Stones of Venice [introductions]
Part 4 out of 4
Spenser's Chastity, Britomart, is the most exquisitely wrought of all
his characters; but, as before noticed, she is not the Chastity of the
convent, but of wedded life.
SECTION LXXVIII. _Fifth side_. Only a scroll is left; but, from the
copy, we find it has been Honesty or Truth. Inscribed "HONESTATEM
DILIGO." It is very curious, that among all the Christian systems of the
virtues which we have examined, we should find this one in Venice only.
The Truth of Spenser, Una, is, after Chastity, the most exquisite
character in the "Faerie Queen."
SECTION LXXIX. _Sixth side_. Falsehood. An old woman leaning on a
crutch; and inscribed in the copy, "FALSITAS IN ME SEMPER EST." The
Fidessa of Spenser, the great enemy of Una, or Truth, is far more subtly
conceived, probably not without special reference to the Papal deceits.
In her true form she is a loathsome hag, but in her outward aspect,
"A goodly lady, clad in scarlet red,
Purfled with gold and pearle;...
Her wanton palfrey all was overspred.
With tinsell trappings, woven like a wave,
Whose bridle rung with golden bels and bosses brave."
Dante's Fraud, Geryon, is the finest personification of all, but the
description (Inferno, canto XVII.) is too long to be quoted.
SECTION LXXX. _Seventh side_. Injustice. An armed figure holding a
halbert; so also in the copy. The figure used by Giotto with the
particular intention of representing unjust government, is represented
at the gate of an embattled castle in a forest, between rocks, while
various deeds of violence are committed at his feet. Spenser's "Adicia"
is a furious hag, at last transformed into a tiger.
_Eighth side_. A man with a dagger looking sorrowfully at a child,
who turns its back to him. I cannot understand this figure. It is
inscribed in the copy, "ASTINECIA (Abstinentia?) OPITIMA?"
SECTION LXXXI. THIRTEENTH CAPITAL. It has lions' heads all round,
FOURTEENTH CAPITAL. It has various animals, each sitting on its
haunches. Three dogs, One a greyhound, one long-haired, one short-haired
with bells about its neck; two monkeys, one with fan-shaped hair
projecting on each side of its face; a noble boar, with its tusks,
hoofs, and bristles sharply cut; and a lion and lioness.
SECTION LXXXII. FIFTEENTH CAPITAL. The pillar to which it belongs is
thicker than the rest, as well as the one over it in the upper arcade.
The sculpture of this capital is also much coarser, and seems to me
later than that of the rest; and it has no inscription, which is
embarrassing, as its subjects have had much meaning; but I believe
Selvatico is right in supposing it to have been intended for a general
illustration of Idleness.
_First side_. A woman with a distaff; her girdle richly decorated,
and fastened by a buckle.
_Second side_. A youth in a long mantle, with a rose in his hand.
_Third side_. A woman in a turban stroking a puppy, which she holds
by the haunches.
_Fourth side_. A man with a parrot.
_Fifth side_. A woman in very rich costume, with braided hair, and
dress thrown into minute folds, holding a rosary (?) in her left hand,
her right on her breast.
_Sixth side_. A man with a very thoughtful face, laying his hand
upon the leaves of the capital.
_Seventh side_. A crowned lady, with a rose in her hand.
_Eighth side_. A boy with a ball in his left hand, and his right
laid on his breast.
SECTION LXXXIII. SIXTEENTH CAPITAL. It is decorated with eight large
heads, partly intended to be grotesque, [Footnote: Selvatico states that
these are intended to be representative of eight nations, Latins,
Tartars, Turks, Hungarians, Greeks, Goths, Egyptians, and Persians.
Either the inscriptions are now defaced or I have carelessly omitted to
note them.] and very coarse and bad, except only that in the sixth
side, which is totally different from all the rest, and looks like a
portrait. It is thin, thoughtful, and dignified; thoroughly fine in
every way. It wears a cap surmounted by two winged lions; and,
therefore, I think Selvatico must have inaccurately written the list
given in the note, for this head is certainly meant to express the
superiority of the Venetian character over that of other nations.
Nothing is more remarkable in all early sculpture, than its appreciation
of the signs of dignity of character in the features, and the way in
which it can exalt the principal figure in any subject by a few touches.
SECTION LXXXIV. SEVENTEENTH CAPITAL. This has been so destroyed by the
sea wind, which sweeps at this point of the arcade round the angle of
the palace, that its inscriptions are no longer legible, and great part
of its figures are gone. Selvatico states them as follows: Solomon, the
wise; Priscian, the grammarian; Aristotle, the logician; Tully, the
orator; Pythagoras, the philosopher; Archimedes, the mechanic; Orpheus,
the musician; Ptolemy, the astronomer. The fragments actually remaining
are the following:
_First side_. A figure with two books, in a robe richly decorated
with circles of roses. Inscribed "SALOMON (SAP) IENS."
_Second side_. A man with one book, poring over it: he has had a
long stick or reed in his hand. Of inscription only the letters
_Third side_. "ARISTOTLE:" so inscribed. He has a peaked double
beard and a flat cap, from under which his long hair falls down his
_Fourth side_. Destroyed.
_Fifth side_. Destroyed, all but a board with, three (counters?) on
_Sixth side_. A figure with compasses. Inscribed "GEOMET * *"
_Seventh side_. Nothing is left but a guitar with its handle
wrought into a lion's head.
_Eighth side_. Destroyed.
SECTION LXXXV. We have now arrived at the EIGHTEENTH CAPITAL, the most
interesting and beautiful of the palace. It represents the planets, and
the sun and moon, in those divisions of the zodiac known to astrologers
as their "houses;" and perhaps indicates, by the position in which they
are placed, the period of the year at which this great corner-stone was
laid. The inscriptions above have been in quaint Latin rhyme, but are
now decipherable only in fragments, and that with the more difficulty
because the rusty iron bar that binds the abacus has broken away, in its
expansion, nearly all the upper portions of the stone, and with them the
signs of contraction, which are of great importance. I shall give the
fragments of them that I could decipher; first as the letters actually
stand (putting those of which I am doubtful in brackets, with a note of
interrogation), and then as I would read them.
SECTION LXXXVI. It should be premised that, in modern astrology, the
houses of the planets are thus arranged:
The house of the Sun, is Leo.
" Moon, " Cancer.
" Mars, " Aries and Scorpio.
" Venus, " Taurus and Libra.
" Mercury, " Gemini and Virgo.
" Jupiter, " Sagittarius and Pisces.
" Saturn, " Capricorn.
" Herschel, " Aquarius.
The Herschel planet being of course unknown to the old astrologers, we
have only the other six planetary powers, together with the sun; and
Aquarius is assigned to Saturn as his house. I could not find Capricorn
at all; but this sign may have been broken away, as the whole capital is
grievously defaced. The eighth side of the capital, which the Herschel
planet would now have occupied, bears a sculpture of the Creation of
Man: it is the most conspicuous side, the one set diagonally across the
angle; or the eighth in our usual mode of reading the capitals, from
which I shall not depart.
SECTION LXXXVII. _The first side_, then, or that towards the Sea,
has Aquarius, as the house of Saturn, represented as a seated figure
beautifully draped, pouring a stream of water out of an amphora over the
leaves of the capital. His inscription is:
"ET SATURNE DOMUS (ECLOCERUNT?) I'S 7BRE."
SECTION LXXXVIII. _Second side_. Jupiter, in his houses Sagittarius
and Pisces, represented throned, with an upper dress disposed in
radiating folds about his neck, and hanging down upon his breast,
ornamented by small pendent trefoiled studs or bosses. He wears the
drooping bonnet and long gloves; but the folds about the neck, shot
forth to express the rays of the star, are the most remarkable
characteristic of the figure. He raises his sceptre in his left hand
over Sagittarius, represented as the centaur Chiron; and holds two
thunnies in his right. Something rough, like a third fish, has been
broken away below them; the more easily because this part of the group
is entirely undercut, and the two fish glitter in the light, relieved on
the deep gloom below the leaves. The inscription is:
"INDE JOVI' DONA PISES SIMUL ATQ' CIRONA."
[Footnote: The comma in these inscriptions stands for a small cuneiform
mark, I believe of contraction, and the small for a zigzag mark of the
same kind. The dots or periods are similarly marked on the stone.]
"Inde Jovis dona
Pisces simul atque Chirona."
Domus is, I suppose, to be understood before Jovis: "Then the house of
Jupiter gives (or governs?) the fishes and Chiron."
SECTION LXXXIX. _Third side_. Mars, in his houses Aries and Scorpio.
Represented as a very ugly knight in chain mail, seated sideways on the
ram, whose horns are broken away, and having a large scorpion in his left
hand, whose tail is broken also, to the infinite injury of the group, for
it seems to have curled across to the angle leaf, and formed a bright
line of light, like the fish in the hand of Jupiter. The knight carries a
shield, on which fire and water are sculptured, and bears a banner upon
his lance, with the word "DEFEROSUM," which puzzled me for some time. It
should be read, I believe, "De ferro sum;" which would be good _Venetian_
Latin for "I am of iron."
SECTION XC. _Fourth side_. The Sun, in his house Leo. Represented
under the figure of Apollo, sitting on the Lion, with rays shooting from
his head, and the world in his hand. The inscription:
"TU ES DOMU' SOLIS (QUO?) SIGNE LEONI."
I believe the first phrase is, "Tune est Domus solis;" but there is a
letter gone after the "quo," and I have no idea what case of signum
"signe" stands for.
SECTION XCI. _Fifth side_. Venus, in her houses Taurus and Libra.
The most beautiful figure of the series. She sits upon the bull, who is
deep in the dewlap, and better cut than most of the animals, holding a
mirror in her right hand, and the scales in her left. Her breast is very
nobly and tenderly indicated under the folds of her drapery, which is
exquisitely studied in its fall. What is left of the inscription, runs:
"LIBRA CUM TAURO DOMUS * * * PURIOR AUR*."
SECTION XCII. _Sixth side_. Mercury, represented as wearing a pendent
cap, and holding a book: he is supported by three children in reclining
attitudes, representing his houses Gemini and Virgo. But I cannot
understand the inscription, though more than usually legible.
"OCCUPAT ERIGONE STIBONS GEMINUQ' LAGONE."
SECTION XCIII. _Seventh side_. The Moon, in her house Cancer. This
sculpture, which is turned towards the Piazzetta, is the most
picturesque of the series. The moon is represented as a woman in a boat,
upon the sea, who raises the crescent in her right hand, and with her
left draws a crab out of the waves, up the boat's side. The moon was, I
believe, represented in Egyptian sculptures as in a boat; but I rather
think the Venetian was not aware of this, and that he meant to express
the peculiar sweetness of the moonlight at Venice, as seen across the
lagoons. Whether this was intended by putting the planet in the boat,
may be questionable, but assuredly the idea was meant to be conveyed by
the dress of the figure. For all the draperies of the other figures on
this capital, as well as on the rest of the fašade, are disposed in
severe but full folds, showing little of the forms beneath them; but the
moon's drapery _ripples_ down to her feet, so as exactly to suggest
the trembling of the moonlight on the waves. This beautiful idea is
highly characteristic of the thoughtfulness of the early sculptors: five
hundred men may be now found who could have cut the drapery, as such,
far better, for one who would have disposed its folds with this
intention. The inscription is:
"LUNE CANCER DOMU T. PBET IORBE SIGNORU."
SECTION XCIV. _Eighth side_. God creating Man. Represented as a
throned figure, with a glory round the head, laying his left hand on the
head of a naked youth, and sustaining him with his right hand. The
inscription puzzled me for a long time; but except the lost r and m of
"formavit," and a letter quite undefaced, but to me unintelligble,
before the word Eva, in the shape of a figure of 7, I have safely
ascertained the rest.
"DELIMO DSADA DECO STAFO * * AVIT7EVA."
"De limo Dominus Adam, de costa fo(rm) avit Evam;"
From the dust the Lord made Adam, and from the rib Eve.
I imagine the whole of this capital, therefore--the principal one of the
old palace,--to have been intended to signify, first, the formation of
the planets for the service of man upon the earth; secondly, the entire
subjection of the fates and fortune of man to the will of God, as
determined from the time when the earth and stars were made, and, in
fact, written in the volume of the stars themselves.
Thus interpreted, the doctrines of judicial astrology were not only
consistent with, but an aid to, the most spiritual and humble
In the workmanship and grouping of its foliage, this capital is, on the
whole, the finest I know in Europe. The Sculptor has put his whole
strength into it. I trust that it will appear among the other Venetian
casts lately taken for the Crystal Palace; but if not, I have myself
cast all its figures, and two of its leaves, and I intend to give
drawings of them on a large scale in my folio work.
SECTION XCV. NINETEENTH CAPITAL. This is, of course, the second counting
from the Sea, on the Piazzetta side of the palace, calling that of the
Fig-tree angle the first.
It is the most important capital, as a piece of evidence in point of
dates, in the whole palace. Great pains have been taken with it, and in
some portion of the accompanying furniture or ornaments of each of its
figures a small piece of colored marble has been inlaid, with peculiar
significance: for the capital represents the _arts of sculpture and
architecture_; and the inlaying of the colored stones (which are far
too small to be effective at a distance, and are found in this one
capital only of the whole series) is merely an expression of the
architect's feeling of the essential importance of this art of inlaying,
and of the value of color generally in his own art.
SECTION XCVI. _First side_. "ST. SIMPLICIUS": so inscribed. A
figure working with a pointed chisel on a small oblong block of green
serpentine, about four inches long by one wide, inlaid in the capital.
The chisel is, of course, in the left hand, but the right is held up
open, with the palm outwards.
_Second side_. A crowned figure, carving the image of a child on a
small statue, with a ground of red marble. The sculptured figure is
highly finished, and is in type of head much like the Ham or Japheth at
the Vine angle. Inscription effaced.
_Third side_. An old man, uncrowned, but with curling hair, at work
on a small column, with its capital complete, and a little shaft of dark
red marble, spotted with paler red. The capital is precisely of the form
of that found in the palace of the Tiepolos and the other thirteenth
century work of Venice. This one figure would be quite enough, without
any other evidence whatever, to determine the date of this flank of the
Ducal Palace as not later, at all events, than the first half of the
fourteenth century. Its inscription is broken away, all but "DISIPULO."
_Fourth side_. A crowned figure; but the object on which it has
been working is broken away, and all the inscription except "ST.
_Fifth side_. A man with a turban, and a sharp chisel, at work on a
kind of panel or niche, the back of which is of red marble.
_Sixth side_. A crowned figure, with hammer and chisel, employed
_on a little range of windows of the fifth order_, having roses
set, instead of orbicular ornaments, between the spandrils with a rich
cornice, and a band of marble inserted above. This sculpture assures us
of the date of the fifth order window, which it shows to have been
universal in the early fourteenth century.
There are also five arches in the block on which the sculptor is
working, marking the frequency of the number five in the window groups
of the time.
_Seventh side_. A figure at work on a pilaster, with Lombardic thirteenth
century capital (for account of the series of forms in Venetian capitals,
see the final Appendix of the next volume), the shaft of dark red spotted
_Eighth side_. A figure with a rich open crown, working on a
delicate recumbent statue, the head of which is laid on a pillow covered
with a rich chequer pattern; the whole supported on a block of dark red
marble. Inscription broken away, all but "ST. SYM. (Symmachus?) TV * *
ANVS." There appear, therefore, altogether to have been five saints, two
of them popes, if Simplicius is the pope of that name (three in front,
two on the fourth and sixth sides), alternating with the three uncrowned
workmen in the manual labor of sculpture. I did not, therefore, insult
our present architects in saying above that they "ought to work in the
mason's yard with their men." It would be difficult to find a more
interesting expression of the devotional spirit in which all great work
was undertaken at this time.
SECTION XCVII. TWENTIETH CAPITAL. It is adorned with heads of animals,
and is the finest of the whole series in the broad massiveness of its
effect; so simply characteristic, indeed, of the grandeur of style in
the entire building, that I chose it for the first Plate in my folio
work. In spite of the sternness of its plan, however, it is wrought with
great care in surface detail; and the ornamental value of the minute
chasing obtained by the delicate plumage of the birds, and the clustered
bees on the honeycomb in the bear's mouth, opposed to the strong
simplicity of its general form, cannot be too much admired. There are
also more grace, life, and variety in the sprays of foliage on each side
of it, and under the heads, than in any other capital of the series,
though the earliness of the workmanship is marked by considerable
hardness and coldness in the larger heads. A Northern Gothic workman,
better acquainted with bears and wolves than it was possible to become
in St. Mark's Place, would have put far more life into these heads, but
he could not have composed them more skilfully.
SECTION XCVIII. _First side_. A lion with a stag's haunch in his
mouth. Those readers who have the folio plate, should observe the
peculiar way in which the ear is cut into the shape of a ring, jagged or
furrowed on the edge; an archaic mode of treatment peculiar, in the
Ducal Palace, to the lion's heads of the fourteenth century. The moment
we reach the Renaissance work, the lion's ears are smooth. Inscribed
_Second side_. A wolf with a dead bird in his mouth, its body
wonderfully true in expression of the passiveness of death. The feathers
are each wrought with a central quill and radiating filaments. Inscribed
_Third side_. A fox, not at all like one, with a dead cock in his mouth,
its comb and pendent neck admirably designed so as to fall across
the great angle leaf of the capital, its tail hanging down on the other
side, its long straight feathers exquisitely cut. Inscribed ("VULP?)IS."
_Fourth side_. Entirely broken away.
_Fifth side_. "APER." Well tusked, with a head of maize in his mouth; at
least I suppose it to be maize, though shaped like a pine-cone.
_Sixth side_. "CHANIS." With a bone, very ill cut; and a bald-headed
species of dog, with ugly flap ears.
_Seventh side_. "MUSCIPULUS." With a rat (?) in his mouth.
_Eighth side_. "URSUS." With a honeycomb, covered with large bees.
SECTION XCIX. TWENTY-FIRST CAPITAL. Represents the principal inferior
_First side_. An old man, with his brow deeply wrinkled, and very
expressive features, beating in a kind of mortar with a hammer.
Inscribed "LAPICIDA SUM."
_Second side_. I believe, a goldsmith; he is striking a small flat bowl
or patera, on a pointed anvil, with a light hammer. The inscription is
_Third side_. A shoemaker with a shoe in his hand, and an instrument for
cutting leather suspended beside him. Inscription undecipherable.
_Fourth side_. Much broken. A carpenter planing a beam resting on
two horizontal logs. Inscribed "CARPENTARIUS SUM."
_Fifth side_. A figure shovelling fruit into a tub; the latter very
carefully carved from what appears to have been an excellent piece of
cooperage. Two thin laths cross each other over the top of it. The
inscription, now lost, was, according to Selvatico, "MENSURATOR"?
_Sixth side_. A man, with a large hoe, breaking the ground, which
lies in irregular furrows and clods before him. Now undecipherable, but
according to Selvatico, "AGRICHOLA."
_Seventh side_. A man, in a pendent cap, writing on a large scroll
which falls over his knee. Inscribed "NOTARIUS SUM."
_Eighth side_. A man forging a sword, or scythe-blade: he wears a
large skull-cap; beats with a large hammer on a solid anvil; and is
inscribed "FABER SUM."
SECTION C. TWENTY-SECOND CAPITAL. The Ages of Man; and the influence of
the planets on human life.
_First side_. The moon, governing infancy for four years, according
to Selvatico. I have no note of this side, having, I suppose, been
prevented from raising the ladder against it by some fruit-stall or
other impediment in the regular course of my examination; and then
forgotten to return to it.
_Second side_. A child with a tablet, and an alphabet inscribed on
it. The legend above is
"MECUREU' DNT. PUERICIE PAN. X."
Or, "Mercurius dominatur puerilite per annos X." (Selvatico reads VII.)
"Mercury governs boyhood for ten (or seven) years."
_Third side_. An older youth, with another tablet, but broken.
"ADOLOSCENCIE * * * P. AN. VII."
Selvatico misses this side altogether, as I did the first, so that the
lost planet is irrecoverable, as the inscription is now defaced. Note
the o for e in adolescentia; so also we constantly find u for o;
showing, together with much other incontestable evidence of the same
kind, how full and deep the old pronunciation of Latin always remained,
and how ridiculous our English mincing of the vowels would have sounded
to a Roman ear.
_Fourth side_. A youth with a hawk on his fist.
"IUVENTUTI DNT. SOL. P. AN. XIX."
The sue governs youth for nineteen years.
_Fifth side_. A man sitting, helmed, with a sword over his shoulder.
"SENECTUTI DNT MARS. P. AN. XV."
Mars governs manhood for fifteen years.
_Sixth side_. A very graceful and serene figure, in the pendent cap,
"SENICIE DNT JUPITER, P. ANN. XII."
Jupiter governs age for twelve years.
_Seventh side_. An old man in a skull-cap, praying.
"DECREPITE DNT SATN UQ' ADMOTE." (Saturnus usque ad mortem.)
Saturn governs decrepitude until death.
_Eighth side_. The dead body lying on a mattress.
"ULTIMA EST MORS PENA PECCATI."
Last comes death, the penalty of sin.
SECTION CI. Shakespeare's Seven Ages are of course merely the expression
of this early and well-known system. He has deprived the dotage of its
devotion; but I think wisely, as the Italian system would imply that
devotion was, or should be, always delayed until dotage.
TWENTY-THIRD CAPITAL. I agree with Selvatico in thinking this has been
restored. It is decorated with large and vulgar heads.
SECTION CII. TWENTY-FOURTH CAPITAL. This belongs to the large shaft
which sustains the great party wall of the Sala del Gran Consiglio. The
shaft is thicker than the rest; but the capital, though ancient, is
coarse and somewhat inferior in design to the others of the series. It
represents the history of marriage: the lover first seeing his mistress
at a window, then addressing her, bringing her presents; then the
bridal, the birth and the death of a child. But I have not been able to
examine these sculptures properly, because the pillar is encumbered by
the railing which surrounds the two guns set before the Austrian
SECTION CIII. TWENTY-FIFTH CAPITAL. We have here the employments of the
months, with which we are already tolerably acquainted. There are,
however, one or two varieties worth noticing in this series.
_First side_. March. Sitting triumphantly in a rich dress, as the
beginning of the year.
_Second side_. April and May. April with a lamb: May with a feather
fan in her hand.
_Third side_. June. Carrying cherries in a basket.
I did not give this series with the others in the previous chapter,
because this representation of June is peculiarly Venetian. It is called
"the month of cherries," mese delle ceriese, in the popular rhyme on the
conspiracy of Tiepolo, quoted above, Vol. I.
The cherries principally grown near Venice are of a deep red color, and
large, but not of high flavor, though refreshing. They are carved upon
the pillar with great care, all their stalks undercut.
_Fourth side_. July and August. The first reaping; the leaves of the
straw being given, shooting out from the tubular stalk. August, opposite,
beats (the grain?) in a basket.
_Fifth side_. September. A woman standing in a wine-tub, and holding a
branch of vine. Very beautiful.
_Sixth side_. October and November. I could not make out their
occupation; they seem to be roasting or boiling some root over a fire.
_Seventh side_. December. Killing pigs, as usual.
_Eighth side_. January warming his feet, and February frying fish.
This last employment is again as characteristic of the Venetian winter
as the cherries are of the Venetian summer.
The inscriptions are undecipherable, except a few letters here and
there, and the words MARCIUS, APRILIS, and FEBRUARIUS.
This is the last of the capitals of the early palace; the next, or
twenty-sixth capital, is the first of those executed in the fifteenth
century under Foscari; and hence to the Judgment angle the traveller has
nothing to do but to compare the base copies of the earlier work with
their originals, or to observe the total want of invention in the
Renaissance sculptor, wherever he has depended on his own resources.
This, however, always with the exception of the twenty-seventh and of
the last capital, which are both fine.
I shall merely enumerate the subjects and point out the plagiarisms of
these capitals, as they are not worth description.
SECTION CIV. TWENTY-SIXTH CAPITAL. Copied from the fifteenth, merely
changing the succession of the figures.
TWENTY-SEVENTH CAPITAL. I think it possible that this may be part of the
old work displaced in joining the new palace with the old; at all
events, it is well designed, though a little coarse. It represents eight
different kinds of fruit, each in a basket; the characters well given,
and groups well arranged, but without much care or finish. The names are
inscribed above, though somewhat unnecessarily, and with certainly as
much disrespect to the beholder's intelligence as the sculptor's art,
namely, ZEREXIS, PIRI, CHUCUMERIS, PERSICI, ZUCHE, MOLONI, FICI, HUVA.
Zerexis (cherries) and Zuche (gourds) both begin with the same letter,
whether meant for z, s, or c I am not sure. The Zuche are the common
gourds, divided into two protuberances, one larger than the other, like
a bottle compressed near the neck; and the Moloni are the long
water-melons, which, roasted, form a staple food of the Venetians to
SECTION CV. TWENTY-EIGHTH CAPITAL. Copied from the seventh.
TWENTY-NINTH CAPITAL. Copied from the ninth.
THIRTIETH CAPITAL. Copied from the tenth. The "Accidia" is noticeable as
having the inscription complete, "ACCIDIA ME STRINGIT;" and the
"Luxuria" for its utter want of expression, having a severe and calm
face, a robe up to the neck, and her hand upon her breast. The
inscription is also different: "LUXURIA SUM STERC'S (?) INFERI"(?).
THIRTY-FIRST CAPITAL. Copied from the eighth.
THIRTY-SECOND CAPITAL. Has no inscription, only fully robed figures
laying their hands, without any meaning, on their own shoulders, heads,
or chins, or on the leaves around them.
THIRTY-THIRD CAPITAL. Copied from the twelfth.
THIRTY-FOURTH CAPITAL. Copied from the eleventh.
THIRTY-FIFTH CAPITAL. Has children, with birds or fruit, pretty in
features, and utterly inexpressive, like the cherubs of the eighteenth
SECTION CVI. THIRTY-SIXTH CAPITAL. This is the last of the Piazzetta
fašade, the elaborate one under the Judgment angle. Its foliage is
copied from the eighteenth at the opposite side, with an endeavor on the
part of the Renaissance sculptor to refine upon it, by which he has
merely lost some of its truth and force. This capital will, however, be
always thought, at first, the most beautiful of the whole series: and
indeed it is very noble; its groups of figures most carefully studied,
very graceful, and much more pleasing than those of the earlier work,
though with less real power in them; and its foliage is only inferior to
that of the magnificent Fig-tree angle. It represents, on its front or
first side, Justice enthroned, seated on two lions; and on the seven
other sides examples of acts of justice or good government, or figures
of lawgivers, in the following order:
_Second side_. Aristotle, with two pupils, giving laws. Inscribed:
"ARISTOT * * CHE DIE LEGE."
Aristotle who declares laws.
_Third side_. I have mislaid my note of this side: Selvatico and Lazari
call it "Isidore" (?). [Footnote: Can they have mistaken the ISIPIONE of
the fifth side for the word Isidore?]
_Fourth side_. Solon with his pupils. Inscribed:
"SAL'O UNO DEI SETE SAVI DI GRECIA CHE DIE LEGE."
Solon, one of the seven sages of Greece, who declares
Note, by the by, the pure Venetian dialect used in this capital, instead
of the Latin in the more ancient ones. One of the seated pupils in this
sculpture is remarkably beautiful in the sweep of his flowing drapery.
_Fifth side_. The chastity of Scipio. Inscribed:
"ISIPIONE A CHASTITA CH * * * E LA FIA (e la figlia?) * * ARE."
A soldier in a plumed bonnet presents a kneeling maiden to the seated
Scipio, who turns thoughtfully away.
_Sixth side_. Numa Pompilius building churches.
"NUMA POMPILIO IMPERADOR EDIFICHADOR DI TEMPI E CHIESE."
Numa, in a kind of hat with a crown above it, directing a soldier in
Roman armor (note this, as contrasted with the mail of the earlier
capitals). They point to a tower of three stories filled with tracery.
_Seventh side_. Moses receiving the law. Inscribed:
"QUANDO MOSE RECEVE LA LECE I SUL MONTE."
Moses kneels on a rock, whence springs a beautifully fancied tree, with
clusters of three berries in the centre of the three leaves, sharp and
quaint, like fine Northern Gothic. The half figure of the Deity comes
out of the abacus, the arm meeting that of Moses, both at full stretch,
with the stone tablets between.
_Eighth side_. Trajan doing justice to the Widow.
"TRAJANO IMPERADOR CHE FA JUSTITIA A LA VEDOVA."
He is riding spiritedly, his mantle blown out behind; the widow kneeling
before his horse.
SECTION CVII. The reader will observe that this capital is of peculiar
interest in its relation to the much disputed question of the character
of the later government of Venice. It is the assertion by that
government of its belief that Justice only could be the foundation of
its stability; as these stones of Justice and Judgment are the
foundation of its halls of council. And this profession of their faith
may be interpreted in two ways. Most modern historians would call it, in
common with the continual reference to the principles of justice in the
political and judicial language of the period, [Footnote: Compare the
speech of the Doge Mocenigo, above,--"first justice, and _then_ the
interests of the state:" and see Vol. III. Chap. II Section LIX.]
nothing more than a cloak for consummate violence and guilt; and it may
easily be proved to have been so in myriads of instances. But in the
main, I believe the expression of feeling to be genuine. I do not
believe, of the majority of the leading Venetians of this period whose
portraits have come down to us, that they were deliberately and
everlastingly hypocrites. I see no hypocrisy in their countenances. Much
capacity of it, much subtlety, much natural and acquired reserve; but no
meanness. On the contrary, infinite grandeur, repose, courage, and the
peculiar unity and tranquillity of expression which come of sincerity or
_wholeness_ of heart, and which it would take much demonstration to
make me believe could by any possibility be seen on the countenance of
an insincere man. I trust, therefore, that these Venetian nobles of the
fifteenth century did, in the main, desire to do judgment and justice to
all men; but, as the whole system of morality had been by this time
undermined by the teaching of the Romish Church, the idea of justice had
become separated from that of truth, so that dissimulation in the
interest of the state assumed the aspect of duty. We had, perhaps,
better consider, with some carefulness, the mode in which our own
government is carried on, and the occasional difference between
parliamentary and private morality, before we judge mercilessly of the
Venetians in this respect. The secrecy with which their political and
criminal trials were conducted, appears to modern eyes like a confession
of sinister intentions; but may it not also be considered, and with more
probability, as the result of an endeavor to do justice in an age of
violence?--the only means by which Law could establish its footing in
the midst of feudalism. Might not Irish juries at this day justifiably
desire to conduct their proceedings with some greater approximation to
the judicial principles of the Council of Ten? Finally, if we examine,
with critical accuracy, the evidence on which our present impressions of
Venetian government are founded, we shall discover, in the first place,
that two-thirds of the traditions of its cruelties are romantic fables:
in the second, that the crimes of which it can be proved to have been
guilty, differ only from those committed by the other Italian powers in
being done less wantonly, and under profounder conviction of their
political expediency: and lastly, that the final degradation of the
Venetian power appears owing not so much to the principles of its
government, as to their being forgotten in the pursuit of pleasure.
SECTION CVIII. We have now examined the portions of the palace which
contain the principal evidence of the feeling of its builders. The
capitals of the, upper arcade are exceedingly various in their
character; their design is formed, as in the lower series, of eight
leaves, thrown into volutes at the angles, and sustaining figures at the
flanks; but these figures have no inscriptions, and though evidently not
without meaning, cannot be interpreted without more knowledge than I
possess of ancient symbolism. Many of the capitals toward the Sea appear
to have been restored, and to be rude copies of the ancient ones;
others, though apparently original, have been somewhat carelessly
wrought; but those of them, which are both genuine and carefully
treated, are even finer in composition than any, except the eighteenth,
in the lower arcade. The traveller in Venice ought to ascend into the
corridor, and examine with great care the series of capitals which
extend on the Piazzetta side from the Fig-tree angle to the pilaster
which carries the party wall of the Sala del Gran Consiglio. As examples
of graceful composition in massy capitals meant for hard service and
distant effect, these are among the finest things I know in Gothic art;
and that above the fig-tree is remarkable for its sculpture of the four
winds; each on the side turned towards the wind represented. Levante,
the east wind; a figure with rays round its head, to show that it is
always clear weather when that wind blows, raising the sun out of the
sea: Hotro, the south wind; crowned, holding the sun in its right hand:
Ponente, the west wind; plunging the sun into the sea: and Tramontana,
the north wind; looking up at the north star. This capital should be
carefully examined, if for no other reason than to attach greater
distinctness of idea to the magnificent verbiage of Milton:
"Thwart of these, as fierce,
Forth rush the Levant and the Ponent winds,
Eurus, and Zephyr; with their lateral noise,
Sirocco and Libecchio."
I may also especially point out the bird feeding its three young ones on
the seventh pillar on the Piazzetta side; but there is no end to the
fantasy of these sculptures; and the traveller ought to observe them all
carefully, until he comes to the great Pilaster or complicated pier
which sustains the party wall of the Sala del Consiglio; that is to say,
the forty-seventh capital of the whole series, counting from the
pilaster of the Vine angle inclusive, as in the series of the lower
arcade. The forty-eighth, forty-ninth, and fiftieth are bad work, but
they are old; the fifty-first is the first Renaissance capital of the
upper arcade: the first new lion's head with smooth ears, cut in the
time of Foscari, is over the fiftieth capital; and that capital, with
its shaft, stands on the apex of the eighth arch from the Sea, on the
Piazzetta side, of which one spandril is masonry of the fourteenth and
the other of the fifteenth century.
SECTION CIX. The reader who is not able to examine the building on the
spot may be surprised at the definiteness with which the point of
junction is ascertainable; but a glance at the lowest range of leaves in
the opposite Plate (XX.) will enable him to judge of the grounds on
which the above statement is made. Fig. 12 is a cluster of leaves from
the capital of the Four Winds; early work of the finest time. Fig. 13 is
a leaf from the great Renaissance capital at the Judgment angle, worked
in imitation of the older leafage. Fig. 14 is a leaf from one of the
Renaissance capitals of the upper arcade, which are all worked in the
natural manner of the period. It will be seen that it requires no great
ingenuity to distinguish between such design as that of fig. 12 and that
of fig. 14.
SECTION CX. It is very possible that the reader may at first like fig.
14 best. I shall endeavor, in the next chapter, to show why he should
not; but it must also be noted, that fig. 12 has lost, and fig. 14
gained, both largely, under the hands of the engraver. All the bluntness
and coarseness of feeling in the workmanship of fig. 14 have disappeared
on this small scale, and all the subtle refinements in the broad masses
of fig. 12 have vanished. They could not, indeed, be rendered in line
engraving, unless by the hand of Albert Durer; and I have, therefore,
abandoned, for the present, all endeavor to represent any more important
mass of the early sculpture of the Ducal Palace: but I trust that, in a
few months, casts of many portions will be within the reach of the
inhabitants of London, and that they will be able to judge for
themselves of their perfect, pure, unlabored naturalism; the freshness,
elasticity, and softness of their leafage, united with the most noble
symmetry and severe reserve,--no running to waste, no loose or
experimental lines, no extravagance, and no weakness. Their design is
always sternly architectural; there is none of the wildness or
redundance of natural vegetation, but there is all the strength,
freedom, and tossing flow of the breathing leaves, and all the
undulation of their surfaces, rippled, as they grew, by the summer
winds, as the sands are by the sea.
SECTION CXI. This early sculpture of the Ducal Palace, then, represents
the state of Gothic work in Venice at its central and proudest period,
i. e. circa 1350. After this time, all is decline,--of what nature and
by what steps, we shall inquire in the ensuing chapter; for as this
investigation, though still referring to Gothic architecture, introduces
us to the first symptoms of the Renaissance influence, I have considered
it as properly belonging to the third division of our subject.
SECTION CXII. And as, under the shadow of these nodding leaves, we bid
farewell to the great Gothic spirit, here also we may cease our
examination of the details of the Ducal Palace; for above its upper
arcade there are only the four traceried windows, and one or two of the
third order on the Rio Fašade, which can be depended upon as exhibiting
the original workmanship of the older palace. [Footnote: Some further
details respecting these portions, as well as some necessary
confirmations of my statements of dates, are, however, given in Appendix
I., Vol. III. I feared wearying the general reader by introducing them
into the text.] I examined the capitals of the four other windows on the
fašade, and of those on the Piazzetta, one by one, with great care, and
I found them all to be of far inferior workmanship to those which retain
their traceries: I believe the stone framework of these windows must
have been so cracked and injured by the flames of the great fire, as to
render it necessary to replace it by new traceries; and that the present
mouldings and capitals are base imitations of the original ones. The
traceries were at first, however, restored in their complete form, as
the holes for the bolts which fastened the bases of their shafts are
still to be seen in the window-sills, as well as the marks of the inner
mouldings on the soffits. How much the stone facing of the fašade, the
parapets, and the shafts and niches of the angles, retain of their
original masonry, it is also impossible to determine; but there is
nothing in the workmanship of any of them demanding especial notice;
still less in the large central windows on each fašade which are
entirely of Renaissance execution. All that is admirable in these
portions of the building is the disposition of their various parts and
masses, which is without doubt the same as in the original fabric, and
calculated, when seen from a distance, to produce the same impression.
SECTION CXIII. Not so in the interior. All vestige of the earlier modes
of decoration was here, of course, destroyed by the fires; and the
severe and religious work of Guariento and Bellini has been replaced by
the wildness of Tintoret and the luxury of Veronese. But in this case,
though widely different in temper, the art of the renewal was at least
intellectually as great as that which had perished: and though the halls
of the Ducal Palace are no more representative of the character of the
men by whom it was built, each of them is still a colossal casket of
priceless treasure; a treasure whose safety has till now depended on its
being despised, and which at this moment, and as I write, is piece by
piece being destroyed for ever.
SECTION CXIV. The reader will forgive my quitting our more immediate
subject, in order briefly to explain the causes and the nature of this
destruction; for the matter is simply the most important of all that can
be brought under our present consideration respecting the state of art
The fact is, that the greater number of persons or societies throughout
Europe, whom wealth, or chance, or inheritance has put in possession of
valuable pictures, do not know a good picture from a bad one, and have
no idea in what the value of a picture really consists. [Footnote: Many
persons, capable of quickly sympathizing with any excellence, when once
pointed out to them, easily deceive themselves into the supposition that
they are judges of art. There is only one real test of such power of
judgment. Can they, at a glance, discover a good picture obscured by the
filth, and confused among the rubbish, of the pawnbroker's or dealer's
garret?] The reputation of certain work is raised partly by accident,
partly by the just testimony of artists, partly by the various and
generally bad taste of the public (no picture, that I know of, has ever,
in modern times, attained popularity, in the full sense of the term,
without having some exceedingly bad qualities mingled with its good
ones), and when this reputation has once been completely established, it
little matters to what state the picture may be reduced: few minds are
so completely devoid of imagination as to be unable to invest it with
the beauties which they have heard attributed to it.
SECTION CXV. This being so, the pictures that are most valued are for
the most part those by masters of established renown, which are highly
or neatly finished, and of a size small enough to admit of their being
placed in galleries or saloons, so as to be made subjects of
ostentation, and to be easily seen by a crowd. For the support of the
fame and value of such pictures, little more is necessary than that they
should be kept bright, partly by cleaning, which is incipient
destruction, and partly by what is called "restoring," that is, painting
over, which is of course total destruction. Nearly all the gallery
pictures in modern Europe have been more or less destroyed by one or
other of these operations, generally exactly in proportion to the
estimation in which they are held; and as, originally, the smaller and
more highly finished works of any great master are usually his worst,
the contents of many of our most celebrated galleries are by this time,
in reality, of very small value indeed.
SECTION CXVI. On the other hand, the most precious works of any noble
painter are usually those which have been done quickly, and in the heat
of the first thought, on a large scale, for places where there was
little likelihood of their being well seen, or for patrons from whom
there was little prospect of rich remuneration. In general, the best
things are done in this way, or else in the enthusiasm and pride of
accomplishing some great purpose, such as painting a cathedral or a
camposanto from one end to the other, especially when the time has been
short, and circumstances disadvantageous.
SECTION CXVII. Works thus executed are of course despised, on account of
their quantity, as well as their frequent slightness, in the places
where they exist; and they are too large to be portable, and too vast
and comprehensive to be read on the spot, in the hasty temper of the
present age. They are, therefore, almost universally neglected,
whitewashed by custodes, shot at by soldiers, suffered to drop from the
walls, piecemeal in powder and rags by society in general; but, which is
an advantage more than counterbalancing all this evil, they are not
often "restored." What is left of them, however fragmentary, however
ruinous, however obscured and defiled, is almost always _the real
thing_; there are no fresh readings: and therefore the greatest
treasures of art which Europe at this moment possesses are pieces of old
plaster on ruinous brick walls, where the lizards burrow and bask, and
which few other living creatures ever approach; and torn sheets of dim
canvas, in waste corners of churches; and mildewed stains, in the shape
of human figures, on the walls of dark chambers, which now and then an
exploring traveller causes to be unlocked by their tottering custode,
looks hastily round, and retreats from in a weary satisfaction at his
SECTION CXVIII. Many of the pictures on the ceilings and walls of the
Ducal Palace, by Paul Veronese and Tintoret, have been more or less
reduced, by neglect, to this condition. Unfortunately they are not
altogether without reputation, and their state has drawn the attention
of the Venetian authorities and academicians. It constantly happens,
that public bodies who will not pay five pounds to preserve a picture,
will pay fifty to repaint it; [Footnote: This is easily explained. There
are, of course, in every place and at all periods, bad painters who
conscientiously believe that they can improve every picture they touch;
and these men are generally, in their presumption, the most influential
over the innocence, whether of monarchs or municipalities. The carpenter
and slater have little influence in recommending the repairs of the
roof; but the bad painter has great influence, as well as interest, in
recommending those of the picture.] and when I was at Venice in 1846,
there were two remedial operations carrying on, at one and the same
time, in the two buildings which contain the pictures of greatest value
in the city (as pieces of color, of greatest value in the world),
curiously illustrative of this peculiarity in human nature. Buckets were
set on the floor of the Scuola di San Rocco, in every shower, to catch
the rain which came through the pictures of Tintoret on the ceiling;
while in the Ducal Palace, those of Paul Veronese were themselves laid
on the floor to be repainted; and I was myself present at the
re-illumination of the breast of a white horse, with a brush, at the end
of a stick five feet long, luxuriously dipped in a common
house-painter's vessel of paint.
This was, of course, a large picture. The process has already been
continued in an equally destructive, though somewhat more delicate
manner, over the whole of the humbler canvases on the ceiling of the
Sala del Gran Consiglio; and I heard it threatened when I was last in
Venice (1851-2) to the "Paradise" at its extremity, which is yet in
tolerable condition,--the largest work of Tintoret, and the most
wonderful piece of pure, manly, and masterly oil-painting in the world.
SECTION CXIX. I leave these facts to the consideration of the European
patrons of art. Twenty years hence they will be acknowledged and
regretted; at present, I am well aware, that it is of little use to
bring them forward, except only to explain the present impossibility of
stating what pictures _are_, and what _were_, in the interior
of the Ducal Palace. I can only say, that in the winter of 1851, the
"Paradise" of Tintoret was still comparatively uninjured, and that the
Camera di Collegio, and its antechamber, and the Sala de' Pregadi were
full of pictures by Veronese and Tintoret, that made their walls as
precious as so many kingdoms; so precious indeed, and so full of
majesty, that sometimes when walking at evening on the Lido, whence the
great chain of the Alps, crested with silver clouds, might be seen
rising above the front of the Ducal Palace, I used to feel as much awe
in gazing on the building as on the hills, and could believe that God
had done a greater work in breathing into the narrowness of dust the
mighty spirits by whom its haughty walls had been raised, and its
burning legends written, than in lifting the rocks of granite higher
than the clouds of heaven, and veiling them with their various mantle of
purple flower and shadowy pine.
I have printed the chapter on the Ducal Palace, quite one of the most
important pieces of work done in my life, without alteration of its
references to the plates of the first edition, because I hope both to
republish some of those plates, and together with them, a few permanent
photographs (both from the sculpture of the Palace itself, and from my
own drawings of its detail), which may be purchased by the possessors of
this smaller edition to bind with the book or not, as they please. This
separate publication I can now soon set in hand; and I believe it will
cause much less confusion to leave for the present the references to the
old plates untouched. The wood-blocks used for the first three figures
in this chapter, are the original ones: that of the Ducal Palace fašade
was drawn on the wood by my own hand, and cost me more trouble than it
is worth, being merely given for division and proportion. The greater
part of the first volume, omitted in this edition after "the Quarry,"
will be republished in the series of my reprinted works, with its
But my mind is mainly set now on getting some worthy illustration of the
St. Mark's mosaics, and of such remains of the old capitals (now for
ever removed, in process of the Palace restoration, from their life in
sea wind and sunlight, and their ancient duty, to a museum-grave) as I
have useful record of, drawn in their native light. The series, both of
these and of the earlier mosaics, of which the sequence is sketched in
the preceding volume, and farther explained in the third number of "St.
Mark's Rest," become to me every hour of my life more precious both for
their art and their meaning; and if any of my readers care to help me,
in my old age, to fulfil my life's work rightly, let them send what
pence they can spare for these objects to my publisher, Mr. Allen,
Sunnyside, Orpington, Kent.
Since writing the first part of this note, I have received a letter from
Mr. Burne Jones, assuring me of his earnest sympathy in its object, and
giving me hope even of his superintendence of the drawings, which I have
already desired to be undertaken. But I am no longer able to continue
work of this kind at my own cost; and the fulfilment of my purpose must
entirely depend on the money-help given me by my readers.
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