Renaissance in Italy Vol. 3
John Addington Symonds

Part 1 out of 7

Produced by Ted Garvin and PG Distributed Proofreaders








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Dii Romae indigetes, Trojae tuque auctor, Apollo,
Unde genus nostrum coeli se tollit ad astra,
Hanc saltem auferri laudem prohibete Latinis:
Artibus emineat semper, studiisque Minervae,
Italia, et gentes doceat pulcherrima Roma;
Quandoquidem armorum penitus fortuna recessit,
Tanta Italos inter crevit discordia reges;
Ipsi nos inter saevos distringimus enses,
Nec patriam pudet externis aperire tyrannis

VIDA, _Poetica_, lib. ii.

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This third volume of my book on the "Renaissance in Italy" does not
pretend to retrace the history of the Italian arts, but rather to define
their relation to the main movement of Renaissance culture. Keeping this,
the chief object of my whole work, steadily in view, I have tried to
explain the dependence of the arts on mediaeval Christianity at their
commencement, their gradual emancipation from ecclesiastical control, and
their final attainment of freedom at the moment when the classical revival

Not to notice the mediaeval period in this evolution would be impossible;
since the revival of Sculpture and Painting at the end of the thirteenth
century was among the earliest signs of that new intellectual birth to
which we give the title of Renaissance. I have, therefore, had to deal at
some length with stages in the development of Architecture, Sculpture,
and Painting, which form a prelude to the proper age of my own history.

In studying the architectural branch of the subject, I have had recourse
to Fergusson's "Illustrated Handbook of Architecture," to Burckhardt's
"Cicerone," to Gruener's "Terra-Cotta Buildings of North Italy," to
Milizia's "Memorie degli Architetti," and to many illustrated works on
single buildings in Rome, Tuscany, Lombardy, and Venice. For the history
of Sculpture I have used Burckhardt's "Cicerone," and the two important
works of Charles C. Perkins, entitled "Tuscan Sculptors," and "Italian
Sculptors." Such books as "Le Tre Porte del Battistero di Firenze,"
Gruener's "Cathedral of Orvieto," and Lasinio's "Tabernacolo della Madonna
d'Orsammichele" have been helpful by their illustrations. For the history
of Painting I have made use principally of Vasari's "Vite de' piu
eccellenti Pittori," &c., in Le Monnier's edition of Crowe and
Cavalcaselle's "History of Painting," of Burckhardt's "Cicerone," of
Rosini's illustrated "Storia della Pittura Italiana," of Rio's "L'Art
Chretien," and of Henri Beyle's "Histoire de la Peinture en Italie." I
should, however, far exceed the limits of a preface were I to make a list
of all the books I have consulted with profit on the history of the arts
in Italy.

In this part of my work I feel that I owe less to reading than to
observation. I am not aware of having mentioned any important building,
statue, or picture which I have not had the opportunity of studying. What
I have written in this volume about the monuments of Italian art has
always been first noted face to face with the originals, and afterwards
corrected, modified, or confirmed in the course of subsequent journeys to
Italy. I know that this method of composition, if it has the merit of
freshness, entails some inequality of style and disproportion in the
distribution of materials. In the final preparation of my work for press I
have therefore endeavoured, as far as possible, to compensate this
disadvantage by adhering to the main motive of my subject--the
illustration of the Renaissance spirit as this was manifested in the Arts.

I must add, in conclusion, that Chapters VII. and IX. and Appendix II. are
in part reprinted from the "Westminster," the "Cornhill," and the

CLIFTON: _March_ 1877.




Art in Italy and Greece--The Leading Phase of Culture--AEsthetic Type of
Literature--Painting the Supreme Italian Art--Its Task in the
Renaissance--Christian and Classical Traditions--Sculpture for the
Ancients--Painting for the Romance Nations--Mediaeval Faith and
Superstition--The Promise of Painting--How far can the Figurative Arts
express Christian Ideas?--Greek and Christian Religion--Plastic Art
incapable of solving the Problem--A more Emotional Art needed--Place of
Sculpture in the Renaissance--Painting and Christian Story--Humanization
of Ecclesiastical Ideas by Art--Hostility of the Spirit of True Piety to
Art--Compromises effected by the Church--Fra Bartolommeo's S.
Sebastian--Irreconcilability of Art and Theology, Art and
Philosophy--Recapitulation--Art in the end Paganises--Music--The Future of
Painting after the Renaissance.



Architecture of Mediaeval Italy--Milan, Genoa, Venice--The Despots as
Builders--Diversity of Styles--Local Influences--Lombard, Tuscan,
Romanesque, Gothic--Italian want of feeling for Gothic--Cathedrals of
Siena and Orvieto--Secular Buildings of the Middle Ages--Florence and
Venice--Private Palaces--Public Halls--Palazzo della Signoria at
Florence--Arnolfo di Cambio--S. Maria del Fiore--Brunelleschi's
Dome--Classical Revival in Architecture--Roman Ruins--Three Periods in
Renaissance Architecture--Their Characteristics--Brunelleschi
--Alberti--Palace-building--Michellozzo--Decorative Work of the
Revival--Bramante--Vitoni's Church of the Umilta at Pistoja--Palazzo del
Te--Villa Farnesina--Sansovino at Venice--Michael Angelo--The Building of
S. Peter's--Palladio--The Palazzo della Ragione at Vicenza--Lombard
Architects--Theorists and Students of Vitruvius--Vignola and
Scamozzi--European Influence of the Palladian Style--Comparison of
Scholars and Architects in relation to the Revival of Learning.



Niccola Pisano--Obscurity of the Sources for a History of Early Italian
Sculpture--Vasari's Legend of Pisano--Deposition from the Cross at
Lucca--Study of Nature and the Antique--Sarcophagus at Pisa--Pisan
Pulpit--Niccola's School--Giovanni Pisano--Pulpit in S. Andrea at
Pistoja--Fragments of his work at Pisa--Tomb of Benedict XI. at
Perugia--Bas-reliefs at Orvieto--Andrea Pisano--Relation of Sculpture to
Painting--Giotto--Subordination of Sculpture to Architecture in
Italy--Pisano's Influence in Venice--Balduccio of Pisa--Orcagna--The
Tabernacle of Orsammichele--The Gates of the Florentine Baptistery
--Competition of Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, and Della Quercia--Comparison
of Ghiberti's and Brunelleschi's Trial-pieces--Comparison of Ghiberti
and Della Quercia--The Bas-reliefs of S. Petronio--Ghiberti's
Education--His Pictorial Style in Bas-relief--His Feeling for the
Antique--Donatello--Early Visit to Rome--Christian Subjects--Realistic
Treatment--S. George and David--Judith--Equestrian Statue of
Gattamelata--Influence of Donatello's Naturalism--Andrea Verocchio--His
David--Statue of Colleoni--Alessandro Leopardi--Lionardo's Statue of
Francesco Sforza--The Pollajuoli--Tombs of Sixtus IV. and Innocent
VIII.--Luca della Robbia--His Treatment of Glazed Earthenware--Agostino
di Duccio--The Oratory of S. Bernardino at Perugia--Antonio
Rossellino--Matteo Civitali--Mino da Fiesole--Benedetto da
Majano--Characteristics and Masterpieces of this Group--Sepulchral
Monuments--Andrea Contucci's Tombs in S. Maria del Popolo--Desiderio da
Settignano--Sculpture in S. Francesco at Rimini--Venetian
Sculpture--Verona--Guido Mazzoni of Modena--Certosa of Pavia--Colleoni
Chapel at Bergamo--Sansovino at Venice--Pagan Sculpture--Michael Angelo's
Scholars--Baccio Bandinelli--Bartolommeo Ammanati--Cellini--Gian
Bologna--Survey of the History of Renaissance Sculpture.



Distribution of Artistic Gifts in Italy--Florence and Venice
--Classification by Schools--Stages in the Evolution of Painting--Cimabue
--The Rucellai Madonna--Giotto--His widespread Activity--The Scope of his
Art--Vitality--Composition--Colour--Naturalism--Healthiness--Frescoes at
Assisi and Padua--Legend of S. Francis--The Giotteschi--Pictures of the
Last Judgment--Orcagna in the Strozzi Chapel--Ambrogio Lorenzetti at
Pisa--Dogmatic Theology--Cappella degli Spagnuoli--Traini's "Triumph,
of S. Thomas Aquinas"--Political Doctrine expressed in Fresco--Sala della
Pace at Siena--Religious Art in Siena and Perugia--The Relation of the
Giottesque Painters to the Renaissance.



Mediaeval Motives exhausted--New Impulse toward Technical
Perfection--Naturalists in Painting--Intermediate Achievement needed
for the Great Age of Art--Positive Spirit of the Fifteenth
Century--Masaccio--The Modern Manner--Paolo Uccello--Perspective--Realistic
Painters--The Model--Piero della Francesca--His Study of Form--Resurrection
at Borgo San Sepolcro--Melozzo da Forli--Squarcione at Padua--Gentile da
Fabriano--Fra Angelico--Benozzo Gozzoli--His Decorative Style--Lippo
Lippi--Frescoes at Prato and Spoleto--Filippino Lippi--Sandro
Botticelli--His Value for the Student of Renaissance Fancy--His Feeling
for Mythology--Piero di Cosimo--Domenico Ghirlandajo--In what sense he
sums up the Age--Prosaic Spirit--Florence hitherto supreme in
Painting--Extension of Art Activity throughout Italy--Medicean Patronage.



Two Periods in the True Renaissance--Andrea Mantegna--His Statuesque
Design--His Naturalism--Roman Inspiration--Triumph of Julius
Caesar--Bas-reliefs--Luca Signorelli--The Precursor of Michael
Angelo--Anatomical Studies--Sense of Beauty--The Chapel of S. Brizio at
Orvieto--Its Arabesques and Medallions--Degrees in his Ideal--Enthusiasm
for Organic Life--Mode of treating Classical Subjects--Perugino--His
Pietistic Style--His Formalism--The Psychological Problem of his
Life--Perugino's Pupils--Pinturicchio--At Spello and Siena--Francia--Fra
Bartolommeo--Transition to the Golden Age--Lionardo da Vinci--The Magician
of the Renaissance--Raphael--The Melodist--Correggio--The Faun--Michael
Angelo--The Prophet.



Painting bloomed late in Venice--Conditions offered by Venice to
Art--Shelley and Pietro Aretino--Political Circumstances of
Venice--Comparison with Florence--The Ducal Palace--Art regarded as an
adjunct to State Pageantry--Myth of Venezia--Heroic Deeds of
Venice--Tintoretto's Paradise and Guardi's Picture of a Ball--Early
Venetian Masters of Murano--Gian Bellini--Carpaccio's Little Angels--The
Madonna of S. Zaccaria--Giorgione--Allegory, Idyll, Expression of
Emotion--The Monk at the Clavichord--Titian, Tintoret, and
Veronese--Tintoretto's Attempt to dramatise Venetian Art--Veronese's
Mundane Splendour--Titian's Sophoclean Harmony--Their Schools--Further
Characteristics of Veronese--of Tintoretto--His Imaginative
Energy--Predominant Poetry--Titian's Perfection of Balance--Assumption of
Madonna--Spirit common to the great Venetians.



Contrast of Michael Angelo and Cellini--Parentage and Boyhood of Michael
Angelo--Work with Ghirlandajo--Gardens of S. Marco--The Medicean
Circle--Early Essays in Sculpture--Visit to Bologna--First Visit to
Rome--The Pieta of S. Peter's--Michael Angelo as a Patriot and a friend of
the Medici--Cartoon for the Battle of Pisa--Michael Angelo and Julius
II.--The Tragedy of the Tomb--Design for the Pope's Mausoleum--Visit to
Carrara--Flight from Rome--Michael Angelo at Bologna--Bronze Statue of
Julius--Return to Rome--Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel--Greek and Modern
Art--Raphael--Michael Angelo and Leo X.--S. Lorenzo--The new
Sacristy--Circumstances under which it was designed and partly
finished--Meaning of the Allegories--Incomplete state of Michael Angelo's
Marbles--Paul III.--The "Last Judgment"--Critiques of Contemporaries--The
Dome of S. Peter's--Vittoria Colonna--Tommaso Cavalieri--Personal Habits
of Michael Angelo--His Emotional Nature--Last Illness.



His Fame--His Autobiography--Its Value for the Student of History,
Manners, and Character in the Renaissance--Birth, Parentage, and
Boyhood--Flute-playing--Apprenticeship to Marcone--Wanderjahr--The
Goldsmith's Trade at Florence--Torrigiani and England--Cellini leaves
Florence for Rome--Quarrel with the Guasconti--Homicidal Fury--Cellini a
Law to Himself--Three Periods in his Manhood--Life in Rome--Diego at the
Banquet--Renaissance Feeling for Physical Beauty--Sack of Rome--Miracles
in Cellini's Life--His Affections--Murder of his Brother's
Assassin--Sanctuary--Pardon and Absolution--Incantation in the
Colosseum--First Visit to France--Adventures on the Way--Accused of
stealing Crown Jewels in Rome--Imprisonment in the Castle of S.
Angelo--The Governor--Cellini's Escape--His Visions--The Nature of his
Religion--Second Visit to France--The Wandering Court--Le Petit
Nesle--Cellini in the French Law Courts--Scene at Fontainebleau--Return to
Florence--Cosimo de' Medici as a Patron--Intrigues of a Petty
Court--Bandinelli--The Duchess--Statue of Perseus--End of Cellini's
Life--Cellini and Machiavelli.



Full Development and Decline of Painting--Exhaustion of the old
Motives--Relation of Lionardo to his Pupils--His Legacy to the
Lombard School--Bernardino Luini--Gaudenzio Ferrari--The Devotion
of the Sacri Monti--The School of Raphael--Nothing left but
Imitation--Unwholesome Influences of Rome--Giulio Romano--Michael
Angelesque Mannerists--Misconception of Michael Angelo--Correggio founds
no School--Parmigianino--Macchinisti--The Bolognese--After-growth of Art in
Florence--Andrea del Sarto--His Followers--Pontormo--Bronzino--Revival of
Painting in Siena--Sodoma--His Influence on Pacchia, Beccafumi,
Peruzzi--Garofalo and Dosso Dossi at Ferrari--The Campi at
Cremona--Brescia and Bergamo--The Decadence in the second half of the
Sixteenth Century--The Counter-Reformation--Extinction of the Renaissance


I.--The Pulpits of Pisa and Ravello

II.--Michael Angelo's Sonnets

III.--Chronological Tables


[1] To the original edition of this volume.



Art in Italy and Greece--The Leading Phase of Culture--AEsthetic Type of
Literature--Painting the Supreme Italian Art--Its Task in the
Renaissance--Christian and Classical Traditions--Sculpture for the
Ancients--Painting for the Romance Nations--Mediaeval Faith and
Superstition--The Promise of Painting--How far can the Figurative Arts
express Christian Ideas?--Greek and Christian Religion--Plastic Art
incapable of solving the Problem--A more Emotional Art needed--Place of
Sculpture in the Renaissance--Painting and Christian Story--Humanization
of Ecclesiastical Ideas by Art--Hostility of the Spirit of True Piety to
Art--Compromises effected by the Church--Fra Bartolommeo's S.
Sebastian--Irreconcilability of Art and Theology, Art and
Philosophy--Recapitulation--Art in the end Paganises--Music--The Future of
Painting after the Renaissance.

It has been granted only to two nations, the Greeks and the Italians, and
to the latter only at the time of the Renaissance, to invest every phase
and variety of intellectual energy with the form of art. Nothing notable
was produced in Italy between the thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries
that did not bear the stamp and character of fine art. If the methods of
science may be truly said to regulate our modes of thinking at the present
time, it is no less true that, during the Renaissance, art exercised a
like controlling influence. Not only was each department of the fine arts
practised with singular success; not only was the national genius to a
very large extent absorbed in painting, sculpture, and architecture; but
the aesthetic impulse was more subtly and widely diffused than this alone
would imply. It possessed the Italians in the very centre of their
intellectual vitality, imposing its conditions on all the manifestations
of their thought and feeling, so that even their shortcomings may be
ascribed in a great measure to their inability to quit the aesthetic point
of view.

We see this in their literature. It is probable that none but artistic
natures will ever render full justice to the poetry of the Renaissance.
Critics endowed with a less lively sensibility to beauty of outline and to
harmony of form than the Italians, complain that their poetry lacks
substantial qualities; nor is it except by long familiarity with the
plastic arts of their contemporaries that we come to understand the ground
assumed by Ariosto and Poliziano. We then perceive that these poets were
not so much unable as instinctively unwilling to go beyond a certain
circle of effects. They subordinated their work to the ideal of their age,
and that ideal was one to which a painter rather than a poet might
successfully aspire. A succession of pictures, harmoniously composed and
delicately toned to please the mental eye, satisfied the taste of the
Italians. But, however exquisite in design, rich in colour, and complete
in execution this literary work may be, it strikes a Northern student as
wanting in the highest elements of genius--sublimity of imagination,
dramatic passion, energy and earnestness of purpose. In like manner, he
finds it hard to appreciate those didactic compositions on trifling or
prosaic themes, which delighted the Italians for the very reason that
their workmanship surpassed their matter. These defects, as we judge them,
are still more apparent in the graver branches of literature. In an essay
or a treatise we do not so much care for well-balanced disposition of
parts or beautifully rounded periods, though elegance may be thought
essential to classic masterpieces, as for weighty matter and trenchant
observations. Having the latter, we can dispense at need with the former.
The Italians of the Renaissance, under the sway of the fine arts, sought
after form, and satisfied themselves with rhetoric. Therefore we condemn
their moral disquisitions and their criticisms as the flimsy playthings of
intellectual voluptuaries. Yet the right way of doing justice to these
stylistic trifles is to regard them as products of an all-embracing genius
for art, in a people whose most serious enthusiasms were aesthetic.

The speech of the Italians at that epoch, their social habits, their ideal
of manners, their standard of morality, the estimate they formed of men,
were alike conditioned and qualified by art. It was an age of splendid
ceremonies and magnificent parade, when the furniture of houses, the
armour of soldiers, the dress of citizens, the pomp of war, and the
pageantry of festival were invariably and inevitably beautiful. On the
meanest articles of domestic utility, cups and platters, door-panels and
chimney-pieces, coverlets for beds and lids of linen-chests, a wealth of
artistic invention was lavished by innumerable craftsmen, no less skilled
in technical details than distinguished by rare taste. From the Pope upon
S. Peter's chair to the clerks in a Florentine counting-house, every
Italian was a judge of art. Art supplied the spiritual oxygen, without
which the life of the Renaissance must have been atrophied. During that
period of prodigious activity the entire nation seemed to be endowed with
an instinct for the beautiful, and with the capacity for producing it in
every conceivable form. As we travel through Italy at the present day,
when "time, war, pillage, and purchase" have done their worst to denude
the country of its treasures, we still marvel at the incomparable and
countless beauties stored in every burgh and hamlet. Pacing the picture
galleries of Northern Europe, the country seats of English nobles, and the
palaces of Spain, the same reflection is still forced upon us: how could
Italy have done what she achieved within so short a space of time? What
must the houses and the churches once have been, from which these spoils
were taken, but which still remain so rich in masterpieces?
Psychologically to explain this universal capacity for the fine arts in
the nation at this epoch, is perhaps impossible. Yet the fact remains,
that he who would comprehend the Italians of the Renaissance must study
their art, and cling fast to that Ariadne-thread throughout the
labyrinthine windings of national character. He must learn to recognise
that herein lay the sources of their intellectual strength as well as the
secret of their intellectual weakness.

It lies beyond the scope of this work to embrace in one inquiry the
different forms of art in Italy, or to analyse the connection of the
aesthetic instinct with the manifold manifestations of the Renaissance.
Even the narrower task to which I must confine myself, is too vast for the
limits I am forced to impose upon its treatment. I intend to deal with
Italian painting as the one complete product which remains from the
achievements of this period, touching upon sculpture and architecture more
superficially. Not only is painting the art in which the Italians among
all the nations of the modern world stand unapproachably alone, but it is
also the one that best enables us to gauge their genius at the time when
they impressed their culture on the rest of Europe. In the history of the
Italian intellect painting takes the same rank as that of sculpture in the
Greek. Before beginning, however, to trace the course of Italian art, it
will be necessary to discuss some preliminary questions, important for a
right understanding of the relations assumed by painting to the thoughts
of the Renaissance, and for explaining its superiority over the sister art
of sculpture in that age. This I feel the more bound to do because it is
my object in this volume to treat of art with special reference to the
general culture of the nation.

What, let us ask in the first place, was the task appointed for the fine
arts on the threshold of the modern world? They had, before all things, to
give form to the ideas evolved by Christianity, and to embody a class of
emotions unknown to the ancients.[2] The inheritance of the Middle Ages
had to be appropriated and expressed. In the course of performing this
work, the painters helped to humanise religion, and revealed the dignity
and beauty of the body of man. Next, in the fifteenth century, the riches
of classic culture were discovered, and art was called upon to aid in the
interpretation of the ancient to the modern mind. The problem was no
longer simple. Christian and pagan traditions came into close contact, and
contended for the empire of the newly liberated intellect. During this
struggle the arts, true to their own principles, eliminated from both
traditions the more strictly human elements, and expressed them in
beautiful form to the imagination and the senses. The brush of the same
painter depicted Bacchus wedding Ariadne and Mary fainting on the hill of
Calvary. Careless of any peril to dogmatic orthodoxy, and undeterred by
the dread of encouraging pagan sensuality, the artists wrought out their
modern ideal of beauty in the double field of Christian and Hellenic
legend. Before the force of painting was exhausted, it had thus traversed
the whole cycle of thoughts and feelings that form the content of the
modern mind. Throughout this performance, art proved itself a powerful
co-agent in the emancipation of the intellect; the impartiality wherewith
its methods were applied to subjects sacred and profane, the emphasis laid
upon physical strength and beauty as good things and desirable, the
subordination of classical and mediaeval myths to one aesthetic law of
loveliness, all tended to withdraw attention from the differences between
paganism and Christianity, and to fix it on the goodliness of that
humanity wherein both find their harmony.

This being in general the task assigned to art in the Renaissance, we may
next inquire what constituted the specific quality of modern as
distinguished from antique feeling, and why painting could not fail to
take the first place among modern arts. In other words, how was it that,
while sculpture was the characteristic fine art of antiquity, painting
became the distinguishing fine art of the modern era? No true form of
figurative art intervened between Greek sculpture and Italian painting.
The latter took up the work of investing thought with sensible shape from
the dead hands of the former. Nor had the tradition that connected art
with religion been interrupted, although a new cycle of religious ideas
had been substituted for the old ones. The late Roman and Byzantine
manners, through which the vital energies of the Athenian genius dwindled
into barren formalism, still lingered, giving crude and lifeless form to
Christian conceptions. But the thinking and feeling subject, meanwhile,
had undergone a change so all-important that it now imperatively required
fresh channels for its self-expression. It was destined to find these, not
as of old in sculpture, but in painting.

During the interval between the closing of the ancient and the opening of
the modern age, the faith of Christians had attached itself to symbols and
material objects little better than fetishes. The host, the relic, the
wonder-working shrine, things endowed with a mysterious potency, evoked
the yearning and the awe of medieval multitudes. To such concrete
actualities the worshippers referred their sense of the invisible
divinity. The earth of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre, the House of Loreto,
the Sudarium of Saint Veronica, aroused their deepest sentiments of aweful
adoration. Like Thomas, they could not be contented with believing; they
must also touch and handle. At the same time, in apparent
contradistinction to this demand for things of sense as signs of
super-sensual power, the claims of dogma on the intellect grew more
imperious, and mysticism opened for the dreaming soul a realm of spiritual
rapture. For the figurative arts there was no true place in either of
these regions. Painting and sculpture were alike alien to the grosser
superstitions, the scholastic subtleties, and the ecstatic trances of the
Middle Ages; nor had they anything in common with the logic of theology.
Votaries who kissed a fragment of the cross with passion, could have found
but little to satisfy their ardour in pictures painted by a man of genius.
A formless wooden idol, endowed with the virtue of curing disease, charmed
the pilgrim more than a statue noticeable only for its beauty or its truth
to life. We all know that _wunderthaetige Bilder sind meist nur schlechte
Gemaelde_. In architecture alone, the mysticism of the Middle Ages, their
vague but potent feelings of infinity, their yearning towards a deity
invisible, but localised in holy things and places, found artistic
outlet. Therefore architecture was essentially a medieval art. The rise of
sculpture and painting indicated the quickening to life of new faculties,
fresh intellectual interests, and a novel way of apprehending the old
substance of religious feeling; for comprehension of these arts implies
delight in things of beauty for their own sake, a sympathetic attitude
towards the world of sense, a new freedom of the mind produced by the
regeneration of society through love.

The mediaeval faiths were still vivid when the first Italian painters began
their work, and the sincere endeavour of these men was to set forth in
beautiful and worthy form the truths of Christianity. The eyes of the
worshipper should no longer have a mere stock or stone to contemplate: his
imagination should be helped by the dramatic presentation of the scenes of
sacred history, and his devotion be quickened by lively images of the
passion of our Lord. Spirit should converse with spirit, through no veil
of symbol, but through the transparent medium of art, itself instinct with
inbreathed life and radiant with ideal beauty. The body and the soul,
moreover, should be reconciled; and God's likeness should be once more
acknowledged in the features and the limbs of man. Such was the promise of
art; and this promise was in a great measure fulfilled by the painting of
the fourteenth century. Men ceased to worship their God in the holiness of
ugliness; and a great city called its street Glad on the birthday-festival
of the first picture investing religious emotion with aesthetic charm. But
in making good the promise they had given, it was needful for the arts on
the one hand to enter a region not wholly their own--the region of
abstractions and of mystical conceptions; and on the other to create a
world of sensuous delightfulness, wherein the spiritual element was
materialised to the injury of its own essential quality. Spirit, indeed,
spake to spirit, so far as the religious content was concerned; but flesh
spake also to flesh in the aesthetic form. The incarnation promised by the
arts involved a corresponding sensuousness. Heaven was brought down to
earth, but at the cost of making men believe that earth itself was

At this point the subject of our inquiry naturally divides into two main
questions. The first concerns the form of figurative art specially adapted
to the requirements of religious thought in the fourteenth century. The
second treats of the effect resulting both to art and religion from the
expression of mystical and theological conceptions in plastic form.

When we consider the nature of the ideas assimilated in the Middle Ages by
the human mind, it is clear that art, in order to set them forth, demanded
a language the Greeks had never greatly needed, and had therefore never
fully learned. To over-estimate the difference from an aesthetic point of
view between the religious notions of the Greeks and those which
Christianity had made essential, would be difficult. Faith, hope, and
charity; humility, endurance, suffering; the Resurrection and the
Judgment; the Pall and the Redemption; Heaven and Hell; the height and
depth of man's mixed nature; the drama of human destiny before the throne
of God: into the sphere of thoughts like these, vivid and solemn,
transcending the region of sense and corporeity, carrying the mind away to
an ideal world, where the things of this earth obtained a new reality by
virtue of their relation to an invisible and infinite Beyond, the modern
arts in their infancy were thrust. There was nothing finite here or
tangible, no gladness in the beauty of girlish foreheads or the swiftness
of a young man's limbs, no simple idealisation of natural delightfulness.
The human body, which the figurative arts must needs use as the vehicle of
their expression, had ceased to have a value in and for itself, had ceased
to be the true and adequate investiture of thoughts demanded from the
artist. At best it could be taken only as the symbol of some inner
meaning, the shrine of an indwelling spirit nobler than itself; just as a
lamp of alabaster owes its beauty and its worth to the flame it more than
half conceals, the light transmitted through its scarce transparent walls.

In ancient art those moral and spiritual qualities which the Greeks
recognised as truly human and therefore divine, allowed themselves to be
incarnated in well-selected types of physical perfection. The deities of
the Greek mythology were limited to the conditions of natural existence:
they were men and women of a larger mould and freer personality; less
complex, inasmuch as each completed some one attribute; less thwarted in
activity, inasmuch as no limit was assigned to exercise of power. The
passions and the faculties of man, analysed by unconscious psychology, and
deified by religious fancy, were invested by sculpture with appropriate
forms, the tact of the artist selecting corporeal qualities fitted to
impersonate the special character of each divinity. Nor was it possible
that, the gods and goddesses being what they were, exact analogues should
not be found for them in idealised humanity. In a Greek statue there was
enough soul to characterise the beauty of the body, to render her due meed
of wisdom to Pallas, to distinguish the swiftness of Hermes from the
strength of Heracles, or to contrast the virginal grace of Artemis with
the abundance of Aphrodite's charms. At the same time the spirituality
that gave its character to each Greek deity, was not such that, even in
thought, it could be dissociated from corporeal form. The Greeks thought
their gods as incarnate persons; and all the artist had to see to, was
that this incarnate personality should be impressive in his marble.

Christianity, on the other hand, made the moral and spiritual nature of
man all-essential. It sprang from an earlier religion, that judged it
impious to give any form to God. The body and its terrestrial activity
occupied but a subordinate position in its system. It was the life of the
soul, separable from this frame of flesh, and destined to endure when
earth and all that it contains had ended--a life that upon this planet was
continued conflict and aspiring struggle--which the arts, insofar as they
became its instrument, were called upon to illustrate. It was the worship
of a Deity, all spirit, to be sought on no one sacred hill, to be adored
in no transcendent shape, that they were bound to heighten. The most
highly prized among the Christian virtues had no necessary connection with
beauty of feature or strength of limb. Such beauty and such strength at
any rate were accidental, not essential. A Greek faun could not but be
graceful; a Greek hero was of necessity vigorous. But S. Stephen might be
steadfast to the death without physical charm; S. Anthony might put to
flight the devils of the flesh without muscular force. It is clear that
the radiant physical perfection proper to the deities of Greek sculpture
was not sufficient in this sphere.

Again, the most stirring episodes of the Christian mythology involved pain
and perturbation of the spirit; the victories of the Christian athletes
were won in conflicts carried on within their hearts and souls--"For we
wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and
powers," demoniac leaders of spiritual legions. It is, therefore, no less
clear that the tranquillity and serenity of the Hellenic ideal, so
necessary to consummate sculpture, was here out of place. How could the
Last Judgment, that day of wrath, when every soul, however insignificant
on earth, will play the first part for one moment in an awful tragedy, be
properly expressed in plastic form, harmonious and pleasing? And supposing
that the artist should abandon the attempt to exclude ugliness and
discord, pain and confusion, from his representation of the _Dies Irae_,
how could he succeed in setting forth by the sole medium of the human
body the anxiety and anguish of the soul at such a time? The physical
form, instead of being adequate to the ideas expressed, and therefore
helpful to the artist, is a positive embarrassment, a source of weakness.
The most powerful pictorial or sculpturesque delineation of the Judgment,
when compared with the pangs inflicted on the spirit by a guilty
conscience, pangs whereof words may render some account, but which can
find no analogue in writhings of the limbs or face, must of necessity be
found a failure. Still more impossible, if we pursue this train of thought
into another region, is it for the figurative arts to approach the
Christian conception of God in His omnipotence and unity. Christ Himself,
the central figure of the Christian universe, the desired of all nations,
in whom the Deity assumed a human form and dwelt with men, is no fit
subject for such art at any rate as the Greeks had perfected. The fact of
His incarnation brought Him indeed within the proper sphere of the fine
arts; but the religious idea which He represents removed Him beyond the
reach of sculpture. This is an all-important consideration. It is to this
that our whole argument is tending. Therefore to enlarge upon this point
will not be useless.

Christ is specially adored in His last act of love on Calvary; and how
impossible it is to set that forth consistently with the requirements of
strictly plastic art, may be gathered by comparing the passion of S.
Bernard's Hymn to our Lord upon the Cross with all that Winckelmann and
Hegel have so truly said about the restrained expression, dignified
generality, and harmonious beauty essential to sculpture. It is the
negation of tranquillity, the excess of feeling, the absence of
comeliness, the contrast between visible weakness and invisible
omnipotence, the physical humiliation voluntarily suffered by Him that
"ruled over all the angels, that walked on the pavements of heaven, whose
feet were clothed with stars"--it is all this that gives their force and
pathos to these stanzas:

Omnis vigor atque viror
Hinc recessit; non admiror:
Mors apparet in inspectu,
Totus pendens in defectu,
Attritus aegra macie.

Sic affectus, sic despectus,
Propter me sic interfectus,
Peccatori tam indigno
Cum amoris in te signo
Appare clara facie[3].

We have never heard that Pheidias or Praxiteles chose Prometheus upon
Caucasus for the supreme display of his artistic skill; and even the
anguish expressed in the group of the Laocoon is justly thought to violate
the laws of antique sculpture. Yet here was a greater than Prometheus--one
who had suffered more, and on whose suffering the salvation of the human
race depended, to exclude whom from the sphere of representation in art
was the same as confessing the utter impotence of art to grasp the vital
thought of modern faith. It is clear that the muses of the new age had to
haunt Calvary instead of Helicon, slaking their thirst at no Castalian
spring, but at the fount of tears outpoured by all creation for a stricken
God. What Hellas had achieved supplied no norm or method for the arts in
this new service.

From what has hitherto been advanced, we may assert with confidence that,
if the arts were to play an important part in Christian culture, an art
was imperatively demanded that should be at home in the sphere of intense
feeling, that should treat the body as the interpreter and symbol of the
soul, and should not shrink from pain and passion. How far the fine arts
were at all qualified to express the essential thoughts of Christianity--a
doubt suggested in the foregoing paragraphs--and how far, through their
proved inadequacy to perform this task completely, they weakened the hold
of mediaeval faiths upon the modern mind, are questions to be raised
hereafter. For the present it is enough to affirm that, least of all the
arts, could sculpture, with its essential repose and its dependence on
corporeal conditions, solve the problem. Sculpture had suited the
requirements of Greek thought. It belonged by right to men who not
unwillingly accepted the life of this world as final, and who worshipped
in their deities the incarnate personality of man made perfect. But it
could not express the cycle of Christian ideas. The desire of a better
world, the fear of a worse; the sense of sin referred to physical
appetites, and the corresponding mortification of the flesh; hope,
ecstasy, and penitence and prayer; all these imply contempt or hatred for
the body, suggest notions too spiritual to be conveyed by the rounded
contours of beautiful limbs, too full of struggle for statuesque
tranquillity. The new element needed a more elastic medium of expression.
Motives more varied, gradations of sentiment more delicate, the fugitive
and transient phases of emotion, the inner depths of consciousness, had
somehow to be seized. It was here that painting asserted its supremacy.
Painting is many degrees further removed than sculpture from dependence on
the body in the fulness of its physical proportions. It touches our
sensibilities by suggestions more indirect, more mobile, and more
multiform. Colour and shadow, aerial perspective and complicated grouping,
denied to sculpture, but within the proper realm of painting, have their
own significance, their real relation to feelings vaguer, but not less
potent, than those which find expression in the simple human form. To
painting, again, belongs the play of feature, indicative of internal
movement, through a whole gamut of modulations inapprehensible by
sculpture. All that drapery by its partial concealment of the form it
clothes, and landscape by its sympathies with human sentiment, may supply
to enhance the passion of the spectator, pertains to painting. This art,
therefore, owing to the greater variety of means at its disposal, and its
greater adequacy to express emotion, became the paramount Italian art.

To sculpture in the Renaissance, shorn of the divine right to create gods
and heroes, was left the narrower field of decoration, portraiture, and
sepulchral monuments. In the last of these departments it found the
noblest scope for its activity; for beyond the grave, according to
Christian belief, the account of the striving, hoping, and resisting soul
is settled. The corpse upon the bier may bear the stamp of spiritual
character impressed on it in life; but the spirit, with its struggle and
its passion, has escaped as from a prison-house, and flown else-whither.
The body of the dead man, for whom this world is over, and who sleeps in
peace, awaiting resurrection, and thereby not wholly dead, around whose
tomb watch sympathising angels or contemplative genii, was, therefore, the
proper subject for the highest Christian sculpture. Here, if anywhere, the
right emotion could be adequately expressed in stone, and the moulded form
be made the symbol of repose, expectant of restored activity. The greatest
sculptor of the modern age was essentially a poet of Death.

Painting, then, for the reasons already assigned and insisted on, was the
art demanded by the modern intellect upon its emergence from the stillness
of the Middle Ages. The problem, however, even for the art of painting was
not simple. The painters, following the masters of mosaic, began by
setting forth the history, mythology, and legends of the Christian Church
in imagery freer and more beautiful than lay within the scope of treatment
by Romanesque or Byzantine art. So far their task was comparatively easy;
for the idyllic grace of maternal love in the Madonna, the pathetic
incidents of martyrdom, the courage of confessors, the ecstasies of
celestial joy in redeemed souls, the loveliness of a pure life in modest
virgins, and the dramatic episodes of sacred story, furnish a multitude of
motives admirably pictorial. There was, therefore, no great obstacle upon
the threshold, so long as artists gave their willing service to the
Church. Yet, looking back upon this phase of painting, we are able to
perceive that already the adaptation of art to Christian dogma entailed
concessions on both sides. Much, on the one hand, had to be omitted from
the programme offered to artistic treatment, for the reason that the fine
arts could not deal with it at all. Much, on the other hand, had to be
expressed by means which painting in a state of perfect freedom would
repudiate. Allegorical symbols, like Prudence with two faces, and painful
episodes of agony and anguish, marred her work of beauty. There was
consequently a double compromise, involving a double sacrifice of
something precious. The faith suffered by having its mysteries brought
into the light of day, incarnated in form, and humanised. Art suffered by
being forced to render intellectual abstractions to the eye through
figured symbols.

As technical skill increased, and as beauty, the proper end of art, became
more rightly understood, the painters found that their craft was worthy of
being made an end in itself, and that the actualities of life observed
around them had claims upon their genius no less weighty than dogmatic
mysteries. The subjects they had striven at first to realise with all
simplicity now became little better than vehicles for the display of
sensuous beauty, science, and mundane pageantry. The human body received
separate and independent study, as a thing in itself incomparably
beautiful, commanding more powerful emotions by its magic than aught else
that sways the soul. At the same time the external world, with all its
wealth of animal and vegetable life, together with the works of human
ingenuity in costly clothing and superb buildings, was seen to be in every
detail worthy of most patient imitation. Anatomy and perspective taxed the
understanding of the artist, whose whole force was no longer devoted to
the task of bringing religious ideas within the limits of the
representable. Next, when the classical revival came into play, the arts,
in obedience to the spirit of the age, left the sphere of sacred subjects,
and employed their full-grown faculties in the domain of myths and Pagan
fancies. In this way painting may truly be said to have opened the new era
of culture, and to have first manifested the freedom of the modern mind.
When Luca Signorelli drew naked young men for a background to his picture
of Madonna and the infant Christ, he created for the student a symbol of
the attitude assumed by fine art in its liberty of outlook over the whole
range of human interests. Standing before this picture in the Uffizzi, we
feel that the Church, while hoping to adorn her cherished dogmas with
aesthetic beauty, had encouraged a power antagonistic to her own, a power
that liberated the spirit she sought to enthral, restoring to mankind the
earthly paradise from which monasticism had expelled it.

Not to diverge at this point, and to entertain the difficult problem of
the relation of the fine arts to Christianity, would be to shrink from the
most thorny question offered to the understanding by the history of the
Renaissance. On the very threshold of the matter I am bound to affirm my
conviction that the spiritual purists of all ages--the Jews, the
iconoclasts of Byzantium, Savonarola, and our Puritan ancestors--were
justified in their mistrust of plastic art. The spirit of Christianity and
the spirit of figurative art are opposed, not because such art is immoral,
but because it cannot free itself from sensuous associations[4]. It is
always bringing us back to the dear life of earth, from which the faith
would sever us. It is always reminding us of the body which piety bids us
to forget. Painters and sculptors glorify that which saints and ascetics
have mortified. The masterpieces of Titian and Correggio, for example,
lead the soul away from compunction, away from penitence, away from
worship even, to dwell on the delight of youthful faces, blooming colour,
graceful movement, delicate emotion[5]. Nor is this all: religious motives
may be misused for what is worse than merely sensuous suggestiveness. The
masterpieces of the Bolognese and Neapolitan painters, while they pretend
to quicken compassion for martyrs in their agony, pander to a bestial
blood-lust lurking in the darkest chambers of the soul[6]. Therefore it is
that piety, whether the piety of monastic Italy or of Puritan England,
turns from these aesthetic triumphs as from something alien to itself. When
the worshipper would fain ascend on wings of ecstasy to God, the infinite,
ineffable, unrealised, how can he endure the contact of those splendid
forms, in which the lust of the eye and the pride of life, professing to
subserve devotion, remind him rudely of the goodliness of sensual
existence? Art, by magnifying human beauty, contradicts these Pauline
maxims: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain;" "Set your
affections on things above, not on things on earth;" "Your life is hid
with Christ in God." The sublimity and elevation it gives to carnal
loveliness are themselves hostile to the spirit that holds no truce or
compromise of traffic with the flesh. As displayed in its most perfect
phases, in Greek sculpture and Venetian painting, art dignifies the actual
mundane life of man; but Christ, in the language of uncompromising piety,
means everything most alien to this mundane life--self-denial, abstinence
from fleshly pleasure, the waiting for true bliss beyond the grave,
seclusion even from social and domestic ties. "He that loveth father and
mother more than me, is not worthy of me," "He that taketh not his cross
and followeth me, is not worthy of me." It is needful to insist upon these
extremest sentences of the New Testament, because upon them was based the
religious practice of the Middle Ages, more sincere in their determination
to fulfil the letter and embrace the spirit of the Gospel than any
succeeding age has been.[7]

If, then, there really exists this antagonism between fine art glorifying
human life and piety contemning it, how came it, we may ask, that even in
the Middle Ages the Church hailed art as her coadjutor? The answer lies in
this, that the Church has always compromised. The movement of the modern
world, upon the close of the Middle Ages, offered the Church a compromise,
which it would have been difficult to refuse, and in which she perceived
art first no peril to her dogmas. When the conflict of the first few
centuries of Christianity had ended in her triumph, she began to mediate
between asceticism and the world. Intent on absorbing all existent
elements of life and power, she conformed her system to the Roman type,
established her service in basilicas and Pagan temples, adopted portions
of the antique ritual, and converted local genii into saints. At the same
time she utilised the spiritual forces of monasticism, and turned the
mystic impulse of ecstatics to account. The Orders of the Preachers and
the Begging Friars became her militia and police; the mystery of Christ's
presence in the Eucharist was made an engine of the priesthood; the dreams
of Paradise and Purgatory gave value to her pardons, interdictions,
jubilees, indulgences, and curses. In the Church the spirit of the
cloister and the spirit of the world found neutral ground, and to the
practical accommodation between these hostile elements she owed her wide
supremacy. The Christianity she formed and propagated was different from
that of the New Testament, inasmuch as it had taken up into itself a mass
of mythological anthropomorphic elements. Thus transmuted and
materialised, thus accepted by the vivid faith of an unquestioning
populace, Christianity offered a proper medium for artistic activity. The
whole first period of Italian painting was occupied with the endeavour to
set forth in form and colour the popular conceptions of a faith at once
unphilosophical and unspiritual, beautiful and fit for art by reason of
the human elements it had assumed into its substance. It was natural,
therefore, that the Church should show herself indulgent to the arts,
which were effecting in their own sphere what she had previously
accomplished, though purists and ascetics, holding fast by the original
spirit of their creed, might remain irreconcilably antagonistic to their
influence. The Reformation, on the contrary, rejecting the whole mass of
compromises sanctioned by the Church, and returning to the elemental
principles of the faith, was no less naturally opposed to fine arts,
which, after giving sensuous form to Catholic mythology, had recently
attained to liberty and brought again the gods of Greece.

A single illustration might be selected from the annals of Italian
painting to prove how difficult even the holiest-minded and most earnest
painter found it to effect the proper junction between plastic beauty and
pious feeling. Fra Bartolommeo, the disciple of Savonarola, painted a
Sebastian in the cloister of S. Marco, where it remained until the
Dominican confessors became aware, through the avowals of female
penitents, that this picture was a stumbling-block and snare to souls. It
was then removed, and what became of it we do not know for certain. Fra
Bartolommeo undoubtedly intended this ideal portrait of the martyr to be
edifying. S. Sebastian was to stand before the world as the young man,
strong and beautiful, who endured to the end and won the crown of
martyrdom. No other ideas but those of heroism, constancy, or faith were
meant to be expressed; but the painter's art demanded that their
expression should be eminently beautiful, and the beautiful body of the
young man distracted attention from his spiritual virtues to his physical
perfections. A similar maladjustment of the means of plastic art to the
purposes of religion would have been impossible in Hellas, where the
temples of Eros and of Phoebus stood side by side; but in Christian
Florence the craftsman's skill sowed seeds of discord in the souls of the

This story is but a coarse instance of the separation between piety and
plastic art. In truth, the difficulty of uniting them in such a way that
the latter shall enforce the former, lies far deeper than its powers of
illustration reach. Religion has its proper end in contemplation and in
conduct. Art aims at presenting sensuous embodiment of thoughts and
feelings with a view to intellectual enjoyment. Now, many thoughts are
incapable of sensuous embodiment; they appear as abstractions to the
philosophical intellect or as dogmas to the theological understanding. To
effect an alliance between art and philosophy or art and theology in the
specific region of either religion or speculation is, therefore, an
impossibility. In like manner there are many feelings which cannot
properly assume a sensuous form; and these are precisely religious
feelings, in which the soul abandons sense, and leaves the actual world
behind, to seek her freedom in a spiritual region.[9] Yet, while we
recognise the truth of this reasoning, it would be unscientific to
maintain that, until they are brought into close and inconvenient contact,
there is direct hostility between religion and the arts. The sphere of the
two is separate; their aims are distinct; they must be allowed to perfect
themselves, each after its own fashion. In the large philosophy of human
nature, represented by Goethe's famous motto, there is room for both,
because those who embrace it bend their natures neither wholly to the
pietism of the cloister nor to the sensuality of art. They find the
meeting-point of art and of religion in their own humanity, and perceive
that the antagonism of the two begins when art is set to do work alien to
its nature, and to minister to what it does not naturally serve.

At the risk of repetition I must now resume the points I have attempted to
establish in this chapter. As in ancient Greece, so also in Renaissance
Italy, the fine arts assumed the first place in the intellectual culture
of the nation. But the thought and feeling of the modern world required an
aesthetic medium more capable of expressing emotion in its intensity,
variety, and subtlety than sculpture. Therefore painting was the art of
arts for Italy. Yet even painting, notwithstanding the range and wealth of
its resources, could not deal with the motives of Christianity so
successfully as sculpture with the myths of Paganism. The religion it
interpreted transcended the actual conditions of humanity, while art is
bound down by its nature to the limitations of the world we live in. The
Church imagined art would help her; and within a certain sphere of
subjects, by vividly depicting Scripture histories and the lives of
saints, by creating new types of serene beauty and pure joy, by giving
form to angelic beings, by interpreting Mariolatry in all its charm and
pathos, and by rousing deep sympathy with our Lord in His Passion,
painting lent efficient aid to piety. Yet painting had to omit the very
pith and kernel of Christianity as conceived by devout, uncompromising
purists. Nor did it do what the Church would have desired. Instead of
riveting the fetters of ecclesiastical authority, instead of enforcing
mysticism and asceticism, it really restored to humanity the sense of its
own dignity and beauty, and helped to proved the untenability of the
mediaeval standpoint; for art is essentially and uncontrollably free, and,
what is more, is free precisely in that realm of sensuous delightfulness
from which cloistral religion turns aside to seek her own ecstatic liberty
of contemplation.

The first step in the emancipation of the modern mind was taken thus by
art, proclaiming to men the glad tidings of their goodliness and greatness
in a world of manifold enjoyment created for their use. Whatever painting
touched, became by that touch human; piety, at the lure of art, folded her
soaring wings and rested on the genial earth. This the Church had not
foreseen. Because the freedom of the human spirit expressed itself in
painting only under visible images, and not, like heresy, in abstract
sentences; because this art sufficed for Mariolatry and confirmed the cult
of local saints; because its sensuousness was not at variance with a
creed that had been deeply sensualised--the painters were allowed to run
their course unchecked. Then came a second stage in their development of
art. By placing the end of their endeavour in technical excellence and
anatomical accuracy, they began to make representation an object in
itself, independently of its spiritual significance. Next, under the
influence of the classical revival, they brought home again the old powers
of the earth--Aphrodite and Galatea and the Loves, Adonis and Narcissus
and the Graces, Phoebus and Daphne and Aurora, Pan and the Fauns, and the
Nymphs of the woods and the waves.

When these dead deities rose from their sepulchres to sway the hearts of
men in the new age, it was found that something had been taken from their
ancient bloom of innocence, something had been added of emotional
intensity. Italian art recognised their claim to stand beside Madonna and
the Saints in the Pantheon of humane culture; but the painters re-made
them in accordance with the modern spirit. This slight touch of
transformation proved that, though they were no longer objects of
religious devotion, they still preserved a vital meaning for an altered
age. Having personified for the antique world qualities which, though
suppressed and ignored by militant and mediaeval Christianity, were
strictly human, the Hellenic deities still signified those qualities for
modern Europe, now at length re-fortified by contact with the ancient
mind. For it is needful to remember that in all movements of the
Renaissance we ever find a return in all sincerity and faith to the glory
and gladness of nature, whether in the world without or in the soul of
man. To apprehend that glory and that gladness with the pure and primitive
perceptions of the early mythopoets, was not given to the men of the new
world. Yet they did what in them lay, with senses sophisticated by many
centuries of subtlest warping, to replace the first, free joy of kinship
with primeval things. For the painters, far more than for the poets of
the sixteenth century, it was possible to reproduce a thousand forms of
beauty, each attesting to the delightfulness of physical existence, to the
inalienable rights of natural desire, and to the participation of mankind
in pleasures held in common by us with the powers of earth and sea and

It is wonderful to watch the blending of elder and of younger forces in
this process. The old gods lent a portion of their charm even to Christian
mythology, and showered their beauty-bloom on saints who died renouncing
them. Sodoma's Sebastian is but Hyacinth or Hylas, transpierced with
arrows, so that pain and martyrdom add pathos to his poetry of
youthfulness. Lionardo's S. John is a Faun of the forest, ivy-crowned and
laughing, on whose lips the word "Repent" would be a gleeful paradox. For
the painters of the full Renaissance, Roman martyrs and Olympian
deities--the heroes of the _Acta Sanctorum_, and the heroes of Greek
romance--were alike burghers of one spiritual city, the city of the
beautiful and human. What exquisite and evanescent fragrance was educed
from these apparently diverse blossoms by their interminglement and
fusion--how the high-wrought sensibilities of the Christian were added to
the clear and radiant fancies of the Greek, and how the frank sensuousness
of the Pagan gave body and fulness to the floating wraiths of an ascetic
faith--remains a miracle for those who, like our master Lionardo, love to
scrutinise the secrets of twin natures and of double graces. There are not
a few for whom the mystery is repellent, who shrink from it as from
Hermaphroditus. These will always find something to pain them in the art
of the Renaissance.

Having co-ordinated the Christian and Pagan traditions in its work of
beauty, painting could advance no farther. The stock of its sustaining
motives was exhausted. A problem that preoccupied the minds of thinking
men at this epoch was how to harmonise the two chief moments of human
culture, the classical and the ecclesiastical. Without being as conscious
of their hostility as we are, men felt that the Pagan ideal was opposed to
the Christian, and at the same time that a reconciliation had to be
effected. Each had been worked out separately; but both were needed for
the modern synthesis. All that aesthetic handling, in this region more
precocious and more immediately fruitful than pure thought, could do
towards mingling them, was done by the impartiality of the fine arts.
Painting, in the work of Raphael, accomplished a more vital harmony than
philosophy in the writings of Pico and Ficino. A new Catholicity, a
cosmopolitan orthodoxy of the beautiful, was manifested in his pictures.
It lay outside his power, or that of any other artist, to do more than to
extract from both revelations the elements of plastic beauty they
contained, and to show how freely he could use them for a common purpose.
Nothing but the scientific method can in the long run enable us to reach
that further point, outside both Christianity and Paganism, at which the
classical ideal of a temperate and joyous natural life shall be restored
to the conscience educated by the Gospel. This, perchance, is the
religion, still unborn or undeveloped, whereof Joachim of Flora dimly
prophesied when he said that the kingdom of the Father was past, the
kingdom of the Son was passing, and the kingdom of the Spirit was to be.
The essence of it is contained in the whole growth to usward of the human
mind; and though a creed so highly intellectualised as that will be, can
never receive adequate expression from the figurative arts, still the
painting of the sixteenth century forms for it, as it were, a not unworthy
vestibule. It does so, because it first succeeded in humanising the
religion of the Middle Ages, in proclaiming the true value of antique
paganism for the modern mind, and in making both subserve the purposes of
free and unimpeded art.

Meanwhile, at the moment when painting was about to be exhausted, a new
art had arisen, for which it remained, within the aesthetic sphere, to
achieve much that painting could not do. When the cycle of Christian ideas
had been accomplished by the painters, and when the first passion for
antiquity had been satisfied, it was given at last to Music to express the
soul in all its manifold feeling and complexity of movement. In music we
see the point of departure where art leaves the domain of myths, Christian
as well as Pagan, and occupies itself with the emotional activity of man
alone, and for its own sake. Melody and harmony, disconnected from words,
are capable of receiving most varied interpretations, so that the same
combinations of sound express the ecstasies of earthly and of heavenly
love, conveying to the mind of the hearer only that element of pure
passion which is the primitive and natural ground-material of either. They
give distinct form to moods of feeling as yet undetermined; or, as the
Italians put it, _la musica e il lamento dell' amore o la preghiera a gli
dei_. This, combined with its independence of all corporeal conditions,
fenders music the true exponent of the spirit in its freedom, and
therefore the essentially modern art.

For Painting, after the great work accomplished during the Renaissance,
when the painters ran through the whole domain of thought within the scope
of that age, there only remained portraiture, history, dramatic incident,
landscape, _genre_, still life, and animals. In these spheres the art is
still exercised, and much good work, undoubtedly, is annually produced by
European painters. But painting has lost its hold upon the centre of our
intellectual activity. It can no longer give form to the ideas that at the
present epoch rule the modern world. These ideas are too abstract, too
much a matter of the understanding, to be successfully handled by the
figurative arts; and it cannot be too often or too emphatically stated
that these arts produce nothing really great and universal in relation to
the spirit of their century, except by a process analogous to the
mythopoetic. With conceptions incapable of being sensuously apprehended,
with ideas that lose their value when they are incarnated, they have no
power to deal. As meteors become luminous by traversing the grosser
element of our terrestrial atmosphere, so the thoughts that art employs
must needs immerse themselves in sensuousness. They must be of a nature to
gain rather than to suffer by such immersion; and they must make a direct
appeal to minds habitually apt to think in metaphors and myths. Of this
sort are all religious ideas at a certain stage of their development, and
this attitude at certain moments of history is adopted by the popular
consciousness. We have so far outgrown it, have so completely exchanged
mythology for curiosity, and metaphor for science, that the necessary
conditions for great art are wanting. Our deepest thoughts about the world
and God are incapable of personification by any aesthetic process; they
never enter that atmosphere wherein alone they could become through fine
art luminous. For the painter, who is the form-giver, they have ceased to
be shining stars, and are seen as opaque stones; and though divinity be in
them, it is a deity that refuses the investiture of form.


[2] It may fairly be questioned whether that necessary connection between
art and religion, which is commonly taken for granted, does in truth
exist; in other words, whether great art might not flourish without any
religious content. This, however, is a speculative problem, for present
and the future rather than the past. Historically, it has always been
found that the arts in their origin are dependent on religion. Nor is the
reason far to seek. Art aims at expressing an ideal; and this ideal is
the transfiguration of human elements into something nobler, felt and
apprehended by the imagination. Such an ideal, such an all-embracing
glorification of humanity only exists for simple and unsophisticated
societies in the form of religion. Religion is the universal poetry which
all possess; and the artist, dealing with the mythology of his national
belief, feels himself in vital sympathy with the imagination of the men
for whom he works. More than the painter is required for the creation of
great painting, and more than the poet for the exhibition of immortal
verse. Painters are but the hands, and poets but the voices, whereby
peoples express their accumulated thoughts and permanent emotions. Behind
them crowd the generations of the myth-makers; and around them floats the
vital atmosphere of enthusiasms on which their own souls and the souls of
their brethren have been nourished.

All Thy strength and bloom are faded:
Who hath thus Thy state degraded?
Death upon Thy form is written;
See the wan worn limbs, the smitten
Breast upon the cruel tree!

Thus despised and desecrated,
Thus in dying desolated,
Slain for me, of sinners vilest,
Loving Lord, on me Thou smilest:
Shine, bright face, and strengthen me!

[4] I am aware that many of my readers will demur that I am confounding
Christianity with ascetic or monastic Christianity; yet I cannot read the
New Testament, the _Imitatio Christi_, the _Confessions_ of S. Augustine,
and the _Pilgrim's Progress_ without feeling that Christianity in its
origin, and as understood by its chief champions, was and is ascetic. Of
this Christianity I therefore speak, not of the philosophised
Christianity, which is reasonably regarded with suspicion by the orthodox
and the uncompromising. It was, moreover, with Christianity of this
primitive type that the arts came first into collision.

[5] Titian's "Assumption of the Virgin" at Venice, Correggio's
"Coronation of the Virgin" at Parma.

[6] Domenichino, Guido, Ribera, Salvator Rosa.

[7] Not to quote again the _Imitatio Christi,_ it is enough to allude to
S. Francis as shown in the _Fioretti_.

[8] The difficulty of combining the true spirit of piety with the ideal
of natural beauty in art was strongly felt by Savonarola. Rio (_L'Art
chretien_, vol. ii. pp. 422-426) has written eloquently on this subject,
but without making it plain how Savonarola's condemnation of life studies
from the nude could possibly have been other than an obstacle to the
liberal and scientific prosecution of the art of painting.

[9] See Rio, _L'Art chretien,_ vol. ii. chap. xi. pp. 319-327, for an
ingenious defence of mystic art. The tales he tells of Bernardino da
Siena and the blessed Umiliana will not win the sympathy of Teutonic
Christians, who must believe that semi-sensuous, semi-pious raptures,
like those described by S. Catherine of Siena and S. Theresa, have
something in them psychologically morbid.



Architecture of Mediaeval Italy--Milan, Genoa, Venice--The Despots as
Builders--Diversity of Styles--Local Influences--Lombard, Tuscan,
Romanesque, Gothic--Italian want of feeling for Gothic--Cathedrals of
Siena and Orvieto--Secular Buildings of the Middle Ages--Florence and
Venice--Private Palaces--Public Halls--Palazzo della Signoria at
Florence--Arnolfo di Cambio--S. Maria del Fiore--Brunelleschi's
Dome--Classical Revival in Architecture--Roman Ruins--Three Periods in
Renaissance Architecture--Their Characteristics--Brunelleschi
--Alberti--Palace-building--Michellozzo--Decorative Work of the
Revival--Bramante--Vitoni's Church of the Umilta at Pistoja--Palazzo del
Te--Villa Farnesina--Sansovino at Venice--Michael Angelo--The Building of
S. Peter's--Palladio--The Palazzo della Ragione at Vicenza--Lombard
Architects--Theorists and Students of Vitruvius--Vignola and
Scamozzi--European Influence of the Palladian Style--Comparison of
Scholars and Architects in relation to the Revival of Learning.

Architecture is always the first of the fine arts to emerge from barbarism
in the service of religion and of civic life. A house, as Hegel says, must
be built for the god, before the image of the god, carved in stone or
figured in mosaic, can be placed there. Council chambers must be prepared
for the senate of a State before the national achievements can be painted
on the walls. Thus Italy, before the age of the Renaissance proper, found
herself provided with churches and palaces, which were destined in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to be adorned with frescoes and statues.

It was in the middle of the thirteenth century, during the long struggle
for independence carried on by the republics of Lombardy and Tuscany
against the Empire and the nobles, that some of the most durable and
splendid public works were executed. The domes and towers of Florence and
of Pisa were rising above the city walls, while the burghers who
subscribed for their erection were staining the waves of Meloria and the
cane-brakes of the Arbia with their blood. Lombardy, at the end of her
duel with Frederick Barbarossa, completed a vast undertaking, by which the
fields of Milan are still rendered more productive than any other
pastureland in Europe. The Naviglio Grande, bringing the waters of the
Ticino through a plain of thirty miles to Milan, was begun in 1179, and
was finished in 1258. The torrents of S. Gothard and the Simplon, which,
after filling the Lago Maggiore, seemed destined to run wasteful through a
wilderness of pebbles to the sea, were thus turned to account; and to this
great engineering work, as bold as it was simple, Milan owed the wealth
that placed her princes on a level with the sovereigns of Europe. At the
same period she built her walls, and closed their circuit with the sixteen
gates that showed she loved magnificence combined with strength. Genoa,
between 1276 and 1283, protected her harbours by a gigantic mole, and in
1295 brought the streams of the Ligurian Alps into the city by an aqueduct
worthy of old Rome. Venice had to win her very footing from the sea and
sand. So firmly did she drive her piles, so vigilantly watch their
preservation, that palaces and cathedrals of marble might be safely reared
upon the bosom of the deep. Meanwhile, stone bridges began to span the
rivers of Italy; the streets and squares of towns were everywhere paved
with flags. Before the first years of the fourteenth century the Italian
cities presented a spectacle of solid and substantial comfort, very
startling to northerners who travelled from the unpaved lanes of London
and the muddy labyrinths of Paris.

Sismondi remarks with just pride that these great works were Republican.
They were set on foot for the public use, and were constructed at the
expense of the commonwealths. It is, however, right to add that what the
communes had begun the princes continued. To the splendid taste of the
Visconti dynasty, for instance, Milan owed her wonderful Duomo and the
octagon bell-tower of S. Gottardo. The Certosas of Pavia and Chiaravalle,
the palace of Pavia, and a host of minor monuments remain in Milan and its
neighbourhood to prove how much a single family performed for the
adornment of the cities they had subjugated. And what is true of Milan
applies to Italy throughout its length and breadth. The Despots held their
power at the price of magnificence in schemes of public utility. So much
at least of the free spirit of the communes survived in them, that they
were always rivalling each other in great works of architecture. Italian
tyranny implied aesthetic taste and liberality of expenditure.

In no way is the characteristic diversity of the Italian communities so
noticeable as in their buildings. Each district, each town, has a
well-defined peculiarity, reflecting the specific qualities of the
inhabitants and the conditions under which they grew in culture. In some
cases we may refer this local character to nationality and geographical
position. Thus the name of the Lombards has been given to a style of
Romanesque, which prevailed through Northern and Central Italy during the
period of Lombard ascendency.[10] The Tuscans never forgot the domes of
their remote ancestors; the Romans adhered closely to Latin traditions;
the Southerners were affected by Byzantine and Saracenic models. In many
instances the geology of the neighbourhood determined the picturesque
features of its architecture. The clay-fields of the valley of the Po
produced the brickwork of Cremona, Pavia, Crema, Chiaravalle, and
Vercelli. To their quarries of _mandorlato_ the Veronese builders owed the
peach-bloom colours of their columned aisles. Carrara provided the Pisans
with mellow marble for their Baptistery and Cathedral; Monte Ferrato
supplied Pistoja and Prato with green serpentine; while the _pietra
serena_ of the Apennines added austerity to the interior of Florentine
buildings. Again, in other instances, we detect the influence of commerce
or of conquest. The intercourse of Venice with Alexandria determined the
unique architecture of S. Mark's. The Arabs and the Normans left
ineffaceable traces of their sojourn on Palermo. Naples and Messina still
bear marks upon their churches of French workmen. All along the coasts we
here and there find evidences of Oriental style imported into mediaeval
Italy, while the impress of the Spaniard is no less manifest in edifices
of a later period.

Existing thus in the midst of many potent influences, and surrounded by
the ruins of past civilisations, the Italians recombined and mingled
styles of marked variety. The Roman, Byzantine, Saracenic, Lombard, and
German traditions were blended in their architecture, as the presiding
genius of each place determined. It followed that master-works of rare and
subtle invention were produced, while no one type was fully perfected, nor
can we point to any paramount Italian manner. In Italy what was gained in
richness and individuality was lost in uniformity and might. Yet we may
well wonder at the versatile appreciation of all types of beauty that
these monuments evince. How strange, for example, it is to think of the
Venetians borrowing the form and structure of their temple from the
mosques of Alexandria, decking its facade with the horses of Lysippus, and
panelling the sanctuary with marbles from the harem-floors of Eastern
emperors; while at the other end of Italy, at Palermo, close beside the
ruined colonnades of Greek Segesta, Norman kings were embroidering their
massive churches with Saracenic arabesques and Byzantine mosaics,
interspersing delicate Arabian tracery with rope-patterns and monsters of
the deep, and linking Cuphic sentences with Scandinavian runes. Meanwhile,
at Rome, tombs, baths, and theatres had been turned into fortresses. The
Orsini held the Mole of Hadrian; the Savelli ensconced themselves in the
Theatre of Marcellus, and the Colonnesi in the Mausoleum of Augustus; the
Colosseum and the Arches of Constantine and Titus harboured the
Frangipani; the Baths of Trajan housed the Capocci; while the Gaetani made
a castle of Caecilia Metella's tomb. Under those vast resounding vaults
swarmed a brood of mediaeval _bravi_--like the wasps that hang their
pear-shaped combs along the cloisters of Pavia. There the ghost of the
dead empire still sat throned and sceptred. The rites of Christianity were
carried on beneath Agrippa's dome, in Diocletian's baths, in the
Basilicas. No other style but that of the imperial people struck root near
the Eternal City. Among her three hundred churches, Rome can only show one
Gothic building. Further to the north, where German influences were more
potent, the cathedrals still displayed, each after its own kind, a sunny
southern waywardness. Glowing with marbles and mosaics, glittering with
ornaments, where the foliage of the Corinthian acanthus hides the symbols
of the Passion, and where birds and Cupids peep from tangled fruits
beneath grave brows of saints and martyrs; leaning now to the long low
colonnades of the Basilica, now to the high-built arches of the purely
Pointed style; surmounting the meeting point of nave and transept with
Etruscan domes; covering the facade with bas-reliefs, the roof with
statues; raising the porch-pillars upon lions and winged griffins;
flanking the nave with bell-towers, or planting them apart like flowers in
isolation on the open square--these wonderful buildings, the delight and
joy of all who love to trace variety in beauty, and to note the impress of
a nation's genius upon its art, seem, like Italy herself, to feel all
influences and to assimilate all nationalities.

Amid the many styles of architecture contending for mastery in Italy,
three, before the age of the Revival, bid fair to win the battle. These
were the Lombard, the Tuscan Romanesque, and the Gothic. Chronologically
the two former flourished nearly during the same centuries, while Gothic,
coming from without, suspended their development. But chronology is of
little help in the history of Italian architecture; its main features
being, not uniformity of progression, but synchronous diversity and
salience of local type. What remained fixed through all changes in Italy
was a bias toward the forms of Roman building, which eventually in the
Renaissance, becoming scientifically apprehended, determined the taste of
the whole nation.

It is, perhaps, not wholly fanciful to say that, as the Lombards just
failed to mould the Italians by conquest into an united people, so their
architecture fell short of creating one type for the peninsula.[11] From
some points of view the historian might regret that Italy did not receive
that thorough subjugation in the eighth century, which would have broken
down local distinctions. Such regrets, however, are singularly idle; for
the main currents of the world's history move not by chance; and how,
moreover, could Italy have fulfilled her destiny without the divers forms
of political existence that made her what she was? Yet, standing before
some of the great Lombard churches, we are inclined to speculate, perhaps
with better reason, what the result would have been if that style of
architecture could have assumed the complete ascendency over the Italians
which the Romanesque and Gothic of the North exerted over France and
England?[12] The pyramidal facade common in these buildings, the campanili
that suspend aerial lanterns upon plain square towers, the domes rising
tier over tier from the intersection of nave and transept to end in
minarets and pinnacles, the low long colonnades of marble pilasters, the
open porches resting upon lions, the harmonious blending of baked clay and
rosy-tinted stone, the bold combination of round and pointed arches, and
the weird invention whereby every string-course and capital has been
carved with lions, sphinxes, serpents, mermaids, griffins, harpies, winged
horses, lizards, and knights in armour--all these are elements that might,
we fancy, have been developed into a noble national style. As it is, the
churches in question are often more bizarre than really beautiful. Their
peculiar character, however, is inseparably associated with the long
reaches of green plain, the lordly rivers, and the background of blue
hills and snowy Alps that constitute the charm of Lombard landscape.

If Lombard architecture, properly so-called, was partial in its influence
and confined to a comparatively narrow local sphere, the same is true of
the Tuscan Romanesque. The church of Samminiato, near Florence [about
1013], and the cathedral of Pisa [begun 1063], not to mention other less
eminent examples at Lucca and Pistoja, are sufficient evidences that in
the darkest period of the Middle Ages the Italians were aiming at an
architectural Renaissance. The influence of classical models is apparent
both in the construction and the detail of these basilicas; while the
deeply grounded preference of the Italian genius for round arches, for
colonnades of pillars and pilasters, and for large rectangular spaces,
with low roofs and shallow tribunes, finds full satisfaction in these
original and noble buildings. It is impossible to refrain from deploring
that the Romanesque of Tuscany should have been checked in its development
by the intrusion of the German Gothic. Had it run its course unthwarted, a
national style suited to the temperament of the people might have been
formed, and much that was pedantic in the revival of the fifteenth century
have been obviated.

The place of Gothic architecture in Italy demands fuller treatment. It was
due partly to the direct influence of German emperors, partly to the
imperial sympathies of the great nobles, partly to the Franciscan friars,
who aimed at building large churches cheaply, and partly to the admiration
excited by the grandeur of the Pointed style as it prevailed in Northern
Europe, that Gothic--so alien to the Italian genius and climate--took
root, spread widely, and flourished freely for a season. In thus
enumerating the conditions favourable to the spread of Gottico-Tedesco, I
am far from wishing to assert that this style was purely foreign. Italy,
in common with the rest of Europe, passed by a natural process of
evolution from the Romanesque to the Pointed manner, and treated the
latter with an originality that proves a certain natural assimilation. Yet
the first Gothic church, that of S. Francis at Assisi, was designed by a
German; the most splendid, that of Our Lady at Milan, is emphatically
German.[13] During the comparatively brief period of Gothic ascendency the
Italians never forgot their Latin and Lombard sympathies. The mood of mind
in which they Gothicised was partial and transient. The evolution of this
style was, therefore, neither so spontaneous and simple, nor yet so
uninterrupted and complete, in Italy as in the North. While it produced
the church of S. Francesco at Assisi and the cathedrals of Siena, Orvieto,
Lucca, Bologna, Florence, and Milan, together with the town-halls of
Perugia, Siena, and Florence, it failed to take firm hold upon the
national taste, and died away before the growing passion for antiquity
that restored the Italians to a sense of their own intellectual greatness.
It is clear that, as soon as they were conscious of their vocation to
revive the culture of the classic age, they at once and for ever abandoned
the style appropriate to northern feudalism. They seem to have adopted it
half-unwillingly and to have understood it only in the imperfect way in
which they comprehended chivalry.

The Italians never rightly apprehended the specific nature of Gothic
architecture. They could not forget the horizontal lines, flat roofs, and
blank walls of the Basilica. Like their Roman ancestors, they aimed at
covering the ground with the smallest possible expenditure of
construction; to enclose large spaces within simple limits was their first
object, and the effect of beauty or sublimity was gained by the
proportions given to the total area. When, therefore, they adopted the
Gothic style, they failed to perceive that its true merit consists in the
negation of nearly all that the Latin style holds precious. Horizontal
lines are as far as possible annihilated; walls are lost in windows;
aisles and columns, apses and chapels, are multiplied with a view to
complexity of architectonic effect; flat roofs become intolerable. The
whole force employed in the construction has an upward tendency, and the
spire is the completion of the edifice; for to the spire its countless
soaring lines--lines not of stationary strength, but of ascendent
growth--converge. All this the Italians were slow to comprehend. The
campanile, for example, never became an integral part of their buildings.
It stood alone, and was reserved for its original purpose of keeping the
bells. The windows, for a reason very natural in Italy, where there is
rather too much than too little sunlight, were curtailed; and instead of
the multiplied bays and clustered columns of a northern Gothic aisle, the
nave of so vast a church as S. Petronio at Bologna is measured by six
arches raised on simple piers. The facade of an Italian cathedral was
studied as a screen, quite independently of its relation to the interior;
in the beautiful church of Crema, for example, the moon at night looks
through the upper windows of a frontispiece raised far above the low roof
of the nave. For the total effect of the exterior, as will be apparent to
anyone who observes the Duomo of Orvieto from behind, no thought was
taken. In this way the Italians missed the point and failed to perceive
the poetry of Gothic architecture. Its symbolical significance was lost
upon them; perhaps we ought to say that the Italian temperament, in art as
in religion, was incapable of assimilating the vague yet powerful
mysticism of the Teutonic races.

On the other hand, what they sacrificed of genuine Gothic character, was
made good after their own fashion. Surface decoration, whether of fresco
or mosaic, bronze-work or bas-relief, wood-carving or panelling in marble,
baked clay or enamelled earthenware was never carried to such perfection
in Gothic buildings of the purer type; nor had sculpture in the North an
equal chance of detaching itself from the niche and tabernacle, which
forced it to remain the slave of architecture. Thus the comparative
defects of Italian Gothic were directly helpful in promoting those very
arts for which the people had a genius unrivalled among modern nations.

It is only necessary to contrast the two finest cathedrals of this style,
those of Siena and Orvieto, with two such buildings as the cathedrals of
Rheims and Salisbury, in order to perceive the structural inferiority of
the former, as well as their superiority for all subordinate artistic
purposes. Long straight lines, low roofs, narrow windows, a facade of
surprising splendour but without a strict relation to the structure of the
nave and aisles, a cupola surmounting the intersection of nave, choir, and
transepts; simple tribunes at the east end, a detached campanile, round
columns instead of clustered piers, a mixture of semicircular and pointed
arches; these are some of the most salient features of the Sienese Duomo.
But the material is all magnificent; and the hand, obedient to the
dictates of an artist's brain, has made itself felt on every square foot
of the building. Alternate courses of white and black marble, cornices
loaded with grave or animated portraits of the Popes, sculptured shrines,
altars, pulpits, reliquaries, fonts and holy-water vases, panels of inlaid
wood and pictured pavements, bronze candelabra and wrought-iron screens,
gilding and colour and precious work of agate and lapis lazuli--the
masterpieces of men famous each in his own line--delight the eye in all
directions. The whole church is a miracle of richness, a radiant and
glowing triumph of inventive genius, the product of a hundred
master-craftsmen toiling through successive centuries to do their best.
All its countless details are so harmonised by the controlling taste, so
brought together piece by piece in obedience to artistic instinct, that
the total effect is ravishingly beautiful. Yet it is clear that no one
paramount idea, determining and organising all these marvels, existed in
the mind of the first architect. In true Gothic work the details that
make up the charm of this cathedral would have been subordinated to one
architectonic thought; they would not have been suffered to assert their
individuality, or to contribute, except as servants, to the whole effect.
The northern Gothic church is like a body with several members; the
southern Gothic church is an accretion of beautiful atoms. The northern
Gothic style corresponds to the national unity of federalised races,
organised by a social hierarchy of mutually dependent classes. In the
southern Gothic style we find a mirror of political diversity, independent
personality, burgher-like equality, despotic will. Thus the specific
qualities of Italy on her emergence from the Middle Ages may be traced by
no undue exercise of the fancy in her monuments. They are emphatically the
creation of citizens--of men, to use Giannotti's phrase, distinguished by
alternating obedience and command, not ranked beneath a monarchy, but
capable themselves of sovereign power.[14]

What has been said of Siena is no less true of the Duomo of Orvieto.
Though it seems to aim at a severer Gothic, and though the facade is more
architecturally planned, a single glance at the exterior of the edifice
shows that the builders had no lively sense of the requirements of the
style they used. What can be more melancholy than those blank walls,
broken by small round recesses protruding from the side chapels of the
nave, those gaunt and barren angles at the east end, and those few
pinnacles appended at a venture? It is clear that the spirit of the
northern Gothic manner has been wholly misconceived. On the other hand,
the interior is noble. The feeling for space possessed by the architect
has expressed itself in proportions large and solemn; the area enclosed,
though somewhat cold and vacuous to northern taste, is at least impressive
by its severe harmony. But the real attractions of the church are isolated
details. Wherever the individual artist-mind has had occasion to emerge,
there our gaze is riveted, our criticism challenged, our admiration won.
The frescoes of Signorelli, the bas-reliefs of the Pisani, the statuary of
Lo Scalza and Mosca, the tarsia of the choir stalls, the Alexandrine work
and mosaics of the facade, the bronzes placed upon its brackets, and the
wrought acanthus scrolls of its superb pilasters--these are the objects
for inexhaustible wonder in the cathedral of Orvieto. On approaching a
building of this type, we must abandon our conceptions of organic
architecture: only the Greek and northern Gothic styles deserve that
epithet. We must not seek for severe discipline and architectonic design.
Instead of one presiding, all-determining idea, we must be prepared to
welcome a wealth of separate beauties, wrought out by men of independent
genius, whereby each part is made a masterpiece, and many diverse elements
become a whole of picturesque rather than architectural impressiveness.

It would not be difficult to extend this kind of criticism to the Duomo of
Milan. Speaking strictly, a more unlucky combination of different
styles--the pyramidal facade of Lombard architecture and the long thin
lights of German Gothic, for example--a clumsier misuse of
ill-appropriated details in the heavy piers of the nave, or a more
disastrous adjustment of the monster windows to the main lines of the nave
and aisles, could scarcely be imagined. Yet no other church, perhaps, in
Europe leaves the same impression of the marvellous upon the fancy. The
splendour of its pure white marble, blushing with the rose of evening or
of dawn, radiant in noonday sunlight, and fabulously fairy-like beneath
the moon and stars, the multitudes of statues sharply cut against a clear
blue sky, and gazing at the Alps across that memorable tract of plain, the
immense space and light-irradiated gloom of the interior, the deep tone of
the bells above at a vast distance, and the gorgeous colours of the
painted glass, contribute to a scenical effect unparalleled in

The two styles, Lombard and Gothic, of which I have been speaking, were
both in a certain sense exotic. Within the great cities the pith of the
population was Latin; and no style of building that did not continue the
tradition of the Romans, in the spirit of the Roman manner, and with
strict observance of its details, satisfied them. It was a main feature of
the Renaissance that, when the Italians undertook the task of reuniting
themselves by study with the past, they abandoned all other forms of
architecture, and did their best to create one in harmony with the relics
of Latin monuments. To trace the history of this revived classic
architecture will occupy me later in this chapter; but for the moment it
is necessary to turn aside and consider briefly the secular buildings of
Italy before the date of the Renaissance proper.

About the same time that the cathedrals were being built, the nobles
filled the towns with fortresses. These at first were gaunt and unsightly;
how overcrowded with tall bare towers a mediaeval Italian city could be, is
still shown by San Gemignano, the only existing instance where the
_torroni_ have been left untouched.[15] In course of time, when the
aristocracy came to be fused with the burghers, and public order was
maintained by law in the great cities, these forts made way for spacious
palaces. The temper of the citizens in each place and the local character
of artistic taste determined the specific features of domestic as of
ecclesiastical architecture. Though it is hard to define what are the
social differences expressed by the large quadrangles of Francesco
Sforza's hospital at Milan, and the heavy cube of the Riccardi palace at
Florence, we feel that the _genius loci_ has in each case controlled the
architect. The sunny spaces of the one building, with its terra-cotta
traceries of birds and grapes and Cupids, contrast with the stern brown
mouldings and impenetrable solidity of the other. That the one was raised
by the munificence of a sovereign in his capital, while the other was the
dwelling of a burgher in a city proud of its antique sobriety, goes some
way to explain the difference. In like manner the court-life of a dynastic
principality produced the castle of Urbino, so diverse in its style and
adaptation from the ostentatious mansions of the Genoese merchants. It is
not fanciful to say that the civic life of a free and factious republic is
represented by the heavy walls and narrow windows of Florentine
dwelling-places. In their rings of iron, welded between rock and rock
about the basement, as though for the beginning of a barricade--in their
torch-rests of wrought metal, gloomy portals and dimly-lighted courts, we
trace the habits of caution and reserve that marked the men who led the
parties of Uberti and Albizzi. The Sienese palaces are lighter and more
elegant in style, as belonging to a people proverbially pleasure-loving;
while a still more sumptuous and secure mode of life finds expression in
the open loggie and spacious staircases of Venice. The graceful buildings
which overhang the Grand Canal are exactly fitted for an oligarchy, sure
of its own authority and loved of the people. Feudal despotism, on the
contrary, reigns in the heart of Ferrara, where the Este's stronghold,
moated, draw-bridged, and portcullised, casting dense shadow over the
water that protects the dungeons, still seems to threaten the public
square and overawe the homes of men.

To the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, again, we owe the town halls
and public palaces that form so prominent a feature in the city
architecture of Italy. The central vitality of once powerful States is
symbolised in the _broletti_ of the Lombard cities, dusty and abandoned
now in spite of their clear-cut terra-cotta traceries. There is something
strangely melancholy in their desolation. Wandering through the vast hall
of the Ragione at Padua, where the very shadows seem asleep as they glide
over the wide unpeopled floor, it is not easy to remember that this was
once the theatre of eager intrigues, ere the busy stir of the old burgh
was utterly extinguished. Few of these public palaces have the good
fortune to be distinguished, like that of the Doge at Venice, by
world-historical memories and by works of art as yet unrivalled. The
spirit of the Venetian Republic still lives in that unique building.
Architects may tell us that its Gothic arcades are melodramatic; sculptors
may depreciate the decorative work of Sansovino; painters may assert that
the genius of Titian, Tintoret, and Veronese shines elsewhere with greater
lustre. Yet the poet clings with ever-deepening admiration to the sea-born
palace of the ancient mistress of the sea, and the historian feels that
here, as at Athens, art has made the past towards which he looks eternal.

Two other great Italian houses of the Commonwealth, rearing their towers
above the town for tocsin and for ward, owe immortality to their intrinsic
beauty. These are the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena and the Palazzo Vecchio of
Florence. Few buildings in Europe are more picturesquely fascinating than
the palace of Siena, with its outlook over hill and dale to cloud-capped
Monte Amiata. Yet, in spite of its unparalleled position on the curved and
sloping piazza, where the _contrade_ of Siena have run their _palio_ for
centuries, this palace lacks the vivid interest attaching to the home
Arnolfo raised at Florence for the rulers of his native city. During their
term of office the Priors never quitted the Palace of the Signory. All
deliberations on state affairs took place within its walls, and its bell
was the pulse that told how the heart of Florence throbbed. The architect
of this huge mass of masonry was Arnolfo del Cambio, one of the greatest
builders of the Middle Ages, a man who may be called the Michael Angelo
of the thirteenth century[16]. In 1298 he was ordered to erect a
dwelling-place for the Commonwealth, to the end that the people might be
protected in their fortress from the violence of the nobles. The building
of the palace and the levelling of the square around it were attended with
circumstances that bring forcibly before our minds the stern conditions of
republican life in mediaeval Italy. A block of houses had to be bought from
the family of Foraboschi; and their tower, called Torre della Vacca, was
raised and turned into the belfry of the Priors. There was not room
enough, however, to construct the palace itself with right angles, unless
it were extended into the open space where once had stood the houses of
the Uberti, "traitors to Florence and Ghibellines." In destroying these,
the burghers had decreed that thenceforth for ever the feet of men should
pass where the hearths of the proscribed nobles once had blazed. Arnolfo
begged that he might trespass on this site; but the people refused
permission. Where the traitors' nest had been, there the sacred
foundations of the public house should not be laid. Consequently the
Florentine Palazzo is, was, and will be cramped of its correct

No Italian architect has enjoyed the proud privilege of stamping his own
individuality more strongly on his native city than Arnolfo; and for this
reason it may be permitted to enlarge upon his labours here. When we take
our stand upon the hill of Samminiato, the Florence at our feet owes her
physiognomy in a great measure to this man. The tall tower of the Palazzo
Vecchio, the bulk of the Duomo, and the long low oblong mass of Santa
Croce are all his. His too are the walls that define the city of flowers
from the gardens round about her.[18] Even the master-works of his
successors subordinate their beauty to his first conception. Giotto's
campanile, Brunelleschi's cupola, and Orcagna's church of Orsammichele, in
spite of their undoubted and authentic originality, are placed where he
had planned.

In 1294 the Florentines determined to rebuild their mother-church upon a
scale of unexampled grandeur. The commission given to their architect
displays so strikingly the lordly spirit in which these burghers set about
the work, that, though it has been often quoted, a portion of the document
shall be recited here. "Since the highest mark of prudence in a people of
noble origin is to proceed in the management of their affairs so that
their magnanimity and wisdom may be evinced in their outward acts, we
order Arnolfo, head-master of our commune, to make a design for the
renovation of Santa Reparata in a style of magnificence which neither the
industry nor the power of man can surpass, that it may harmonise with the
opinion of many wise persons in this city and state, who think that this
commune should not engage in any enterprise unless its intention be to
make the result correspond with that noblest sort of heart which is
composed of the united will of many citizens."[19] From Giovanni Villani
we learn what taxes were levied by the Wool-Guild, and set apart in 1331
for the completion of the building. They were raised upon all goods bought
or sold within the city in two separate rates, the net produce amounting
in the first year to 2,000 lire.[20] The cathedral designed by Arnolfo
was of vast dimensions: it covers 84,802 feet, while that of Cologne
covers 81,461 feet; and, says Fergusson, "as far as mere conception of
plan goes, there can be little doubt but that the Florentine cathedral far
surpasses its German rival."[21] Nothing, indeed, can be imagined more
noble than the scheme of this huge edifice. Studying its ground-plan, and
noting how the nave unfolds into a mighty octagon, which in its turn
displays three well-proportioned apses, we are induced to think that a
sublimer thought has never been expressed in stone. At this point,
however, our admiration receives a check. In the execution of the parts
the builder dwarfed what had been conceived on so magnificent a scale;
aiming at colossal simplicity, he failed to secure the multiplicity of
subordinated members essential to the total effect of size. "Like all
inexperienced architects, he seems to have thought that greatness of parts
would add to the greatness of the whole, and in consequence used only four
great arches in the whole length of his nave, giving the central aisle a
width of fifty-five feet clear. The whole width is within ten feet of that
of Cologne, and the height about the same; and yet, in appearance, the
height is about half, and the breadth less than half, owing to the better
proportion of the parts and to the superior appropriateness in the details
on the part of the German cathedral."[22] The truth of these remarks will
be felt by every one on whom the ponderous vacuity of the interior has
weighed. Other notable defects there are too in this building, proceeding
chiefly from the Italian misconception of Gothic style. The windows are
few and narrow, so that little light even at noonday struggles through
them; and broad barren spaces of grey walls oppress the eye. Externally
the whole church is panelled with parti-coloured marbles, according to
Florentine custom; but this panelling bears no relation to the structure:
it is so much surface decoration possessing value chiefly for the
colourist. Arnolfo died before the dome, as he designed it, could be
placed upon the octagon, and nothing is known for certain about the form
he meant it to assume. It seems, however, probable that he intended to
adopt something similar to the dome of Chiaravalle, which ends, after a
succession of narrowing octagons, in a slender conical pyramid.[23]
Subordinate spires would then have been placed at each of the four angles
where the nave and transepts intersect; and the whole external effect, for
richness and variety, would have outrivalled that of any European
building. It is well known that the erection of the dome was finally
entrusted to Brunelleschi in 1420. Arnolfo's church now sustains in air an
octagonal cupola of the simplest possible design, in height and size
rivalling that of S. Peter's. It was thus that the genius of the
Renaissance completed what the genius of the Middle Ages had begun. But in
Italy there was no real break between the two periods. Though Arnolfo
employed the Pointed style in his design, we find nothing genuinely Gothic
in the church. It has no pinnacles, flying buttresses, side chapels, or
subordinate supports. To use the phrase of Michelet, who has chosen the
dramatic episode of Brunelleschi's intervention in the rearing of the dome
for a parable of the Renaissance, "the colossal church stood up simply,
naturally, as a strong man in the morning rises from his bed without the
need of staff or crutch."[24] This indeed is the glory of Italian as
compared with Northern architecture. The Italians valued the strength of
simple perspicuity: all the best works of their builders are geometrical
ideas of the purest kind translated into stone. It is, however, true that
the gain of vast aerial space was hardly sufficient to compensate for the
impression of emptiness they leave upon the senses. We feel this very
strongly when we study the model prepared by Bramante's pupil, Cristoforo
Rocchi, for the cathedral of Pavia; yet here we see the neo-Latin genius
of the Italian artist working freely in an element exactly suited to his
powers. When the same order of genius sought to express its conception
through the language of the Gothic style, the result was invariably

The classical revival of the fifteenth century made itself immediately
felt in architecture; and Brunelleschi's visit to Rome in 1403 may be
fixed as the date of the Renaissance in this art. Gothic, as we have
already seen, was an alien in Italy. Its importation from the North had
checked the free development of national architecture, which in the
eleventh century began at Pisa by a conscious return to classic details.
But the reign of Gothic was destined to be brief. Petrarch and Boccaccio,
as I showed in my last volume, turned the whole intellectual energy of the
Florentines into the channels of Latin and Greek scholarship.[26] The
ancient world absorbed all interests, and the Italians with one will shook
themselves free of the medieval style they never rightly understood, and
which they henceforth stigmatised as barbarous.[27]

The problem that occupied all the Renaissance architects was how to
restore the manner of ancient Rome as far as possible, adapting it to the
modern requirements of ecclesiastical, civic, and domestic buildings. Of
Greek art they knew comparatively nothing: nor indeed could Greek
architecture have offered for their purpose the same plastic elements as
Roman--itself a derived style, admitting of easier adjustment to modern
uses than the inflexibly pure art of Greece. At the same time they
possessed but imperfect fragments of Roman work. The ruins of baths,
theatres, tombs, temple-fronts, and triumphal arches, were of little
immediate assistance in the labour of designing churches and palaces. All
that the architects could do, after familiarising themselves with the
remains of ancient Rome, and assimilating the spirit of Roman art, was to
clothe their own inventions with classic details. The form and structure
of their edifices were modern; the parts were copied from antique models.
A want of organic unity and structural sincerity is always the result of
those necessities under which a secondary and adapted style must labour;
and thus the pseudo-Roman buildings even of the best Renaissance period
display faults similar to those of the Italian Gothic. While they are
remarkable for grandeur of effect in all that concerns the distribution of
light and shade, the covering and enclosing of space, and the disposition
of masses, they show at best but a superficial correspondence between the
borrowed forms and the construction these are used to mask.[28] The
edifices of this period abound in more or less successful shams, in
surface decoration more or less pleasing to the eye; their real greatness,
meanwhile, consists in the feeling for spatial proportions and for linear
harmonies possessed by their architects.

Three periods in the development of Renaissance architecture may be
roughly marked.[29] The first, extending from 1420 to 1500, is the age of
experiment and of luxuriant inventiveness. The second embraces the first
forty years of the sixteenth century. The most perfect buildings of the
Italian Renaissance were produced within this short space of time. The
third, again comprising about forty years, from 1540 to 1580, leads onward
to the reign of mannerism and exaggeration, called by the Italians
_barocco_. In itself the third period is distinguished by a scrupulous
purism bordering upon pedantry, strict adherence to theoretical rules, and
sacrifice of inventive qualities to established canons. To do more than
briefly indicate the masterpieces of these three periods, would be
impossible in a work that does not pretend to treat of architecture
exhaustively: and yet to omit all notice of the builders of this age and
of their styles, would be to neglect the most important art-phase of the
time I have undertaken to illustrate.

In the first period we are bewildered by the luxuriance of creative powers
and by the rioting of the fancy in all forms of beauty indiscriminately
mingled. In general we detect a striving after effects not fully realised,
and a tendency to indulge in superfluous ornament without regard for
strictness of design. The imperfect comprehension of classical models and
the exuberant vivacity of the imagination in the fifteenth century account
for the florid work of this time. Something too is left of mediaeval fancy;
the details borrowed from the antique undergo fantastic transmutation at
the hands of men accustomed to the vehement emotion of the romantic ages.
Whatever the Renaissance took from antique art, it was at first unable to
assimilate either the moderation of the Greeks or the practical sobriety
of the Romans. Christianity had deepened and intensified the sources of
imaginative life; and just as reminiscences of classic style impaired
Italian Gothic, so now a trace of Gothic is perceptible in the would-be
classic work of the Revival. The result of these combined influences was a
wonderful and many-featured hybrid, best represented in one monument by
the facade of the Certosa at Pavia. While characterising the work of the
earlier Renaissance as fused of divers manners, we must not forget that it
was truly living, full of purpose, and according to its own standard
sincere. It was a new birth; no mere repetition of something dead and
gone, but the product of vivid forces stirred to original creativeness by
admiration for the past. It corresponded, moreover, with exquisite
exactitude to the halting of the conscience between Christianity and
Paganism, and to the blent beauty that the poets loved. On reeds dropped
from the hands of dead Pan the artists of this period, each in his, own
sphere, piped ditties of romance.

To these general remarks upon the style of the first period the Florentine
architects offer an exception; and yet the first marked sign of a new era
in the art of building was given at Florence. Purity of taste and firmness
of judgment, combined with scientific accuracy, were always distinctive of
Florentines. To such an extent did these qualities determine their
treatment of the arts that acute critics have been found to tax them--and
in my opinion justly--with hardness and frigidity.[30] Brunelleschi in
1425 designed the basilica of S. Lorenzo after an original but truly
classic type, remarkable for its sobriety and correctness. What he had
learned from the ruins of Rome he here applied in obedience to his own
artistic instinct. S. Lorenzo is a columnar edifice with round arches and
semicircular apses. Not a form or detail in the whole church is strictly
speaking at variance with Roman precedent; and yet the general effect
resembles nothing we possess of antique work. It is a masterpiece of
intelligent Renaissance adaptation. The same is true of S. Spirito, built
in 1470, after Brunelleschi's death, according to his plans. The
extraordinary capacity of this great architect will, however, win more
homage from ordinary observers when they contemplate the Pitti Palace and
the cupola of the cathedral. Both of these are master-works of personal
originality. What is Roman in the Pitti Palace, is the robust simplicity
of massive strength; but it is certain that no patrician of the republic
or the empire inhabited a house at all resembling this. The domestic
habits of the Middle Ages, armed for self-defence, and on guard against
invasion from without, still find expression in the solid bulk of this
forbidding dwelling-place, although its majesty and largeness show that
the reign of milder and more courtly manners has begun. To speak of the
cupola of the Duomo in connection with a simple revival of Roman taste,
would be equally inappropriate. It remains a tour de force of individual
genius, cultivated by the experience of Gothic vault-building, and
penetrated with the greatness of imperial Rome. Its spirit of dauntless
audacity and severe concentration alone is antique.

Almost contemporary with Brunelleschi was Leo Battista Alberti, a
Florentine, who, working upon somewhat different principles, sought more
closely to reproduce the actual elements of Roman architecture.[31] In
his remodelling of S. Francesco at Rimini the type he followed was that of
the triumphal arch, and what was finished of that wonderful facade,
remains to prove how much might have been made of well-proportioned
pilasters and nobly curved arcades.[32] The same principle is carried out
in S. Andrea at Mantua. The frontispiece of this church is a gigantic arch
of triumph; the interior is noticeable for its simple harmony of parts,
adopted from the vaulted baths of Rome. The combination of these antique
details in an imposing structure implied a high imaginative faculty at a
moment when the rules of classic architecture had not been as yet reduced
to method. Yet the weakness of Alberti's principle is revealed when we
consider that here the lofty central arch of the facade serves only for a
decoration. Too high and spacious even for the chariots of a Roman
triumph, it forms an inappropriate entrance to the modest vestibule of a
Christian church.

Like Brunelleschi, Alberti applied his talents to the building of a palace
in Florence that became a model to subsequent architects. The Palazzo
Rucellai retains many details of the mediaeval Tuscan style, especially in
the windows divided by slender pilasters. But the three orders introduced
by way of surface decoration, the doorways, and the cornices, are
transcripts from Roman ruins. This building, one of the most beautiful in
Italy, was copied by Francesco di Giorgio and Bernardo Fiorentino for the
palaces they constructed at Pienza.

This was the age of sumptuous palace-building; and for no purpose was the
early Renaissance style better adapted than for the erection of
dwelling-houses that should match the free and worldly splendour of those
times. The just medium between mediaeval massiveness and classic simplicity
was attained in countless buildings beautiful and various beyond
description. Bologna is full of them; and Urbino, in the Ducal Palace,
contains one specimen unexampled in extent and unique in interest. Yet
here, as in all departments of fine art, Florence takes the lead. After
Brunelleschi and Alberti came Michellozzo, the favourite architect of
Cosimo de' Medici; Benedetto da Majano; Giuliano and Antonio di San Gallo;
and Il Cronaca. Cosimo de' Medici, having said that "envy is a plant no
man should water," denied himself the monumental house designed by
Brunelleschi, and chose instead the modest plan of Michellozzo.
Brunelleschi had meant to build the Casa Medici along one side of the
Piazza di S. Lorenzo; but when Cosimo refused his project, he broke up the
model he had made, to the great loss of students of this age of
architecture. Michellozzo was then commissioned to raise the mighty, but
comparatively humble, Riccardi Palace at the corner of the Via Larga,
which continued to be the residence of the Medici through all their
chequered history, until at last they took possession of the Palazzo
Pitti.[33] The most beautiful of all Florentine dwelling-houses designed
at this period is that which Benedetto da Majano built for Filippo
Strozzi. Combining the burgher-like austerity of antecedent ages with a
grandeur and a breadth of style peculiar to the Renaissance, the Palazzo
Strozzi may be chosen as the perfect type of Florentine domestic
architecture.[34] Other cities were supplied by Florence with builders,
and Milan owed her fanciful Ospedale Maggiore at this epoch to Antonio
Filarete, a Florentine. This great edifice illustrates the emancipation
from fixed rule that distinguishes much of the architecture of the earlier
Renaissance. The detail is not unfrequently Gothic, especially in the
pointed windows; but the feeling of the whole structure, in its airy space
and lightness, delicate terra-cotta mouldings, and open loggie, is truly
Cinque Cento.[35]

In no other style than this of the earlier Renaissance is the builder more
inseparably connected with the decorator. The labours of the stone-carver,
who provided altars chased with Scripture histories in high relief,
pulpits hung against a column of the nave, tombs with canopies and floral
garlands, organ galleries enriched with bas-reliefs of singing boys,
ciboria with kneeling and adoring angels, marble tabernacles for relics,
vases for holy water, fonts and fountains, and all the indescribable
wealth of scrolls and friezes around doors and screens and balustrades
that fence the choir, are added to those of the bronze-founder, with his
mighty doors and pendent lamps, his candelabra sustained by angels,
torch-rests and rings, embossed basements for banners of state, and
portraits of recumbent senators or prelates.[36] The wood carver
contributes _tarsia_ like that of Fra Giovanni da Verona.[37] The worker
in wrought iron welds such screens as guard the chapel of the Sacra
Cintola at Prato. The Robbias prepare their delicately-toned reliefs for
the lunettes above the doorways. Modellers in clay produce the terra-cotta
work of the Certosa, or the carola of angels who surround the little
cupola behind the church of S. Eustorgio at Milan.[38] Meanwhile mosaics
are provided for the dome or let into the floor;[39] agates and marbles
and lapis lazuli are pieced together for altar fronts and panellings;[40]
stalls are carved into fantastic patterns, and heavy roofs are embossed
with figures of the saints and armorial emblems.[41] Tapestry is woven
from the designs of excellent masters;[42] great painters contribute
arabesques of fresco or of stucco mixed with gilding, and glass is
coloured from the outlines of such draughtsmen as Ghiberti.

Some of the decorative elements I have hastily enumerated, will be treated
in connection with the respective arts of sculpture and painting. The
fact, meanwhile, deserves notice that they received a new development in
relation to architecture during the first period of the Renaissance, and
that they formed, as it were, an integral part of its main aesthetical
purpose. Strip a chapel of the fifteenth century of ornamental adjuncts,
and an uninteresting shell is left: what, for instance, would the facades
of the Certosa and the Cappella Colleoni be without their sculptured and
inlaid marbles? The genius of the age found scope in subordinate details,
and the most successful architect was the man who combined in himself a
feeling for the capacities of the greatest number of associated arts. As
the consequence of this profuse expenditure of loving care on every
detail, the monuments of architecture belonging to the earlier Renaissance
have a poetry that compensates for structural defects; just as its wildest
literary extravagances--the _Hypnerotomachia Poliphili_, for
instance--have a charm of wanton fancy and young joy that atones to
sympathetic students for intolerable pedantries.

In the second period the faults of the first group of Renaissance builders
were in a large measure overcome, and their striving after the production
of new yet classic form was more completely realised. The reckless
employment of luxuriant decoration yielded to a chastened taste, without
the sacrifice of beauty or magnificence. Style was refined; the
construction of large buildings was better understood, and the instinct
for what lies within the means of a revived and secondary manner was more

To Bramante must be assigned the foremost place among the architects of
the golden age.[43] Though little of his work survives entire and
unspoiled, it is clear that he exercised the profoundest influence over
both successors and contemporaries. What they chiefly owed to him, was the
proper subordination of beauty in details to the grandeur of simplicity
and to unity of effect. He came at a moment when constructive problems had
been solved, when mechanical means were perfected, and when the sister
arts had reached their highest point. His early training in Lombardy
accustomed him to the adoption of clustered piers instead of single
columns, to semicircular apses and niches, and to the free use of minor
cupolas--elements of design introduced neither by Brunelleschi nor by
Alberti into the Renaissance style of Florence, but which were destined to
determine the future of architecture for all Italy. Nature had gifted
Bramante with calm judgment and refined taste; his sense of the right
limitations of the pseudo-Roman style was exquisite, and his feeling for
structural symmetry was just. If his manner strikes us as somewhat cold


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