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as something to be admired, but with “ The sublime in painting, as in which they have nothing to do : quod poetry, so overpowers and takes such a super nos, nihil ad nos. The artists of possession of the whole mind, that no that age, even Raffaelle himself, seemed room is left for attention to minute critito be going on very contentedly in the cism. The little elegancies of art in dry manner of Pietro Perugiro; and if the presence of these great ideas thus Michael Angelo had never appeared, greatly expressed, lose all their value, the art might still have continued in the and are, for the instant, at least, felt to same style.
be unworthy of our notice. The correct “ Besides Rome and Florence, where judgment, the purity of taste, which the grandeur of this style was first dis- characterise Raffaelle, the exquisite played, it was on this foundation that grace of Correggio and Parmegiano all the Carracci built the truly great acade- disappear before them. mical Bolognian school,
“I feel a self-congratulation in know“ This grandeur of style has been, in ing myself capable of such sensations as different degrees, disseminated over all he intended to excite. I reflect, not Europe. Some caught it by living at without vanity, that these discourses the time, and coming into contact with bear testimony to my admiration of that the original author, whilst others re- truly divine man; and I should desire ceived it at second hand; and being that the last words which I should proeverywhere adopted, it has totally nounce in this academy, and from this changed the whole taste and style of place, might be the name of-Michael design, if there could be said to be any Angelo."-Sir J. Reynolds's Discourses. style before his time. Our art, in con- With respect to the great praises besequence, now assumes a rank to which stowed on Michael Angelo by Sir Joshua, it could never have dared to aspire, if many have been induced to doubt the Michael Angelo had not discovered to sincerity of his admiration, seeing that the world the hidden powers which it his own works bear so little traces of the possessed, -without his assistance we style and manner of him whom he connever could have been convinced that sidered most excellent. Sir Joshua, howpainting was capable of producing an ever, has himself stated that he was adequate representation of the persons rather to be considered an admirer than and actions of the heroes of the Iliad. an imitator, having taken another course,
“I would ask any man qualified to one more suited, as he modestly objudge of such works, whether he can serves, to his abilities, and the times in look with indifference at the personi- which he lived. That Sir Joshua Reyfication of the Supreme Being in the nolds would have been eminent in whatcentre of the Capella Sestina, or the ever style he attempted, his great sucfigures of the sybils which surround cess, and the merit of the works he has that chapel, to which we may add the left us, give ample evidence. It is in statue of Moses ; and whether the same the latter part of his observation that sensations are not excited by those the true reason of the course he pursued works, as what he may remember to is to be discovered. There was no real have felt from the most sublime pas- taste in the country for the grand and sages of Homer?
I mention those severe style of the Roman school; figures more particularly, as they come there were no great baildings to be nearer to a comparison with his Jupiter, adorned, nothing to call into existence his demigods, and heroes, those sybils rivalry and emulation such as existed and prophets being a kind of interme- during the times of the revival of the diate beings between men and angels. art at Rome; and it was only in the exThough instances may be produced in ercise of that branch of art which the the works of other painters which may public tastemade lucrative, that the artist justly stand in competition with those I could arrive at that independence which have mentioned, such as the Isaiah and it must be the object of all to attain. the Vision of Ezekiel, by Raffaelle, the We cannot better illustrate our posiSt. Mark of Frate Bartolommeo, and tion, as to the little faste, or, at least, many others, yet these, it must be al- little patronage, those artists receive who lowed, are inventions so much in Mi- exclusively confine themselves to the chael Angelo's manner of thinking, that higher branches, than by mentioning they may be truly considered as so many that the late Mr. Flaxman (who, after rays, which discover manifestly the raising the character of this country by çentre from whence they emanated. his outlines from Homer and Dante,
which the united testimony and ap- unite magnificence of plan and endless plause of all Europe pronounced to ap- variety of subordinate parts. He in proach nearer, in grandeur and simpli- time became generic, perhaps too unicity of composition, to the works of the formly grand character and beauty ancients than any other,) never, through were admitted only as far as they could a long life, was commissioned to execute be made subservient to grandeur. The one single subject from these designs ! child, the female, meanness, deformity,
The recently published life of Sir were by him indiscriminately stamped Thomas Lawrence proves to us that he with grandeur. A beggar rose from his also concurred in giving the palm to hand a patriarch of poverty; the hump Michael Angelo. He observes, in a of his dwarf is expressed with dignity; letter from Rome,-“ It often happens his women are moulds of generation; that first impressions are the truest,- his infants teem with the man; his men we change, and change, and then return are giants.” Mr. Flaxman, speaking of to them again. I try to bring my mind Michael Angelo, says, “ his name was in all the humility of truth, when esti- great and venerable, without an equal in mating to myself the powers of Michael the three sister arts; one which became Angelo and Raphael, and again and the wonder and example of his own and again, the former bears down upon it succeeding ages ;" and in his tenth lee. with the compacted force of lightning: ture, speaking of his sculpture, he obThe diffusion of truth and elegance, and serves: -“The character of Michael Anoften grandeur, cannot support itself gelo's sculpture is too lofty and original against the compression of the sublime. to be dismissed without further notice; There is something in that lofty abstrac- although we must acknowledge it has tion, in those deities of intellect, that been criticised with severity, because it people the Sistine Chapel, that converts rarely possesses the chaste simplicity of the noblest personages of Raphael's Grecian art. True, but although Midrama into the audience of Michael chael Angelo lived long, he did not live Angelo, before whom you know that, long enough to give absolute perfection equally with yourself, they would stand to all his works; yet the pensive sitting silent and awe-struck. Raphael never figure of M. de' Medici, in the Medici produced figures equal to the Adam and chapel, is not without this charm; and Eve of Michael Angelo.
the Madonna and Child, on the north "I passed my morning, for some side of the same chapel, is simple, and hours, in the Sistine Chapel and the has a sentiment of maternal affection Vatican; and procured an order to ad- never found in Greek sculpture, but mit me to go round the top of the chapel frequently in the works of this artist, in the narrow gallery ; ! thus saw the particularly in his paintings, and that of noble work with closer inspection, and the most tender kind. The recumbent therefore more advantage. With all statues in the monument of Julian de your love of Raphael, you must and Medici, in the same chapel, of Dayshall believe in the superiority of that break, or Dawn, and Night, are grand greater being, of whom, in grateful, vir- and mysterious: the characters and tuous sincerity, your painter himself forms bespeak the same mighty mind said, I bless God I live in the times of and hand evident throughout the whole Michael Angelo.' Admired and popular ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the as he was, it was fine, yet only just in Last Judgment." him to say so ; and, from frequent comparison of their noble works, I am the more convinced of the entire veracity of
CHAPTER IX. Sir Joshua Reynolds's decision in favour The critics and censurers of Michael of Michael Angelo. I am not used, I Angelo, with remarks on the various hope, to be presumptuous in my opi
estimates of his genius and character., nions about art, but in my own mind, I It is one of the evils attendant on gethink I know that Sir Joshua Reynolds nius to be obnoxious to the criticisms could not have had another opinion on of the envious, the ignorant, and the the subject."
malicious. M. Angelo had his share of Fuseli, whose works we have already detraction amongst those who were often referred to, says, “ Michael Angelo jealous of his greatness, in his own did for painting what Homer had planned time; and there are others of the prefor poetry, the epic part of which, with sent time who profess to see no merit in the utmost simplicity of a whole, should the great works which are yet left to us
and which have gained the applause of racter. In short, after having seen one ages. It is, perhaps, of little import- you may be said to have seen them ance to consider either the motives or all." the capacity of those who have taken on Mr. Payne Knight, amongst our own themselves the ungracious task of de- countrymen, is also a severe critic on traction ; but as mere matter of curio. M. Angelo, finding in him little to adsity it may be mentioned, that amongst mire. But it may be said of many of the foremost of the moder are Mengs those who have underrated his genius, and the Abbé Milizia*. The little work that perhaps they have had but of the latter has become popular in the few opportunities of studying those present day, as affording ready means works which they so readily condemn, to the hurried traveller of acquiring, in a and that, if it had been otherwise, they given number of minutes, the whole art of would as readily have changed their criticism in the fine arts. The following opinion, as was the case with Falconet, may be taken at once as a specimen of a French sculptor, who was at one time the style of the writer, and of the sound- foremost in his censures. When, howness and fairness of his judgment :- ever, he saw the two statues brought
* The CHRIST OF MICHAEL ANGELO. into France by Cardinal Richelieu, he -Is this really a Christ, or is it a ruf- said, with a candour which did him fian, who fiercely grasps the cross, for credit, “ I have now seen M. Angelo; we know not what purpose ? The ana- he is terrific." tomy is very hard; yet it is praised by The monuments to Giuliano and Lonumbers who think they know how to renzo de' Medici at Florence are perhaps see, and who esteem Buonaroti as di- the most remarkable of M. Angelo's vine.
works in marble. The statue of Loren“ In this Christ, in the Moses, and in zo is the most remarkable. Lorenzo all his works of sculpture and painting, appears seated, wrapt in thought, leanMichael Angelo makes such a displaying his face on one hand, while the rest of his anatomical knowledge, that he of the figure is in perfect repose. Of this appears to have laboured only for ana- work, it has been observed, that it tomy; and unluckily he has neither bears no resemblance to the antiques ; well understood nor well applied it. The but it rivals the highest excellence of joints are wanting in lightness; the flesh the ancients in point of expression, with is full, and round in its forms; the repose and dignity of its own. Such muscles are all equally prominent: from effects are produced only by the study which it results that the beauty of of real life, contemplated by genius and motion is wholly lost sight of. No imagination. muscle is in repose ; which is alone a Mr. John Bell, whose work (Travels vast defect. The tendons are of equal in Italy) has been already quoted, has size, the outlines sweeping harshly, so some excellent remarks on the different that they start forth, and have no pas- statues of M. Angelo. Speaking of the sage through which to retire again. tombs of the Medici, he observes :What design then, and what elegance ! “ Till I beheld them I had formed no much, indeed, like the labour of those conception of the splendour of genius learned persons who heap up all their and the taste possessed by Michael erudition without discernment, and un- Angelo. They are works which evince derstand every thing but elegance and a grandeur and an originality of thought, delicacy of perception.
a boldness and freedom of design and “ Michael Angelo mistook a means execution, unparalleled. for the end. He studied anatomy deeply, “Two sarcophagi,-those of Lorenzo and he did well; he considered anatomy and Julian,--are each supported by two as the ultimate object of the art, and he figures. The personifications of the Twidid ill; nay, he did worse than ill, from light and Aurora guard the remains of not knowing how to make use of it. Lorenzo, and the Night and Day those of
“ He became (I humbly beg pardon his brother. The crepuscule or twilight of all his idolaters) sharp, hard, extra- is represented by a superb manly figure, vagant, overcharged, mean, vulgar, and, reclining and looking down; the wonwhat is still more apparent, a mannerist, derful breadth of chest and fine balance insomuch that his figures invariably of the sunk shoulder are masterly, and display the same style and the same cha- the right limb, which is finished, is in
comparable. Dell' arte di vedere nelle belle arti del disegno secondo i principii di Sulzer e di Mengs.
“ The Aurora is a female form of the
most exquisite proportions; the head is is a mere sketch: he cut his figures out of a grand and heroic cast, and the of the block as others would sketch & drapery, which falls in thin, transparent design upon waste paper, which might folds from the turban, is full of grace, prove too small for their intention. The while in her noble countenance a spring subject is the taking down from the of thought, an awakening principle cross. The group is composed of four seems to breathe, as if the rising day figures; those of our Saviour, the Virgin awaited the opening of her eyes.
Mary, Joseph, and an angel. The whole “Day is much unfinished— little more expression is very touching and mournthan blocked, yet most magnificent. To ful: our Saviour forms the principal have done more would have diminished figure, and seems to hang suspended in the noble effect of the whole, which is only the arms of Joseph, who supports the heightened by what is left to the imagi- body from above; the figure of the Virnation. Perhaps none but a mind so gin is seen assisting under the shoulder, gifted as that of this great master could to uphold the weight, whilst her face is have conceived this, or succeeded in so turned up towards the body. The mebold an attempt. Genius is creative; lancholy of the whole scene is beautiand this great artist did not imitate: hé fully represented : the head of Christ meditated, and in his moments of inspi- rests upon her shoulder; the lengthened ration struck out the most superb inven- form of the body, supported in the armis tions, often imperfect indeed, but always of the assistants, seems extended by its grandly conceived. Doubtless the un- own weight, whilst the suppleness and finished state in which many of his lankness of recent death is finely marked splendid works were left must have been by the manner in which the limbs hang occasioned by that impatience so often in gentle bendings, and seem falling tothe concomitant of genius, which, hav- wards the ground, with the most natural ing attained its grand object in produc- disposition of the arms, as if affected by ing splendour of effect, becomes weary, every motion. The left arm hangs over and forsakes the details.
the shoulder of the Virgin, whilst the “ The personification of Night *, in right crosses her neck, and rests on a sleep and silence, is finely imagined. The lesser angelic figure, which might have attitude is beautiful, mournful, and full been omitted without injury to the subof the most touching expression; the ject. The interest of the piece lies in drooping head, the supporting hand, and the melancholy but placid countenance the rich head-dress, are unrivalled in the of our Saviour, and the declination of arts.
the head, which is lacerated by the " There are in this chapel, forming a crown of thorns, and seems thus to have part of the group, or at least of the sub- drooped in the awful moment when the ject, two statues of the brothers Lorenzo • vail of the Temple was rent and the and Julian, by the same master. They sun was darkened.” are both in armour. The figure of Lo- Mr. Flaxman observes of the Last renzo is simple and impressive. The Judgment, “ All is original, and unlike whole character of this piece is marked any production of antiquity, and forms by a cast of gloomy melancholy, which a labour that seems scarcely the work awakens the idea of his brooding over of man, and stands without a rival in the fate of his murdered brother, their ancient and modern art." mutual affection being represented by Again—" In this there are multitudes the writers of the day as having been of and legions in comparison with the se almost a romantic character.
parate figures and single groups in the “ The figure of Julian is a noble most considerable of the ancient works. heroic statue. He is seated, the left In this stupendous work, in addition to hand gloved and raised. The bent fore- the genius of the mighty master, the mefinger touches the upper lip, which is chanical powers and movements of the admirably expressed, seeming literally figures, its anatomical energy and forms to yield to the pressure. The helmet, are shown by such perspective of the fine in form and proportion, throws a
most difficult positions, as surpass any deep shade over the countenance." examples left by the ancients, on a fiat “The Pietà of M. Angelo at Florence surface, or low relief, and are only to be
equalled in kind, but not in proportion Vasari, the friend and panegyrist of M. An. of complication, in the front and diagonal gelo, speaking of this statue, says,
views of the Laocoon, and all the views
rara ma unica !"
of the Boxers, which are both entire impatience was so great, that he often groups."
executed his works in marble from In estimating the character of Michael small models in wax or clay, trusting to Angelo, we must judge of him, like his own resources for the detail." Bacon, by his times, and must consider Many of Michael Angelo's designs what progress had been made since the were executed by others, particularly revival of the arts; how few ancient by Sebastiano del Piombo, and Daniel statues had been discovered, and how da Volterra. With respect to these, it little of the principles of art had been has been observed, that he lowered bis then defined. It is not so much his imagination to suit the capacity of the works that remain; those of his pencil colourists, and without losing any of his have long lost all their freshness, and grandeur or knowledge of design, apmost are fast fading to decay ; but it is pears to have avoided those extremes of the great and universal change which his energetic expression which have laid genius effected that will make him him open to so much rebuke. With the always illustrious, even when all traces exception of these painters, who exeof his own works may have been de- cuted works under his immediate inspecstroyed. The graceful, the elegant, and tion, or from designs made by him, he the refined style of the ancients could may be said to have had no followers, not perhaps be surpassed ; but the grand none who could be called imitators. and terrific seems to have been his pe- His style was one which required his culiar province. In invention, vigour, own peculiar genius to attain. energy of mind, and knowledge of form, In this short account of the merits he led the way.
and defects of Michael Angelo, we have It has been objected, and with some furnished the reader with the opinions truth, that his statues are most of them and criticisms of distinguished artists rather pictures than statues, to be seen and scholars, who have written on the in one view only; and indeed most of principles of art and taste, and who, of them were executed for monuments, and necessity, have devoted peculiar attennot to be seen isolated.
tion to the works of one who, hy almost It may fairly be inferred, from the universal consent, has produced the excellence of his Moses and other most wonderful, if not the most pleasing, figures, that, had he confined himself works of modern art, and most of whom through life to sculpture alone, he would had opportunities of personally studying have attained the highest reach of the the original works of this great artist. art. It should also be observed, that On a subject depending so much on his impatience and eagerness did not individual feeling ; when, with one, some allow either of his finishing with the particular style of excellence is cor sinecessary care, or of taking the means dered as pre-eminent; when, as with usually adopted to attain perfection of Mr. Payne Knight, nothing is excellent execution. In a work quoted by the which does not convey a notion of ease, writer, under the name of Baron Stend- and of individual nature ; and when hal, written in the 16th century, the au- with another, as Mr. Fuseli, thor observes :-"I myself saw Michael grand " is considered as a compensation Angelo, when more than sixty years for every other defect; and when their old. His body was thin, and did not very definitions of the terms “ beauty, give the idea of strength; he was grace, grandeur, sublimity," have afhewing away large pieces of a block forded discussion sufficient to fill entire of hard marble with such power and volumes,-it would be hopeless to exdexterity, that in a quarter of an pect any great unity of opinion, None, hour he had cut more than three of the however, except Mengs and Milizia, strongest young sculptors could have cut have gone so far as to deny great merit away in a whole hour. He worked with to the productions of Michael Angelo; such impetuosity and fury, that I expected whilst nearly the whole of those best every moment that the whole block qualified to judge have concurred in would have been broken in pieces. placing him at the head of the modern Every blow brought away pieces of school of art. three or four inches in thickness; and If, in weighing the opinions of the his chisel went so near the termination admirers and the opponents of this exof the outline of the subject, that, if the traordinary man, we have leaned toblow had driven it one line further, the wards those of the former, it is from a whole would have been destroyed. His conviction that more pains have been