Stones of Venice [introductions]
Part 3 out of 4
Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates.
SECTION LXX. The third cupola, that over the altar, represents the
witness of the Old Testament to Christ; showing him enthroned in its
centre, and surrounded by the patriarchs and prophets. But this dome was
little seen by the people; [Footnote: It is also of inferior workmanship,
and perhaps later than the rest. Vide Lord Lindsay, vol. i, p. 124,
note.] their contemplation was intended to be chiefly drawn to that of
the centre of the church, and thus the mind of the worshipper was at once
fixed on the main groundwork and hope of Christianity,--"Christ is
risen," and "Christ shall come." If he had time to explore the minor
lateral chapels and cupolas, he could find in them the whole series of
New Testament history, the events of the Life of Christ, and the
Apostolic miracles in their order, and finally the scenery of the Book of
Revelation; [Footnote: The old mosaics from the Revelation have perished,
and have been replaced by miserable work of the seventeenth century.] but
if he only entered, as often the common people do to this hour, snatching
a few moments before beginning the labor of the day to offer up an
ejaculatory prayer, and advanced but from the main entrance as far as the
altar screen, all the splendor of the glittering nave and variegated
dome, if they smote upon his heart, as they might often, in strange
contrast with his reed cabin among the shallows of the lagoon, smote upon
it only that they might proclaim the two great messages--"Christ is
risen," and "Christ shall come." Daily, as the white cupolas rose like
wreaths of sea-foam in the dawn, while the shadowy campanile and frowning
palace were still withdrawn into the night, they rose with the Easter
Voice of Triumph,--"Christ is risen;" and daily, as they looked down upon
the tumult of the people, deepening and eddying in the wide square that
opened from their feet to the sea, they uttered above them the sentence
of warning,--"Christ shall come."
SECTION LXXI. And this thought may surely dispose the reader to look
with some change of temper upon the gorgeous building and wild blazonry
of that shrine of St. Mark's. He now perceives that it was in the hearts
of the old Venetian people far more than a place of worship. It was at
once a type of the Redeemed Church of God, and a scroll for the written
word of God. It was to be to them, both an image of the Bride, all
glorious within, her clothing of wrought gold; and the actual Table of
the Law and the Testimony, written within and without. And whether
honored as the Church or as the Bible, was it not fitting that neither
the gold nor the crystal should be spared in the adornment of it; that,
as the symbol of the Bride, the building of the wall thereof should be
of jasper, [Footnote: Rev. xxi. 18.] and the foundations of it garnished
with all manner of precious stones; and that, as the channel of the
World, that triumphant utterance of the Psalmist should be true of
it,--"I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all
riches"? And shall we not look with changed temper down the long
perspective of St. Mark's Place towards the sevenfold gates and glowing
domes of its temple, when we know with what solemn purpose the shafts of
it were lifted above the pavement of the populous square? Men met there
from all countries of the earth, for traffic or for pleasure; but, above
the crowd swaying for ever to and fro in the restlessness of avarice or
thirst of delight, was seen perpetually the glory of the temple,
attesting to them, whether they would hear or whether they would
forbear, that there was one treasure which the merchantmen might buy
without a price, and one delight better than all others, in the word and
the statutes of God. Not in the wantonness of wealth, not in vain
ministry to the desire of the eyes or the pride of life, were those
marbles hewn into transparent strength, and those arches arrayed in the
colors of the iris. There is a message written in the dyes of them, that
once was written in blood; and a sound in the echoes of their vaults,
that one day shall fill the vault of heaven,--"He shall return, to do
judgment and justice." The strength of Venice was given her, so long as
she remembered this: her destruction found her when she had forgotten
this; and it found her irrevocably, because she forgot it without
excuse. Never had city a more glorious Bible. Among the nations of the
North, a rude and shadowy sculpture filled their temples with confused
and hardly legible imagery; but, for her, the skill and the treasures of
the East had gilded every letter, and illumined every page, till the
Book-Temple shone from afar off like the star of the Magi. In other
cities, the meetings of the people were often in places withdrawn from
religious association, subject to violence and to change; and on the
grass of the dangerous rampart, and in the dust of the troubled street,
there were deeds done and counsels taken, which, if we cannot justify,
we may sometimes forgive. But the sins of Venice, whether in her palace
or in her piazza, were done with the Bible at her right hand. The walls
on which its testimony was written were separated but by a few inches of
marble from those which guarded the secrets of her councils, or confined
the victims of her policy. And when in her last hours she threw off all
shame and all restraint, and the great square of the city became filled
with the madness of the whole earth, be it remembered how much her sin
was greater, because it was done in the face of the House of God,
burning with the letters of His Law. Mountebank and masker laughed their
laugh, and went their way; and a silence has followed them, not
unforetold; for amidst them all, through century after century of
gathering vanity and festering guilt, that white dome of St. Mark's had
uttered in the dead ear of Venice, "Know thou, that for all these things
God will bring thee into judgment."
THE DUCAL PALACE.
SECTION I. It was stated in the commencement of the preceding chapter
that the Gothic art of Venice was separated by the building of the Ducal
Palace into two distinct periods; and that in all the domestic edifices
which were raised for half a century after its completion, their
characteristic and chiefly effective portions were more or less directly
copied from it. The fact is, that the Ducal Palace was the great work of
Venice at this period, itself the principal effort of her imagination,
employing her best architects in its masonry, and her best painters in
its decoration, for a long series of years; and we must receive it as a
remarkable testimony to the influence which it possessed over the minds
of those who saw it in its progress, that, while in the other cities of
Italy every palace and church was rising in some original and daily more
daring form, the majesty of this single building was able to give pause
to the Gothic imagination in its full career; stayed the restlessness of
innovation in an instant, and forbade the powers which had created it
thenceforth to exert themselves in new directions, or endeavor to summon
an image more attractive.
SECTION II. The reader will hardly believe that while the architectural
invention of the Venetians was thus lost, Narcissus-like, in
self-contemplation, the various accounts of the progress of the building
thus admired and beloved are so confused as frequently to leave it
doubtful to what portion of the palace they refer; and that there is
actually, at the time being, a dispute between the best Venetian
antiquaries, whether the main fašade of the palace be of the fourteenth
or fifteenth century. The determination of this question is of course
necessary before we proceed to draw any conclusions from the style of
the work; and it cannot be determined without a careful review of the
entire history of the palace, and of all the documents relating to it. I
trust that this review may not be found tedious,--assuredly it will not
be fruitless,--bringing many facts before us, singularly illustrative of
the Venetian character.
SECTION III. Before, however, the reader can enter upon any inquiry into
the history of this building, it is necessary that he should be
thoroughly familiar with the arrangement and names of its principal
parts, as it at present stands; otherwise he cannot comprehend so much
as a single sentence of any of the documents referring to it. I must do
what I can, by the help of a rough plan and bird's-eye view, to give him
the necessary topographical knowledge:
Opposite is a rude ground plan of the buildings round St. Mark's Place;
and the following references will clearly explain their relative
A. St. Mark's Place.
P. V. Procuratie Vecchie.
P. N. (opposite) Procuratie Nuove.
P. L. Libreria Vecchia.
I. Piazzetta de' Leoni.
T. Tower of St. Mark.
F F. Great Fašade of St. Mark's Church.
M. St. Mark's. (It is so united with the Ducal Palace, that the
separation cannot be indicated in the plan, unless all the walls had
been marked, which would have confused the whole.)
D D D. Ducal Palace. g s. Giant's stair.
C. Court of Ducal Palace. J. Judgement angle.
c. Porta della Carta. a. Fig-tree angle.
p p. Ponte della Paglia (Bridge of Straw).
S. Ponte de' Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).
R R. Riva de' Schiavoni.
[Illustration: FIG. I. The Ducal Palace--Ground Plan.]
[Illustration: FIG. II. The Ducal Palace--Bird's eye View.]
The reader will observe that the Ducal Palace is arranged somewhat in
the form of a hollow square, of which one side faces the Piazzetta, B,
and another the quay called the Riva de' Schiavoni, R R; the third is on
the dark canal called the "Rio del Palazzo," and the fourth joins the
Church of St. Mark.
Of this fourth side, therefore, nothing can be seen. Of the other three
sides we shall have to speak constantly; and they will be respectively
called, that towards the Piazzetta, the "Piazzetta Fašade;" that towards
the Riva de' Schiavoni, the "Sea Fašade;" and that towards the Rio del
Palazzo, the "Rio Fašade." This Rio, or canal, is usually looked upon by
the traveller with great respect, or even horror, because it passes
under the Bridge of Sighs. It is, however, one of the principal
thoroughfares of the city; and the bridge and its canal together occupy,
in the mind of a Venetian, very much the position of Fleet Street and
Temple Bar in that of a Londoner,--at least, at the time when Temple Bar
was occasionally decorated with human heads. The two buildings closely
resemble each other in form.
SECTION IV. We must now proceed to obtain some rough idea of the
appearance and distribution of the palace itself; but its arrangement
will be better understood by supposing ourselves raised some hundred and
fifty feet above the point in the lagoon in front of it, so as to get a
general view of the Sea Fašade and Rio Fašade (the latter in very steep
perspective), and to look down into its interior court. Fig. II. roughly
represents such a view, omitting all details on the roofs, in order to
avoid confusion. In this drawing we have merely to notice that, of the
two bridges seen on the right, the uppermost, above the black canal, is
the Bridge of Sighs; the lower one is the Ponte della Paglia, the
regular thoroughfare from quay to quay, and, I believe, called the
Bridge of Straw, because the boats which brought straw from the mainland
used to sell it at this place. The corner of the palace, rising above
this bridge, and formed by the meeting of the Sea Fašade and Rio Fašade,
will always be called the Vine angle, because it is decorated by a
sculpture of the drunkenness of Noah. The angle opposite will be called
the Fig-tree angle, because it is decorated by a sculpture of the Fall
of Man. The long and narrow range of building, of which the roof is seen
in perspective behind this angle, is the part of the palace fronting the
Piazzetta; and the angle under the pinnacle most to the left of the two
which terminate it will be called, for a reason presently to be stated,
the Judgment angle. Within the square formed by the building is seen its
interior court (with one of its wells), terminated by small and
fantastic buildings of the Renaissance period, which face the Giant's
Stair, of which the extremity is seen sloping down on the left.
SECTION V. The great fašade which fronts the spectator looks southward.
Hence the two traceried windows lower than the rest, and to the right of
the spectator, may be conveniently distinguished as the "Eastern
Windows." There are two others like them, filled with tracery, and at
the same level, which look upon the narrow canal between the Ponte della
Paglia and the Bridge of Sighs: these we may conveniently call the
"Canal Windows." The reader will observe a vertical line in this dark
side of the palace, separating its nearer and plainer wall from a long
four-storied range of rich architecture. This more distant range is
entirely Renaissance: its extremity is not indicated, because I have no
accurate sketch of the small buildings and bridges beyond it, and we
shall have nothing whatever to do with this part of the palace in our
present inquiry. The nearer and undecorated wall is part of the older
palace, though much defaced by modern opening of common windows,
refittings of the brickwork, etc.
SECTION VI. It will be observed that the fašade is composed of a smooth
mass of wall, sustained on two tiers of pillars, one above the other.
The manner in which these support the whole fabric will be understood at
once by the rough section, Fig. III., which is supposed to be taken
right through the palace to the interior court, from near the middle of
the Sea Fašade. Here _a_ and _d_ are the rows of shafts, both
in the inner court and on the Fašade, which carry the main walls;
_b_, _c_ are solid walls variously strengthened with pilasters. A, B, C
are the three stories of the interior of the palace.
[Illustration: FIG. III.]
The reader sees that it is impossible for any plan to be more simple,
and that if the inner floors and walls of the stories A, B were removed,
there would be left merely the form of a basilica,--two high walls,
carried on ranges of shafts, and roofed by a low gable.
The stories A, B are entirely modernized, and divided into confused
ranges of small apartments, among which what vestiges remain of ancient
masonry are entirely undecipherable, except by investigations such as I
have had neither the time nor, as in most cases they would involve the
removal of modern plastering, the opportunity, to make. With the
subdivisions of this story, therefore, I shall not trouble the reader;
but those of the great upper story, C, are highly important.
SECTION VII. In the bird's-eye view above, Fig. II., it will be noticed
that the two windows on the right are lower than the other four of the
fašade. In this arrangement there is one of the most remarkable
instances I know of the daring sacrifice of symmetry to convenience,
which was noticed in Chap. VII. as one of the chief noblenesses of the
The part of the palace in which the two lower windows occur, we shall
find, was first built, and arranged in four stories in order to obtain
the necessary number of apartments. Owing to circumstances, of which we
shall presently give an account, it became necessary, in the beginning
of the fourteenth century, to provide another large and magnificent
chamber for the meeting of the senate. That chamber was added at the
side of the older building; but, as only one room was wanted, there was
no need to divide the added portion into two stories. The entire height
was given to the single chamber, being indeed not too great for just
harmony with its enormous length and breadth. And then came the question
how to place the windows, whether on a line with the two others, or
The ceiling of the new room was to be adorned by the paintings of the
best masters in Venice, and it became of great importance to raise the
light near that gorgeous roof, as well as to keep the tone of
illumination in the Council Chamber serene; and therefore to introduce
light rather in simple masses than in many broken streams. A modern
architect, terrified at the idea of violating external symmetry, would
have sacrificed both the pictures and the peace of the council. He would
have placed the larger windows at the same level with the other two, and
have introduced above them smaller windows, like those of the upper
story in the older building, as if that upper story had been continued
along the fašade. But the old Venetian thought of the honor of the
paintings, and the comfort of the senate, before his own reputation. He
unhesitatingly raised the large windows to their proper position with
reference to the interior of the chamber, and suffered the external
appearance to take care of itself. And I believe the whole pile rather
gains than loses in effect by the variation thus obtained in the spaces
of wall above and below the windows.
SECTION VIII. On the party wall, between the second and third windows,
which faces the eastern extremity of the Great Council Chamber, is
painted the Paradise of Tintoret; and this wall will therefore be
hereafter called the "Wall of the Paradise."
In nearly the centre of the Sea Fašade, and between the first and second
windows of the Great Council Chamber, is a large window to the ground,
opening on a balcony, which is one of the chief ornaments of the palace,
and will be called in future the "Sea Balcony."
The fašade which looks on the Piazzetta is very nearly like this to the
Sea, but the greater part of it was built in the fifteenth century, when
people had become studious of their symmetries. Its side windows are all
on the same level. Two light the west end of the Great Council Chamber,
one lights a small room anciently called the Quarantia Civil Nuova; the
other three, and the central one, with a balcony like that to the Sea,
light another large chamber, called Sala del Scrutinio, or "Hall of
Enquiry," which extends to the extremity of the palace above the Porta
SECTION IX. The reader is now well enough acquainted with the topography
of the existing building, to be able to follow the accounts of its
We have seen above, that there were three principal styles of Venetian
architecture; Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance.
The Ducal Palace, which was the great work of Venice, was built
successively in the three styles. There was a Byzantine Ducal Palace, a
Gothic Ducal Palace, and a Renaissance Ducal Palace. The second
superseded the first totally; a few stones of it (if indeed so much) are
all that is left. But the third superseded the second in part only, and
the existing building is formed by the union of the two.
We shall review the history of each in succession. [Footnote: The reader
will find it convenient to note the following editions of the printed
books which have been principally consulted in the following inquiry. The
numbers of the manuscripts referred to in the Marcian Library are given
with the quotations.
Sansovino. Venetia Descritta. 410, Venice, 1663.
Sansovino. Lettera intorno al Palazzo Ducale, 8vo, Venice, 1829.
Temanza. Antica Pianta di Venezia, with text. Venice, 1780.
Cadorin. Pareri di XV. Architetti. Svo, Venice,1838.
Filiasi. Memorie storiche. 8vo, Padua, 1811.
Bettio. Lettera discorsiva del Palazzo Ducale, 8vo, Venice, 1837.
Selvatico. Architettura di Venezia. 8vo, Venice, 1847.]
1st. The BYZANTINE PALACE.
In the year of the death of Charlemagne, 813, the Venetians determined
to make the island of Rialto the seat of the government and capital of
their state. [Footnote: The year commonly given is 810, as in the Savina
Chronicle (Cod. Marcianus), p. 13. "Del 810 fece principiar el pallazzo
Ducal nel luogo ditto Brucio in confin di S. Moise, et fece riedificar
la isola di Eraclia." The Sagornin Chronicle gives 804; and Filiasi,
vol. vi. chap. I, corrects this date to 813.] Their Doge, Angelo or
Agnello Participazio, instantly took vigorous means for the enlargement
of the small group of buildings which were to be the nucleus of the
future Venice. He appointed persons to superintend the raising of the
banks of sand, so as to form more secure foundations, and to build
wooden bridges over the canals. For the offices of religion, he built
the Church of St. Mark; and on, or near, the spot where the Ducal Palace
now stands, he built a palace for the administration of the government.
[Footnote: "Ampli˛ la cittÓ, fornilla di casamenti, _e per il culto d'
Iddio e l' amministrazione della giustizia_ eresse la capella di S.
Marco, e il palazzo di sua residenza."--Pareri, p. 120. Observe, that
piety towards God, and justice towards man, have been at least the
nominal purposes of every act and institution of ancient Venice. Compare
also Temanza, p. 24. "Quello che abbiamo di certo si Ŕ che il suddetto
Agnello lo incomminci˛ da fondamenti, e cosi pure la capella ducale di
The history of the Ducal Palace therefore begins with the birth of
Venice, and to what remains of it, at this day, is entrusted the last
representation of her power.
SECTION X. Of the exact position and form of this palace of Participazio
little is ascertained. Sansovino says that it was "built near the Ponte
della Paglia, and answeringly on the Grand Canal," towards San Giorgio;
that is to say, in the place now occupied by the Sea Fašade; but this
was merely the popular report of his day. [Footnote: What I call the
Sea, was called "the Grand Canal" by the Venetians, as well as the great
water street of the city; but I prefer calling it "the Sea," in order to
distinguish between that street and the broad water in front of the
Ducal Palace, which, interrupted only by the island of San Giorgio,
stretches for many miles to the south, and for more than two to the
boundary of the Lido. It was the deeper channel, just in front of the
Ducal Palace, continuing the line of the great water street itself which
the Venetians spoke of as "the Grand Canal." The words of Sansovino are:
"Fu cominciato dove si vede, vicino al ponte della paglia, et
rispondente sul canal grande." Filiasi says simply: "The palace was
built where it now is." "Il palazio fu fatto dove ora pure
esiste."--Vol. iii. chap. 27. The Savina Chronicle, already quoted,
says: "in the place called the Bruolo (or Broglio), that is to say on
We know, however, positively, that it was somewhere upon the site of the
existing palace; and that it had an important front towards the
Piazzetta, with which, as we shall see hereafter, the present palace at
one period was incorporated. We know, also, that it was a pile of some
magnificence, from the account given by Sagornino of the visit paid by
the Emperor Otho the Great, to the Doge Pietro Orseolo II. The
chronicler says that the Emperor "beheld carefully all the beauty of the
palace;" [Footnote: "Omni decoritate illius perlustrata."--Sagornino,
quoted by Cadorin and Temanza.] and the Venetian historians express
pride in the buildings being worthy of an emperor's examination. This
was after the palace had been much injured by fire in the revolt against
Candiano IV., [Footnote: There is an interesting account of this revolt
in Monaci, p. 68. Some historians speak of the palace as having been
destroyed entirely; but, that it did not even need important
restorations, appears from Sagornino's expression, quoted by Cadorin and
Temanza. Speaking of the Doge Participazio, he says: "Qui Palatii
hucusque manentis fuerit fabricator." The reparations of the palace are
usually attributed to the successor of Candiano, Pietro Orseolo I.; but
the legend, under the picture of that Doge in the Council Chamber,
speaks only of his rebuilding St. Mark's, and "performing many
miracles." His whole mind seems to have been occupied with
ecclesiastical affairs; and his piety was finally manifested in a way
somewhat startling to the state, by absconding with a French priest to
St. Michael's in Gascony, and there becoming a monk. What repairs,
therefore, were necessary to the Ducal Palace, were left to be
undertaken by his son, Orseolo II., above named.] and just repaired, and
richly adorned by Orseolo himself, who is spoken of by Sagornino as
having also "adorned the chapel of the Ducal Palace" (St. Mark's) with
ornaments of marble and gold. [Footnote: "Quam non modo marmoreo, verum
aureo compsit ornamento."--_Temanza_] There can be no doubt
whatever that the palace at this period resembled and impressed the
other Byzantine edifices of the city, such as the Fondaco de Turchi,
&c., whose remains have been already described; and that, like them, it
was covered with sculpture, and richly adorned with gold and color.
SECTION XI. In the year 1106, it was for the second time injured by
fire, [Footnote: "L'anno 1106, uscito fuoco d'una casa privata, arse
parte del palazzo."--_Sansovino_. Of the beneficial effect of these
fires, vide Cadorin.] but repaired before 1116, when it received another
emperor, Henry V. (of Germany), and was again honored by imperial
praise. [Footnote: "Urbis situm, aedificiorum decorem, et regiminis
sequitatem multipliciter commendavit."--_Cronaca Dandolo_, quoted
Between 1173 and the close of the century, it seems to have been again
repaired and much enlarged by the Doge Sebastian Ziani. Sansovino says
that this Doge not only repaired it, but "enlarged it in every
direction;" [Footnote: "Non solamente rinovo il palazzo, ma lo aggrandi
per ogni verso."--_Sansovino_. Zanotto quotes the Altinat Chronicle
for account of these repairs.] and, after this enlargement, the palace
seems to have remained untouched for a hundred years, until, in the
commencement of the fourteenth century, the works of the Gothic Palace
were begun. As, therefore, the old Byzantine building was, at the time
when those works first interfered with it, in the form given to it by
Ziani, I shall hereafter always speak of it as the _Ziani_ Palace; and
this the rather, because the only chronicler whose words are perfectly
clear respecting the existence of part of this palace so late as the year
1422, speaks of it as built by Ziani. The old "palace of which half
remains to this day, was built, as we now see it, by Sebastian Ziani."
[Footnote: "El palazzo che anco di mezzo se vede vecchio, per M.
Sebastian Ziani fu fatto compir, come el se vede."--_Chronicle of Pietro
Dolfino_, Cod. Ven. p. 47. This Chronicle is spoken of by Sansovino as
"molto particolare, e distinta."--_Sansovino, Venezia descritta_, p.
593.--It terminates in the year 1422.]
So far, then, of the Byzantine Palace.
SECTION XII. 2nd. The GOTHIC PALACE. The reader, doubtless, recollects
that the important change in the Venetian government which gave
stability to the aristocratic power took place about the year 1297,
[Footnote: See Vol. I. Appendix 3, Stones of Venice.] under the Doge
Pietro Gradenigo, a man thus characterized by Sansovino:--"A prompt and
prudent man, of unconquerable determination and great eloquence, who
laid, so to speak, the foundations of the eternity of this republic, by
the admirable regulations which he introduced into the government."
We may now, with some reason, doubt of their admirableness; but their
importance, and the vigorous will and intellect of the Doge, are not to
be disputed. Venice was in the zenith of her strength, and the heroism
of her citizens was displaying itself in every quarter of the world.
[Footnote: Vide Sansovino's enumeration of those who flourished in the
reign of Gradenigo, p. 564.] The acquiescence in the secure
establishment of the aristocratic power was an expression, by the
people, of respect for the families which had been chiefly instrumental
in raising the commonwealth to such a height of prosperity.
The Serrar del Consiglio fixed the numbers of the Senate within certain
limits, and it conferred upon them a dignity greater than they had ever
before possessed. It was natural that the alteration in the character of
the assembly should be attended by some change in the size, arrangement,
or decoration of the chamber in which they sat.
We accordingly find it recorded by Sansovino, that "in 1301 another
saloon was begun on the Rio del Palazzo, _under the Doge
Gradenigo_, and finished in 1309, _in which year the Grand Council
first sat in it_." [Footnote: Sansovino, 324, I.] In the first year,
therefore, of the fourteenth century, the Gothic Ducal Palace of Venice
was begun; and as the Byzantine Palace was, in its foundation, coeval
with that of the state, so the Gothic Palace was, in its foundation,
coeval with that of the aristocratic power. Considered as the principal
representation of the Venetian school of architecture, the Ducal Palace
is the Parthenon of Venice, and Gradenigo its Pericles.
SECTION XIII. Sansovino, with a caution very frequent among Venetian
historians, when alluding to events connected with the Serrar del
Consiglio, does not specially mention the cause for the requirement of
the new chamber; but the Sivos Chronicle is a little more distinct in
expression. "In 1301, it was determined to build a great saloon _for
the assembling_ of the Great Council, and the room was built which is
_now_ called the Sala del Scrutinio." [Footnote: "1301 fu presa
parte di fare una sala grande per la riduzione del gran consiglio, e fu
fatta quella che ora si chiama dello Scrutinio."--_Cronaca Sivos_,
quoted by Cadorin. There is another most interesting entry in the
Chronicle of Magno, relating to this event; but the passage is so ill
written, that I am not sure if I have deciphered it correctly:--"Del
1301 fu preso de fabrichar la sala fo ruina e fu fata (fatta) quella se
adoperava a far e pregadi e fu adopera per far el Gran Consegio fin
1423, che fu anni 122." This last sentence, which is of great
importance, is luckily unmistakable:--"The room was used for the
meetings of the Great Council until 1423, that is to say, for 122
years."--_Cod. Ven._ tom. i. p. 126. The Chronicle extends from
1253 to 1454.
Abstract 1301 to 1309; Gradenigo's room--1340-42, page 295-1419. New
proposals, p. 298.] _Now_, that is to say, at the time when the
Sivos Chronicle was written; the room has long ago been destroyed, and
its name given to another chamber on the opposite side of the palace:
but I wish the reader to remember the date 1301, as marking the
commencement of a great architectural epoch, in which took place the
first appliance of the energy of the aristocratic power, and of the
Gothic style, to the works of the Ducal Palace. The operations then
begun were continued, with hardly an interruption, during the whole
period of the prosperity of Venice. We shall see the new buildings
consume, and take the place of, the Ziani Palace, piece by piece: and
when the Ziani Palace was destroyed, they fed upon themselves; being
continued round the square, until, in the sixteenth century, they
reached the point where they had been begun in the fourteenth, and
pursued the track they had then followed some distance beyond the
junction; destroying or hiding their own commencement, as the serpent,
which is the type of eternity, conceals its tail in its jaws.
SECTION XIV. We cannot, therefore, _see_ the extremity, wherein lay
the sting and force of the whole creature,--the chamber, namely, built
by the Doge Gradenigo; but the reader must keep that commencement and
the date of it carefully in his mind. The body of the Palace Serpent
will soon become visible to us.
The Gradenigo Chamber was somewhere on the Rio Fašade, behind the
present position of the Bridge of Sighs; i.e. about the point marked on
the roof by the dotted lines in the woodcut; it is not known whether low
or high, but probably on a first story. The great fašade of the Ziani
Palace being, as above mentioned, on the Piazzetta, this chamber was as
far back and out of the way as possible; secrecy and security being
obviously the points first considered.
SECTION XV. But the newly constituted Senate had need of other additions
to the ancient palace besides the Council Chamber. A short, but most
significant, sentence is added to Sansovino's account of the construction
of that room. "There were, _near it_," he says, "the Cancellaria, and the
_Gheba_ or _Gabbia_, afterwards called the Little Tower." [Footnote: "Vi
era appresso la Cancellarla, e la Gheba o Gabbia, iniamata poi
Torresella,"---P. 324. A small square tower is seen above the Vine angle
in the view of Venice dated 1500, and attributed to Albert Durer. It
appears about 25 feet square, and is very probably the Torresella in
Gabbia means a "cage;" and there can be no question that certain
apartments were at this time added at the top of the palace and on the
Rio Fašade, which were to be used as prisons. Whether any portion of the
old Torresella still remains is a doubtful question; but the apartments
at the top of the palace, in its fourth story, were still used for
prisons as late as the beginning of the seventeenth century. [Footnote:
Vide Bettio, Lettera, p. 23.] I wish the reader especially to notice
that a separate tower or range of apartments was built for this purpose,
in order to clear the government of the accusations so constantly made
against them, by ignorant or partial historians, of wanton cruelty to
prisoners. The stories commonly told respecting the "piombi" of the
Ducal Palace are utterly false. Instead of being, as usually reported,
small furnaces under the leads of the palace, they were comfortable
rooms, with good flat roofs of larch, and carefully ventilated.
[Footnote: Bettio, Lettera, p. 20. "Those who wrote without having seen
them described them as covered with lead; and those who have seen them
know that, between their flat timber roofs and the sloping leaden roof
of the palace the interval is five metres where it is least, and nine
where it is greatest."] The new chamber, then, and the prisons, being
built, the Great Council first sat in their retired chamber on the Rio
in the year 1309.
SECTION XVI. Now, observe the significant progress of events. They had
no sooner thus established themselves in power than they were disturbed
by the conspiracy of the Tiepolos, in the year 1310. In consequence of
that conspiracy the Council of Ten was created, still under the Doge
Gradenigo; who, having finished his work and left the aristocracy of
Venice armed with this terrible power, died in the year 1312, some say
by poison. He was succeeded by the Doge Marino Giorgio, who reigned only
one year; and then followed the prosperous government of John Soranzo.
There is no mention of any additions to the Ducal Palace during his
reign, but he was succeeded by that Francesco Dandolo, the sculptures on
whose tomb, still existing in the cloisters of the Salute, may be
compared by any traveller with those of the Ducal Palace. Of him it is
recorded in the Savina Chronicle: "This Doge also had the great gate
built which is at the entry of the palace, above which is his statue
kneeling, with the gonfalon in hand, before the feet of the Lion of St.
Mark's." [Footnote: "Questo Dose anche fese far la porta granda che se
al intrar del Pallazzo, in su la qual vi e la sua statua che sta in
zenocchioni con lo confalon in man, davanti li pie de lo Lion S.
Marco."--_Savin Chronicle_, Cod. Ven. p. 120.]
SECTION XVII. It appears, then, that after the Senate had completed
their Council Chamber and the prisons, they required a nobler door than
that of the old Ziani Palace for their Magnificences to enter by. This
door is twice spoken of in the government accounts of expenses, which
are fortunately preserved, [Footnote: These documents I have not
examined myself, being satisfied of the accuracy of Cadorin, from whom I
take the passages quoted.] in the following terms:--
"1335, June 1. We, Andrew Dandolo and Mark Loredano, procurators of St.
Mark's, have paid to Martin the stone-cutter and his associates....
[Footnote: "Libras tres, soldeos 15 grossorum."--Cadorin, 189, I.]
for a stone of which the lion is made which is put over the gate of the
"1344, November 4. We have paid thirty-five golden ducats for making
gold leaf, to gild the lion which is over the door of the palace
The position of this door is disputed, and is of no consequence to the
reader, the door itself having long ago disappeared, and been replaced
by the Porta della Carta.
SECTION XVIII. But before it was finished, occasion had been discovered
for farther improvements. The Senate found their new Council Chamber
inconveniently small, and, about thirty years after its completion,
began to consider where a larger and more magnificent one might be
built. The government was now thoroughly established, and it was
probably felt that there was some meanness in the retired position, as
well as insufficiency in the size, of the Council Chamber on the Rio.
The first definite account which I find of their proceedings, under
these circumstances, is in the Caroldo Chronicle: [Footnote: Cod. Ven.,
No. CXLI. p. 365.]
"1340. On the 28th of December, in the preceding year, Master Marco
Erizzo, Nicolo Soranzo, and Thomas Gradenigo, were chosen to examine
where a new saloon might be built in order to assemble therein the
Greater Council.... On the 3rd of June, 1341, the Great Council elected
two procurators of the work of this saloon, with a salary of eighty
ducats a year."
It appears from the entry still preserved in the Archivio, and quoted by
Cadorin, that it was on the 28th of December, 1340, that the
commissioners appointed to decide on this important matter gave in their
report to the Grand Council, and that the decree passed thereupon for the
commencement of a new Council Chamber on the Grand Canal. [Footnote:
Sansovino is more explicit than usual in his reference to this decree:
"For it having appeared that the place (the first Council Chamber) is not
capacious enough, the saloon on the Grand Canal was ordered." "Per cio
parendo che il luogo non fosse capace, fu ordinata la Sala sul Canal
_The room then begun is the one now in existence_, and its building
involved the building of all that is best and most beautiful in the
present Ducal Palace, the rich arcades of the lower stories being all
prepared for sustaining this Sala del Gran Consiglio.
SECTION XIX. In saying that it is the same now in existence, I do not
mean that it has undergone no alterations; as we shall see hereafter, it
has been refitted again and again, and some portions of its walls
rebuilt; but in the place and form in which it first stood, it still
stands; and by a glance at the position which its windows occupy, as
shown in Figure II. above, the reader will see at once that whatever can
be known respecting the design of the Sea Fašade, must be gleaned out of
the entries which refer to the building of this Great Council Chamber.
Cadorin quotes two of great importance, to which we shall return in due
time, made during the progress of the work in 1342 and 1344; then one of
1349, resolving that the works at the Ducal Palace, which had been
discontinued during the plague, should be resumed; and finally one in
1362, which speaks of the Great Council Chamber as having been neglected
and suffered to fall into "great desolation," and resolves that it shall
be forthwith completed. [Footnote: Cadorin, 185, 2. The decree of 1342
is falsely given as of 1345 by the Sivos Chronicle, and by Magno; while
Sanuto gives the decree to its right year, 1342, but speaks of the
Council Chamber as only begun in 1345.]
The interruption had not been caused by the plague only, but by the
conspiracy of Faliero, and the violent death of the master builder.
[Footnote: Calendario. See Appendix I., Vol. III.] The work was resumed
in 1362, and completed within the next three years, at least so far as
that Guariento was enabled to paint his Paradise on the walls;
[Footnote: "II primo che vi colorisse fu Guariento il quale l'anno 1365
vi fece il Paradiso in testa della sala."--_Sansovino_.] so that
the building must, at any rate, have been roofed by this time. Its
decorations and fittings, however, were long in completion; the
paintings on the roof being only executed in 1400. [Footnote: "L'an poi
1400 vi fece il ciclo compartita a quadretti d'oro, ripieni di stelle,
ch'era la insegna del Doge Steno."--_Sansovino_, lib. viii.] They
represented the heavens covered with stars, [Footnote: "In questi tempi
si messe in oro il ciclo della sala del Gran Consiglio et si fece il
pergole del finestra grande chi guarda sul canale, adornato l'uno e
l'altro di stelle, eh' erano la insegne del Doge."--_Sansovino_,
lib. xiii. Compare also Pareri, p. 129.] this being, says Sansovino, the
bearings of the Doge Steno. Almost all ceilings and vaults were at this
time in Venice covered with stars, without any reference to armorial
bearings; but Steno claims, under his noble title of Stellifer, an
important share in completing the chamber, in an inscription upon two
square tablets, now inlaid in the walls on each side of the great window
towards the sea:
"MILLE QUADRINGENTI CURREBANT QUATUOR ANNI
HOC OPUS ILLUSTRIS MICHAEL DUX STELLIFER AUXIT."
And in fact it is to this Doge that we owe the beautiful balcony of that
window, though the work above it is partly of more recent date; and I
think the tablets bearing this important inscription have been taken out
and reinserted in the newer masonry. The labor of these final
decorations occupied a total period of sixty years. The Grand Council
sat in the finished chamber for the first time in 1423. In that year the
Gothic Ducal Palace of Venice was completed. It had taken, to build it,
the energies of the entire period which I have above described as the
central one of her life.
SECTION XX. 3rd. The RENAISSANCE PALACE. I must go back a step or two,
in order to be certain that the reader understands clearly the state of
the palace in 1423. The works of addition or renovation had now been
proceeding, at intervals, during a space of a hundred and twenty-three
years. Three generations at least had been accustomed to witness the
gradual advancement of the form of the Ducal Palace into more stately
symmetry, and to contrast the Works of sculpture and painting with which
it was decorated,--full of the life, knowledge, and hope of the
fourteenth century,--with the rude Byzantine chiselling of the palace of
the Doge Ziani. The magnificent fabric just completed, of which the new
Council Chamber was the nucleus, was now habitually known in Venice as
the "Palazzo Nuovo;" and the old Byzantine edifice, now ruinous, and
more manifest in its decay by its contrast with the goodly stones of the
building which had been raised at its side, was of course known as the
"Palazzo Vecchio." [Footnote: Baseggio (Pareri, p. 127) is called the
Proto of the _New_ Palace. Farther notes will be found in Appendix I.,
Vol. III.] That fabric, however, still occupied the principal position in
Venice. The new Council Chamber had been erected by the side of it
towards the Sea; but there was not then the wide quay in front, the Riva
dei Schiavoni, which now renders the Sea Fašade as important as that to
the Piazzetta. There was only a narrow walk between the pillars and the
water; and the _old_ palace of Ziani still faced the Piazzetta, and
interrupted, by its decrepitude, the magnificence of the square where the
nobles daily met. Every increase of the beauty of the new palace rendered
the discrepancy between it and the companion building more painful; and
then began to arise in the minds of all men a vague idea of the necessity
of destroying the old palace, and completing the front of the Piazzetta
with the same splendor as the Sea Fašade. But no such sweeping measure of
renovation had been Contemplated by the Senate when they first formed the
plan of their new Council Chamber. First a single additional room, then a
gateway, then a larger room; but all considered merely as necessary
additions to the palace, not as involving the entire reconstruction of
the ancient edifice. The exhaustion of the treasury, and the shadows upon
the political horizon, rendered it more than imprudent to incur the vast
additional expense which such a project involved; and the Senate, fearful
of itself, and desirous to guard against the weakness of its own
enthusiasm, passed a decree, like the effort of a man fearful of some
strong temptation to keep his thoughts averted from the point of danger.
It was a decree, not merely that the old palace should not be rebuilt,
but that no one should _propose_ rebuilding it. The feeling of the
desirableness of doing so was, too strong to permit fair discussion, and
the Senate knew that to bring forward such a motion was to carry it.
SECTION XXI. The decree, thus passed in order to guard against their own
weakness, forbade any one to speak of rebuilding the old palace under
the penalty of a thousand ducats. But they had rated their own
enthusiasm too low: there was a man among them whom the loss of a
thousand ducats could not deter from proposing what he believed to be
for the good of the state.
Some excuse was given him for bringing forward the motion, by a fire
which occurred in 1419, and which injured both the church of St. Mark's,
and part of the old palace fronting the Piazzetta. What followed, I
shall relate in the words of Sanuto. [Footnote: Cronaca Sanudo, No.
cxxv. in the Marcian Library, p. 568.]
SECTION XXII. "Therefore they set themselves with all diligence and care
to repair and adorn sumptuously, first God's house; but in the Prince's
house things went on more slowly, _for it did not please the Doge_
[Footnote: Tomaso Mocenigo.] _to restore it in the form in which it
was before_; and they could not rebuild it altogether in a better
manner, so great was the parsimony of these old fathers; because it was
forbidden by laws, which condemned in a penalty of a thousand ducats any
one who should propose to throw down the _old_ palace, and to
rebuild it more richly and with greater expense. But the Doge, who was
magnanimous, and who desired above all things what was honorable to the
city, had the thousand ducats carried into the Senate Chamber, and then
proposed that the palace should be rebuilt; saying: that, 'since the
late fire had ruined in great part the Ducal habitation (not only his
own private palace, but all the places used for public business) this
occasion was to be taken for an admonishment sent from God, that they
ought to rebuild the palace more nobly, and in a way more befitting the
greatness to which, by God's grace, their dominions had reached; and
that his motive in proposing this was neither ambition, nor selfish
interest: that, as for ambition, they might have seen in the whole
course of his life, through so many years, that he had never done
anything for ambition, either in the city, or in foreign business; but
in all his actions had kept justice first in his thoughts, and then the
advantage of the state, and the honor of the Venetian name: and that, as
far as regarded his private interest, if it had not been for this
accident of the fire, he would never have thought of changing anything
in the palace into either a more sumptuous or a more honorable form; and
that during the many years in which he had lived in it, he had never
endeavored to make any change, but had always been content with it, as
his predecessors had left it; and that he knew well that, if they took
in hand to build it as he exhorted and besought them, being now very
old, and broken down with many toils, God would call him to another life
before the walls were raised a pace from the ground. And that therefore
they might perceive that he did not advise them to raise this building
for his own convenience, but only for the honor of the city and its
Dukedom; and that the good of it would never be felt by him, but by his
successors.' Then he said, that 'in order, as he had always done, to
observe the laws,... he had brought with him the thousand ducats which
had been appointed as the penalty for proposing such a measure, so that
he might prove openly to all men that it was not his own advantage that
he sought, but the dignity of the state.'" There was no one (Sanuto goes
on to tell us) who ventured, or desired, to oppose the wishes of the
Doge; and the thousand ducats were unanimously devoted to the expenses
of the work. "And they set themselves with much diligence to the work;
and the palace was begun in the form and manner in which it is at
present seen; but, as Mocenigo had prophesied, not long after, he ended
his life, and not only did not see the work brought to a close, but
hardly even begun."
SECTION XXIII. There are one or two expressions in the above extracts
which if they stood alone, might lead the reader to suppose that the
whole palace had been thrown down and rebuilt. We must however remember,
that, at this time, the new Council Chamber, which had been one hundred
years in building, was actually unfinished, the council had not yet sat
in it; and it was just as likely that the Doge should then propose to
destroy and rebuild it, as in this year, 1853, it is that any one should
propose in our House of Commons to throw down the new Houses of
Parliament, under the title of the "old palace," and rebuild _them_.
SECTION XXIV. The manner in which Sanuto expresses himself will at once
be seen to be perfectly natural, when it is remembered that although we
now speak of the whole building as the "Ducal Palace," it consisted, in
the minds of the old Venetians, of four distinct buildings. There were
in it the palace, the state prisons, the senate-house, and the offices
of public business; in other words, it was Buckingham Palace, the Tower
of olden days, the Houses of Parliament, and Downing Street, all in one;
and any of these four portions might be spoken of, without involving an
allusion to any other. "Il Palazzo" was the Ducal residence, which, with
most of the public offices, Mocenigo _did_ propose to pull down and
rebuild, and which was actually pulled down and rebuilt. But the new
Council Chamber, of which the whole fašade to the Sea consisted, never
entered into either his or Sanuto's mind for an instant, as necessarily
connected with the Ducal residence.
I said that the new Council Chamber, at the time when Mocenigo brought
forward his measure, had never yet been used. It was in the year 1422
[Footnote: Vide notes in Appendix.] that the decree passed to rebuild
the palace: Mocenigo died in the following year, and Francesco Foscari
was elected in his room. [Footnote: On the 4th of April, 1423, according
to the copy of the Zancarol Chronicle in the Marcian Library, but
previously, according to the Caroldo Chronicle, which makes Foscari
enter the Senate as Doge on the 3rd of April.] The Great Council Chamber
was used for the first time on the day when Foscari entered the Senate
as Doge,--the 3rd of April, 1423, according to the Caroldo Chronicle;
[Footnote: "Nella quale (the Sala del Gran Consiglio) non si fece Gran
Consiglio salvo nell' anno 1423, alli 3, April, et fu il primo giorno
che il Duce Foscari venisse in Gran Consiglio dopo la sua
creatione."--Copy in Marcian Library, p. 365.] the 23rd, which is
probably correct, by an anonymous MS., No. 60, in the Correr Museum;
[Footnote: "E a di 23 April (1423, by the context) sequente fo fatto
Gran Conscio in la salla nuovo dovi avanti non esta piu fatto Gran
Conscio si che el primo Gran Conscio dopo la sua (Foscari's) creation fo
fatto in la sala nuova, nel qual conscio fu el Marchese di Mantoa," &c.,
p. 426.]--and, the following year, on the 27th of March, the first
hammer was lifted up against the old palace of Ziani. [Footnote: Compare
Appendix I. Vol. III.]
SECTION XXV. That hammer stroke was the first act of the period properly
called the "Renaissance" It was the knell of the architecture of
Venice,--and of Venice herself.
The central epoch of her life was past; the decay had already begun: I
dated its commencement above (Ch. I., Vol. I.) from the death of
Mocenigo. A year had not yet elapsed since that great Doge had been
called to his account: his patriotism, always sincere, had been in this
instance mistaken; in his zeal for the honor of future Venice, he had
forgotten what was due to the Venice of long ago. A thousand palaces
might be built upon her burdened islands, but none of them could take
the place, or recall the memory, of that which was first built upon her
unfrequented shore. It fell; and, as if it had been the talisman of her
fortunes, the city never flourished again.
SECTION XXVI. I have no intention of following out, in their intricate
details, the operations which were begun under Foscari and continued
under succeeding Doges till the palace assumed its present form, for I
am not in this work concerned, except by occasional reference, with the
architecture of the fifteenth century: but the main facts are the
following. The palace of Ziani was destroyed; the existing fašade to the
Piazzetta built, so as both to continue and to resemble, in most
particulars, the work of the Great Council Chamber. It was carried back
from the Sea as far as the Judgment angle; beyond which is the Porta
della Carta, begun in 1439, and finished in two years, under the Doge
Foscari; [Footnote: "Tutte queste fatture si compirono sotto il dogade
del Foscari, nel 1441."--_Pareri_, p. 131.] the interior buildings
connected with it were added by the Doge Christopher Moro, (the Othello
of Shakspeare) [Footnote: This identification has been accomplished, and
I think conclusively, by my friend Mr. Rawdon Brown, who has devoted all
the leisure which, during the last twenty years his manifold office of
kindness to almost every English visitant of Venice have left him, in
discovering and translating the passages of the Venetian records which
bear upon English history and literature. I shall have occasion to take
advantage hereafter of a portion of his labors, which I trust will
shortly be made public.] in 1462.
SECTION XXVII. By reference to the figure the reader will see that we
have now gone the round of the palace, and that the new work of 1462 was
close upon the first piece of the Gothic palace, the _new_ Council
Chamber of 1301. Some remnants of the Ziani Palace were perhaps still
left between the two extremities of the Gothic Palace; or as is more
probable, the last stones of it may have been swept away after the fire
of 1419, and replaced by new apartments for the Doge. But whatever
buildings, old or new, stood on this spot at the time of the completion
of the Porta della Carta were destroyed by another great fire in 1479,
together with so much of the palace on the Rio that, though the saloon
of Gradenigo, then known as the Sala de' Pregadi, was not destroyed, it
became necessary to reconstruct the entire fašades of the portion of the
palace behind the Bridge of Sighs, both towards the court and canal.
This work was entrusted to the best Renaissance architects of the close
of the fifteenth and opening of the sixteenth centuries; Antonio Ricci
executing the Giant's staircase, and on his absconding with a large sum
of the public money, Pietro Lombardo taking his place. The whole work
must have been completed towards the middle of the sixteenth century.
The architects of the palace, advancing round the square and led by
fire, had more than reached the point from which they had set out; and
the work of 1560 was joined to the work of 1301-1340, at the point
marked by the conspicuous vertical line in Figure II on the Rio Fašade.
SECTION XVIII. But the palace was not long permitted to remain in this
finished form. Another terrific fire, commonly called the great fire,
burst out in 1574, and destroyed the inner fittings and all the precious
pictures of the Great Council Chamber, and of all the upper rooms on the
Sea Fašade, and most of those on the Rio Fašade, leaving the building a
mere shell, shaken and blasted by the flames. It was debated in the
Great Council whether the ruin should not be thrown down, and an
entirely new palace built in its stead. The opinions of all the leading
architects of Venice were taken, respecting the safety of the walls, or
the possibility of repairing them as they stood. These opinions, given
in writing, have been preserved, and published by the AbbÚ Cadorin, in
the work already so often referred to; and they form one of the most
important series of documents connected with the Ducal Palace.
I cannot help feeling some childish pleasure in the accidental
resemblance to my own name in that of the architect whose opinion was
first given in favor of the ancient fabric, Giovanni Rusconi. Others,
especially Palladio, wanted to pull down the old palace, and execute
designs of their own; but the best architects in Venice, and to his
immortal honor, chiefly Francesco Sansovino, energetically pleaded for
the Gothic pile, and prevailed. It was successfully repaired, and
Tintoret painted his noblest picture on the wall from which the Paradise
of Guariento had withered before the flames.
SECTION XXIX. The repairs necessarily undertaken at this time were
however extensive, and interfered in many directions with the earlier
work of the palace: still the only serious alteration in its form was
the transposition of the prisons, formerly at the top of the palace to
the other side of the Rio del Palazzo; and the building of the Bridge of
Sighs, to connect them with the palace, by Antonio da Ponte. The
completion of this work brought the whole edifice into its present form;
with the exception of alterations indoors, partitions, and staircases
among the inner apartments, not worth noticing, and such barbarisms and
defacements as have been suffered within the last fifty years, by, I
suppose nearly every building of importance in Italy.
SECTION XXX. Now, therefore, we are at liberty to examine some of the
details of the Ducal Palace, without any doubt about their dates. I
shall not however, give any elaborate illustrations of them here,
because I could not do them justice on the scale of the page of this
volume, or by means of line engraving. I believe a new era is opening to
us in the art of illustration, [Footnote: See the last chapter of the
third volume, Stones of Venice.] and that I shall be able to give large
figures of the details of the Ducal Palace at a price which will enable
every person who is interested in the subject to possess them; so that
the cost and labor of multiplying illustrations here would be altogether
wasted. I shall therefore direct the reader's attention only to such
points of interest as can be explained in the text.
SECTION XXXI. First, then, looking back to the woodcut at the beginning
of this chapter, the reader will observe that, as the building was very
nearly square on the ground plan, a peculiar prominence and importance
were given to its angles, which rendered it necessary that they should
be enriched and softened by sculpture. I do not suppose that the fitness
of this arrangement will be questioned; but if the reader will take the
pains to glance over any series of engravings of church towers or other
four-square buildings in which great refinement of form has been
attained, he will at once observe how their effect depends on some
modification of the sharpness of the angle, either by groups of
buttresses, or by turrets and niches rich in sculpture. It is to be
noted also that this principle of breaking the angle is peculiarly
Gothic, arising partly out of the necessity of strengthening the flanks
of enormous buildings, where composed of imperfect materials, by
buttresses or pinnacles; partly out of the conditions of Gothic warfare,
which generally required a tower at the angle; partly out of the natural
dislike of the meagreness of effect in buildings which admitted large
surfaces of wall, if the angle were entirely unrelieved. The Ducal
Palace, in its acknowledgment of this principle, makes a more definite
concession to the Gothic spirit than any of the previous architecture of
Venice. No angle, up to the time of its erection, had been otherwise
decorated than by a narrow fluted pilaster of red marble, and the
sculpture was reserved always, as in Greek and Roman work, for the plane
surfaces of the building, with, as far as I recollect, two exceptions
only, both in St. Mark's; namely, the bold and grotesque gargoyle on its
north-west angle, and the angels which project from the four inner
angles under the main cupola; both of these arrangements being plainly
made under Lombardic influence. And if any other instances occur, which
I may have at present forgotten, I am very sure the Northern influence
will always be distinctly traceable in them.
SECTION XXXII. The Ducal Palace, however, accepts the principle in its
completeness, and throws the main decoration upon its angles. The
central window, which looks rich and important in the woodcut, was
entirely restored in the Renaissance time, as we have seen, under the
Doge Steno; so that we have no traces of its early treatment; and the
principal interest of the older palace is concentrated in the angle
sculpture, which is arranged in the following manner. The pillars of the
two bearing arcades are much enlarged in thickness at the angles, and
their capitals increased in depth, breadth, and fulness of subject;
above each capital, on the angle of the wall, a sculptural subject is
introduced, consisting, in the great lower arcade, of two or more
figures of the size of life; in the upper arcade, of a single angel
holding a scroll: above these angels rise the twisted pillars with their
crowning niches, already noticed in the account of parapets in the
seventh chapter; thus forming an unbroken line of decoration from the
ground to the top of the angle.
SECTION XXXIII. It was before noticed that one of the corners of the
palace joins the irregular outer buildings connected with St. Mark's,
and is not generally seen. There remain, therefore, to be decorated,
only the three angles, above distinguished as the Vine angle, the
Fig-tree angle, and the Judgment angle; and at these we have, according
to the arrangement just explained,--
First, Three great bearing capitals (lower arcade).
Secondly, Three figure subjects of sculpture above them (lower arcade).
Thirdly, Three smaller bearing capitals (upper arcade).
Fourthly, Three angels above them (upper arcade).
Fifthly, Three spiral, shafts with niches.
SECTION XXXIV. I shall describe the bearing capitals hereafter, in their
order, with the others of the arcade; for the first point to which the
reader's attention ought to be directed is the choice of subject in the
great figure sculptures above them. These, observe, are the very corner
stones of the edifice, and in them we may expect to find the most
important evidences of the feeling, as well as the skill, of the
builder. If he has anything to say to us of the purpose with which he
built the palace, it is sure to be said here; if there was any lesson
which he wished principally to teach to those for whom he built, here it
is sure to be inculcated; if there was any sentiment which they
themselves desired to have expressed in the principal edifice of their
city, this is the place in which we may be secure of finding it legibly
SECTION XXXV. Now the first two angles, of the Vine and Fig-tree, belong
to the old, or true Gothic, Palace; the third angle belongs to the
Renaissance imitation of it: therefore, at the first two angles, it is
the Gothic spirit which is going to speak to us; and, at the third, the
The reader remembers, I trust, that the most characteristic sentiment of
all that we traced in the working of the Gothic heart, was the frank
confession of its own weakness; and I must anticipate, for a moment, the
results of our inquiry in subsequent chapters, so far as to state that
the principal element in the Renaissance spirit, is its firm confidence
in its own wisdom.
Hear, then, the two spirits speak for themselves.
The first main sculpture of the Gothic Palace is on what I have called
the angle of the Fig-tree:
Its subject is the FALL OF MAN.
The second sculpture is on the angle of the Vine:
Its subject is the DRUNKENNESS OF NOAH.
The Renaissance sculpture is on the Judgment angle:
Its subject is the JUDGMENT OF SOLOMON.
It is impossible to overstate, or to regard with too much admiration,
the significance of this single fact. It is as if the palace had been
built at various epochs, and preserved uninjured to this day, for the
sole purpose of teaching us the difference in the temper of the two
SECTION XXXVI. I have called the sculpture on the Fig-tree angle the
principal one; because it is at the central bend of the palace, where it
turns to the Piazetta (the fašade upon the Piazetta being, as we saw
above, the more important one in ancient times). The great capital,
which sustains this Fig-tree angle, is also by far more elaborate than
the head of the pilaster under the Vine angle, marking the preŰminence
of the former in the architect's mind. It is impossible to say which was
first executed, but that of the Fig-tree angle is somewhat rougher in
execution, and more stiff in the design of the figures, so that I rather
suppose it to have been the earliest completed.
SECTION XXXVII. In both the subjects, of the Fall and the Drunkenness,
the tree, which forms the chiefly decorative portion of the
sculpture,--fig in the one case, vine in the other,--was a necessary
adjunct. Its trunk, in both sculptures, forms the true outer angle of
the palace; boldly cut separate from the stonework behind, and branching
out above the figures so as to enwrap each side of the angle, for
several feet, with its deep foliage. Nothing can be more masterly or
superb than the sweep of this foliage on the Fig-tree angle; the broad
leaves lapping round the budding fruit, and sheltering from sight,
beneath their shadows, birds of the most graceful form and delicate
plumage. The branches are, however, so strong, and the masses of stone
hewn into leafage so large, that, notwithstanding the depth of the
undercutting, the work remains nearly uninjured; not so at the Vine
angle, where the natural delicacy of the vine-leaf and tendril having
tempted the sculptor to greater effort, he has passed the proper limits
of his art, and cut the upper stems so delicately that half of them have
been broken away by the casualties to which the situation of the
sculpture necessarily exposes it. What remains is, however, so
interesting in its extreme refinement, that I have chosen it for the
subject of the first illustration [Footnote: See note at end of this
chapter.] rather than the nobler masses of the fig-tree, which ought to
be rendered on a larger scale. Although half of the beauty of the
composition is destroyed by the breaking away of its central masses,
there is still enough in the distribution of the variously bending
leaves, and in the placing of the birds on the lighter branches, to
prove to us the power of the designer. I have already referred to this
Plate as a remarkable instance of the Gothic Naturalism; and, indeed, it
is almost impossible for the copying of nature to be carried farther
than in the fibres of the marble branches, and the careful finishing of
the tendrils: note especially the peculiar expression of the knotty
joints of the vine in the light branch which rises highest. Yet only
half the finish of the work can be seen in the Plate: for, in several
cases, the sculptor has shown the under sides of the leaves turned
boldly to the light, and has literally _carved every rib and vein upon
them, in relief_; not merely the main ribs which sustain the lobes of
the leaf, and actually project in nature, but the irregular and sinuous
veins which chequer the membranous tissues between them, and which the
sculptor has represented conventionally as relieved like the others, in
order to give the vine leaf its peculiar tessellated effect upon the
SECTION XXXVIII. As must always be the case in early sculpture, the
figures are much inferior to the leafage; yet so skilful in many
respects, that it was a long time before I could persuade myself that
they had indeed been wrought in the first half of the fourteenth
century. Fortunately, the date is inscribed upon a monument in the
Church of San Simeon Grande, bearing a recumbent statue of the saint, of
far finer workmanship, in every respect, than those figures of the Ducal
Palace, yet so like them, that I think there can be no question that the
head of Noah was wrought by the sculptor of the palace in emulation of
that of the statue of St. Simeon. In this latter sculpture, the face is
represented in death; the mouth partly open, the lips thin and sharp,
the teeth carefully sculptured beneath; the face full of quietness and
majesty, though very ghastly; the hair and beard flowing in luxuriant
wreaths, disposed with the most masterly freedom, yet severity, of
design, far down upon the shoulders; the hands crossed upon the body,
carefully studied, and the veins and sinews perfectly and easily
expressed, yet without any attempt at extreme finish or display of
technical skill. This monument bears date 1317, [Footnote: "IN XRI--NOIE
AMEN ANNINCARNATIONIS MCCCXVII. INESETBR." "In the name of Christ, Amen,
in the year of the incarnation, 1317, in the month of September," &c.]
and its sculptor was justly proud of it; thus recording his name:
"CELAVIT MARCUS OPUS HOC INSIGNE ROMANIS,
LAUDIBUS NON PARCUS EST SUA DIGNA MANUS."
SECTION XXXIX. The head of the Noah on the Ducal Palace, evidently
worked in emulation of this statue, has the same profusion of flowing
hair and beard, but wrought in smaller and harder curls; and the veins
on the arms and breast are more sharply drawn, the sculptor being
evidently more practised in keen and fine lines of vegetation than in
those of the figure; so that, which is most remarkable in a workman of
this early period, he has failed in telling his story plainly, regret
and wonder being so equally marked on the features of all the three
brothers that it is impossible to say which is intended for Ham. Two of
the heads of the brothers are seen in the Plate; the third figure is not
with the rest of the group, but set at a distance of about twelve feet,
on the other side of the arch which springs from the angle capital.
SECTION XL. It may be observed, as a farther evidence of the date of the
group, that, in the figures of all the three youths, the feet are
protected simply by a bandage arranged in crossed folds round the ankle
and lower part of the limb; a feature of dress which will be found in
nearly every piece of figure sculpture in Venice, from the year 1300 to
1380, and of which the traveller may see an example within three hundred
yards of this very group, in the bas-reliefs on the tomb of the Doge
Andrea Dandolo (in St. Mark's), who died in 1354.
SECTION XLI. The figures of Adam and Eve, sculptured on each side of the
Fig-tree angle, are more stiff than those of Noah and his sons, but are
better fitted for their architectural service; and the trunk of the
tree, with the angular body of the serpent writhed around it, is more
nobly treated as a terminal group of lines than that of the vine.
The Renaissance sculptor of the figures of the Judgment of Solomon has
very nearly copied the fig-tree from this angle, placing its trunk
between the executioner and the mother, who leans forward to stay his
hand. But, though the whole group is much more free in design than those
of the earlier palace, and in many ways excellent in itself, so that it
always strikes the eye of a careless observer more than the others, it
is of immeasurably inferior spirit in the workmanship; the leaves of the
tree, though far more studiously varied in flow than those of the
fig-tree from which they are partially copied, have none of its truth to
nature; they are ill set on the steins, bluntly defined on the edges,
and their curves are not those of growing leaves, but of wrinkled
SECTION XLII. Above these three sculptures are set, in the upper arcade,
the statues of the archangels Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel: their
positions will be understood by reference to the lowest figure in Plate
XVII., where that of Raphael above the Vine angle is seen on the right.
A diminutive figure of Tobit follows at his feet, and he bears in his
hand a scroll with this inscription:
i.e. Effice (quseso?) fretum, Raphael reverende, quietum. [Footnote:
"Oh, venerable Raphael, make thou the gulf calm, we beseech thee." The
peculiar office of the angel Raphael is, in general, according to
tradition, the restraining the harmful influences of evil spirits. Sir
Charles Eastlake told me, that sometimes in this office he is
represented bearing the gall of the fish caught by Tobit; and reminded
me of the peculiar superstitions of the Venetians respecting the raising
of storms by fiends, as embodied in the well known tale of the Fisherman
and St. Mark's ring.] I could not decipher the inscription on the scroll
borne by the angel Michael; and the figure of Gabriel, which is by much
the most beautiful feature of the Renaissance portion of the palace, has
only in its hand the Annunciation lily.
SECTION XLIII. Such are the subjects of the main sculptures decorating
the angles of the palace; notable, observe, for their simple expression
of two feelings, the consciousness of human frailty, and the dependence
upon Divine guidance and protection: this being, of course, the general
purpose of the introduction of the figures of the angels; and, I
imagine, intended to be more particularly conveyed by the manner in
which the small figure of Tobit follows the steps of Raphael, just
touching the hem of his garment. We have next to examine the course of
divinity and of natural history embodied by the old sculpture in the
great series of capitals which support the lower arcade of the palace;
and which, being at a height of little more than eight feet above the
eye, might be read, like the pages of a book, by those (the noblest men
in Venice) who habitually walked beneath the shadow of this great arcade
at the time of their first meeting each other for morning converse.
SECTION XLIV. We will now take the pillars of the Ducal Palace in their
order. It has already been mentioned (Vol. I. Chap. I. Section XLVI.)
that there are, in all, thirty-six great pillars supporting the lower
story; and that these are to be counted from right to left, because then
the more ancient of them come first: and that, thus arranged, the first,
which is not a shaft, but a pilaster, will be the support of the Vine
angle; the eighteenth will be the great shaft of the Fig-tree angle; and
the thirty-sixth, that of the Judgment angle.
SECTION XLV. All their capitals, except that of the first, are
octagonal, and are decorated by sixteen leaves, differently enriched in
every capital, but arranged in the same way; eight of them rising to the
angles, and there forming volutes; the eight others set between them, on
the sides, rising half-way up the bell of the capital; there nodding
forward, and showing above them, rising out of their luxuriance, the
groups or single figures which we have to examine. [Footnote: I have
given one of these capitals carefully already in my folio work, and hope
to give most of the others in due time. It was of no use to draw them
here, as the scale would have been too small to allow me to show the
expression of the figures.] In some instances, the intermediate or lower
leaves are reduced to eight sprays of foliage; and the capital is left
dependent for its effect on the bold position of the figures. In
referring to the figures on the octagonal capitals, I shall call the
outer side, fronting either the Sea or the Piazzetta, the first side;
and so count round from left to right; the fourth side being thus, of
course, the innermost. As, however, the first five arches were walled up
after the great fire, only three sides of their capitals are left
visible, which we may describe as the front and the eastern and western
sides of each.
SECTION XLVI. FIRST CAPITAL: i.e. of the pilaster at the Vine angle.
In front, towards the Sea. A child holding a bird before him, with its
wings expanded, covering his breast.
On its eastern side. Children's heads among leaves.
On its western side. A child carrying in one hand a comb; in the other,
a pair of scissors.
It appears curious, that this, the principal pilaster of the fašade,
should have been decorated only by these graceful grotesques, for I can
hardly suppose them anything more. There may be meaning in them, but I
will not venture to conjecture any, except the very plain and practical
meaning conveyed by the last figure to all Venetian children, which it
would be well if they would act upon. For the rest, I have seen the comb
introduced in grotesque work as early as the thirteenth century, but
generally for the purpose of ridiculing too great care in dressing the
hair, which assuredly is not its purpose here. The children's heads are
very sweet and full of life, but the eyes sharp and small.
SECTION XLVII. SECOND CAPITAL. Only three sides of the original work are
left unburied by the mass of added wall. Each side has a bird, one
web-footed, with a fish, one clawed, with a serpent, which opens its
jaws, and darts its tongue at the bird's breast; the third pluming
itself, with a feather between the mandibles of its bill. It is by far
the most beautiful of the three capitals decorated with birds.
THIRD CAPITAL. Also has three sides only left. They have three heads,
large, and very ill cut; one female, and crowned.
FOURTH CAPITAL. Has three children. The eastern one is defaced: the one
in front holds a small bird, whose plumage is beautifully indicated, in
its right hand; and with its left holds up half a walnut, showing the
nut inside: the third holds a fresh fig, cut through, showing the seeds.
The hair of all the three children is differently worked: the first has
luxuriant flowing hair, and a double chin; the second, light flowing
hair falling in pointed locks on the forehead; the third, crisp curling
hair, deep cut with drill holes.
This capital has been copied on the Renaissance side of the palace, only
with such changes in the ideal of the children as the workman thought
expedient and natural. It is highly interesting to compare the child of
the fourteenth with the child of the fifteenth century. The early heads
are full of youthful life, playful, humane, affectionate, beaming with
sensation and vivacity, but with much manliness and firmness, also, not
a little cunning, and some cruelty perhaps, beneath all; the features
small and hard, and the eyes keen. There is the making of rough and
great men in them. But the children of the fifteenth century are dull
smooth-faced dunces, without a single meaning line in the fatness of
their stolid cheeks; and, although, in the vulgar sense, as handsome as
the other children are ugly, capable of becoming nothing but perfumed
FIFTH CAPITAL. Still three sides only left, bearing three half-length
statues of kings; this is the first capital which bears any inscription.
In front, a king with a sword in his right hand points to a handkerchief
embroidered and fringed, with a head on it, carved on the cavetto of the
abacus. His name is written above, "TITUS VESPASIAN IMPERATOR"
On eastern side, "TRAJANUS IMPERATOR." Crowned, a sword in right hand,
and sceptre in left.
On western, "(OCT)AVIANUS AUGUSTUS IMPERATOR." The "OCT" is broken away.
He bears a globe in his right hand, with "MUNDUS PACIS" upon it; a
sceptre in his left, which I think has terminated in a human figure. He
has a flowing beard, and a singularly high crown; the face is much
injured, but has once been very noble in expression.
SIXTH CAPITAL. Has large male and female heads, very coarsely cut, hard,
SECTION XLVIII. SEVENTH CAPITAL. This is the first of the series which
is complete; the first open arch of the lower arcade being between it
and the sixth. It begins the representation of the Virtues.
_First side_. Largitas, or Liberality: always distinguished from
the higher Charity. A male figure, with his lap full of money, which he
pours out of his hand. The coins are plain, circular, and smooth; there
is no attempt to mark device upon them. The inscription above is,
"LARGITAS ME ONORAT."
In the copy of this design on the twenty-fifth capital, instead of
showering out the gold from his open hand, the figure holds it in a
plate or salver, introduced for the sake of disguising the direct
imitation. The changes thus made in the Renaissance pillars are always
This virtue is the proper opponent of Avarice; though it does not occur
in the systems of Orcagna or Giotto, being included in Charity. It was a
leading virtue with Aristotle and the other ancients.
SECTION XLIX. _Second side_. Constancy; not very characteristic. An
armed man with a sword in his hand, inscribed, "CONSTANTIA SUM, NIL
This virtue is one of the forms of fortitude, and Giotto therefore sets
as the vice opponent to Fortitude, "Inconstantia," represented as a
woman in loose drapery, falling from a rolling globe. The vision seen in
the interpreter's house in the Pilgrim's Progress, of the man with a
very bold countenance, who says to him who has the writer's ink-horn by
his side, "Set down my name," is the best personification of the
Venetian "Constantia" of which I am aware in literature. It would be
well for us all to consider whether we have yet given the order to the
man with the ink-horn, "Set down my name."
SECTION L. _Third side_. Discord; holding up her finger, but
needing the inscription above to assure us of her meaning, "DISCORDIA
SUM, DISCORDIANS." In the Renaissance copy she is a meek and nun-like
person with a veil.
She is the AtŰ of Spencer; "mother of debate," thus described in the
"Her face most fowle and filthy was to see,
With squinted eyes contrarie wayes intended;
And loathly mouth, unmeete a mouth to bee,
That nought but gall and venim comprehended,
And wicked wordes that God and man offended:
Her lying tongue was in two parts divided,
And both the parts did speake, and both contended;
And as her tongue, so was her hart discided,
That never thoght one thing, but doubly stil was guided."
Note the fine old meaning of "discided," cut in two; it is a great pity
we have lost this powerful expression. We might keep "determined" for
the other sense of the word.
SECTION LI. _Fourth side_. Patience. A female figure, very
expressive and lovely, in a hood, with her right hand on her breast, the
left extended, inscribed "PATIENTIA MANET MECUM."
She is one of the principal virtues in all the Christian systems: a
masculine virtue in Spenser, and beautifully placed as the _PHYSICIAN_ in
the House of Holinesse. The opponent vice, Impatience, is one of the hags
who attend the Captain of the Lusts of the Flesh; the other being
Impotence. In like manner, in the "Pilgrim's Progress," the opposite of
Patience is Passion; but Spenser's thought is farther carried. His two
hags, Impatience and Impotence, as attendant upon the evil spirit of
Passion, embrace all the phenomena of human conduct, down even to the
smallest matters, according to the adage, "More haste, worse speed."
SECTION LII. _Fifth side_. Despair. A female figure thrusting a
dagger into her throat, and tearing her long hair, which flows down
among the leaves of the capital below her knees. One of the finest
figures of the series; inscribed "DESPERACIO MďS (mortis?) CRUDELIS." In
the Renaissance copy she is totally devoid of expression, and appears,
instead of tearing her hair, to be dividing it into long curls on each
This vice is the proper opposite of Hope. By Giotto she is represented
as a woman hanging herself, a fiend coming for her soul. Spenser's
vision of Despair is well known, it being indeed currently reported that
this part of the Faerie Queen was the first which drew to it the
attention of Sir Philip Sidney.
SECTION LIII. _Sixth side_. Obedience: with her arms folded; meek,
but rude and commonplace, looking at a little dog standing on its hind
legs and begging, with a collar round its neck. Inscribed "OBEDIENTI *
*;" the rest of the sentence is much defaced, but looks like
I suppose the note of contraction above the final A has disappeared and
that the inscription was "Obedientiam domino exhibeo."
This virtue is, of course, a principal one in the monkish systems;
represented by Giotto at Assisi as "an angel robed in black, placing the
finger of his left hand on his mouth, and passing the yoke over the head
of a Franciscan monk kneeling at his feet." [Footnote: Lord Lindsay,
vol. ii. p. 226.]
Obedience holds a less principal place in Spenser. We have seen her
above associated with the other peculiar virtues of womanhood.
SECTION LIV. _Seventh side_. Infidelity. A man in a turban, with a
small image in his hand, or the image of a child. Of the inscription
nothing but "INFIDELITATE * * *" and some fragmentary letters, "ILI,
By Giotto Infidelity is most nobly symbolized as a woman helmeted, the
helmet having a broad rim which keeps the light from her eyes. She is
covered with heavy drapery, stands infirmly as if about to fall, _is
bound by a cord round her neck to an image_ which she carries in her
hand, and has flames bursting forth at her feet.
In Spenser, Infidelity is the Saracen knight Sans Foy,--
"Full large of limbe and every joint
He was, and cared not for God or man a point."
For the part which he sustains in the contest with Godly Fear, or the
Red-cross knight, see Appendix 2, Vol. III.
SECTION LV. _Eighth side_. Modesty; bearing a pitcher. (In the
Renaissance copy, a vase like a coffeepot.) Inscribed "MODESTIA
I do not find this virtue in any of the Italian series, except that of
Venice. In Spenser she is of course one of those attendant on Womanhood,
but occurs as one of the tenants of the Heart of Man, thus portrayed in
the second book:
"Straunge was her tyre, and all her garment blew,
Close rownd about her tuckt with many a plight:
Upon her fist the bird which shonneth vew.
* * * * *
And ever and anone with rosy red
The bashfull blood her snowy cheekes did dye,
That her became, as polisht yvory
Which cunning craftesman hand hath overlayd
With fayre vermilion or pure castory."
SECTION LVI. EIGHTH CAPITAL. It has no inscriptions, and its subjects
are not, by themselves, intelligible; but they appear to be typical of
the degradation of human instincts.
_First side_. A caricature of Arion on his dolphin; he wears a cap
ending in a long proboscis-like horn, and plays a violin with a curious
twitch of the bow and wag of the head, very graphically expressed, but
still without anything approaching to the power of Northern grotesque.
His dolphin has a goodly row of teeth, and the waves beat over his back.
_Second side_. A human figure, with curly hair and the legs of a
bear; the paws laid, with great sculptural skill, upon the foliage. It
plays a violin, shaped like a guitar, with a bent double-stringed bow.
_Third side_. A figure with a serpent's tail and a monstrous head,
founded on a Negro type, hollow-cheeked, large-lipped, and wearing a cap
made of a serpent's skin, holding a fir-cone in its hand.
_Fourth side_. A monstrous figure, terminating below in a tortoise.
It is devouring a gourd, which it grasps greedily with both hands; it
wears a cap ending in a hoofed leg.
_Fifth side_. A centaur wearing a crested helmet, and holding a
_Sixth side_. A knight, riding a headless horse, and wearing a
chain armor, with a triangular shield flung behind his back, and a
_Seventh side_. A figure like that on the fifth, wearing a round
helmet, and with the legs and tail of a horse. He bears a long mace with
a top like a fir-cone.
_Eighth side_. A figure with curly hair, and an acorn in its hand,
ending below in a fish.
SECTION LVII. NINTH CAPITAL. _First side_. Faith. She has her left
hand on her breast, and the cross on her right. Inscribed "FIDES OPTIMA
IN DEO." The Faith of Giotto holds the cross in her right hand; in her
left, a scroll with the Apostles' Creed. She treads upon cabalistic
books, and has a key suspended to her waist. Spenser's Faith (Fidelia)
is still more spiritual and noble:
"She was araied all in lilly white,
And in her right hand bore a cup of gold,
With wine and water fild up to the hight,
In which a serpent did himselfe enfold,
That horrour made to all that did behold;
But she no whitt did chaunge her constant mood:
And in her other hand she fast did hold
A booke, that was both signd and seald with blood;
Wherein darke things were writt, hard to be understood."
SECTION LVIII. _Second side_. Fortitude. A long-bearded man [Samson?]
tearing open a lion's jaw. The inscription is illegible, and the somewhat
vulgar personification appears to belong rather to Courage than
Fortitude. On the Renaissance copy it is inscribed "FORTITUDO SUM
VIRILIS." The Latin word has, perhaps, been received by the sculptor as
merely signifying "Strength," the rest of the perfect idea of this virtue
having been given in "Constantia" previously. But both these Venetian
symbols together do not at all approach the idea of Fortitude as given
generally by Giotto and the Pisan sculptors; clothed with a lion's skin,
knotted about her neck, and falling to her feet in deep folds; drawing
back her right hand, with the sword pointed towards her enemy; and
slightly retired behind her immovable shield, which, with Giotto, is
square, and rested on the ground like a tower, covering her up to above
her shoulders; bearing on it a lion, and with broken heads of javelins
Among the Greeks, this is, of course, one of the principal virtues; apt,
however, in their ordinary conception of it to degenerate into mere
manliness or courage.
SECTION LIX. _Third side_. Temperance; bearing a pitcher of water
and a cup. Inscription, illegible here, and on the Renaissance copy
nearly so, "TEMPERANTIA SUM" (INOM' L'S)? Only left. In this somewhat
vulgar and most frequent conception of this virtue (afterwards
continually repeated, as by Sir Joshua in his window at New-College)
temperance is confused with mere abstinence, the opposite of Gula, or
gluttony; whereas the Greek Temperance, a truly cardinal virtue, is the
moderator of _all_ the passions, and so represented by Giotto, who
has placed a bridle upon her lips, and a sword in her hand, the hilt of
which she is binding to the scabbard. In his system, she is opposed
among the vices, not by Gula or Gluttony, but by Ira, Anger. So also the
Temperance of Spenser, or Sir Guyon, but with mingling of much
"A goodly knight, all armd in harnesse meete,
That from his head no place appeared to his feete,
His carriage was full comely and upright;
His countenance demure and temperate;
But yett so sterne and terrible in sight,
That cheard his friendes, and did his foes amate."
The Temperance of the Greeks, [Greek: sophrosunae] involves the idea
of Prudence, and is a most noble virtue, yet properly marked by Plato as
inferior to sacred enthusiasm, though necessary for its government. He
opposes it, under the name "Mortal Temperance" or "the Temperance which
is of men," to divine madness, [Greek: mania,] or inspiration; but he
most justly and nobly expresses the general idea of it under the term
[Greek: ubris], which, in the "Phaedrus," is divided into various
intemperances with respect to various objects, and set forth under the
image of a black, vicious, diseased and furious horse, yoked by the side
of Prudence or Wisdom (set forth under the figure of a white horse with a
crested and noble head, like that which we have among the Elgin Marbles)
to the chariot of the Soul. The system of Aristotle, as above stated, is
throughout a mere complicated blunder, supported by sophistry, the
laboriously developed mistake of Temperance for the essence of the
virtues which it guides. Temperance in the mediaeval systems is generally
opposed by Anger, or by Folly, or Gluttony: but her proper opposite is
Spenser's Acrasia, the principal enemy of Sir Guyon, at whose gates we
find the subordinate vice "Excesse," as the introduction to Intemperance;
a graceful and feminine image, necessary to illustrate the more dangerous
forms of subtle intemperance, as opposed to the brutal "Gluttony" in the
first book. She presses grapes into a cup, because of the words of St.
Paul, "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess;" but always delicately,
"Into her cup she scruzd with daintie breach
Of her fine fingers, without fowle empeach,
That so faire winepresse made the wine more sweet."
The reader will, I trust, pardon these frequent extracts from Spenser,
for it is nearly as necessary to point out the profound divinity and
philosophy of our great English poet, as the beauty of the Ducal Palace.
SECTION LX. _Fourth side_. Humility; with a veil upon her head,
carrying a lamp in her lap. Inscribed in the copy, "HUMILITAS HABITAT IN
This virtue is of course a peculiarly Christian one, hardly recognized
in the Pagan systems, though carefully impressed upon the Greeks in
early life in a manner which at this day it would be well if we were to
imitate, and, together with an almost feminine modesty, giving an
exquisite grace to the conduct and bearing of the well-educated Greek
youth. It is, of course, one of the leading virtues in all the monkish
systems, but I have not any notes of the manner of its representation.
SECTION LXI. _Fifth side_. Charity. A woman with her lap full of
loaves (?), giving one to a child, who stretches his arm out for it
across a broad gap in the leafage of the capital.
Again very far inferior to the Giottesque rendering of this virtue. In
the Arena Chapel she is distinguished from all the other virtues by
having a circular glory round her head, and a cross of fire; she is
crowned with flowers, presents with her right hand a vase of corn and
fruit, and with her left receives treasure from Christ, who appears
above her, to provide her with the means of continual offices of
beneficence, while she tramples under foot the treasures of the earth.
The peculiar beauty of most of the Italian conceptions of Charity, is in
the subjection of mere munificence to the glowing of her love, always
represented by flames; here in the form of a cross round her head; in
Orcagna's shrine at Florence, issuing from a censer in her hand; and,
with Dante, inflaming her whole form, so that, in a furnace of clear
fire, she could not have been discerned.
Spenser represents her as a mother surrounded by happy children, an idea
afterwards grievously hackneyed and vulgarized by English painters and
SECTION LXII. _Sixth side_. Justice. Crowned, and with sword.
Inscribed in the copy, "REX SUM JUSTICIE."
This idea was afterwards much amplified and adorned in the only good
capital of the Renaissance series, under the Judgment angle. Giotto has
also given his whole strength to the painting of this virtue,
representing her as enthroned under a noble Gothic canopy, holding
scales, not by the beam, but one in each hand; a beautiful idea, showing
that the equality of the scales of Justice is not owing to natural laws,
but to her own immediate weighing the opposed causes in her own hands.
In one scale is an executioner beheading a criminal; in the other an
angel crowning a man who seems (in Selvatico's plate) to have been
working at a desk or table.
Beneath her feet is a small predella, representing various persons
riding securely in the woods, and others dancing to the sound of music.
Spenser's Justice, Sir Artegall, is the hero of an entire book, and the
betrothed knight of Britomart, or chastity.
SECTION LXIII. _Seventh side_. Prudence. A man with a book and a
pair of compasses, wearing the noble cap, hanging down towards the
shoulder, and bound in a fillet round the brow, which occurs so
frequently during the fourteenth century in Italy in the portraits of
men occupied in any civil capacity.
This virtue is, as we have seen, conceived under very different degrees
of dignity, from mere worldly prudence up to heavenly wisdom, being
opposed sometimes by Stultitia, sometimes by Ignorantia. I do not find,
in any of the representations of her, that her truly distinctive
character, namely, _forethought_, is enough insisted upon: Giotto
expresses her vigilance and just measurement or estimate of all things
by painting her as Janus-headed, and gazing into a convex mirror, with
compasses in her right hand; the convex mirror showing her power of
looking at many things in small compass. But forethought or
anticipation, by which, independently of greater or less natural
capacities, one man becomes more _prudent_ than another, is never
enough considered or symbolized.
The idea of this virtue oscillates, in the Greek systems, between
Temperance and Heavenly Wisdom.
SECTION LXIV. _Eighth side_. Hope. A figure full of devotional
expression, holding up its hands as in prayer, and looking to a hand
which is extended towards it out of sunbeams. In the Renaissance copy
this hand does not appear.
Of all the virtues, this is the most distinctively Christian (it could
not, of course, enter definitely into any Pagan scheme); and above all
others, it seems to me the _testing_ virtue,--that by the possession of
which we may most certainly determine whether we are Christians or not;
for many men have charity, that is to say, general kindness of heart, or
even a kind of faith, who have not any habitual _hope_ of, or longing
for, heaven. The Hope of Giotto is represented as winged, rising in the
air, while an angel holds a crown before her. I do not know if Spenser
was the first to introduce our marine virtue, leaning on an anchor, a
symbol as inaccurate as it is vulgar: for, in the first place, anchors
are not for men, but for ships; and in the second, anchorage is the
characteristic not of Hope, but of Faith. Faith is dependent, but Hope is
aspirant. Spenser, however, introduces Hope twice,--the first time as the
Virtue with the anchor; but afterwards fallacious Hope, far more
beautifully, in the Masque of Cupid:
"She always smyld, and in her hand did hold
An holy-water sprinckle, dipt in deowe."
SECTION LXV. TENTH CAPITAL. _First side_. Luxury (the opposite of
chastity, as above explained). A woman with a jewelled chain across her
forehead, smiling as she looks into a mirror, exposing her breast by
drawing down her dress with one hand. Inscribed "LUXURIA SUM IMENSA."
These subordinate forms of vice are not met with so frequently in art as
those of the opposite virtues, but in Spenser we find them all. His
Luxury rides upon a goat:
"In a greene gowne he clothed was full faire,
Which underneath did hide his filthinesse,
And in his hand a burning heart he bare."
But, in fact, the proper and comprehensive expression of this vice is
the Cupid of the ancients; and there is not any minor circumstance more
indicative of the _intense_ difference between the mediaeval and
the Renaissance spirit, than the mode in which this god is represented.
I have above said, that all great European art is rooted in the
thirteenth century; and it seems to me that there is a kind of central
year about which we may consider the energy of the middle ages to be
gathered; a kind of focus of time which, by what is to my mind a most
touching and impressive Divine appointment, has been marked for us by
the greatest writer of the middle ages, in the first words he utters;
namely, the year 1300, the "mezzo del cammin" of the life of Dante. Now,
therefore, to Giotto, the contemporary of Dante, and who drew Dante's
still existing portrait in this very year, 1300, we may always look for
the central mediaeval idea in any subject: and observe how he represents
Cupid; as one of three, a terrible trinity, his companions being Satan
and Death; and he himself "a lean scarecrow, with bow, quiver, and
fillet, and feet ending in claws," [Footnote: Lord Lindsay, vol. ii.
letter iv.] thrust down into Hell by Penance, from the presence of
Purity and Fortitude. Spenser, who has been so often noticed as
furnishing the exactly intermediate type of conception between the
mediaeval and the Renaissance, indeed represents Cupid under the form of
a beautiful winged god, and riding on a lion, but still no plaything of
the Graces, but full of terror:
"With that the darts which his right hand did straine
Full dreadfully he shooke, that all did quake,
And clapt on hye his coloured winges twaine,
That all his many it afraide did make."
His many, that is to say, his company; and observe what a company it is.
Before him go Fancy, Desire, Doubt, Danger, Fear, Fallacious Hope,
Dissemblance, Suspicion, Grief, Fury, Displeasure, Despite, and Cruelty.
After him, Reproach, Repentance, Shame,
"Unquiet Care, and fond Unthriftyhead,
Lewd Losse of Time, and Sorrow seeming dead,
Inconstant Chaunge, and false Disloyalty,
Consuming Riotise, and guilty Dread
Of heavenly vengeaunce; faint Infirmity,
Vile Poverty, and lastly Death with infamy."
Compare these two pictures of Cupid with the Love-god of the
Renaissance, as he is represented to this day, confused with angels, in
every faded form of ornament and allegory, in our furniture, our
literature, and our minds.
SECTION LXVI. _Second side_. Gluttony. A woman in a turban, with a
jewelled cup in her right hand. In her left, the clawed limb of a bird,
which she is gnawing. Inscribed "GULA SINE ORDINE SUM."
Spenser's Gluttony is more than usually fine:
"His belly was upblownt with luxury,
And eke with fatnesse swollen were his eyne,
And like a crane his necke was long and fyne,
Wherewith he swallowed up excessive feast,
For want whereof poore people oft did pyne."
He rides upon a swine, and is clad in vine-leaves, with a garland of
ivy. Compare the account of Excesse, above, as opposed to Temperance.
SECTION LXVII. _Third side_. Pride. A knight, with a heavy and
stupid face, holding a sword with three edges: his armor covered with
ornaments in the form of roses, and with two ears attached to his
helmet. The inscription indecipherable, all but "SUPERBIA."
Spenser has analyzed this vice with great care. He first represents it
as the Pride of life; that is to say, the pride which runs in a deep
under-current through all the thoughts and acts of men. As such, it is a
feminine vice, directly opposed to Holiness, and mistress of a castle
called the House of Pryde, and her chariot is driven by Satan, with a
team of beasts, ridden by the mortal sins. In the throne chamber of her
palace she is thus described:
"So proud she shyned in her princely state,
Looking to Heaven, for Earth she did disdayne;
And sitting high, for lowly she did hate:
Lo, underneath her scornefull feete was layne
A dreadfull dragon with an hideous trayne;
And in her hand she held a mirrhour bright,
Wherein her face she often vewed fayne."
The giant Orgoglio is a baser species of pride, born of the Earth and
Eolus; that is to say, of sensual and vain conceits. His foster-father
and the keeper of his castle is Ignorance. (Book I. canto viii.)
Finally, Disdain is introduced, in other places, as the form of pride
which vents itself in insult to others.
SECTION LXVIII. _Fourth side_. Anger. A woman tearing her dress open at
her breast. Inscription here undecipherable; but in the Renaissance Copy
it IS "IRA CRUDELIS EST IN ME."
Giotto represents this vice under the same symbol; but it is the weakest
of all the figures in the Arena Chapel. The "Wrath" of Spenser rides
upon a lion, brandishing a firebrand, his garments stained with blood.
Rage, or Furor, occurs subordinately in other places. It appears to me
very strange that neither Giotto nor Spenser should have given any
representation of the _restrained_ Anger, which is infinitely the
most terrible; both of them make him violent.
SECTION LXIX. _Fifth side_. Avarice. An old woman with a veil over
her forehead, and a bag of money in each hand. A figure very marvellous
for power of expression. The throat is all made up of sinews with skinny
channels deep between them, strained as by anxiety, and wasted by
famine; the features hunger-bitten, the eyes hollow, the look glaring
and intense, yet without the slightest caricature. Inscribed in the
Renaissance copy, "AVARITIA IMPLETOR."
Spenser's Avarice (the vice) is much feebler than this; but the god
Mammon and his kingdom have been described by him with his usual power.
Note the position of the house of Richesse:
"Betwixt them both was but a little stride,
That did the House of Richesse from Hell-mouth divide."
It is curious that most moralists confuse avarice with covetousness,
although they are vices totally different in their operation on the
human heart, and on the frame of society. The love of money, the sin of
Judas and Ananias, is indeed the root of all evil in the hardening of
the heart; but "covetousness, which is idolatry," the sin of Ahab, that
is, the inordinate desire of some seen or recognized good,--thus
destroying peace of mind,--is probably productive of much more misery in
heart, and error in conduct, than avarice itself, only covetousness is
not so inconsistent with Christianity: for covetousness may partly
proceed from vividness of the affections and hopes, as in David, and be
consistent with much charity; not so avarice.
SECTION LXX. _Sixth side_. Idleness. Accidia. A figure much broken
away, having had its arms round two branches of trees.
I do not know why Idleness should be represented as among trees, unless,
in the Italy of the fourteenth century, forest country was considered as
desert, and therefore the domain of Idleness. Spenser fastens this vice
especially upon the clergy,--
"Upon a slouthfull asse he chose to ryde,
Arayd in habit blacke, and amis thin,
Like to an holy monck, the service to begin.
And in his hand his portesse still he bare,
That much was worne, but therein little redd."
And he properly makes him the leader of the train of the vices:
"May seem the wayne was very evil ledd,
When such an one had guiding of the way."
Observe that subtle touch of truth in the "wearing" of the portesse,
indicating the abuse of books by idle readers, so thoroughly
characteristic of unwilling studentship from the schoolboy upwards.
SECTION LXXI. _Seventh side_. Vanity. She is smiling complacently
as she looks into a mirror in her lap. Her robe is embroidered with
roses, and roses form her crown. Undecipherable.
There is some confusion in the expression of this vice, between pride in
the personal appearance and lightness of purpose. The word Vanitas
generally, I think, bears, in the mediaeval period, the sense given it
in Scripture. "Let not him that is deceived trust in Vanity, for Vanity
shall be his recompense." "Vanity of Vanities." "The Lord knoweth the
thoughts of the wise, that they are vain." It is difficult to find this
sin,--which, after Pride, is the most universal, perhaps the most fatal,
of all, fretting the whole depth of our humanity into storm "to waft a
feather or to drown a fly,"--definitely expressed in art. Even Spenser,
I think, has only partially expressed it under the figure of Phaedria,
more properly Idle Mirth, in the second book. The idea is, however,
entirely worked out in the Vanity Fair of the "Pilgrim's Progress."
SECTION LXXII. _Eighth side_. Envy. One of the noblest pieces of
expression in the series. She is pointing malignantly with her finger; a
serpent is wreathed about her head like a cap, another forms the girdle
of her waist, and a dragon rests in her lap.
Giotto has, however, represented her, with still greater subtlety, as
having her fingers terminating in claws, and raising her right hand with
an expression partly of impotent regret, partly of involuntary grasping;
a serpent, issuing from her mouth, is about to bite her between the
eyes; she has long membranous ears, horns on her head, and flames
consuming her body. The Envy of Spenser is only inferior to that of
Giotto, because the idea of folly and quickness of hearing is not
suggested by the size of the ear: in other respects it is even finer,
joining the idea of fury, in the wolf on which he rides, with that of
corruption on his lips, and of discoloration or distortion in the whole
"Malicious Envy rode
Upon a ravenous wolfe, and still did chaw
Between his cankred teeth avenemous tode
That all the poison ran about his jaw.
_And in a kirtle of discolourd say
He clothed was, ypaynted full of eies_,
And in his bosome secretly there lay
An hatefull snake, the which his taile uptyes
In many folds, and mortali sting implyes."
He has developed the idea in more detail, and still more loathsomely, in
the twelfth canto of the fifth book.
SECTION LXXIII. ELEVENTH CAPITAL. Its decoration is composed of eight
birds, arranged as shown in Plate V. of the "Seven Lamps," which,
however, was sketched from the Renaissance copy. These birds are all
varied in form and action, but not so as to require special description.
SECTION LXXIV. TWELFTH CAPITAL. This has been very interesting, but is
grievously defaced, four of its figures being entirely broken away, and
the character of two others quite undecipherable. It is fortunate that
it has been copied in the thirty-third capital of the Renaissance
series, from which we are able to identify the lost figures.
_First side_. Misery. A man with a wan face, seemingly pleading with a
child who has its hands crossed on its breast. There is a buckle at his
own breast in the shape of a cloven heart. Inscribed "MISERIA."
The intention of this figure is not altogether apparent, as it is by no
means treated as a vice; the distress seeming real, and like that of a
parent in poverty mourning over his child. Yet it seems placed here as
in direct opposition to the virtue of Cheerfulness, which follows next
in order; rather, however, I believe, with the intention of illustrating
human life, than the character of the vice which, as we have seen, Dante
placed in the circle of hell. The word in that case would, I think, have
been "Tristitia," the "unholy Griefe" of Spenser--
"All in sable sorrowfully clad,
Downe hanging his dull head with heavy chere:
* * * * *
A pair of pincers in his hand he had,
With which he pinched people to the heart."
He has farther amplified the idea under another figure in the fifth
canto of the fourth book:
"His name was Care; a blacksmith by his trade,
That neither day nor night from working spared;
But to small purpose yron wedges made:
Those be unquiet thoughts that carefull minds invade.
Rude was his garment, and to rags all rent,
Ne better had he, ne for better cared;
With blistered hands among the cinders brent."
It is to be noticed, however, that in the Renaissance copy this figure
is stated to be, not Miseria, but "Misericordia." The contraction is a
very moderate one, Misericordia being in old MS. written always as
"Mia." If this reading be right, the figure is placed here rather as the
companion, than the opposite, of Cheerfulness; unless, indeed, it is
intended to unite the idea of Mercy and Compassion with that of Sacred
SECTION LXXV. _Second side_. Cheerfulness. A woman with long flowing
hair, crowned with roses, playing on a tambourine, and with open lips, as
singing. Inscribed "ALACRITAS."
We have already met with this virtue among those especially set by
Spenser to attend on Womanhood. It is inscribed in the Renaissance Copy,
"ALACHRITAS CHANIT MECUM." Note the gutturals of the rich and fully
developed Venetian dialect now affecting the Latin, which is free from
them in the earlier capitals.
SECTION LXXVI. _Third side_. Destroyed; but, from the copy, we find
it has been Stultitia, Folly; and it is there represented simply as a
man _riding_, a sculpture worth the consideration of the English
residents who bring their horses to Venice. Giotto gives Stultitia a
feather, cap, and club. In early manuscripts he is always eating with
one hand, and striking with the other; in later ones he has a cap and
bells, or cap crested with a cock's head, whence the word "coxcomb."
SECTION LXXVII. _Fourth side_. Destroyed, all but a book, which
identifies it with the "Celestial Chastity" of the Renaissance copy;
there represented as a woman pointing to a book (connecting the convent
life with the pursuit of literature?).
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