Imatges de pÓgina


sade of the eleventh and twelfth cen- ment of the power and practice of imituries orientally affected the repre

tation. Now the theology of Dante was

His ideas resentations of the Virgin. Apocry- the theology of his age. phal Gospels and legends of Paleg. specting the Virgin were precisely those tine were " worked up into ballads,

to which the writings of St Bernard, St stories, and dramas, and gradually had already lent all the persuasive power

Bonaventura, and St Thomas Aquinas, incorporated with the teaching of the of eloquence, and the church all the church." The contemplative thir- weight of her authority. Dante renteenth century was a new era in art; dered these doctrines into poetry, and the singular combination of religious Giotto and his followers rendered them enthusiasm with chivalry, required re- into form. In the 'Paradise' of Dante, presentations more in sympathy with the glorification of Mary, as the 'Mystic human sentiment. The stern unsym- Rose' (Rosa mystica) and Queen of pathising rigid formality of the Greek Heaven-with the attendant angels, cir. school was now to give way to ex

cle within circle, floating round her in pressions of benignity and softness. adoration, and singing the Regina Coeli, This feminine character of the Divine,

and saints and patriarchs stretching forth

their hands towards her-is all a splenif we may so term it, was enthusiasti

did but indefinite vision of dazzling light cally received.

crossed by shadowy forms. The painters

of the fourteenth century, in translating “ The title of Our Lady' came first

these glories into a definite shape, had into general use in the days of chivalry, for she was the lady of all hearts,' whose

to deal with imperfect knowledge and colours all were proud to wear. Never to realise either their own or the poet's

imperfect means: they failed in the power had her votaries so abounded. Hundreds upon hundreds had enrolled them

conception; and yet, thanks to the diselves in brotherhoods, vowed to her espe

vine poet ! that early conception of some

of the most beautiful of the Madonna cial service (as the Levites, who were called in France les esclares de Maria),

subjects--for instance, the Coronation and or devoted to acts of charity to be per

the Sposalizio–has never, as a religious formed in her name (as the order of Our

and poetical conception, been surpassed Lady of Mercy' for the deliverance of by, later artists, in spite of all the ap

pliances of colour, and mastery of light captives). Already the great religious communities, which at this time compre, hand since attained.”

and shade, and marvellous efficiency of hended all the enthusiasm, learning, and influence of the church, had placed them

It is undoubtedly true that Dante selves solemnly and especially under her is the poetical founder of art. His protection. The Cistertians wore white, own character, coloured by the troubles in honour of her purity; the Servi wore he encountered, not unmixed with the black, in respect to her sorrows. The tenderness which is ever the gift of Franciscans had enrolled themselves as genius, and especially of contemplative champions of the Immaculate Conception, genius, impressed itself doubtless both and the Dominicans introduced the rosary. on the theology of his day and the All these richly-endowed communities expression of it in art. There was vied with each other in multiplying the severity and the piety, the sternchurches, chapels, and pictures in honour of their patroness, and expressive of her

ness and the gentleness, and these several attributes. The devout painter,

were favourable to this admission of kneeling before his easel, addressed him

the feminine element, so exalted and self to the task of portraying those hea- so benign, as tempering the more venly lineaments which had visited him, awful and fear-begetting characterisperhaps in his dreams. Many of the pro- tics of religion. fessed monks and friars became them- Whatever may be said of the worselves accomplished artists.

ship of “Our Lady" (and much may “But of all the influences on Italian be said of this deplorable fact) superart in that wonderful fourteenth century, seding the worship of “ Our Lord”Dante was the greatest. He was the of the sin proclaimed against the idolaintimate friend of Giotto. Through the communion of mind not less than through tors of old, by Jeremiah, of worshipping his writings, he infused into religious art

“ The Queen of Heaven," the revived that mingled theology, poetry, and mys- title appropriated to the Virgin Maryticism, which ruled in the Giottesque

or of the heathen title of "Mother of school during the fourteenth century, and the Gods"-of the renovation, under a went hand in hand with the develop- new personage, of denounced superstitions, preserved in some shape or and robbed after, that his guest might other through orientalism and hea- make payment for his repast; but the thenism-a thinking mind will not better portion was still retained, and doubt that this feminine element, in with no common devotion. We read cases where real essential Christianity thus in the “ Lyttel Geste":had a looser hold of the people, tended “ Then bespake good Robyn, greatly to ameliorate the manners of To dyne I have no lust, wild and boisterous periods in man's Till I have some bold baron, history, and to bring the civilisation Or some unketh gest of gentleness over barbarism. It tend- That may pay for the best,

Or some knight or squyere ed greatly to raise womau; and it

That dwelleth here by the west. was better, by a romantic worship, that she should be lifted above an

A good maner had Robyn

In londe where that he were, equality with man, than be degraded Every day or he would dine infinitely below him. It tended to Thre masses wolde he here. protect the human race from the

The one in the worshyp of the Fader, crime of infanticide, by venerating The other of the Holy Goost, maternity. We may even be allowed The thyrde was of our dere Lady, to say, that, in merciful benignity to

That he loved of all other moste. mankind, Providence had allowed the Robyn loved our dere Lady; intermixture of an ameliorating good

For doute of dedely synne,

Wolde he never do company harme in the very superstitions which the

That ony woman was yone." wilfulness of man had set up in defiance of His pure revealed religion.

It is out of our purpose to pause There needs much, not only in bar- and inquire how and whence this febarous but in civilised nations, to minine element grew into its various keep down the brutalities of our na

superstitions--this superseding of the ture; and there is such a thing as a masculine, even in the heathen mythocultivated brutality. Civilisation en-logy-for practically the female deities

larges both ways, our virtues and our had the greater number of worshipvices, for it supplies both with appli- pers. The Church of Rome, in its ances and means. The ferocity of corruptions, did but amalgamate itself badly-cultivated man is a thousand with old and still popular creeds. If times worse than the ferocity of the the learned Athens was dedicated to savage. We need but refer to the and placed under the protection of reports of our police courts. The femi- Athene—if Ephesus had its Diananine element, then, by the permission the Romish cities as unhesitatingly of Providence, had its good tenden- placed themselves under the proteccies, notwithstanding its idolatry. Nortion of the Virgin. By degrees the was this good confined to a few spots : religion of the apostles becomes anit spread far and wide; nor is it yet other religion-the worship of " lost in places where we might least Lord” the worship of “our Lady"expect to find it. Mr Layard found and even the beautiful and the pure it as a singular trait of Arab charac- in this religion deteriorated, as we see ter. We learn that “these lawless in the annals of art. races have a species of code called

“ During the thirteenth century there Dakheel, which is religiously observed

was a purity in the spirit of the worship among them. If a man eat another's

which at once inspired and regulated the salt and bread, perform certain acts, forms in which it was manifested. The or repeat a prescribed formula of Annunciations and Nativities were still words, he is henceforth entitled to his distinguished by a chaste simplicity. The protection, though he may be the son

features of the Madonna herself, even of his bitterest enemy himself. A

where they were not what we call beauwoman can protect any number of per- tiful, had yet a touch of that divine and

contemplative grace which the theolosons, or even of tents.' The first por: gians and poets had associated with the tion of this dakheel was somewhat queenly, maternal, and bridal character violated by our yeoman freebooter, of Mary. the popular Robin Hood (and popu- “ Thus the impulses given in the early lar, we hope, for the one virtue), for part of the fourteenth century continued he regularly gave his hospitality first in progressive development through the


fifteenth; the spiritual for some time in “ Spiritual art,” says Mrs Jameson, advance of the material influences; the “was indeed no more. It was dead : it moral idea emanating, as it were, from could never be revived without a return the soul, and the influences of external to those modes of thought and belief nature flowing into it; the comprehensive which had at first inspired it. Instead power of fancy using more and more the of religious art, appeared what I must call apprehensive power of imitation, and both theological art. Among the events of this working together till their blended age, which had great influence on the might' achieved its full fruition in the worship and representations of the Maworks of Raphael.”

donna, I must place the battle of Lepanto,

in 1571, in which the combined fleets of In the fifteenth century, and during Christendom, led by Don Juan of Austria, the Hussite wars, when indignities achieved a memorable victory over the were offered to the sacred images, the Turks. This victory was attributed by Church felt compelled to restore the Pope Pius V. to the especial interposition damaged veneration for the Virgin.

of the Blessed Virgin. A new invocation Hence votive pictures;—and the same

was now added to her Litany, under the

title of Auxilium Christianorum ; a new zeal moved both the votaries and the festival, that of the Rosary, was now artists. Towards the end of this cen

added to those already held in her hotury, pictures of the Holy Family first nour; and all the artistic genius which appear. Such subjects naturally in- existed in Italy, and all the piety of duced a temptation to indulge rather orthodox Christendom, were now laid in domesticity than in sanctity. And under contribution to encase in marble, as at the same period, by the revival sculpture, to enrich with countless offerof learning, a classical taste began to ings, that miraculous house, which the exercise its influences over art, grace

angels had borne over land and sea, and and even a certain dignity were added bejewelled, and brocaded Madonna en

set down at Loretto, and that miraculous, to representations; but the real pur, shrined within it.” pose—the sanctity-was lowered, till at length miere beauty took the place The Caracci school, aiming to emof feeling, and the aim at varying brace the practical excellences of every groups terminated in irreverence. The other school-themselves devout wormelancholy story of perhaps the half- shippers-for a while maintained a insane Savonarola is well known. certain expression of sanctity in the Shocked at the visible impieties, representations of the Virgin; but images of the Virgin Mother in gor- this strict taste and feeling, the exgeous and meretricious apparel, taken pression of human sympathy blended from infamous models — he spared with the sanctity, rendered it too none, and made an imposing bonfire natural for adoration. The popular of them in the Piazza at Florence. veneration returned to the old, the He was persecuted to the death by formal Byzantine type : superstition the Borgia family, and perished at the loves not familiarity, and what is nastake. Yet his influence in a great tural is familiar. Mrs Jameson notices degree prevailed; and art recovered this unsatisfying character of art in its dignity, severity, and chastity in its more perfectly artistic condition. Botticelli, Lorenzo de Credi, and Fra Bartolomeo. This influence extended

“ This arose from the fact, always to

be borne in mind, that the most ancient to Raphael himself, who visited Florence after the death of Savonarola, purely theological symbol : apparently

artistic figure of the Madonna was whose portrait he inserted in his fresco

the moral type was too nearly allied to of the " Theologia.”

the human and the real to satisfy faith. The sixteenth century, rich in art. It is the ugly, dark-coloured, ancient saw the declension of piety. The Greek Madonnas, such as this, which had wealth of the Church was spent in all along the credit of being miraculous; luxury and magnificent ornament, and, and to this day,' says Kugler, 'the Neain consequence, artists had an enlarged politan lemonade-seller will allow no employment, but sacrificed feeling to

other than a formal Greek Madonna, taste. Art enlarged her compass, but

with olive-green complexion and veiled lost her intensity. There was every

head, to be set up in his booth.”” thing for the eye, and, comparatively This does not excite our surprise ; speaking, little for the art.

it must be a cultivated mind that can


thoroughly feel through art. We have enormous sums; but knowing someno doubt that this indifference, this thing of the influences which move lack of perception, might be shown in collectors, we are not thereby raised most of our villages-in the common to the required enthusiasm. We cancoloured Scriptural subjects which not understand how the most believing pedlars circulate through our villages Romanist can give a fervour to deas ornaments for humble cottages. votion by looking at a Madonna by “ The Madonna di San Sisto" itself, Murillo. great and beautiful as it is, might, in Poor Partridge thought the actor the minds of our poor admirers, bring

who ranted and spouted the character some similitude, from its naturalness, of the king a finer actor than Garrick, to familiar faces, and on that account simply because the latter was natural. be little valued. The prints we allude

We believe it will be ever so with to, it must be confessed, bear little devotional works of art, if represensimilitude to anything human. We

tations of saints and Madonnas too lave yet to learn that the attempts of much resemble ourselves and neighsocieties to set before the people

bours; the wonder which strangeness Scriptural subjects in better specimens and unlikeness, skilfully managed, is of art, have been at all successful. wont to produce, will not give its The spiritual element was lost in the imaginative aid. And here we may works of the most eminent artists of be allowed to notice an error which the seventeenth century. Of this our modern glass-painters fall intoperiod Mrs Jameson gives preference the attempt to imitate individual nato the Spanish school. She admires ture in a material not only ill-calcuthe Spanish painters

lated for the attempt, but whose genius, “Not because they more realise our if the term may be allowed to the spiritual conception of the Virgin-quite material, is altogether of imaginative the contrary, for here the expression of power, and of a mystery in light and life through sensation and emotion pre

shadow and colour quite foreign to vails over abstract mind, grandeur, and close naturalness. grace ; but because the intensely human Our Protestant authoress, if not inand sympathetic character given to the spired to a faith, is inspired by sentiMadonna appeals most strongly to our ment more than poetic to give utterhuman nature. The appeal is to the faith ance to her reverential love of the through the feelings, rather than through “ Madonna di San Sisto," in words of the imagination. Morales and Ribera excelled in the Mater Dolorosa ; and who

no common eloquence :has surpassed Murillo in the tender ex

“Of course we form to ourselves some ultation of maternity? There is a fresh- notion of what we require ; and these reness and a depth of feeling in the best quirements will be as diverse as our naMadonnas of the late Spanish school, tures and our habits of thought. For which puts to shame the mannerism of myself, I have seen my own ideal once, the Italians, and the naturalism of the and only once, attained: there, where Flemish painters of the same period, and

Raphael-inspired, if ever painter was this because the Spaniards were intense inspired-projected on the space before and enthusiastic believers, not

him that wonderful creation which we thinkers, in art as in religion.”

style the Madonna di San Sisto; for

there she stands—the transfigured woWe cannot entirely agree with Mrs

man, at once completely human and comJameson in her admiration of the pletely divine-an abstraction of power, Spanish school. We know that we purity, and love, poised on the empurpled run counter to the present public air, and requiring no other support ; lookopinion. Murillo, in particular, has ing out, with her melancholy, loving ever appeared to us a vulgar painter. mouth, her slightly-dilated sibylline eyes, The divine was quite beyond his

quite through the universe, to the end and reach. He may be occasionally, in

consummation of all things ; sad as if she bis Madonnas, tender, but nothing

beheld afar off the visionary sword that more-never elevated; and we are un

was to reach her heart through Him, now orthodox enough in taste to dislike ready exalted through the homage of the

resting as entbroned on that heart, yet alhis uncertain execution, and his col. redeemed generations who were to salute ouring. Accident has made his works her Blessed. Six times have I visited the a fashion; they have, of late, reached city made glorious by the possession of




[ocr errors]


this treasure, and as often, when again at and in a pastoral background, we have a distance, with recollections disturbed

perhaps never dreamed that they reby feeble copies and prints, I have begun

present, in some degree, an original to think, ' Is it so indeed ? Is she indeed

which was a religious type. Yet such so divine ? or does not rather the imagi

was the case: the naturalists adopted nation encircle her with a halo of religion

known portraits for their Madonnas, and poetry, and lend a grace which is not really there !' And as often, when I have

and too often, as poor Savonarola returned, I have stood before it, and con

knew to his cost, not unfrequently of fessed that there is more in that form and bad repute; when such practice exface than I had ever yet conceived. I tended, it followed, of course, that as cannot here talk the language of critics, the religious purport became weaker and speak of this picture merely as a pic- every day, portrait would supersede ture, for to me it was a revelation. In

the original intention, and yet retain the same gallery is the lovely Madonna

the type. Religious art, having subof the Meyer family, inexpressibly touch- mitted to classical influences, was, as ing and perfect in its way, but conveying

it were, smothered under a profusion only one of the attributes of Mary-her benign pity; while the Madonna di San

of flowers of poetry; but it was the Sisto is an abstract of all."

poetry of the naturalists. There was

no longer Paradise, but Arcadia. The We have ever been of the opinion sublime dogma of the deified Virgin that genius is rapid in execution ; its Mother was represented in pastorals inspirations are of a moment, and that might illustrate Theocritus. must be realised while the vigour of life is in them. In such cases the

As in early Christian art our Saviour artist cannot explain his process, and

was frequently portrayed as the Good in an after day wonders perhaps how

Shepherd, so among the later Spanish

fancies we find the Mother represented his own work was done. Labour can

as the Divine Shepherdess. In a picture dot down his hours, as the regular painted by Alonzo Miguel de Tobar, marks upon a time-piece-but the about the beginning of the eighteenth thought has escaped, and the

idea of century, we find the Virgin Mary seated presented labour is painful. There is under a tree, in guise of an Arcadian every reason to believe that this won- pastorella, wearing a broad-brimmed hat drous work of Raphael was produced encircled by a glory, a crook in her hand, with great rapidity—the visible exe

while she feeds her flock with mystical cution is thought by connoisseurs to

The beauty of expression in the show as much, for it is said there are

head of the Virgin is such as almost to patches on the drapery where the var

redeem the quaintness of the religious nish and paint with it have been left

conceit; the whole picture is described as as through haste. It is said also to

worthy of Murillo.' have been carried in procession when This worthiness we can easily crescarcely dry.

dit, for such a subject was quite acWe fear we are reaching a period cording to the taste and genius of when art rapidly declined. How Murillo ; but we think the charge of strange have been the passages from quaintness of a religious conceit" is the rigid, the stern, the severe very gently letting down the profane through loveliness still expressive of attempt, to reduce, as much as posthe divine, combined with excellences sible, the prescribed religious to a low of artistic skill-through ideas of poetical sentiment. purity, then through representations This picture was painted for a Franmagnificent, yet how much lower in ciscan convent at Madrid, and it is sentiment, and by degrees to the said that the idea became popular. It merely ornamental and even meretri- may have been “multiplied and varied cious, till the glorious art--the worthy in French and German prints of the associate of devotion-sunk into the last century," as an apology for a depowerless, and, we fear to say, the funct devotion, but certainly not pobase; or in its better, rather amusing pular, in the legitimate sense of the phase, into the semi-poetical fanciful. word. Quite of another character

When we look upon the portraits of are the representations of the Virgin our great-great-grandmothers, acting which abound in country places, near shepherdesses with crooks and lambs, villages, and in romantic spots in


« AnteriorContinua »