Renaissance Fancies and Studies - Being a Sequel to Euphorion
by Violet Paget (AKA Vernon Lee)
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This is by no means an isolated instance. In various places, as emblems of various guilds or confraternities, one meets similarly carved, on lintel or escutcheon, sheaves of lilies, or what is pleasanter still, that favourite device of the Renaissance (become well known as the monogram of the painter Benvenuto Garofalo), a jar with five clove-pinks. And on each occasion of meeting them, that carved lily and those graven clove-pinks, like the three roses in the Square of Purgatory, have shed a charm over the street, given me a pleasure more subtle than that derived from any bed of real lilies, or pot of real clove-pinks, or bush of real roses; colouring and scenting the street with this imaginary colour and perfume. What train of thought has been set up? It would be hard to say. Something too vague to be perceived except as a whole impression of pleasure; a half-seen vision, doubtless, of the real flowers, of the places where they grow; perhaps even a faint reminiscence, a dust of broken and pounded fragments, of stories and songs into which roses enter, or lilies, or clove-pinks.

Hereby hangs a whole question of aesthetics. Those three stone roses are the type of one sort of imaginative art; of one sort of art which, beyond or independent of the charm of visible beauty, possesses a charm that acts directly upon the imagination. Such charm, or at least such interest, may be defined as the literary element in art; and I should give it that name, did it not suggest a dependence upon the written word which I by no means intend to imply. It is the element which, unlike actual representation, is possessed by literature as well as by art; indeed, it is the essence of the former, as actual representation is of the latter. But it belongs to art, in the cases when it belongs to it at all, not because the artist is in any way influenced by the writer, but merely because the forms represented by the artist are most often the forms of really existing things, and fraught, therefore, with associations to all such as know them; and because, also, the artist who presents these forms is a human being, and as such not only sees and draws, but feels and thinks; because, in short, literature being merely the expression of habits of thought and emotion, all such art as deals with the images of real objects tends more or less, in so far as it is a human being, to conform to its type.

This is one kind of artistic imagination, this which I have rudely symbolised in the symbol of the three carved roses—the imagination which delights the mind by holding before it some charming or uncommon object, and conjuring up therewith a whole train of feeling and fancy; the school, we might call it, of intellectual decoration, of arabesques formed not of lines and colours, but of associations and suggestions. And to this school of the three carved roses in the Square of Purgatory belong, among others, Angelico, Benozzo, Botticelli, and all those Venetians who painted piping shepherds, and ruralising magnificent ladies absorbed in day-dreams.

But besides this kind of imagination in art, there is another and totally different. It is the imagination of how an event would have looked; the power of understanding and showing how an action would have taken place, and how that action would have affected the bystanders; a sort of second-sight, occasionally rising to the point of revealing, not merely the material aspect of things and people, but the emotional value of the event in the eyes of the painter. Thus, for instance, Tintoret concentrated a beam of sunlight into the figure of Christ before Pilate, not because he supposed Christ to have stood in that sunlight, but because the white figure, shining yet ghost-like, seemed to him, perhaps unconsciously, to indicate the position of the betrayed Saviour among the indifference and wickedness of the world. Hence I would divide all imaginative art, particularly that of the old Italian masters, into art which stirs our own associations, and suggests to us trains of thought and feeling perhaps unknown to the artist, and art which exhibits a scene or event foreign to ourselves, and placed before us with a deliberate intention. Both are categories of imaginative activity due to inborn peculiarities of character; but one of them, namely, the suggestive, is probably spontaneous, and quite unintentional, hence never asked for by the public, nor sought after by the artist; while the other, self-conscious and intentional, is therefore constantly sought after by the artist, and bargained for by the public. I shall begin with the latter, because it is the recognised commodity: artistic imagination, as bought and sold in the market, whether of good quality or bad.


The painters of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, developing the meagre suggestions of Byzantine decoration, incorporating the richer inventions of the bas-reliefs of the Pisan sculptors and of the medallions surrounding the earliest painted effigies of holy personages, produced a complete set of pictorial themes illustrative of Gospel history and of the lives of the principal saints. These illustrative themes—definite conceptions of situations and definite arrangements of figures—became forthwith the whole art's stock, universal and traditional; few variations were made from year to year and from master to master, and those variations resolved themselves continually back into the original type. And thus on, through the changes in artistic means and artistic ends, until the Italian schools disappeared finally before the schools of France and Flanders. Let us take a striking example. The presentation of the Virgin remains unaltered in main sentiment and significance of composition, despite the two centuries and more which separate the Gaddi from Titian and Tintoret, despite the complete change in artistic aims and methods separating still more completely the men of the fourteenth century from the men of the sixteenth. The long flight of steps stretching across the fresco in Santa Croce stretches also across the canvas of the great Venetians; and the little girl climbs up them alike, presenting her profile to the spectator; although at the top of the steps there is in one case a Gothic portal, and in the other a Palladian portico, and at the bottom of the steps in the fresco stand Florentines who might personally have known Dante, and at the bottom of the steps in the pictures the Venetian patrons of Aretino. Yet the presentation of the little maiden to the High Priest is quite equally conceivable in many other ways and from many other points of view. As regards both dramatic conception and pictorial composition, the moment might have been differently chosen; the child might still be with its parents or already with the priest; and the flight of steps might have been replaced by the court of the temple. Any man might have invented his own representation of the occurrence. But the men of the sixteenth century adhered scrupulously or indifferently to the inventions of the men of the fourteenth.

This is merely one instance in a hundred. If we summon up in our mind as many as we can of the various frescoes and pictures representing the chief incidents of Scripture history, we shall find that, while there are endless differences between them with respect to drawing, anatomy, perspective, light and shade, colour and handling, there are but few and slight variations as regards the conception of the situation and the arrangement for the figures. In the Marriage of the Virgin the suitors are dressed, sometimes in the loose robe and cap with lappets of the days of Giotto, and sometimes in the tight hose and laced doublet of the days of Raphael and of Luini; but they break their wands across their knees with the same gesture and expression; and although the temple is sometimes close at hand, and sometimes a little way off, the wedding ceremony invariably takes place outside it, and not inside. The shepherds in the Nativity are sometimes young and sometimes old, but they always come in broad daylight, and the manger by which the Virgin is kneeling is always outside the stable, and always in one corner of the picture. Again, whatever slight difference there may be in the expression and gesture of the apostles at the Last Supper, they are always seated on one side only of a table facing the spectator, with Judas alone on a stool on the opposite side. And although there are two themes of the Entombment of Christ, one where the body is stretched on the ground, the other where it is being carried to the sepulchre, the action is always out of doors, and never, as might sometimes be expected, gives us the actual burial in the vault. These examples are more than sufficient. Yet I feel that any description in words is inadequate to convey the extreme monotony of all these representations, because the monotony is not merely one of sentiment by selection of the dramatic moment, but of the visible composition of the paintings, of the outlines of the groups and the balancing of them. A monotony so complete that any one of us almost knows what to expect, in all save technical matters and the choice of models, on being told that in such a place there is an old Italian fresco, or panel, or canvas, representing some principal episode of Gospel history.

The explanation of this fidelity to one theme of representation in an art which was the very furthest removed from any hieratic prescriptions, in an art which was perpetually growing—and growing more human and secular—must be sought for, I think, in no peculiarities of spiritual condition or national imagination, but in two facts concerning the merely technical development of painting, and the results thereof. These two facts are briefly: that at a given moment—namely, the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth—there existed just enough power of imitating nature to admit of the simple indication of a dramatic situation, without further realisation of detail; and that at this moment, consequently, there originated such pictorial indications of the chief dramatic situations as concerned the Christian world. And secondly, that from then and until well into the sixteenth century, the whole attention of artists was engrossed in changing the powers of indication into powers of absolute representation, developing completely the drawing, anatomy, perspective, colour, light and shade, and handling, which Giotto and his contemporaries had possessed only in a most rudimentary condition, and which had sufficed for the creation of just such pictorial themes as they had invented, and no more.

Let me explain myself further. The artists of the fourteenth century, with the exception of Giotto himself—to whose premature excellence none of his contemporaries and disciples ever attained—give us, by means of pictorial representation, just about the same as could be given to us by the conventional symbolism of writing. In describing a Giottesque fresco, or panel, we are not stopped by the difficulty of rendering visible effects in words, because the visible effects that meet us are in reality so many words; so that, to describe the picture, it almost suffices to narrate the story, no arrangements of different planes and of light and shade, no peculiarities of form, foreshortening, colour, or texture requiring to be seen in order to be fully understood. The artists of the fifteenth century—for the Giottesques do little more than carry, without developing them, the themes of Giotto into various parts of Italy—work at adding to the art exactly those qualities which belong exclusively to it, and which baffle the mere written word: they acquire the means, slowly and laboriously, of showing these events no longer merely to the mind, but also to the eye; they place these people in real space, in real relations of distance and light, they give them a real body which can stand and move, made of real flesh and blood and bones, and covered with real clothes; they turn these abstractions once more into realities like the realities of nature whence they had been abstracted. But the work of the fifteenth century does not go beyond filling up the programme indicated by the Giottesques; and it is only after the men of the sixteenth century have been enabled to completely realise all that the men of the fourteenth century had indicated, that art, with Michelangelo, Tintoret, and still more with the great painters of Spain and Flanders, proceeds to encounter problems of foreshortening, of light and shade, of atmospheric effect, that could never have been imagined by the contemporaries of Giotto, nor even by the contemporaries of Ghirlandaio and the Bellini. Hence, throughout the fifteenth century, while there is a steady development of the artistic means required to realise those narrative themes which the Giottesques had invented, there is no introduction of any new artistic means unnecessary for this result, but which, like the foreshortenings of Michelangelo, and the light and shade of Tintoret, like the still further additions to painting represented by men like Velasquez and Rembrandt, could suggest new treatment of the old histories and enable the well-known events to be shown from totally new intellectual standpoints, and in totally new artistic arrangements. If we look into the matter, we shall recognise that the monotony of representation throughout the Renaissance can be amply accounted for without referring to the fact, which, however, doubtless went for something, that the men of the fifteenth century were too much absorbed in the working out of details to feel any desire for new pictorial versions of the stories of the Gospel, and the lives of the Saints.

Moreover, the Giottesques—among whom I include the immediate precursors, sculptors as well as painters, of Giotto—put into their Scripture stories an amount of logic, of sentiment, of dramatic and psychological observation and imagination more than sufficient to furnish out the works of three generations of later comers. Setting aside Giotto himself, who concentrates and diffuses the vast bulk of dramatic invention as well as of artistic observation and skill, there is in even the small and smallest among his followers, an extraordinary happiness of individual invention of detail. I may quote a few instances at random. It would be difficult to find a humbler piece of work than the so-called Tree of the Cross, in the Florentine Academy: a thing like a huge fern, with medallion histories in each frond, it can scarcely be considered a work of art, and stands halfway between a picture and a genealogical tree. Yet in some of its medallions there is a great vivacity of imaginative rendering; for instance, the Massacre of the Innocents represented by a single soldier, mailed and hooded, standing before Herod on a floor strewn with children's bodies, and holding up an infant by the arm, like a dead hare, preparing slowly to spit it on his sword; and the kiss of Judas, the soldiers crowding behind, while the traitor kisses Christ, seems to bind him hand and foot with his embraces, to give him up, with that stealthy look backwards to the impatient rabble—a representation of the scene, infinitely superior in its miserable execution to Angelico's Ave Rabbi! with its elaborate landscape of towers and fruit trees. Again, in a series of predella histories of the Virgin, in the same place, also a very mediocre and anonymous work, there is extraordinary charm in the conception of the respective positions of Mary and Joseph at their wedding: he is quite old and grey; she young, unformed, almost a child, and she has to stand on two steps to be on his level, raising her head with a beautiful, childlike earnestness, quite unlike the conventional bridal timidity of other painters. Leaving these unknown mediocrities, I would refer to the dramatic value (besides the great pictorial beauty) of an Entombment by Giottino, in the corridor of the Uffizi: the Virgin does not faint, or has recovered (thus no longer diverting the attention from the dead Saviour to herself, as elsewhere), and surrounds the head of her son with her arms; the rest of the figures restrain themselves before her, and wink with strange blinking efforts to keep back their tears. Still more would I speak of two small frescoes in the Baroncelli Chapel at Santa Croce, which are as admirable in poetical conception as they are unfortunately poor in artistic execution. One of them represents the Annunciation to the Shepherds: they are lying in a grey, hilly country, wrapped in grey mists, their flock below asleep, but the dog vigilant, sniffing the supernatural. One is hard asleep; the other awakes suddenly, and has turned over and looks up screwing his eyes at the angel, who comes in a pale yellow winter sunrise cloud, in the cold, grey mist veined with yellow. The chilliness of the mist at dawn, the wonder of the vision, are felt with infinite charm. In the other fresco the three kings are in a rocky place, and to them appears, not the angel, but the little child Christ, half-swaddled, swimming in orange clouds on a deep blue sky. The eldest king is standing, and points to the vision with surprise and awe; the middle-aged one shields his eyes coolly to see; while the youngest, a delicate lad, has already fallen on his knees, and is praying with both hands crossed on his breast. For dramatic, poetic invention, these frescoes can be surpassed, poor as is their execution, only by Giotto's St. John ascending slowly from the open grave, floating upwards, with outstretched arms and illumined face, to where a cloud of prophets, with Christ at their head, enwraps him in the deep blue sky.

These pictorial themes elaborated by the painters of the school of Giotto were not merely as good, in a way, as any pictorial themes could be: simple, straightforward, often very grand, so that the immediately following generations could only spoil, but not improve upon them; they were also, if we consider the matter, the only pictorial representations of Scripture histories possible until art had acquired those new powers of foreshortening, and light and shade and perspective, which were sought for only after the complete attainment of the more elementary powers which the Giottesques never fully possessed. Let us ask ourselves how, in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, any notable change in general arrangement of any well-known Scripture subject could well have been introduced; and, in order to do so, let us realise one or two cases where the same subjects have been treated by later masters. Tintoretto's Last Judgment, where the Heavenly Hosts brood, poised on their wings, above the river of hell which hurries the damned down its cataracts, is impossible so long as perspective and foreshortening will barely admit (as is the case up to the end of the fifteenth century), of figures standing firmly on the ground and being separated into groups at various distances. In Rembrandt's and Terburg's Adoration of the Shepherds, the light emanates from the infant Christ; in Ribera's magnificent Deposition from the Cross, the dead Saviour and His companions are represented, not, as in the Entombments of Perugino and Raphael, in the open air, but in the ghastly light of the mouth of the sepulchre. These are new variations upon the hackneyed themes, but how were they possible so long as the problems of light and shade were limited (as was the case even with Leonardo), to giving the modelling, rather in form than in colour, of a face or a limb? One of the earliest and greatest innovations is Signorelli's treatment of the Resurrection in the chapel of San Brizio, at Orvieto; he broke entirely with the tradition (exemplified particularly by Angelico) of making the dead come fully fleshed and dressed as in their lifetime from under the slabs of a burial place, goaded by grotesque devils with the snouts and horns of weasels and rams, with the cardboard masks of those carnival mummers who gave the great pageant of Hell mentioned by old chroniclers. But Signorelli's innovation, his naked figures partially fleshed and struggling through the earth's crust, his naked demons shooting through the air and tying up the damned, could not possibly have been executed or even conceived until his marvellous mastery of the nude and of the anatomy of movement had been obtained. Indeed, wherever, in the art of the fifteenth century, we find a beginning of innovation in the conception and arrangement of a Scripture history, we shall find also the beginning of the new technical method which has suggested such a partial innovation. Thus, in the case of one of the greatest, but least appreciated, masters of the early Renaissance, Paolo Uccello. His Deluge, in the frescoes of the green cloister of S. Maria Novella, is wonderfully original as a whole conception; and the figure clinging to the side of the ark, with soaked and wind-blown drapery; the man in a tub trying to sustain himself with his hands, the effort and strain of the people in the water, are admirable as absolute realisation of the scene. Again, in the Sacrifice of Noah, there is in the foreshortened figure of God, floating, brooding, like a cloud, with face downward and outstretched hands over the altar, something which is a prophecy, and more than a prophecy, of what art will come to in the Sixtine and the Loggie. But these inventions are due to Uccello's special and extraordinary studies of the problems of modelling and foreshortening; and when his contemporaries try to assimilate his achievements, and unite them with the achievements of other men in other special technical directions, there is an end of all individual poetical conception, and a relapse into the traditional arrangements; as may be seen by comparing the Bible stories of Paolo Uccello with those of Benozzo Gozzoli at Pisa.

It is not wonderful that the painters of the fifteenth century should have been satisfied with repeating the themes left by the Giottesques. For the Giottesques had left them, besides this positive heritage, a negative heritage, a programme to fill up, of which it is difficult to realise the magnitude. The work of the Giottesques is so merely poetic, or at most so merely decorative in the sense of a mosaic or a tapestry, and it is in the case of Giotto and one or two of his greatest contemporaries, particularly the Sienese, so well-balanced and satisfying as a result of its elementary nature that we are apt to overlook the fact that everything in the way of realisation as opposed to indication, everything distinguishing the painting of a story from the mere telling thereof, remained to be done. And such realisation could be attained only through a series of laborious failures. It is by comparing some of the later Giottesques themselves, notably the Gaddi with Giotto, that we bring home to ourselves, for instance, that Giotto did not, at least in his finest work at Florence, attempt to model his frescoes in colour. Now the excessive ugliness of the Gaddi frescoes at St. Croce is largely due to the effort to make form and boss depend, as in nature, upon colour. Giotto, in the neighbouring Peruzzi and Bardi chapels, is quite satisfied with outlining the face and draperies in dark paint, and laying on the colour, in itself beautiful, as a child will lay it on to a print or outline drawing, filling up the lines, but not creating them. I give this as a solitary instance of one of the first and most important steps towards pictorial realisation which the great imaginative theme-inventors left to their successors. As a fact, the items at which the fifteenth century had to work are too many to enumerate; in many cases each man or group of men took up one particular item, as perspective, modelling, anatomy, colour, movement, and their several subdivisions, usually with the result of painful and grotesque insistency and onesidedness, from the dreadful bag of bones anatomies of Castagno and Pollaiolo, down to the humbler, but equally necessary, architectural studies of Francesco di Giorgio. Add to this the necessity of uniting the various attainments of such specialists, of taming down these often grotesque monomaniacs, of making all these studies of drawing, anatomy, colour, modelling, perspective, &c., into a picture. If that picture was lacking in individual poetic conception; if those studies were often intolerably silly and wrong-headed from the intellectual point of view; if the old themes were not only worn threadbare, but actually maltreated, what wonder? The themes were there, thank Heaven! no one need bother about them; and no one did. Moreover, as I have already pointed out, no one could have added anything, save in the personal sentiment of the heads, the hands, the tilt of the figure, or the quality of the form. Everything which depends upon dramatic conception, which is not a question of form or sentiment, tended merely to suffer a steady deterioration. Thus, nearly two hundred years after Giotto, Ghirlandaio could find nothing better for his frescoes in St. Trinita than the arrangement of Giotto's St. Francis, with the difference that he omitted all the more delicate dramatic distinctions. I have already alluded to the poetic conception of an early Marriage of the Virgin in the Florence Academy; that essential point of the extreme youth of Mary was never again attended to, although the rest of the arrangement was repeated for two centuries. Similarly, no one noticed or reproduced the delicate distinctions of action which Gaddi had put into his two Annunciations of the Cappella Baroncelli; the shepherds henceforth sprawled no matter how; and the scale of expression in the vision of the Three Kings was not transferred to the more popular theme of their visit to the stable at Bethlehem. In Giotto's Presentation at the Temple in the Arena chapel at Padua, the little Mary is pushed up the steps by her mother; in the Baroncelli frescoes the little girl, ascending gravely, turns round for a minute to bless the children at the foot of the steps. Here are two distinct dramatic conceptions, the one more human, the other more majestic; both admirable. The fifteenth century, nay, the fourteenth, took no account of either; the Virgin merely went up the steps, connected by no emotion with the other characters, a mere little doll, as she is still in the big pictures of Titian and Tintoret, and quite subordinate to any group of richly dressed men or barebacked women. It is difficult to imagine any miracle quite so dull as the Raising of the King's Son in the Brancacci Chapel; its dramatic or undramatic foolishness is surpassed only by certain little panels of Angelico, with fiery rain and other plagues coming down upon the silly blue and pink world of dolls.

A satisfactory study of the lack of all dramatic invention of the painters of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is afforded by the various representations of the Annunciation of the Virgin, one of the favourite themes of the early Renaissance. It never seems to have occurred to any one that the Virgin and the Archangel might be displayed otherwise than each in one corner of the picture. Such a composition as that of Rossetti's Ancilla Domini, where the Virgin cowers on her bed as the angel floats in with flames round his feet; such a suggestion as that of the unfinished lily on the embroidery frame, was reserved for our sceptical and irreverent, but imaginative times.

The variety in these Annunciations depends, as I have remarked, not upon a new dramatic conception, producing, as in the case of Rossetti's, a new visible arrangement; but upon the particular kind of form preferred by the artist, and the particular kind of expression common in his pictures; the variety, I may add, is, with one or two exceptions, a variety in inertness. Let us look at a few, taking merely those in one gallery, the Uffizi. The Virgin, in that superb piece of gilding by Simone Martini (did those old painters ever think of the glorified evening sky when they devised such backgrounds?), is turning away from the angel in sheer loathing and anger, a great lady feeling sick at the sudden intrusion of a cad. In a picture by Angelo Gaddi, she is standing with her hand on her chest, just risen from her chair, like a prima donna going to answer an encore—a gracious, but not too eager recognition of an expected ovation. In one by Cosimo Rossetti she lifts both hands with shocked astonishment as the angel scuddles in; in the lovely one, with blue Alpine peaks and combed-out hair, now given to Verocchio, she raises one hand with a vacant smile, as if she were exclaiming, "Dear me! there's that angel again." The one slight deviation from the fixed type of Annunciation, Angelico's, in a cell at St. Mark's, where he has made the Virgin kneel and the angel stand, merely because he had painted another Annunciation with a kneeling angel a few doors off, is due to no dramatic inspiration. The angel standing upright with folded arms (how different from Rossetti's standing angel!) while the Virgin kneels, instead of kneeling to her as, according to etiquette, results merely in an impression that this silly, stolid, timid little Ancilla Domini (here again one thinks of Rossetti's cowering and dazed Virgin), has been waiting for some time in that kneeling attitude, and that the Archangel has come by appointment.

Among this crowd of unimpressive, nay brainless, representations of one of the grandest and sweetest of all stories, there stand out two—an Annunciation by Signorelli, a small oil painting in the Uffizi, and one by Botticelli,[6] a large tempera picture in the same room. But they stand out merely because the one is the work of the greatest early master of form and movement, or rather the master whose form and movement had a peculiar quality of the colossal; and the other is the work of the man, of all Renaissance painters, whose soul seems to have known most of human, or rather feminine wistfulness, and sorrow, and passion.

[Footnote 6: Probably executed from Botticelli's design, by Raffaellino del Garbo.]

The little panel by Signorelli (the lowest compartment, divided into three, of an altar-piece) is perhaps, besides the Orvieto Resurrection, his most superb and poetical work. The figures, only three inches high, have his highest quality of powerful grandeur, solemnly rustic in the kneeling shepherds—solemn in the very swagger, hand on hip, of the parti-coloured bravoes of the Magi; the landscape, only a few centimetres across, is one of the amplest and most austere that ever has been painted: a valley, bounded by blue hills and dark green ilex groves, wide, silent, inhabited by a race larger and stronger than the human, with more than human passions, but without human speech. In it the Virgin is seated beneath a portico, breathing, as such creatures must breathe, the vast greenness, the deep evening breeze. And to her comes bounding, with waving draperies and loosened hair, the Archangel, like a rushing wind, the wind which the strong woman is quietly inhaling. There is no religious sentiment here, still less any human: the Madonna bows gravely as one who is never astonished; and, indeed, this race of giants, living in this green valley, look as if nothing could ever astonish them—walking miracles themselves, and in constant relation with the superhuman.

We must forget all such things in turning to that Annunciation of Botticelli. The angel has knelt down vehemently, but drawn himself back, frightened at his own message; moved overmuch and awed by what he has to say, and her to whom he must say it; lifting a hand which seems to beg patience, till the speech which is throbbing in his heart can pass his lips; eagerness defeating itself, passionate excitement turned into awe in this young, delicate, passionate, and imaginative creature. He has not said the word; but she has understood. She has seen him before; she knows what he means, this vehement, tongue-tied messenger; and at his sight she reels, her two hands up, the beating of her own blood too loud in her ears, a sudden mist of tears clouding her eyes. This is no simple damsel receiving the message, like Rossetti's terrified and awe-stricken girl, that she is the handmaid of the Lord. This is the nun who has been waiting for years to become Christ's own bride, and receives at length the summons to him, in a tragic overpowering ecstasy, like Catherine in Sodoma's fresco, sinking down at the touch of the rays from Christ's wounds. Nay, this is, in fact, the mere long-loving woman, suddenly overcome by the approach of bliss ever hungered for, but never expected, hearing that it is she who is the beloved; and the angel is the knight's squire, excited at the message he has to carry, but terrified at the sight of the woman to whom he must carry it, panting with the weight of another man's love, and learning, as he draws his breath to say those words, what love is himself.

The absence of individual invention, implying the absence of individual dramatic realisation, strikes one more than anywhere in the works of Angelico; and most of all in his frescoes of the cells of St. Mark's. For, while these are evidently less cared for as art, indeed scarcely intended, in their hasty execution, to be considered as paintings at all, they are more strictly religious in intention than any other of Angelico's works; indeed, perhaps, of all paintings in the world, the most exclusively devoted to a religious object. They are, in fact, so many pages of Scripture stuck up, like texts in a waiting-room, in the cells of the convent: an adjunct to the actual written or printed Bible of each monk. For this reason we expect them to possess what belongs so completely to the German engravers of Duerer's school, the very essential of illustrative art—imaginative realisation of the scenes, an attempt to seize the attention and fill it with the subject. This is by no means the case: for Angelico, although a saint, was a man of the fifteenth century, and, despite all his obvious efforts, he was not a real follower of Giotto. What impressiveness of actual artistic arrangement these frescoes really possess, is due, I think, to no imaginative effort of the artist, but to the exigencies of the place; as any similar impressiveness is due in Signorelli's Annunciation to the quality of his form, and in Botticelli's Annunciation to the pervading character of his heads and gestures. These pale angels and St. Dominicks and Magdalens, these diaphanous, dazzling Christs and Virgins of Angelico's, shining out of the dark corner of the cell made darker, deeper, by the dark green or inky purple ground on which they are painted, are less the spiritual conception of the painter than the accidental result of the darkness of the place, where lines must be simple and colours light, if anything is to be visible. For in the more important frescoes in the corridors and chapter-room, where the light is better, there is a return to Angelico's hackneyed vapid pinks and blues and lilacs, and a return also to his niminy-piminy lines, to all the wax-doll world of the missal painter. The fine fresco of St. Dominick at the foot of the cross, which seems to constitute an exception to this rule, really goes to prove it, since it is intended to be seen very much like the cell frescoes: white and black on a blue ground at the end of the first corridor, a thing to be looked at from a great distance, to impress the lay world that sees it at the cloister and from outside the convent railing. The cell frescoes are, I have said, the most exclusively religious paintings in the world, since they are to the highest degree, what all absolutely pious art must be, aids to devotion. Their use is to assist the monk in that conjuring up of the actual momentary feelings, nay, sensations, of the life of Christ which is part of his daily duty. They are such stimuli as the Church has given sometimes in an artistic, sometimes in a literary form, to an imagination jaded by the monotonous contemplation of one subject, or overexcited to the extent of rambling easily to another: they are what we fondly imagine will be the portraits of the dear dead which we place before us, forgetting that after a while we look without seeing, or see without feeling. That this is so, that these painted Gospel leaves stuck on the cell walls are merely such mechanical aids to devotion, explains the curious and startling treatment of some of the subjects, which are yet, despite the seeming novelty and impressiveness, very cold, undramatic, and unimaginative. Thus, there is the fresco of Christ enthroned, blindfold, with alongside of Him a bodiless scoffing head, with hat raised, and in the act of spitting; buffeting hands, equally detached from any body, floating also on the blue background. There is a Christ standing at the foot of the cross, but with his feet in a sarcophagus, the column of the flagellation monumentally or heraldically on one side, the lance of Longinus on the other; and above, to the right, the floating face of Christ being kissed by that of Judas; to the left the blindfold floating head of Christ again, with the floating head of a soldier spitting at Him; and all round buffeting and jibing hands, hands holding the sceptre of reed, and hands counting out money; all arranged very much like the nails, hammer, tweezers and cock on roadside crosses; each a thing whereon to fix the mind, so as to realise that kiss of Judas, that spitting of the soldiers, those slaps; and to hear, if possible, the chink of the pieces of silver that sold our Lord. How different, these two pictorial dodges of the purely mechanical Catholicism of the fifteenth century from the tender or harrowing gospel illustrations, where every detail is conceived as happening in the artist's own town and to his own kinsfolk, of the Lutheran engravers of the school of Duerer!

Thus things go on throughout the fifteenth century, and, indeed, deep into the sixteenth, where traditional arrangement and individual conception overlap, according as a new artistic power does or does not call forth a new dramatic idea. I have already alluded to the fact that the Presentation of the Virgin remains the same, so far as arrangement is concerned, in the pictures of Titian and Tintoret as in the frescoes of Giotto and Gaddi. Michelangelo's Creation of Adam seems still inherited from an obscure painter in the "Green Cloister," who inherited it from the Pisan sculptors. On the other hand, the Resurrection and Last Judgment of Signorelli at Orvieto, painted some years earlier, constitutes in many of its dramatic details a perfectly original work. Be this as it may, and however frequent the recurrence of old themes, with the sixteenth century commences the era of new individual dramatic invention. Michelangelo's Dividing of the Light from the Darkness, where the Creator broods still in chaos, and commands the world to exist; and Raphael's Liberation of St. Peter, with its triple illumination from the moon, the soldier's torches and the glory of the liberating angel, are witnesses that henceforward each man may invent for himself, because each man is in possession of those artistic means which the Giottesques had indicated and the artists of the fifteenth century had laboriously acquired. And now, the Giottesque programme being fulfilled, art may go abroad and seek for new methods and effects, for new dramatic conceptions.


The other day, walking along the river near Careggi (with its memories of Lorenzo dei Medici and his Platonists), close to the little cupola and loggia built by Ghirlandaio, I came upon a strip of new grass, thickly whitened with daisies, beneath the poplars beginning to yellow with pale sprouting leaves. And immediately there arose in my mind, by the side of this real grass and real budding of trees, the remembrance of certain early Renaissance pictures: the rusty, green, stencilled grass and flowers of Botticelli, the faded tapestry work of Angelico; making, as it were, the greenness greener, the freshness fresher, of that real grass and those real trees. And not by the force of contrast, but rather by the sense that as all this appears to me green and fresh in the present, so likewise did it appear to those men of four centuries ago: the fact of their having seen and felt, making me, all the more, see and feel.

This is one of the peculiarities of rudimentary art—of the art of the early Renaissance as well as of that of Persia and India, of Constantinople, of every peasant potter all through the world: that, not knowing very well its own aims, it fills its imperfect work with suggestion of all manner of things which it loves, and tries to gain in general pleasurableness what it loses in actual achievement; and lays hold of us, like fragments of verse, by suggestiveness, quite as much as by pictorial realisation. And upon this depends the other half of the imaginative art of the Renaissance, the school of intellectual decoration, of arabesques formed, not of lines and of colours, but of associations and suggestions.

The desire which lies at the bottom of it—a desire masked as religious symbolism in the old mosaicists and carvers and embroiderers—is the desire to paint nice things, in default of painting a fine picture. The beginning of such attempts is naturally connected with the use of gilding; whether those gold grounds of the panel pictures of the fourteenth century represented to the painters only a certain expenditure of gold foil, or whether (as I have suggested, but I fear fantastically) their streakings and veinings of coppery or silvery splendour, their stencillings of rays and dots and fretwork, their magnificent inequality and variety of brown or yellow or greenish effulgence, were vaguely connected in the minds of those men with the splendour of the heaven in which the Virgin and the Saints really dwell. It is the cunning use of this gilding, of tools for ribbing and stencilling and damascening, which give half of their marvellous exotic loveliness to Simone Martini's frescoes at Assisi and his Annunciation of the Florentine Gallery; this, and the feeling for wonderful gold woven and embroidered stuffs, like that white cloth of gold of the kneeling angel, fit, in its purity and splendour, for the robe of Grail king. The want of mechanical dexterity, however, prevented the Giottesques from doing very much in the decorative line except in conjunction with the art—perhaps quite separate from that of the painter, and exercised by a different individual—of the embosser and gilder.

It is with the fifteenth century that begins, in Italy as in Flanders (we must think of the carved stonework, the Persian carpets, the damascened armour, the brocade dresses of Van Eyck's and Memling's Holy Families), the deliberate habit of putting into pictures as much as possible of the beautiful and luxurious things of this world. The house of the Virgin, originally a very humble affair, or rather, in the authority of the early Giottesques, a no place, nowhere, develops gradually into a very delightful residence in the choicest part of the town, or into a pleasantly situated villa, like the one described in the Decameron, commanding a fine view. The Virgin's bedchamber, where we are shown it, as, for instance, in Crivelli's picture in the National Gallery, is quite as well appointed in the way of beautiful bedding, carving, and so forth, as the chamber of the lady of John Arnolfini of Lucca in Van Eyck's portrait. Outside it, as we learn from Angelico, Cosimo Rosselli, Lippi, Ghirlandaio, indeed, from almost every Florentine painter, stretches a pleasant portico, decorated in the Ionic or Corinthian style, as if by Brunellesco or Sangallo, with tesselated floor, or oriental carpet, and usually a carved or gilded desk and praying stool; while the privacy of the whole place is guarded by a high wall, surmounted by vases, overtopped by cypresses, and in whose shelter grows a row of well-kept roses and lilies. Sometimes this house, as I have said, becomes a villa, as is the case, not unfrequently, with the Lombards, who love to make the angel appear on the flowery grass against a background of Alpine peaks, such as you see them, rising blue and fairylike from the green ricefields about Pavia. Crivelli, however, though a Lombard, prefers a genteel residence in town, the magnificent Milan of Galeazzo and Filippo Visconti. He gives us a whole street, where richly dressed and well peruked gentlemen look down from the terraces, duly set with flower-pots, of houses ornamented with terra-cotta figures and medallions like those of the hospital at Milan. In this street the angel of the Annunciation is kneeling, gorgeously got up in silks and brocades, and accompanied by a nice little bishop carrying a miniature town on a tray. The Virgin seems to be receiving the message through the window or the open door. She has a beautiful bed with a red silk coverlet, some books, and a shelf covered with plates and preserve jars. This evident appreciation of jam, as one of the pleasant things of this world, corresponds with the pot of flowers on the window, the bird-cage hanging up: the mother of Christ must have the little tastes and luxuries of a well-to-do burgess's daughter. Again, the cell of St. Jerome, painted some thirty years later by Carpaccio, in the Church of the Slavonians, contains not only various convenient and ornamental articles of furniture, but a collection of nick-nacks, among which some antique bronzes are conspicuous.

The charm in all this is not so much that of the actual objects themselves; it is that of their having delighted those people's minds. We are pleased by their pleasure, and our imagination is touched by their fancy. The effect is akin to that of certain kinds of poetry, not the dramatic certainly, where we are pleased by the mere suggestion of beautiful things, and quite as much by finding in the poet a mind appreciative and desirous of them, constantly collecting them and enhancing them by subtle arrangements; it is the case with much lyric verse, with the Italian folk-rhymes, woven out of names of flowers and herbs, with some of Shakespeare's and Fletcher's songs, with the "Allegro" and "Penseroso," Keats, some of Heine, and, despite a mixture of unholy intention, Baudelaire. The great master thereof in the early Renaissance, the lyrist, if I may use the word, of the fifteenth century, is of course Botticelli. He is one of those who most persistently introduce delightful items into their works: elaborately embroidered veils, scarves, and gold fringes. But being a man of fine imagination and most delicate sense of form, he does not, like Angelico or Benozzo or Carpaccio, merely stick pretty things about; he works them all into his strange arabesque, half intellectual, half physical. Thus the screen of roses[7] behind certain of his Madonnas, forming an exquisite Morris pattern with the greenish-blue sky interlaced; and those beautiful, carefully-drawn branches of spruce-fir and cypress, lace-like in his Primavera; above all, that fan-like growth of myrtles, delicately cut out against the evening sky, which not merely print themselves as shapes upon the mind, but seem to fill it with a scent of poetry.

[Footnote 7: I learn from the learned that the Florence and Louvre Madonnas, with the roses, are not Botticelli's; but Botticelli, I am sure, would not have been offended by those lovely bushes being attributed to him.]

This pleasure in the painter's pleasure in beautiful things is connected with another quality, higher and rarer, in this sort of imaginative art. It is our appreciation of the artist's desire for beauty and refinement, of his search for the exquisite. Herein, to my mind, lies some of the secret of Botticelli's fantastic grace; the explanation of that alternate or rather interdependent ugliness and beauty. Botticelli, as I have said elsewhere, must have been an admirer of the grace and sentiment of Perugino, of the delicacy of form of certain Florentine sculptors—Ghiberti, and those who proceed from him, Desiderio, Mino, and particularly the mysterious Florentine sculptor of Rimini; and what these men have done or do, Botticelli attempts, despite or (what is worse) by means of the realistic drawing and ugly models of Florence, the mechanism and arrangement of coarse men like the Pollaiolos. The difficulty of attaining delicate form and sentiment with such materials—it cannot be said to have been attained in that sense by any other early Tuscan painter, not even Angelico or Filippo Lippi—makes the desire but the keener, and turns it into a most persevering and almost morbid research. Thence the extraordinary ingenuity displayed, frequently to the detriment of the work, in the arrangement of hands (witness the tying, clutching hands, with fingers bent curiously in intricate knots, of the Calumny of Apelles), and of drapery; in the poising of bodies and selection of general outline. This search for elegance and grace, for the refined and unhackneyed, is frequently baffled by the ugliness of Botticelli's models, and still more by Botticelli's deficient knowledge of anatomy and habit of good form. But, when not baffled, this desire is extraordinarily assisted by those very defects. This great decorator, who uses the human form as so much pattern element, mere lines and curves like those of a Raffaelesque arabesque, obtains with his imperfect, anatomically defective, and at all events ill-fashioned figures, a far-fetched and poignant grace impossible to a man dealing with more perfect elements. For grace and distinction, which are qualities of movement rather than of form, do not strike us very much in a figure which is originally well made. The momentary charm of movement is lost in the permanent charm of form; the creature could not be otherwise than delightful, made as it is; and we thus miss the sense of selection and deliberate arrangement, the sense of beauty as movement, that is, as grace. Whereas, in the case of defective form, any grace that may be obtained affects us per se. It need not have been there; indeed, it was unlikely to be there; and hence it obtains the value and charm of the unexpected, the rare, the far-fetched. This, I think, is the explanation of the something of exotic beauty that attaches to Botticelli: we perceive the structural form only negatively, sufficiently to value all the more the ingenuity of arrangement by which it is made to furnish a beautiful outline and beautiful movement; and we perceive the great desire thereof. If we allow our eye to follow the actual structure of the bodies, even in the Primavera, we shall recognise that not one of these figures but is downright deformed and out of drawing. Even the Graces have arms and shoulders and calves and stomachs all at random; and the most beautiful of them has a slice missing out of her head. But if, instead of looking at heads, arms, legs, bodies, separately, and separate from the drapery, we follow the outline of the groups against the background, drapery clinging or wreathing, arms intertwining, hands combed out into wonderful fingers; if we regard these groups of figures as a pattern stencilled on the background, we recognise that no pattern could be more exquisite in its variety of broken up and harmonised lines. The exquisite qualities of all graceful things, flowers, branches, swaying reeds, and certain animals like the stag and peacock, seem to have been abstracted and given to these half-human and wholly wonderful creatures—these thin, ill put together, unsteady youths and ladies. The ingenious grace of Botticelli passes sometimes from the realm of art to that of poetry, as in the case of those flowers, with stiff, tall stems, which he places by the uplifted foot of the middle Grace, thus showing that she has trodden over it, like Virgil's Camilla, without crushing it. But the element of sentiment and poetry depends in reality upon the fascination of movement and arrangement; fascination seemingly from within, a result of exquisite breeding in those imperfectly made creatures. It is the grace of a woman not beautiful, but well dressed and moving well; the exquisiteness of a song sung delicately by an insufficient or defective voice: a fascination almost spiritual, since it seems to promise a sensitiveness to beauty, a careful avoidance of ugliness, a desire for something more delicate, a reverse of all things gross and accidental, a possibility of perfection.

This imagination of pleasant detail and accessory, which delights us by the intimacy into which we are brought with the artist's innermost conception, develops into what, among the masters of the fifteenth century, I should call the imagination of the fairy tale. A small number of scriptural and legendary stories lend themselves quite particularly to the development of such beautiful accessory, which soon becomes the paramount interest, and vests the whole with a totally new character: a romantic, childish charm, the charm of the improbable taken for granted, of the freedom to invent whatever one would like to see but cannot, the charm of the fairy story. From this unconscious altering of the value of certain Scripture tales, arises a romantic treatment which is naturally applied to all other stories, legends of saints, biographical accounts, Decameronian tales (Mr. Leyland once possessed some Botticellian illustrations of the tale of Nastagio degli Onesti, the hero of Dryden's "Theodore and Honoria," a sort of pendant to the Griseldis attributed to Pinturicchio), and mythological episodes: a new kind of invention, based upon a desire to please, and as different from the invention of the Giottesques as the Arabian Nights are different from Homer.

I have said that it begins with the unconscious altering of the values of certain scriptural stories, owing to the preponderance of detail over accessory. The chief example of this is the Adoration of the Magi. In the paintings of the Giottesques, and in the paintings of the serious, or duller, masters of the fifteenth century—Ghirlandaio, Rosselli, Filippino, those for whom the fairy tale could exist no more than for Michelangelo or Andrea del Sarto—the chief interest in this episode is the Holy Family, the miraculous Babe whom these great folk came so far to see. The fourteenth century made very short work of the kings, allowing them a minimum of splendour; and those of the fifteenth century, who cared only for artistic improvement, copied slavishly, giving the kings their retinue only as they might have introduced any number of studio models or burgesses aspiring at portraits, after the fashion of the Brancacci and S. Maria Novella frescoes, where spectators of miracles make a point never to look at the miraculous proceedings. But there were men who felt differently: the men who loved splendour and detail. To Gentile da Fabriano, that wonderful man in whom begins the colour and romance of Venetian painting,[8] the adoration of the kings could not possibly be what it had been for the Giottesques, or what it still was for Angelico. The Madonna, St. Joseph, the child Christ did not cease to be interesting: he painted them with evident regard, gave the Madonna a beautiful gold hem to her dress, made St. Joseph quite unusually amiable, and shed a splendid gilt glory about the child Christ. But to him the wonderful part of the business was not the family in the shed at Bethlehem which the kings came to see; but those kings themselves, who came from such a long way off. He put himself at the point of view of a holy family less persuaded of its holiness, who should suddenly see a bevy of grand folks come up to their door: the miraculous was here. The spiritual glory was of course on the side of the family of Joseph; but the temporal glory, the glory that delighted Gentile, that went to his brain and made him childishly happy, was with the kings and their retinue. That retinue—the trumpeters prancing on white horses, with gold lace covers, the pages, the armour-bearers, the treasurers, the huntsmen with the hounds, the falconers with the hawks, winding for miles down the hills, and expanding into the circle of strange and delightful creatures that kings must have about their persons: jesters with heads thrown back and eyes squeezed close, while thinking of some funny jest; dwarfs and negroes, almost as amusing as their camels and giraffes; tame lynxes chained behind the saddle, monkeys perched, jabbering, on the horses' manes—all this was much more wonderful in Gentile da Fabriano's opinion than all the wonders of the Church, which grew somehow less wonderful the more implicitly you believed in them. Then, in the midst of all these delightful splendours, the kings themselves! The old grey-beard in the brown pomegranate embossed brocade going on all fours, and kissing the little child's feet; the dark young man, with peaked beard and wistful face, removing his coroneted turban; and last, but far from least, the youngest king, the beardless boy, with the complexion of a well-bred young lady, the almond eyes and golden hair, standing up in his tunic of white cloth of silver, while one squire unbuckled his spurs and another removed his cloak. The darling little Prince Charming, between whom and the romantic bearded young king there must for some time have been considerable rivalry, and alternating views in the minds of men and the hearts of women (particularly when the second king, the bearded one, became the John Palaeologus of Benozzo), until it was victoriously borne in upon the public that this delicate, beardless creature, so much younger and always the last, must evidently be the prince, the youngest of the king's sons in the fairy tales, the one who always succeeds where the two elder have failed, who gets the Water that Dances and the Apple Branch that Sings, who carries off the enchanted oranges, slays the ogre, releases the princess, flies through the air, the hero, the prince of Fairyland....

[Footnote 8: This quality, particularly in the Adoration of the Magi, is already very marked in the very charming and little known frescoes of Ottaviano Nelli, in the former Trinci Palace at Foligno. Nelli was the master of Gentile, and through him greatly influenced Venice.]

The fairy business of the story of the Three Kings takes even greater proportions in the delightful frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli in the Riccardi Chapel. Here the Holy Family are suppressed, so to speak, altogether, tucked into the altar in a picture, and the act of adoration at Bethlehem becomes the mere excuse for the romantic adventures of three people of the highest quality. The journey itself, where Gentile da Fabriano sums up in that procession twisting about the background of his picture, here occupies a whole series of frescoes. And on this journey is concentrated all that the Renaissance knew of splendour, delightfulness, and romance. The green valleys, watered by twisting streams, with matted grasses, which Botticelli puts behind his enthroned Madonna and victorious Judith; Angelico's favourite hillsides with blossoming fruit trees and pointing cypresses; the mysterious firwoods—more mysterious for their remoteness on the high Apennines—which fascinate the fancy of Filippo Lippi; all this is here, and through it all winds the procession of the Three Kings. There are the splendid stuffs and Oriental jewels and trappings, the hounds and monkeys, and jesters and negroes, the falcon on the wrist, the lynxes chained to the saddle, all the magnificence dreamed by Gentile da Fabriano; and among it all ride, met by bevies of peacock-winged angels, kneeling and singing before the flowering rose-hedges, the Three Kings. The old man, who looks like some Platonist philosopher, the beardless prince, surrounded by his noisy huntsmen and pages; and that dark-bearded youth in the Byzantine dress and shovel hat, the genuine king from the East, riding with ardent, wistful eyes, a beautiful kingly young Quixote: Sir Percival seeking the Holy Grail, or King Cophetua seeking for his beggar girl. It is a page of fairy tale, retold by Boiardo or Spenser.

After such things as these it is difficult to speak of those more prosaic tales, really intended as such, on which the painters of the Renaissance spent their fancy. Still they have all their charm, these fairy tales, not of the great poets indeed, but of the nursery.

There is, for instance, the story of a good young man (with a name for a fairy tale too, AEneas Sylvius Piccolomini!) showing his adventures by land and sea and at many courts, the honours conferred on him by kings and emperors, and how at last he was made Pope, having begun as a mere poor scholar on a grey nag; all painted by Pinturicchio in the Cathedral library of Siena. There is the lamentable story of a bride and bridegroom, by Vittore Carpaccio: the stately, tall bride, St. Ursula, and the dear little foolish bridegroom, looking like her little brother; a story containing a great many incidents: the sending of an embassy to the King; the King being sorely puzzled in his mind, leaning his arm upon his bed and asking the Queen's advice; the presence upon the palace steps of an ill-favoured old lady, with a crutch and basket, suspiciously like the bad fairy who had been forgotten at the christening; the apparition of an angel to the Princess, sleeping, with her crown neatly put away at the foot of the bed; the arrival of the big ship in foreign parts, with the Bishop and Clergy putting their heads out of the port-holes and asking very earnestly, "Where are we?" and finally, a most fearful slaughter of the Princess and her eleven thousand ladies-in-waiting. The same Carpaccio—a regular old gossip from whom one would expect all the formulas, "and then he says to the king, Sacred Crown," "and then the Prince walks, walks, walks, walks." "A company of knights in armour nice and shining," "three comely ladies in a green meadow," and so forth of the professional Italian story-teller—the same Carpaccio, who was also, and much more than the more solemn Giovanni Bellini, the first Venetian to handle oil paints like Titian and Giorgione, painted the fairy tale of St. George, with quite the most dreadful dragon's walk, a piece of sea sand embedded with bones and half-gnawed limbs, and crawled over by horrid insects, that any one could wish to see; and quite the most comical dragon, particularly when led out for execution among the minarets and cupolas and camels and turbans and symbols of a kind of small Constantinople.

One of the funniest of all such series of stories, and which shows that when the Renaissance men were driven to it they could still invent, though (apparently) when they had to invent in this fashion, they ceased to be able to paint, is the tale of Griseldis, attributed in our National Gallery to Pinturicchio, but certainly by a very inferior painter of his school. The Marquis, after hunting deer on a steep little hill, shaded by elm trees, sees Griseldis going to a well, a pitcher on her head. He reins in his white horse, and cranes over in his red cloak, the young parti-coloured lords-in-waiting pressing forwards to see her, but only as much as politeness warrants. Scene II.—A stubbly landscape. The Marquis, in red and gold cloak and well-combed yellow head of hair, approaches on foot to the little pink farm-house. Surprise of old Giannucole, who is coming down the exterior steps. "Bless my soul! the Lord Marquis!" "Where is your daughter?" asks the Marquis, with pointing finger. But the daughter, hearing voices, has come on to the balcony and throws up her arms astonished. "Dear me! the cavalier who accosted me in the wood!" The Marquis and Grizel walk off, he deferentially dapper, she hanging back a little in her black smock. Scene III.—The Marquis, still in purple and gold, and red stockings and Hessian boots, says with some timidity and much grace, pointing to the magnificent clothes brought by his courtiers, "Would you mind, dear Grizel, putting on these clothes to please me?" But Griseldis is extremely modest. She tightens her white shift about her, and doesn't dare look at the cloth of gold dress which is so pretty. Scene IV.—A triumphal arch, with four gilt figures. The Marquis daintily, with much wrist-twisting, offers to put the ring on Griseldis' hand, who obediently accepts, while pages and trumpeters hold the Marquis's three horses.

Act II. Scene I.—A portico. Griseldis reluctantly, but obediently, gives up her baby. Scene II.—A conspirator in black cloak and red stockings walks off with it on the tips of his toes, and then returns and tells the Marquis that his Magnificence's orders have been executed. Scene III.—Giannucole, father of Griseldis, having been sent for, arrives in his best Sunday cloak. The Marquis in red, with a crown on, says, standing hand on hip, "You see, after that I really cannot keep her on any longer." Several small dogs sniff at each other in the background. Scene V.—Triumphal arch, with bear chained to it, peacock, tame deer, crowd of courtiers. A lawyer reads the act of divorce. The Marquis steps forward to Grizel with hands raised, "After this kind of behaviour, it is quite impossible for me to live with you any longer." Griseldis is ladylike and resigned. The Marquis says with acrimonious politeness, "I am sorry, madam, I must trouble you to restore to me those garments before departing from my house." Griseldis slowly let her golden frock fall to her feet, then walks off (Scene VI.) towards the little pink farm, where her father is driving the sheep. The courtiers look on and say, "Dear, dear, what very strange things do happen!"

Act III. Scene I.—Outside Giannucole's farm. The Marquis below. Griseldis at the balcony. He says, "I want to hire you as a maid." "Yes, my Lord." Scene II.—A portico, with a large company at dinner. The Marquis introduces his supposed bride and brother-in-law, in reality his own children. He turns round to Griseldis, who is waiting at table, and bids her be a little more careful what she is about with those dishes. Scene III.—Dumb show. Griseldis, in her black smock, is sweeping out the future Marchioness's chamber. Scene IV.—At table. The Marquis suddenly bids Griseldis, who is waiting, come and sit by him; he kisses her, and points at the supposed bride and brother-in-law. "Those are our children, dear." A young footman is quite amazed. Scene V.—A procession of caparisoned horse, and giraffes carrying monkeys. A grand supper. "And they live happy ever after."

But the fairy tale, beyond all others, with these painters of the fifteenth century, is the antique myth. No Bibbienas and Bembos and Calvos have as yet indoctrinated them (as Raphael, alas! was indoctrinated) with the real spirit of classical times, teaching them that the essence of antiquity was to have no essence at all; no Ariostos and Tassos have taught the world at large the real Ovidian conception, the monumental allegoric nature and tendency to vacant faces and sprawling, big-toed nudity of the heroes and goddesses as Giulio Romano and the Caracci so well understood to paint them. For all the humanists that hung about courts, the humanities had not penetrated much into the Italian people. The imaginative form and colour was still purely mediaeval; and the artists of the early Renaissance had to work out their Ovidian stories for themselves, and work them out of their own material. Hence the mythological creatures of these early painters are all, more or less, gods in exile, with that charm of a long residence in the Middle Ages which makes, for instance, the sweetheart of Ritter Tannhaeuser so infinitely more seductive than the paramour of Adonis; that charm which, when we meet it occasionally in literature, in parts of Spenser, for instance, or in a play like Peel's "Arraignment of Paris," is so peculiarly delightful.

These early painters have made up their Paganism for themselves, out of all pleasant things they knew; their fancy has brooded upon it; and the very details that make us laugh, the details coming direct from the Middle Ages, the spirit in glaring opposition occasionally to that of Antiquity, bring home to us how completely this Pagan fairyland is a genuine reality to these men. We feel this in nearly all the work of that sort—least, in the archaeological Mantegna's. We see it beginning in the mere single figures—the various drawings of Orpheus, "Orpheus le doux menestrier jouant de flutes et de musettes," as Villon called him, much about that time—piping or fiddling among little toy animals out of a Nuremberg box; the drawing of fauns carrying sheep, some with a queer look of the Good Shepherd about them, of Pinturicchio; and rising to such wonderful exhibitions (to me, with their obscure reminiscence of pageants, they always seem like ballets) as Perugino's Ceiling of the Cambio, where, among arabesqued constellations, the gods of antiquity move gravely along: the bearded knight Mars, armed cap-a-pie like a mediaeval warrior; the delicate Mercurius, a beautiful page-boy stripped of his emblazoned clothes; Luna dragged along by two nymphs; and Venus daintily poised on one foot on her dove-drawn chariot, the exquisite Venus in her clinging veils, conquering the world with the demure gravity and adorable primness of a high-born young abbess.

The actual fairy story becomes, little by little, more complete—the painters of the fifteenth century work, little guessing it, are the precursors of Walter Crane. The full-page illustration of a tale of semi-mediaeval romance—of a romance like Spenser's "Fairy Queen" or Mr. Morris's "Earthly Paradise," exists distinctly in that picture and drawing, by the young Raphael or whomsoever else, of Apollo and Marsyas.[9] This piping Marsyas seated by the tree stump, this naked Apollo, thin and hectic like an undressed archangel, standing against the Umbrian valley with its distant blue hills, its castellated village, its delicate, thinly-leaved trees—things we know so well in connection with the Madonna and Saints, that this seems absent for only a few minutes—all this is as little like Ovid as the triumphant antique Galatea of Raphael is like Spenser. Again, there is Piero di Cosimo's Death of Procris: the poor young woman lying dead by the lake, with the little fishing town in the distance, the swans sailing and cranes strutting, and the dear young faun—no Praxitelian god with invisible ears, still less the obscene beast whom the late Renaissance copied from Antiquity—a most gentle, furry, rustic creature, stooping over her in puzzled, pathetic concern, at a loss, with his want of the practice of cities and the knowledge of womankind, what to do for this poor lady lying among the reeds and the flowering scarlet sage; a creature the last of whose kind (friendly, shy, woodland things, half bears or half dogs, frequent in mediaeval legend), is the satyr of Fletcher's "Faithful Shepherdess," the only poetic conception in that gross and insipid piece of magnificent rhetoric. The perfection of the style must naturally be sought from Botticelli, and in his Birth of Venus (but who may speak of that after the writer of most subtle fancy, of most exquisite language, among living Englishman?)[10] This goddess, not triumphant but sad in her pale beauty, a king's daughter bound by some charm to flit on her shell over the rippling sea, until the winds blow it in the kingdom of the good fairy Spring, who shelters her in her laurel grove and covers her nakedness with the wonderful mantle of fresh-blown flowers....

[Footnote 9: I believe now unanimously given to Pinturicchio.]

[Footnote 10: Alas! no longer among the living, though among those whose spiritual part will never die. Walter Pater died July 1894: a man whose sense of loveliness and dignity made him, in mature life, as learned in moral beauty as he had been in visible.]

But the imagination born of the love of beautiful and suggestive detail soars higher; become what I would call the lyric art of the Renaissance, the art which not merely gives us beauty, but stirs up in ourselves as much beauty again of stored-up impression, reaches its greatest height in certain Venetian pictures of the early sixteenth century. Pictures of vague or enigmatic subject, or no subject at all, like Giorgione's Fete Champetre and Soldier and Gipsy, Titian's Sacred and Profane Love, The Three Ages of Man, and various smaller pictures by Bonifazio, Palma, Basaiti; pictures of young men in velvets and brocades, solemn women with only the glory of their golden hair and flesh, seated in the grass, old men looking on pensive, children rolling about; with the solemnity of great, spreading trees, of greenish evening skies: the pathos of the song about to begin or just finished, lute or viol or pipe still lying hard by. Of such pictures it is best, perhaps, not to speak. The suggestive imagination is wandering vaguely, dreaming; fumbling at random sweet, strange chords out of its viol, like those young men and maidens. The charm of such works is that they are never explicit; they tell us, like music, deep secrets, which we feel, but cannot translate into words.


The first new factor in art which meets us at the beginning of the sixteenth century is not among the Italians, and is not a merely artistic power. I speak of the passionate individual fervour for the newly recovered Scriptures, manifest among the German engravers, Protestants all or nearly all, and among whose works is for ever turning up the sturdy, passionate face of Luther, the enthusiastic face of Melanchthon. The very nature of these men's art is conceivable only where the Bible has suddenly become the reading, and the chief reading, of the laity. These prints, large and small, struck off in large numbers, are not church ornaments like frescoes or pictures, nor aids to monastic devotion like Angelico's Gospel histories at St. Mark's—they are illustrations to the book which every one is reading, things to be framed in the chamber of every burgher or mechanic, to be slipped into the prayer-book of every housewife, to be conned over during the long afternoons, by the children near the big stove or among the gooseberry bushes of the garden. And they are, therefore, much more than the Giottesque inventions, the expression of the individual artist's ideas about the incidents of Scripture; and an expression not for the multitude at large, fresco or mosaic that could be elaborated by a sceptical or godless artist, but a re-explanation as from man to man and friend: this is how the dear Lord looked, or acted—see, the words in the Bible are so or so forth. Therefore, there enters into these designs, which contain after all only the same sort of skill which was rife in Italy, so much homeliness at once, and poignancy and sublimity of imagination. The Virgin, they have discovered, is not that grandly dressed lady, always in the very finest brocade, with the very finest manners, and holding a divine infant that has no earthly wants, whom Van Eyck and Memling and Meister Stephan painted. She is a good young woman, a fairer version of their dear wife, or the woman who might have been that; no carefully selected creature as with the Italians, no well-made studio model, with figure unspoilt by child-bearing, but a real wife and mother, with real milk in her breasts (the Italian virgin, save with one or two Lombards, is never permitted to suckle)[11], which she very readily and thoroughly gives to the child, guiding the little mouth with her fingers. And she sits in the lonely fields by the hedges and windmills in the fair weather; or in the neat little chamber with the walled town visible between the pillar of the window, as in Bartholomew Beham's exquisite design, reading, or suckling, or sewing, or soothing the fretful baby; no angels around her, or rarely: the Scripture says nothing about such a court of seraphs as the Italians and Flemings, the superstitious Romanists, always placed round the mother of Christ. It is all as it might have happened to them; they translate the Scripture into their everyday life, they do not pick out of it the mere stately and poetic incidents like the Giottesques. This everyday life of theirs is crude enough, and in many cases nasty enough; they have in those German free towns a perfect museum of loathsome ugliness, born of ill ventilation, gluttony, starvation, or brutality: quite fearful wrinkled harridans and unabashed fat, guzzling harlots, and men of every variety of scrofula, and wart and belly, towards none of which (the best far transcending the worst Italian Judas) they seem to feel any repugnance. They have also a beastly love of horrors; their decollations and flagellations are quite sickening in detail, as distinguished from the tidy, decorous executions of the early Italians; and one feels that they do enjoy seeing, as in one of their prints, the bowels of St. Erasmus being taken out with a windlass, or Jael, as Altdorfer has shown her in his romantic print, neatly hammering the nail into the head of the sprawling, snoring Sisera. There is a good deal of grossness, too (of which, among the Italians, even Robetta and similar, there is so little), in the details of village fairs and adventures of wenches with their Schatz; and a strange permeating nightmare, gruesomeness of lewd, warty devils, made up of snouts, hoofs, bills, claws, and incoherent parts of incoherent creatures; of perpetual skeletons climbing in trees, or appearing behind flower-beds. But there is also—and Holbein's Dance of Death, terrible, jocular, tender, vulgar and poetic, contains it all, this German world—a great tenderness. Tenderness not merely in the heads of women and children, in the fervent embrace of husband and wife and mother and daughter; but in the feeling for dumb creatures and inanimate things, the gentle dogs of St. Hubert, the deer that crouch among the rocks with Genevieve, the very tangled grasses and larches and gentians that hang to the crags, drawn as no Italian ever drew them; the quiet, sentimental little landscapes of castles on fir-clad hills, of manor-houses, gabled and chimneyed, among the reeds and willows of shallow ponds. These feelings, Teutonic doubtless, but less mediaeval than we might think, for the Middle Ages of the Minnesingers were terribly conventional, seem to well up at the voice of Luther; and it is this which make the German engravers, men not always of the highest talents, invent new and beautiful Gospel pictures. Of these I would take two as typical—typical of individual fancy most strangely contrasting with the conventionalism of the Italians. Let the reader think of any of the scores of Flights into Egypt, and of Resurrections by fifteenth-century Italians, or even Giottesques; and then turn to two prints, one of each of these subjects respectively, by Martin Schongauer and Altdorfer. Schongauer gives a delightful oasis: palms and prickly pears, the latter conceived as growing at the top of a tree; below, lizards at play and deer grazing; in this place the Virgin has drawn up her ass, who browses the thistles at his feet, while St. Joseph, his pilgrim bottle bobbing on his back, hangs himself with all his weight to the branches of a date palm, trying to get the fruit within reach. Meanwhile a bevy of sweet little angels have come to the rescue; they sit among the branches, dragging them down towards him, and even bending the whole stem at the top so that he may get at the dates. Such a thing as this is quite lovely, particularly after the routine of St. Joseph trudging along after the donkey, the eternal theme of the Italians. In Altdorfer's print Christ is ascending in a glory of sunrise clouds, banner in hand, angels and cherubs peering with shy curiosity round the cloud edge. The sepulchre is open, guards asleep or stretching themselves, and yawning all round; and childish young angels look reverently into the empty grave, rearranging the cerecloths, and trying to roll back the stone lid. One of them leans forward, and utterly dazzles a negro watchman, stepping forward, lantern in hand; in the distance shepherds are seen prowling about. "This," says Altdorfer to himself, "is how it must have happened."

[Footnote 11: And the circular so-called Botticelli (now given, I believe, to San Gallo) in the National Gallery.]

Hence, among these Germans, the dreadful seriousness and pathos of the Passion, the violence of the mob, the brutality of the executioners, above all, the awful sadness of Christ. There is here somewhat of the realisation of what He must have felt in finding the world He had come to redeem so vile and cruel. In what way, under what circumstances, such thoughts would come to these men, is revealed to us by that magnificent head of the suffering Saviour—a design apparently for a carved crucifix—under which Albrecht Duerer wrote the pathetic words: "I drew this in my sickness."

Thus much of the power of that new factor, the individual interest in the Scriptures. All other innovations on the treatment of religious themes were due, in the sixteenth century, but still more in the seventeenth, to the development of some new artistic possibility, or to the gathering together in the hands of one man of artistic powers hitherto existing only in a dispersed condition. This is the secret of the greatness of Raphael as a pictorial poet, that he could do all manner of new things merely by holding all the old means in his grasp. This is the secret of those wonderful inventions of his, which do not take our breath away like Michelangelo's or Rembrandt's, but seem at the moment the one and only right rendering of the subject: the Liberation of St. Peter, Heliodorus, Ezechiel, and the whole series of magnificent Old Testament stories on the ceiling of the Loggie. In Raphael we see the perfect fulfilment of the Giottesque programme: he can do all that the first theme inventors required for the carrying out of their ideas; and therefore he can have new, entirely new, themes. Raphael furnishes, for the first time since Giotto, an almost complete set of pictorial interpretations of Scripture.

We are now, as we proceed in the sixteenth century, in the region where new artistic powers admit of new imaginative conceptions on the part of the individual. We gain immensely by the liberation from the old tradition, but we lose immensely also. We get the benefit of the fancy and feelings of this individual, but we are at the mercy, also, of his stupidity and vulgarity. Of this the great examples are Tintoretto, and after him Velasquez and Rembrandt. Of Tintoret I would speak later, for he is eminently the artist in whom the gain and the loss are most typified, and perhaps most equally distributed, and because, therefore, he contrasts best with the masters anterior to Raphael.

The new powers in Velasquez and Rembrandt were connected with the problem of light, or rather, one might say, in the second case, of darkness. This new faculty of seizing the beauties, momentary and not inherent in the object, due to the various effects of atmosphere and lighting up, added probably a good third to the pleasure-bestowing faculty of art; it was the beginning of a kind of democratic movement against the stern domination of such things as were privileged in shape and colour. A thousand things, ugly or unimaginative in themselves, a plain face, a sallow complexion, an awkward gesture, a dull arrangement of lines, could be made delightful and suggestive. A wet yard, a pail and mop, and a servant washing fish under a pump could become, in the hands of Peter de Hoogh, and thanks to the magic of light and shade, as beautiful and interesting in their way as a swirl of angels and lilies by Botticelli. But this redemption of the vulgar was at the expense, as I have elsewhere pointed out, of a certain growing callousness to vulgarity. What holds good as to the actual artistic, visible quality, holds good also as to the imaginative value. Velasquez's Flagellation, if indeed it be his, in our National Gallery, has a pathos, a something that catches you by the throat, in that melancholy weary body, broken with ignominy and pain, sinking down by the side of the column, which is inseparable from the dreary grey light, the livid colour of the flesh—there is no joy in the world where such things can be. But the angel who has just entered has not come from heaven—such a creature is fit only to roughly shake up the pillows of paupers, dying in the damp dawn in the hospital wards.

It is, in a measure, different with Rembrandt, exactly because he is the master, not of light, but of darkness, or of light that utterly dazzles. His ugly women and dirty Jews of Rotterdam are either hidden in the gloom or reduced to mere vague outlines, specks like gnats in the sunshine, in the effulgence of light. Hence we can enjoy, almost without any disturbing impressions, the marvellous imagination shown in his etchings of Bible stories. Rembrandt is to Duerer as an archangel to a saint: where the German draws, the Dutchman seems to bite his etching plate with elemental darkness and glory. Of these etchings I would mention a few; the reader may put these indications alongside of his remembrances of the Arena Chapel, or of Angelico's cupboard panels in the Academy at Florence: they show how intimately dramatic imagination depends in art upon mere technical means, how hopelessly limited to mere indication were the early artists, how forced along the path of dramatic realisation are the men of modern times.

The Annunciation to the Shepherds: The heavens open in a circular whirl among the storm darkness, cherubs whirling distantly like innumerable motes in a sunbeam; the angel steps forward on a ray of light, projecting into the ink-black night. The herds have perceived the vision, and rush headlong in all directions, while the trees groan beneath the blast of that opening of heaven. A horse, seen in profile, with the light striking on his eyeball, seems paralysed by terror. The shepherds have only just awakened. The Nativity: Darkness. A vague crowd of country folk jostling each other noiselessly. A lantern, a white speck in the centre, sheds a smoky, uncertain light on the corner where the Child sleeps upon the pillows, the Virgin, wearied, resting by its side, her face on her hand. Joseph is seated by, only his head visible above his book. The cows are just visible in the gloom. The lantern is held by a man coming carefully forward, uncovering his head, the crowd behind him. A Halt on the Journey to Egypt: Night. The lantern hung on a branch. Joseph seated sleepily, with his fur cap drawn down; the Virgin and Child resting against the packsaddle on the ground. An Interior: The Virgin hugging and rocking the Child. Joseph, outside, looks in through the window. The Raising of Lazarus: A vault hung with scimitars, turbans, and quivers. Against the brilliant daylight just let in, the figure of Christ, seen from behind, stands out in His long robes, raising His hand to bid the dead arise. Lazarus, pale, ghost-like in this effulgence, slowly, wearily raises his head in the sepulchre. The crowd falls back. Astonishment, awe. This coarse Dutchman has suppressed the incident of the bystanders holding their nose, to which the Giottesques clung desperately. This is not a moment to think of stenches or infection. Entombment: Night. The platform below the cross. A bier, empty, spread with a winding-sheet, an old man arranging it at the head. The dead Saviour being slipped down from the cross on a sheet, two men on a ladder letting the body down, others below receiving it, trying to prevent the arm from trailing. Immense solemnity, carefulness, hushedness. A distant illuminated palace blazes out in the night. One feels that they are stealing Him away.

I have reversed the chronological order and chosen to speak of Tintoret after Rembrandt, because, being an Italian and still in contact with some of the old tradition, the great Venetian can show more completely, both what was gained and what was lost in imaginative rendering by the liberation of the individual artist and the development of artistic means. First, of the gain. This depends mainly upon Tintoret's handling of light and shade, and his foreshortenings: it enables him to compose entirely in huge masses, to divide or concentrate the interest, to throw into vague insignificance the less important parts of a situation in order to insist upon the more important; it gives him the power also of impressing us by the colossal and the ominous. The masterpiece of this style, and probably Tintoret's masterpiece therefore, is the great Crucifixion at S. Rocco. To feel its full tragic splendour one must think of the finest things which the early Renaissance achieved, such as Luini's beautiful fresco at Lugano; by the side of the painting at S. Rocco everything is tame, except, perhaps, Rembrandt's etching called the Three Crosses. After this, and especially to be compared with the frescoes of Masaccio and Ghirlandaio of the same subject, comes the Baptism of Christ. The old details of figures dressing and undressing, which gave so much pleasure to earlier painters, for instance, Piero della Francesca, in the National Gallery, are entirely omitted, as the nose-holding in the Raising of Lazarus, is omitted by Rembrandt. Christ kneels in the Jordan, with John bending over him, and vague multitudes crowding the banks, distant, dreamlike beneath the yellow storm-light. Of Tintoret's Christ before Pilate, of that figure of the Saviour, long, straight, wrapped in white and luminous like his own wraith, I have spoken already. But I must speak of the S. Rocco Christ in the Garden, as imaginative as anything by Rembrandt, and infinitely more beautiful. The moonlight tips the draperies of the three sleeping apostles, gigantic, solemn. Above, among the bushes, leaning His head on His hand, is seated Christ, weary to death, numbed by grief and isolation, recruiting for final resistance. The sense of being abandoned of all men and of God has never been brought home in this way by any other painter; the little tear-stained Saviours, praying in broad daylight, of Perugino and his fellows, are mere distressed mortals. This betrayed and resigned Saviour has upon Him the weltschmerz of Prometheus. But even here we begin to feel the loss, as well as the gain, of the painter being forced from the dramatic routine of earlier days: instead of the sweet, tearful little angel of the early Renaissance, there comes to this tragic Christ, in a blood-red nimbus, a brutal winged creature thrusting the cup in His face. The uncertainty of Tintoret's inspirations, the uncertainty of result of these astonishing pictorial methods of attaining the dramatic, the occasional vapidness and vulgarity of the man, unrestrained by any stately tradition like the vapidness and vulgarity of so many earlier masters,[12] comes out already at S. Rocco. And principally in the scene of the Temptation, a theme rarely, if ever, treated before the sixteenth century, and which Tintoret has made unspeakably mean in its unclean and dramatically impotent suggestiveness: the Saviour parleying from a kind of rustic edifice with a good-humoured, fat, half feminine Satan, fluttering with pink wings like some smug seraph of Bernini's pupils. After this it is scarce necessary to speak of whatever is dramatically abortive (because successfully expressing just the wrong sort of sentiment, the wrong situation) in Tintoret's work: his Woman taken in Adultery, with the dapper young Rabbi, offended neither by adultery in general nor by this adulteress in particular; the Washing of the Feet, in London, where the conversation appears to turn upon the excessive hotness or coldness of the water in the tub; the Last Supper at S. Giorgio Maggiore, where, among the mysterious wreaths of smoke peopled with angels, Christ rises from His seat and holds the cup to His neighbour's lips with the gesture, as He says, "This is My blood," of a conjuror to an incredulous and indifferent audience. To Tintoret the contents of the chalice is the all-important matter: where is the majesty of the old Giottesque gesture, preserved by Leonardo, of pushing forward the bread with one hand, the wine with the other, and thus uncovering the head and breast of the Saviour, the gesture which does indeed mean—"I am the bread you shall eat, and the wine you shall drink"? There remains, however, to mention another work of Tintoret's which, coming in contact with one's recollections of earlier art, may suggest strange doubts and well nigh shake one's faith in the imaginative efficacy of all that went before: his enormous canvas of the Last Day, at S. Maria dell' Orto. The first and overwhelming impression, even before one has had time to look into this apocalyptic work, is that no one could have conceived such a thing in earlier days, not even Michelangelo when he painted his Last Judgment, nor Raphael when he designed the Vision of Ezechiel. This is, indeed, one thinks, a revelation of the end of all things. Great storm clouds, whereon throne the Almighty and His Elect, brood over the world, across which, among the crevassed, upheaving earth, pours the wide glacier torrent of Styx, with the boat of Charon struggling across its precipitous waters. The angels, confused with the storm clouds of which they are the spirit, lash the damned down to the Hell stream, band upon band, even from the far distance. And in the foreground the rocks are splitting, the soil is upheaving with the dead beneath; here protrudes a huge arm, there a skull; in one place the clay, rising, has assumed the vague outline of the face below. In the rocks and water, among the clutching, gigantic men, the huge, full-bosomed woman, tosses a frightful half-fleshed carcass, grass still growing from his finger tips, his grinning skull, covered half with hair and half with weeds, greenish and mouldering: a sinner still green in earth and already arising.

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