind Poggio Gherardo, where it is roses, roses all the way, for the podere is hedged with a hedge of roses pink and white, where the iris towers too, streaming its violet banners. Presently, as you pass slowly on your way—for in a garden who would go quickly?—you come upon the little church of S. Martino a Mensola, built, as I think indeed, so lovely it is, by Brunellesco, on a little rising ground above a shrunken stream, and that is Mensola on her way to Arno. She lags for sure, because, lost in Arno, she will see nothing again so fair as her own hills.



S. Martino a Mensola is very old, for it is said that in the year 800 an oratory stood here, dedicated to S. Martino, and that il Beato Andrea di Scozia, Blessed Andrew of Scotland, then archdeacon to the bishopric of Fiesole, rebuilt it and endowed a little monastery, where he went to live with a few companions, taking the rule of St. Benedict. Carocci tells us that about 1550 it passed from the Benedictines to certain monks who already had a house at S. Andrea in Mercato Vecchio of Florence. In 1450 the monastery returned to Benedictines, coming into the possession of the monks of the Badia. Restored many times, the church was rebuilt in the fifteenth century, it may well be by Brunellesco; the portico, restored in 1857, was added in the sixteenth century. Within, the church is charming, having a nave and two aisles, with four small chapels and a great one, which belonged to the Zati family. And then, not without a certain surprise, you come here upon many pictures still in their own place, over the altars of what is now a village church. Over the high altar is a great ancona divided into many compartments: the Virgin with our Lord, S. Maria Maddalena, S. Niccolo, St. Catharine of Alexandria, S. Giuliano, S. Amerigo of Hungary, S. Martino, S. Gregorio, S. Antonio, and the donor, Amerigo Zati. Carocci suggests Bernardo Orcagna as the painter; whoever he may have been, this altarpiece is beautiful, and the more beautiful too since it is in its own place. In the Gherardi Chapel there is an Annunciation given to Giusto d'Andrea, while in another is a Madonna and Saints by Neri di Bicci. In the chapel of the Cecchini there is a fine fifteenth-century work attributed to Cosimo Rosselli. The old monastery is to-day partly the canonica and partly a villa. Following the stream upwards, we pass under and then round the beautiful Villa I Tatti that of old belonged to the Zati family whose altarpiece is in S. Martino, and winding up the road to Vincigliata, you soon enter the cypress woods. All the way to your left Poggio Gherardo has towered over you, Poggio Gherardo where the two first days of the Decamerone were passed. How well Boccaccio describes the place: "On the top of a hill there stood a palace which was surrounded by beautiful gardens, delightful meadows, and cool springs, and in the midst was a great and beautiful court with galleries, halls, and rooms which were adorned with paintings...." Not far away, Boccaccio himself lived on the podere of his father. You come to it if you pass out of the Vincigliata road by a pathway down to Frassignaja, a little stream which, in its hurry to reach Mensola, its sister here, leaps sheer down the rocks in a tiny waterfall. This is the "shady valley" perhaps where in the evening the ladies of the Decamerone walked "between steep rocks to a crystal brook which poured down from a little hill, and there they splashed about with bare hands and feet, and talked merrily with one another." Crossing this brook and following the path round the hillside, where so often the nightingale sings, you pass under a little villa by a stony way to Corbignano, and there, in what may well be the oldest house in the place, at the end of the street, past the miraculous orange tree, just where the hill turns out of sight, you see Boccaccio's house, Casa di Boccaccio, as it is written; and though the old tower has become a loggia, and much has been rebuilt, you may still see the very ancient stones of the place jutting into the lane, where the water sings so after the rain, and the olives whisper softly all night long, and God walks always among the vines.

Turning then uphill, you come at last to a group of houses, and where the way turns suddenly there is the Oratorio del Vannella, in the parish of Settignano: it is truly just an old wayside tabernacle, but within is one of the earliest works, a Madonna and Child, of Botticelli, whose father had a podere hereabout. If you follow where the road leads, and turn at last where you may, past the cemetery, you come to Settignano, founded by Septimus Severus or by the Settimia family, it matters little which, for its glory now lies with Desiderio the sculptor, who was born, it seems, at Corbignano, and Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino, who were born here. There is no other village near Florence that has so smiling a face as Settignano among the gardens. There is little or nothing to see, though the church of S. Maria has a lovely terra-cotta of Madonna with Our Lord between two angels in the manner of the della Robbia; but the little town is delightful, full of stonecutters and sculptors, still at work in their shops as they were in the great days of Michelangelo. Far away behind the hill of cypresses Vincigliata still stands on guard, on the hilltop Castel di Poggio looks into the valley of Ontignano and guards the road to Arezzo and Rome. Here there is peace; not too far from the city nor too near the gate, as I said: and so to Firenze in the twilight.

NOTE.—I have said little of the country places about Florence, Settimo, the Certosa in Val d'Ema, the Incontro and such, because there seemed to be too much to say, and I wanted to treat of them in a book that should be theirs only. See my Country Walks Round Florence (Methuen, 1908).

FOOTNOTES:

[129] This perhaps is open to criticism: there is a huge suburb of course towards Prato, the other barriere are still fairly in the country.

[130] Villani, Cronica, translated by R.E. Selfe (London, 1906), pp. 71-3, 97.

[131] Cf. Fortini and Sermini for instance. See Symonds' New Italian Sketches (Tauchnitz Ed.), p. 37.



XXVI. VALLOMBROSA AND THE CASENTINO, CAMALDOLI AND LA VERNA

I. VALLOMBROSA

There are many ways that lead from Florence to Vallombrosa—by the hills, by the valley, and by rail—and the best of these is by the valley, but the shortest is by rail, for by that way you may leave Florence at noon and be in your inn by three; but if you go by road you must set out at dawn, so that when evening falls you may hear the whispering woods of the rainy valley Vallis Imbrosa at your journey's end. That is a pleasant way that takes you first to Settignano out of the dust of Via Aretina by the river. Thence you may go by the byways to Compiobbi, past Villa Gamberaja and Terenzano, among the terraced vines and the old olives, coming to the river at last at Compiobbi, as I said, just under Montacuto with its old castle, now a tiny village, on the road to the Incontro, that convent on the hilltop where, as it is said, St. Francis met St. Dominic on the way to Rome. The Via Aretina, deep in dust that has already whitened the cypresses, passes through Compiobbi on its way southward and west; but for me I will cross the river, and go once more by the byways through the valley now, where the wind whispers in the poplars beside Arno, and the river passes singing gently on its way. It is a long road full of the quiet life of the country—here a little farm, there a village full of children; a vineyard heavy with grapes, where a man walks leisurely, talking to his dog, the hose on his shoulders; a little copse that runs down to the stones of Arno, where a little girl sits spinning with her few goats, singing softly some endless chant; a golden olive garden among the corn, where there is no sound but the song of the cicale that sing all day long. And there are so many windings, and though the road leaves the river, it seems always to be returning, always to be bidding good-bye: sometimes it climbs high up above the stream, which just there is very still, sleeping in the shadow under the trees; sometimes it dips quite down to the river bank, a great stretch of dusty shingle across which the stream passes like a road of silver. Slowly in front of me a great flat-bottomed boat crossed the river with two great white oxen. And then at a turning of the way a flock of sheep were coming on in a cloud of dust, when suddenly, at a word from the shepherd who led them, they crossed the wide beach to drink at the river, while he waited under the trees by the roadside. There were trees full of cherries too, so full that in the sunshine they seemed to dance for joy, clothed all in scarlet, so red, so ripe was the fruit. Presently I came upon an old man high up in a tree gathering them in a great basket, and since I was thirsty I asked him for drink, and since I was hungry I asked him for food. He climbed down the great ladder, coming towards me kindly enough, and drew me into the shadow. "Eat as you will, signore, and quench your thirst," said he, as he lifted a handful of the shining fruit, a handful running over, and offered it to me. And he stayed with me and gave me his conversation. So I dined, and when I had finished, "Open that great sack of yours," said he, "and I will send you on your way," but I would not. Just then four others came along in the sun, and on their heads were great bags of leaves, and he bade them come and eat in the shade. Then said I, "What are those leaves that you have there, and what are you going to do with them?" And they laughed, making answer that they were silk. "Silk?" said I. "Silk truly," said they, "since they are the leaves of the mulberry on which the little worm lives that presently will make it." So I went on my way with thanks, thinking in my heart: Are we too then but leaves for worms, out of which, as by a miracle will pass the endless thread of an immortal life?

So I came to Pontassieve, crossing the river again where the road begins to leave it. There is nothing good to say of Pontassieve, which has no beauty in itself, and where folk are rough and given to robbery. A glance at the inn—for so they call it—and I passed on, glad in my heart that I had dined in the fields. A mile beyond the town, on the Via Aretina, the road of the Consuma Pass leaves the highway on the left, and by this way it is good to go into Casentino; for any of the inns in the towns of the valley will send to Pontassieve to meet you, and it is better to enter thus than by railway from Arezzo. However, I was for Vallombrosa; so I kept to the Aretine way. I left it at last at S. Ellero, whence the little railway climbs up to Saltino, passing first through the olives and vines, then through the chestnuts, the oaks, and the beeches, till at last the high lawns appeared, and evening fell at the last turn of the mule path over the hill as I came out of the forest before the monastery itself, almost like a village or a stronghold, with square towers and vast buildings too, fallen, alas! from their high office, to serve as a school of forestry, an inn for the summer visitor who has fled from the heat of the valleys. And there I slept.

It is best always to come to any place for the first time at evening or even at night, and then in the morning to return a little on your way and come to it again. Wandering there, out of the sunshine, in the stillness of the forest itself, with the ruin of a thousand winters under my feet, how could I be but angry that modern Italy—ah, so small a thing!—has chased out the great and ancient order that had dwelt here so long in quietness, and has established after our pattern a utilitarian school, and thus what was once a guest-house is now a pension of tourists. But in the abbey itself I forgot my anger, I was ashamed of my contempt of those who could do so small a thing. This place was founded because a young man refused to hate his enemy; every stone here is a part of the mountain, every beam a tree of the forest, the forest that has been renewed and destroyed a thousand times, that has never known resentment, because it thinks only of life. Yes, this is no place for hatred; since he who founded it loved his enemies, I also will let them pass by, and since I too am of that company which thinks only of life, what is the modern world to me with its denial, its doubt, its contemptible materialism, its destruction, its misery? Like winter, it will flee away before the first footsteps of our spring.

It was S. Giovanni Gualberto who founded the Vallombrosan Order and established here an abbey, whose daughter we now see. Born about the year 1000, he was the son of Gualberto dei Visdomini, Signore of Petroio in Val di Pesa, of the great family who lived in St. Peter's Gate in Florence, and were, according to Villani, the patrons of the bishopric. In those days murder daily walked the streets of every Tuscan city, and so it came to pass that before Giovanni was eighteen years old his brother Ugo had been murdered by one of that branch of his own house which was at feud with Gualberto. Urged on by his father, who, we may be sure, did not spare himself or his friends in seeking revenge, Giovanni was ever on the watch for his enemy, his brother's murderer; and it chanced that as he came into Florence on Good Friday morning in 1018, just before he got to S. Miniato al Monte, at a turning of that steep way he came upon him face to face suddenly in the sunlight. Surely God had delivered him into his hands! Giovanni was on horseback with his servant, and then the hill was in his favour; the other was alone. Seeing he had no chance, for the steel was already cold on his jumping throat, he sank on his knees, and, crossing his arms in the form of Holy Cross, he prayed hard to the Lord Jesus to save his soul alive. Hearing that blessed, beautiful name in the stillness of that morning, when all the bells are silent and the very earth hushed for Christ's death, Giovanni could not strike, but instead lifted up his enemy and embraced him, saying, "I give you not your life only, but my love too for ever. Pray for me that God may pardon my sin." So they went on their way; but Giovanni, when he came to the monastery of S. Miniato of the Benedictines, stole into the church and prayed before the great Crucifix,[132] begging God to pardon him; and while he prayed thus, the Christ miraculously bowed his head, "as it were to give him a token how acceptable was this sacrifice of his resentment."

How little that sacrifice seems to us! But it was a great, an unheard-of thing in those days. And for this cause, maybe, Giovanni proposed to remain with the monks, to be received as a novice among them, and to forsake the world for ever. And they received him. Now when Gualberto heard it, he was first very much astonished and then more angry, so that he went presently to take Giovanni out of that place; but he would not, for before his father he cut off his hair and clothed himself in a habit which he borrowed. Then, seeing his purpose, his father let him alone. So for some four years Giovanni lived a monk at S. Miniato; when, the old Abbot dying, his companions wished to make him their Abbot, but he would not, setting out immediately with one companion to search for a closer solitude. And to this end he went to Camaldoli to consult with S. Romualdo; but even there, in that quiet and ordered place, he did not seem to have found what he sought. So he set out again, not without tears, coming at last, on this side of Casentino, upon this high valley, Acqua Bella, as it was then called, because of its brooks. It belonged, with all the forest, to the Contessa Itta dei Guidi, the Abbess of S. Ellero, who gladly presented Giovanni with land for his monastery, and that he built of timber. Nor was he alone, for he had found there already two hermits, who agreed to join him; so under the rule of St. Benedict the Vallombrosan Order was founded.[133] Of S. Giovanni's work in Florence, of his fight with Simony and Nicolaitanism, this is no place to speak. He became the hero of that country; yet such was his humility that he never proceeded further than minor orders, and, though Abbot of Vallombrosa, was never a priest. He founded many houses, S. Salvi among them, while his monks were to be found at Moscetta, Passignano, and elsewhere in Tuscany and Umbria; while his Order was the first to receive lay brothers who, while exempt from choir and silence, were employed in "external offices." It was in July 1073 that he fell sick at Passignano, and on the 12th of that month he died there. Pope Celestine III enrolled him among the saints in 1193. After S. Giovanni's death the Order seems to have flourished by reason of the bequests of the Countess Matilda.

There is but little of interest in the present buildings at Vallombrosa, which date from the seventeenth century; nor does the church itself possess anything of importance, unless it be the relic of S. Giovanni enshrined in a casquet of the sixteenth century, a work of Paolo Soliano.

About three hundred feet above the monastery is the old Hermitage—the Celle—now an hotel. Here those who sought solitude and silence found their way, and indeed it seems to have been a spot greatly beloved, for a certain Pietro Migliorotti of Poppi passed many years there, and refused to think of it as anything but a little paradise; thus it was called Paradisino, the name which it bears to-day. Far and far away lies Florence, with her beautiful domes and towers, and around you are the valleys, Val d'Arno, Val di Sieve, while behind you lies the strangest and loveliest of all, Val di Casentino, hidden in the hills at the foot of the great mountain, scattered with castles, holy with convents; and there Dante has passed by and St. Francis, and Arno is continually born in the hills. And indeed, delightful as the woods of Vallombrosa are, with their ruined shrines and chapels, their great delicious solitude, their unchangeable silence under everything but the wind, that valley-enclosed Clusendinum calls you every day; perhaps in some strange smile you catch for a moment in the sunshine on the woods, or in the aspect of the clouds; it will not be long before you are compelled to set out on your way to seek

"Li ruscelletti, che dei verdi colli Del Casentin discendon giuso in Arno."

II. OF THE WAY TO THE CASENTINO

And the path lies through the woods. You make your way under the mountain towards S. Miniato in Alpe, leaving it at Villa del Lago for a mule-track, which leads you at last to Consuma and the road from Pontassieve. The way is beautiful, and not too hard to find, the world about you a continual joy. If you start early, you may breakfast at Consuma (though it were better, perhaps, to carry provisions), for it is but two and a half hours from Vallombrosa. Once at Consuma, the way is easy and good. You climb into the pass, and in another three hours you may be in Romena, Pratovecchio, or Stia. But there are other ways, too, of which the shortest is that by the mountains from Vallombrosa to Montemignajo—that lofty, ruined place; and the loveliest, that from Vallombrosa to Raggiola of the forests; but there be rambles, pilgrimages, paths of delight unknown to any but those who hide for long in the forests of Vallombrosa. Your tourist knows them not; he will go by rail from S. Ellero to Arezzo, and make his way by train up the valley to Stia; your traveller will walk from Vallombrosa to Consuma, where Giuseppe Marari of Stia will send a vettura to meet him. For myself I go afoot, and take a lift when I can, and a talk with it, and this is the happiest way of all to travel. Thus those who are young and wise will set out, putting Dante in their knapsack and Signor Beni's little book[134] in their pocket, and with these two, a good stick, a light heart, and a companion to your liking, the Casentino is yours. And truly there is no more delightful place in which to spend a Tuscan summer. The Pistojese mountains are fine; the air is pure there, the woods lovely with flowers; but they lack the sentimental charm of Casentino. The Garfagnana, again, cannot be bettered if you avoid such touristry as Bagni di Lucca; but then Castelnuovo is bare, and though Barga is fine enough, Piazza al Serchio is a mere huddle of houses, and it is not till you reach Fivizzano on the other side of the pass that you find what you want. In Casentino alone there is everything—mountains, rivers, woods, and footways, convents and castles. And then where is there a better inn than Albergo Amorosi of Bibbiena, unless, indeed, it be the unmatched hostelry at Fivizzano?

As for inns, in general they are fair enough; though none, I think, so good as the Amorosi. You may sleep and eat comfortably at Stia, either at Albergo Falterona or Albergo della Stazione Alpina. At Pratovecchio there is Albergo Bastieri; at Poppi the Gelati pension; at Bibbiena the Amorosi, as I say. These will be your centres, as it were. At La Verna you may sleep for one night—not well, but bearably; at Camaldoli, very well indeed in summer; and then, wherever you may be, you will find a fine courtesy, for rough though they seem, these peasants and such, are of the Latin race, they understand the amenities. Saints have been here, and poets: these be no Teutons, but the good Latin people of the Faith; they will give you greeting and welcome.

III. STIA AND MONTE FALTERONA

Stia is a picturesque little city with a curious arcaded Piazza, a church that within is almost beautiful; yet it is certainly not for anything to be found there that one comes to so ancient and yet so disappointing a place, but because from thence one may go most easily to Falterona to see the sun rise or to find out the springs of Arno, or to visit Porciano, S. Maria delle Grazie, Papiano, and the rest in the hills that shut in this little town at the head of the long valley.

Through the great endless sheepfolds you go to Falterona where the girls are singing their endless chants all day long guarded by great sheep-dogs, not the most peacable of companions. All the summer long these pastures nourish the sheep, poor enough beasts at the best. One recalls that in the great days the Guild of Wool got its material from Flanders and from England, because the Tuscan fleece was too hard and poor. Through these lonely pastures you climb with your guide, through forests of oak and chestnut, by many a winding path, not without difficulty, to the steeper sides of the mountain covered with brushwood, into the silence where there is no voice but the voice of the streams. Here in a cleft, under the very summit of Falterona, Arno rises, gushing endlessly from the rock in seven springs of water, that will presently gather to themselves a thousand other streams and spread through Casentino:

"Botoli trova poi, venendo giuso Ringhiosi piu che non chiede lor possa Ed, a lor, disdegnosa, torce il muso"

at the end of the valley.

Climbing above that sacred source to the summit of Falterona itself, you may see, if the dawn be clear, the Tyrrhene sea and the Adriatic, the one but a tremor of light far and far away, the other a sheet of silver beyond the famous cities of Romagna. It is from this summit that your way through Casentino should begin.

It was there I waited the dawn. For long in the soft darkness and silence I had watched the mountains sleeping under the few summer stars. Suddenly the earth seemed to stir in her sleep, in every valley the dew was falling, in all forests there was a rumour, and among the rocks where I lay I caught a flutter of wings. The east grew rosy; out of the mysterious sea rose a golden ghost hidden in glory, till suddenly across the world a sunbeam fell. It touched the mountains one by one; higher and higher crept the tremulous joy of light, confident and ever more confident, opening like a flower, filling the world with gladness and light. It was the dawn: out of the east once more had crept the beauty of the world.

Then in that clear and joyful hour God spread out all the breadth of Italy before me: the plains, the valleys, and the mountains. Far and far away, shining in the sun, Ravenna lay, and lean Rimini and bartered Pesaro. There, the mountains rose over Siena, in that valley Gubbio slept, on that hill stood S. Marino, and there, like a golden angel bearing the Annunciation of Day, S. Leo folded her wings on her mountain. Southward, Arezzo smiled like a flower, Monte Amiata was already glorious; northward lay a sea of mountains, named and nameless, restless with light, about to break in the sun. While to the west Florence lay sleeping yet in the cusp of her hills, her towers, her domes, perfect and fresh in the purity of dawn that had renewed her beauty.

It was an altogether different impression, an impression of sadness, of some tragic thing, that I received when at evening I stood above the Castle of Porciano on a hill a little way off, and looked down the valley. It was not any joyful thing that I saw, splendid though it was, but the ruined castles, blind and broken, of the Counts Guidi: Porciano itself, line a jagged menace, rises across Arno, which is heard but not seen; farther, on the crest of a blue hill, round which evening gathers out of the woods, rises the great ruin of Romena like a broken oath; while farther still, far away on its hill in a fold of the valley, Poppi thrusts its fierce tower into the sky, a cruel boast that came to nothing. They are but the ghosts of a forgotten barbarism these gaunt towers of war; they are nothing now, less than nothing, unreconciled though they be with the hills; they have been crumbling for hundreds of years: one day the last stone will fall. For around them is life; the children of Stia, laughing about the fountain, will never know that their ancestors went in fear of some barbarian who held Porciano by murder and took toll of the weak. These shepherd girls, these contadini and their wives and children, they have outlived the Conti Guidi, they have outlasted the greatest of the lords; like the flowers, they run among the stones without a thought of that brutal greatness that would have enslaved them if it could. Not by violence have they conquered, but by love; not by death, but by life. It is just this which I see round every ruin in the Casentino. Force, brute force, is the only futile thing in the world. Why has La Verna remained when Romena is swept away, that strong place, when Porciano is a ruin, when the castle of Poppi is brought low, but that life which is love has beaten hate, and that a kiss is more terrible than a thousand blows.

Yes, as one wanders about these hills where life itself is so hard a master, it is just that which one understands in almost every village. You go to S. Maria delle Grazie—Vallombrosella, they call it, since it was a daughter of the monastery of Vallombrosa—and there in that beautiful fifteenth-century church you still find the simple things of life, of love; work of the della Robbia; pictures, too, cheerful flowerlike things, with Madonna like a rose in the midst. Well, not far away across Arno, where it is little, the ruins of Castel Castagnajo and of Campo Lombardo are huddled, though Vallucciole, that tiny village, is laughing with children. It is the same at Romena, where the church still lives, though the castle is ruined. You pass to Pratovecchio; it is the same story, ruins of the Guidi towers, walls, fortifications; but in the convent church of the Dominican sisters they still sing Magnificat:

Deposuit potentes de sede: et exaltavit humiles.

So on the road to Poppi you come to Campaldino, where Dante fought, where Corso Donati saved the day, where Buonconte fell, and died with the fog in his throat in the still morning air after the battle. Well, that famous field is now a vineyard; you may see the girls gathering the grapes there any morning in early October. Where the horses of the Aretines thundered away, the great patient oxen draw the plough; or a man walks, singing beside his wife, her first-born in her arms. It is the victory of the meek; here, at least, they have inherited the earth. And Certomondo, as of old, sings of our sister the earth. Poppi again—ah, but that fierce old place, how splendid it is, it and its daughter! Like all the rest of these Guidi strongholds, the Rocca of Poppi stands on a hill; it can be seen for miles up and down the valley: and indeed the whole town is like a fortress on a hill, subject only to the ever-changing sky, the great tide of light ebbing and flowing in the valley between the mountains. Poppi is the greatest of the Guidi fortresses; built by Arnolfo, it has much of the nobility of its daughter the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence. Of all these castles it is the only one that is not a ruin. It is true it has been restored, But you may still find frescoes on its walls in the chapel and in the great hall, work, it is said, of Jacopo da Casentino: and then it has one of the loveliest courtyards in Italy.

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