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Ex Voto by Samuel Butler

Part 3 out of 4

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great merit of being legibly signed and dated.


Hard by under a portico there is a statue of St. Peter, repentant,
and over him there is a cock still crowing. The figure of St. Peter,
and presumably that of the cock also, are by D'Enrico. I can find
nothing about the date in any author.

This cock is said to have been the chief instrument in a miracle not
less noteworthy than any recorded in connection with the Sacro Monte.
It seems that on the 3rd of July 1653 a certain Lorenzo Togni from
Buccioleto, who had been a martyr to intemperance for many years,
came to the Sacro Monte in that state in which martyrs to
intemperance must be expected generally to be. It was very early in
the morning, but nevertheless the man was drunk, though still just
able to go the round of the chapels. Nothing noticeable occurred
till he got to the Caiaphas chapel, but here all on a sudden, to the
amazement of the man himself, and of others who were standing near, a
noise was heard to come from up aloft in the St. Peter chapel, and it
was seen that the cock had turned round and was flapping his wings
with an expression of great severity. Before they had recovered from
their surprise, the bird exclaimed in a loud voice, and with the
utmost distinctness, "Ciocc' anch' anc'uei," running the first two
words somewhat together, and dwelling long on the last syllable,
which is sounded like a long French "eu" and a French "i." These
words I am told mean, "Drunk again to-day also?" the "anc'uei" being
a Piedmontese patois for "ancora oggi." The bird repeated these
words three or four times over, and then turned round on its perch,
to all appearance terra cotta again. The effect produced upon the
drunkard was such that he could never again be prevailed upon to
touch wine, and ever since this chapel has been the one most resorted
to by people who wish to give up drinking to excess.

The foregoing story is not given either in Fassola or Torrotti, but
my informant, a most intelligent person, assured me that to this day
the cocks about Varallo do not unfrequently say "Ciocc' anch'
anc'uei"--indeed, I have repeatedly heard them do so with the most
admirable distinctness. I am told that cocks sometimes challenge,
and wish to fight, well-done cocks on crucifixes, but it is some way
from this to the cock on the crucifix beginning to crow too. One
does not see where this sort of thing is to end, and once terra-cotta
always terra-cotta, is a maxim that a respectable figure would on the
whole do well to lay to heart and abide by.


The Pilate is not nearly so good as the Caiaphas in the preceding
chapel, but though there is not one single figure of superlative
excellence, this is still one of D'Enrico's best works, and the
Pilate is the best of the four Pilates. The nineteen figures are
generally ascribed to him; and, I should say there was less Giacomo
Ferro in this chapel than in most of D'Enrico's. Possibly Giacomo
Ferro was not yet D'Enrico's assistant. The frescoes are by Antonio,
or Tanzio, D'Enrico, but I cannot see much in them to admire.

The date is given by Bordiga as about 1620, but no date is given
either by Fassola or Torrotti. The nude figure to the left, seated
and holding a spear near the spectator, is said to be a portrait of
Tanzio, but Bordiga thinks that if we are to look for the portrait
anywhere in this composition, we should do so in the open gallery
above the gate of the Pretorium, where we shall find a figure that
has nothing to do with the story, and represents a "jocund-looking"
but venerable old man, wearing a hat with a white feather in it, and
like the portrait of Melchiorre painted by himself in his Last
Judgment--presumably the one outside the church at Riva Valdobbia.
Bordiga adds that Melchiorre was still living in 1620, when Tanzio
was at work on these frescoes.


Bordiga says that this chapel was begun in 1606, as shown by a letter
from Monsignor Bescape, Bishop of Novara, authorising the Fabbricieri
to appropriate three hundred scudi from the Mass chest for the
purpose of erecting it, but it was not finished until 1638. The
statues, thirty-five in number, are by Giovanni D'Enrico, and the
frescoes by Tanzio, but we have no means of dating either the one or
the other accurately.

The figure of Herod is incomparably finer than any others in the
chapel, if we except those of two laughing boys on Herod's left that
are hardly seen till one is inside the chapel itself. Take each of
the figures separately and few are good. As usual in D'Enrico's
chapels, there is a deficiency of the ensemble and concert which no
one except Tabachetti seems to have been able to give in sculptured
groups containing many figures; nevertheless, the Herod and the
laughing boys atone almost for any deficiency. Bordiga speaks of the
frescoes in the highest terms, but I do not admire them as I should
wish to do. They are generally considered as Antonio D'Enrico's
finest work on the Sacro Monte.

The figures behind the two boys' heads coming very awkwardly in my
photograph, my friend Mr. Gogin has kindly painted them out for me,
so as to bring the boys' heads out better.


This is supposed to be the last work of Giovanni D'Enrico, who,
according to Durandi, died in 1644. The scene comprises twenty-three
terra-cotta figures, few of them individually good, but nevertheless
effective as a whole. One man, the nearest but one to the spectator,
must be given to D'Enrico, and perhaps one or two more, but the
greater number must have been done by Giacomo Ferro. The frescoes
were begun both by Morazzone and Antonio D'Enrico, but Fassola and
Torrotti say that neither the one nor the other was able to complete
the work, which in their time was still unfinished; but Doctor
Morosini was going to get a really good man to finish them without
further delay. Eventually the brothers Grandi of Milan came and did
the Doric architecture, while Pietro Gianoli did some sibyls, and on
the facciata "il casto Giuseppe portato da due Angioli." Gianoli
signed his work and dated it 1679. We know, then, that in this case
the sculptured figures were placed some years before the background,
as probably also with several other chapels; and it may be assumed
that generally the terra-cotta figures preceded the background--which
was designed for them, and not they for it, except in the case of
Gaudenzio Ferrari--who probably conceived both the round and flat
work together as part of the same design, and was thus the only
artist on the Sacro Monte who carried out the design of uniting
painting and sculpture in a single design, under the conditions which
strictly it involves.

In connection with this chapel both Fassola and Torrotti say that
D'Enrico has intentionally made Christ's face become smaller and
smaller during each of these last scenes, as becoming contracted
through increase of suffering. I have been unable to see that this
is more than fancy on their parts.

It is also in connection with this chapel that we discover the true
date of Fassola's book. He says that they had been on the lookout
"during the whole OF LAST YEAR"--which he gives as 1669--for some one
to finish the frescoes. "Now, however," he continues, "when this
book is seeing light," &c. The book therefore should be seeing light
in 1670. It is dated 1671. True, Fassola may have been writing at
the very end of 1670, and the book may have been published at the
beginning of 1671, but perhaps the more natural conclusion is that
the same reasons which make publishers wish to misdate their books by
a year now, made them wish to do so then, and that though Fassola's
book appeared at the end of 1670, as would appear from his own words,
it was nevertheless dated 1671.


Torrotti and Fassola say that the Christ in this chapel, as well as
in all the others, is an actual portrait--and no doubt an admirable
one--communicated by Divine inspiration to the many workmen and
artists who worked on the Sacro Monte. This, they say, may be known
from two documents contemporaneous with Christ Himself, in which His
personal appearance is fully set forth, and which seem almost to have
been written from the statues now existing at Varallo. The worthy
artists who made these statues were by no means given to historical
investigations, and were little likely to know anything about the
letters in question; besides, these had only just been discovered, so
that there can have been no deception or illusion. Both Fassola and
Torrotti give the letters in full, and to their pages the reader who
wishes to see them may be referred. Fassola writes:-

"Hora vegga ogni diuoto se rassomigliando queste statue al vero
Christo essendo lauorate accidentalmente, parendo da Dio sia dato
alli Statuarij, e Pittori il lume della sua Diuina Persona non si ha
se non per mera sua disposizione e diachiarazione d'hauer quiui quasi
come rinouata, e resa piu commoda alla Christianita la sua
Redenzione" (p. 103).

The work is mentioned as completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia--
this, and the Crowning with Thorns, being the only two that are
described as completed of those that now form part of the Palazzo di
Pilato block. These two chapels do not in reality, however, belong
to the Palazzo di Pilato at all; they existed long before it, and the
new work was added on to them. Bordiga says that "an order of
Monsignor Bescape relating to this chapel, and dated February 1,
1605, shows that there was as yet no plan of this part of the Palace
of Pilate." I have not seen this order, and can only speak with
diffidence, but I do not think the chapel has been much modified
since 1586, beyond the fact that Rocca, whom we have already met with
as painting in the Caiaphas chapel in 1642, at some time or another
painted a new background, which is now much injured by damp.

Not only does the author of the 1586 Caccia mention the chapel, but
he does it with more effusion than is usual with him. He rarely says
anything in praise of any but the best work. I do not, therefore,
think it likely that his words refer to the original wooden figures,
two of which were preserved when the work was remodelled; these two
mar the chapel now, and when all the work was of the same calibre it
cannot have kindled any enthusiasm in a writer who appears to have
known very fairly well which were the best chapels. He says:-

"Da manigoldi, in atto acerbo e fiero,
Alla colonna Christo flagellato
Da scultor dotto assimigliato al vero
Di questo {13} in un de i lati e dimostrato,

E come fusse macerato e nero,
D'aspri flagelli percosso, e vergato,
Di Christo il sacro corpo in ogni parte,
Vi ha sculto dotto mastro in sottil arte."

I think the reconstruction of the chapel, then, and its assumption of
its present state, except that a fresco background was added, should
be assigned to some year about 1580-1585, and am disposed to ascribe,
at any rate, the figure of the man who is binding Christ to the
column to Tabachetti, who was then working on the Sacro Monte, and
whose style the work seems to me to resemble more nearly than it does
that of D'Enrico. Whoever the chapel is by, it was evidently in its
present place and much admired in 1586; there could hardly,
therefore, have been any occasion to reconstruct it, especially when
so much other work was crying to be done, and when it had, in all
probability, been once reconstructed already.

On the whole, until external evidence shows D'Enrico to have done the
figures, I shall continue to think that at least one of them, and
very possibly all except the two old wooden ones, are by Tabachetti.
The foot of the man binding Christ to the column has crumbled away,
either because the clay was bad, or from insufficient baking. This
is why the figure is propped up with a piece of wood. The damp has
made the rope slack, so that the pulling action of the figure is in
great measure destroyed, its effect being cancelled by its
ineffectualness; but for this the reader will easily make due
allowance. The same man reappears presently in the balcony of the
Ecce Homo chapel, but he is there evidently done by another and much
less vigorous hand.

The man in the foreground, who is stooping down and binding his rods,
is the same as the one who is kicking Christ in Tabachetti's Journey
to Calvary, and is one of those adopted by Tabachetti from Gaudenzio
Ferrari's Crucifixion chapel; this figure may perhaps have been an
addition by Giovanni D'Enrico, or have been done by an assistant, for
it is hardly up to Tabachetti's mark. The two nearest scourgers are
fine powerful figures, but I should admit that they remind me rather
of D'Enrico than of Tabachetti, though they might also be very well
by him, and probably are so.

Fassola says that the graces obtainable by the faithful here have
relation to every kind of need; they are in a high degree
unspecialised, and that this freedom from specialisation is
characteristic of all the chapels of the Passion.


Much that was said about the preceding chapel applies also to this.
It is mentioned in the 1586 edition of Caccia as done "sottilmente in
natural ritratto," and as being one of the few works that would form
part of the Palazzo di Pilato block that were as yet completed.

That this chapel had undergone one reconstruction before 1586, we may
gather from the fact that the left-hand wall is still covered with a
fresco of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise; this has no
connection with the Crowning with Thorns, and doubtless formed the
background to the original Adam and Eve. I have already said that I
am indebted to Signor Arienta for this suggestion. Bordiga calls
this subject Christ being Led to be Crowned, and gives it to Crespi
da Cerano, but I cannot understand how he can see in the work
anything but an Expulsion from Paradise. The chapel having been
reconstructed before 1586 on its present site--as it evidently had
been--and being admired, is not likely to have been reconstructed a
second time, and I am again, therefore, inclined to give the whole
work, or at any rate the greater part of it, to Tabachetti, and to
reject the statements of Fassola, Torrotti, Bordiga, and Cusa, who
all ascribe the figures to D'Enrico. The two men standing up behind
Christ, one taunting Him, and the other laughing, are among the
finest on the Sacro Monte, and are much more in Tabachetti's manner
than in D'Enrico's. The other figures are, as they were doubtless
intended to be, of minor interest.

Some of the frescoes other than those above referred to, were added
at a later date, and are said by Bordiga, on the authority of a
covenant, dated September 27th, 1608, to have been done by Antonio
Rantio, who undertook to paint them for a sum of ten ducatoons. They
are without interest.

It was here the Flemish dancer was healed.

His name was Bartholomew Jacob, and he came from Graveling in
Flanders. It seems there was a ball going on at the house of one of
this man's ancestors, and that the Last Sacraments were being carried
through the street under the windows of the ball-room.

The dancing ought by rights to have been stopped, but the host
refused to stop it, and presently the priest who was carrying the
Sacrament found a paper under the chalice, written in a handwriting
of almost superhuman neatness, presumably that of the Madonna herself
and bearing the words, "Dancer, thou wouldst not stay thy dance: I
curse thee, therefore, that thou dance for nine generations." And so
he did, he and all his descendants all their lives, till it came to
Bartholomew Jacob, who was the ninth in descent. He too began life
dancing, and was still dancing when he started on a pilgrimage to
Rome; when, however, he got to the Sacro Monte at Varallo on the 7th
of January 1646, he began to feel tired, tremulous, and languid from
so much incessant movement. This strange feeling attacked him first
at the Nativity Chapel, but by the time he got to the Crowning with
Thorns he could stand it no longer, and fell as one dead, to rise
again presently perfectly whole, and relieved of his distressing

Personally I find this story interesting as giving high support to
the theory I have been trying to insist upon for some years past, and
according to which in a certain sense a man is personally identical
with all the generations in the direct line both of his ancestry and
his descendants, as well as with himself. The words "Thou shalt
dance for nine generations" involve one of the most important points
contended for in my earlier book, "Life and Habit." Fassola and
Torrotti both say that more pilgrims left alms at this chapel than at
any other. In fact they both seem to consider that this chapel did
very well. "Qui," says Torrotti, "si colgano elemosine assai," and,
as I have said already, it is here that a few autumn leaves of waxen
images still linger.

A few weeks ago I saw the original document in which the story above
given was attested. It was dated 1671, and signed, stamped, and
sealed as a document of the highest importance. I noticed that in
this manuscript, it was a voice that was heard, and not as in Fassola
a letter that was found.


This is not mentioned in the 1586 edition of Caccia, perhaps as being
a poor and unimportant work. Fassola says that some of the frescoes,
as well as of the statues, which, he says, are of wood, were by
Gaudenzio. The other statues are given both by Fassola and Torrotti
to D'Enrico, and the paintings to Gianoli, a wealthy Valsesian
amateur who lived at Campertogno. Bordiga gives the statues to
Ferro, already mentioned as a pupil of D'Enrico, but whoever did
them, they are about as bad as they can be--too bad, I should say,
for Giacomo Ferro, and I am not sure that they are not of wood even
now. No traces of Gaudenzio's frescoes remain. The chapel seems to
have been reconstructed in connection with the replica of the Scala
Santa up which Christ is going to be conducted. We have seen that
the design for these stairs was procured from Rome in 1608 by
Francesco Testa, who was then Fabbriciere.


This is one of the finest chapels, the concert between the figures
being better than in most of D'Enrico's other work, notwithstanding
the fact that more than one, and probably several, are old figures
taken from chapels that were displaced when the Palazzo di Pilato
block was made. The figures are thirty-seven in number, and are
disposed in a spacious hall not wholly unlike the vestibule of the
Reform Club, Christ and His immediate persecutors appearing in a
balustraded balcony above a spacious portico that supports it. This
must have been one of D'Enrico's first works on the Sacro Monte, the
frescoes having been paid for on Dec. 7, 1612, as shown by
Morazzone's receipt which is still in existence, and which is for the
sum of 2400 imperiali. Of these frescoes it is impossible to speak
highly; they look clever at first and from a distance, but do not
bear closer attention. Morazzone took pains with the Journey to
Calvary chapel, which was his first work on the Sacro Monte, but
never did anything so good again.

Of the terra-cotta figures, the one to the extreme left is certainly
by Gaudenzio Ferrari, being another portrait, in nearly the same
attitude, of the extreme figure to the left in the Crucifixion
chapel. For reasons into which I will enter more fully when I come
to this last-named work, I do not doubt that Stefano Scotto,
Gaudenzio's master, is the person represented. I had to go inside
the chapel to hold a sheet behind the figure in order to detach it
from the background, so had myself taken along with it to show how it
compares with a living figure. It is generally said at Varallo to be
a portrait of Giovanno D'Enrico's brother Tanzio, but this is
obviously impossible, for not only does the same person reappear in
the Crucifixion chapel, but he is also found in Gaudenzio's early
fresco of the Disputa in the Sta. Margherita chapel already referred
to, and elsewhere, as I will presently show. I should be sorry to
say that any other figure in the Ecce Homo chapel except this is
certainly by Gaudenzio, but am inclined to think that two or three
others are also by him, the rest being probably all of them by
D'Enrico or some assistant. Some--more especially two children, on
the head of one of whom a man has laid his hand--are of extreme
beauty. The child that is looking up is among the most beautiful in
the whole range of sculpture; the other is not so good, but has
suffered in re-painting, the eyelid being made too red; if this were
remedied, as it easily might be, the figure would gain greatly. Cav.
Prof. Antonini has very successfully substituted plaster hair for the
horsehair, which had in great measure fallen off. The motive of this
incidental group is repeated, but with less success, in Giovanni
D'Enrico's Nailing to the Cross.

There is another child to the extreme right of the composition so
commonly and poorly done that it is hard to believe it can be by the
same hand, but it is not likely that Giacomo Ferro had as yet become
D'Enrico's assistant. The man who is pointing out Christ to this
last-named child is far more seriously treated, and might even be an
importation from an earlier work. Among other very fine figures is a
man who is looking up and holding a staff in his hand; he stands
against the wall to the spectator's right among the figures nearest
to the grating. There is also an admirable figure of a man on one
knee tying his cross garter and at the same time looking up. This
figure is in the background rather hidden away, and is not very well
seen from the grating. I should add that the floor of the chapel
slopes a little up from the spectator like the stage in a theatre.

The dog in the middle foreground is hollow, as are all the figures,
or at any rate many of them, and shows a great hole on the side away
from the spectator; it is not fixed to the ground, but stands on its
own legs; it was as much as I could do to lift it. I am told the
figures were baked down below in the town, and though they are most
of them in several pieces it must have been no light work carrying
them up the mountain. I have been shown the remains of a furnace
near the present church on the Sacro Monte, but believe it was only
used for the figures made by Luigi Marchesi in 1826. I should,
however, have thought that the figures would have been baked upon the
Sacro Monte itself and not in the town.

Of this chapel Fassola says:-

"All the pilgrims of every description come here, because it is at
the top of the Scala Santa up which they go upon their knees, and
there is plenty of room for pilgrims, as the chapel extends the whole
width of the staircase. Those who are oppressed with travail, or
fevers, or lawsuits, or unjust persecutions of any description, are
comforted on being commended to this Christ." "Vi sono qui," says
Torrotti, "pascoli deliziosi per i curiosi e piu dotti."

I daresay that on the great festivals of the Church, some pilgrims
may still go up the Scala Santa kneeling, but they do not commonly do
so. Often as I have been at the Sacro Monte, I never yet saw a
pilgrim mount the staircase except on his feet in the usual way. It
must be a very painful difficult thing to go up twenty-eight
consecutive high steps on one's knees; I tried it, but gave it up
after a very few steps, and do not recommend any of my readers to
even do as much as this.


Fassola, Torrotti, and Bordiga all call this one of the best chapels,
but neither Jones nor I could see that it was nearly so successful as
the preceding. The seventeen modelled figures are by Giovanni
D'Enrico, and the frescoes by his brother Antonio or Tanzio. One or
two of the figures--especially a man putting his finger to his mouth
derisively, are excellent, but the Pilate is a complete failure; and
it is hard to think it can have been done, as it probably
nevertheless was, by the sculptor of the Caiaphas and Herod figures.
Bordiga says that a contract was made with Caccia (not the
historian), called Moncalvo, for the frescoes. This was the painter
who did the backgrounds for the Crea chapels, but the contract was
never carried out, probably because Antonio D'Enrico returned from
Rome. It was dated November 1616, so that the terra-cotta figures
probably belong to this year or to those that immediately preceded


This is better than the preceding chapel, and contains some good
individual figures. The statues are twenty-seven in number, and were
modelled by D'Enrico prior to the year 1614, in which year Morazzone
was paid twelve hundred imperiali for having painted the frescoes, so
that it was one of his earlier works, but the Pilate is again a
failure. People who have been badly treated, and who have suffered
from some injustice, are more especially recommended by Fassola "to
try this Christ, who moves the pity of all who look upon Him."

He continues that it was the intention to add some other chapels at
the end of the portico of the Palazzo di Pilato, but this intention
was not carried out. Bordiga calls attention to the view on the
right, looking over Varallo and the Mastallone, as soon as the
portico is passed.


The Palazzo di Pilato is now ended, and we begin with the mysteries
of the Passion and Death of the Redeemer, the first of which is set
forth in


This, having regard to the terra-cotta figures alone, is by far the
finest work on the Sacro Monte, and it is hardly too much to say that
no one who has not seen it knows what sculpture can do. I have
sufficiently shown that all the authorities, not one of whom has ever
so much as seen a page of Caccia, are wrong by at least twenty years,
when they say that Tabachetti completed the work in 1606. Bordiga
refers, and this time I have no doubt accurately, to a deed drawn up
in 1602, in accordance with which the fresco background was begun by
Antonio Gandino, a painter of Brescia; this alone should have made
Bordiga suspect that the terra-cotta work had been already completed,
but he does not appear to have noted the fact, and goes on to say
that the agreement with Gandino was cancelled by Bishop Bescape in
1604, and that his work was destroyed, the chapel being handed over
to Morazzone, who painted it in 1605, and was paid 1400 lire, besides
twenty gold scudi. Morazzone has followed Gaudenzio boldly,
repeating several of his fresco figures, as Tabachetti, with
admirable good taste, had repeated several of his terra-cotta ones,
while completely varying the action. The right-hand frescoes, and
part of those on the wall opposite the spectator, have been recently
cut away in squares, and relined, as the wall was perishing from

The statues consist of about forty figures of men, women, and
children, and nine horses, all rather larger than life. They too
have suffered from the effect of damp upon the paint; nevertheless, a
more permanent and satisfactory kind of pigment has been used here
than in most of the chapels; the work does not seem to have been
much, if at all repainted, since Tabachetti left it. One figure of a
child in the foreground has disappeared, the marks of its feet and
two little bits of rusty iron alone show where it was; the woman who
was holding it also remains without an arm. I am tempted to think
that some disturbing cause has affected a girl who is holding a
puppy, a little to the right of this last figure, and doubt whether
something that accompanied her may not have perished; at any rate, it
does not group with the other figures as well as these do with one
another; this, however, is a very small blemish. The work is one
that will grow upon the reader the more he studies it, and should
rank as the most successfully ambitious of medieval compositions in
sculpture, no less surely than Gaudenzio's Crucifixion chapel, having
regard to grandeur of scheme as well as execution, should rank as the
most daring among Italian works of art in general. I am aware that
this must strike many of my readers as in all probability a very
exaggerated estimate, but can only repeat that I have studied these
works for the last twenty years with every desire not to let a false
impression run away with me, and that each successive visit to
Varallo, while tending somewhat to lower my estimate of Giovanni
D'Enrico--unless when he is at his very best--has increased my
admiration for both Gaudenzio Ferrari and Tabachetti, as also, I
would add, for the sculptor of the Massacre of the Innocents chapel.

It cannot, indeed, be pretended that Tabachetti's style is as pure as
that of his great predecessor, but what it has lost in purity it has
gained in freedom and vigour. It is not possible that an artist
working in the years 1580-1585 should present to us traces of the
archaism which even the most advanced sculptors of half a century
earlier had not wholly lost. The stronger a man is the more
certainly will he be modified by his own times as well as modify
them, and in an age of barocco we must not look for Donatellos.
Still, the more Tabachetti's work is examined the more will it be
observed that he took no harm from the barocco, but kept its freedom
while avoiding its coarseness and exaggeration. For reasons
explained in an earlier chapter his figures are not generally
portraits, but he is eminently realistic, and if he did the
Vecchietto, of which I have given a photograph at the beginning of
this book, he must be credited with one of the most living figures
that have ever been made--a figure which rides on the very highest
crest of the wave, and neither admits possibility of further advance
towards realism without defeating its own purpose, nor shows even the
slightest sign of decadence. Of the figure of the Countess of
Serravalle, to which I have already referred, Torrotti said it was so
much admired in his day that certain Venetian cavaliers offered to
buy it for its weight in gold, but that the mere consideration of
such an offer would be high treason (lesa Maesta) to the Sacro Monte.
Fassola and Torrotti, as well as Bordiga and Cusa, are evidently
alive to the fact that as far as sculpture goes we have here the
highest triumph attained on the Sacro Monte of Varallo.

I had better perhaps give the words in which Caccia describes the
work. In the 1586 edition, we read, in the preliminary prose part,
as follows:-

"Come N. S. e condotto alla morte con la croce alle spalle, qual si
vede tutto di rilievo."

The poetical account runs thus:-

"Si trova poi in una Chiesa nera
Con spettacolo fiero accompagnato
Da soldati, e da gente molto fiera,
Con la Croce alle spalle incaminato
Christo Giesu in mezzo a l'empia schiera,
Seguendolo Giovanni addolorato,
Che di Giesu sostien la sconsolata
Madre, da Maddalena accompagnata."

In the 1591 edition, the prose description of the work runs; -

"Come N. S. e condotto alla morte con la Croce sopra delle spalle,
quali si vedeno tutto di rilieuo bellissi."

I have no copy of the poetical part of this edition before me, but
believe it to be identical with the version already given. The
impression left upon me is that the work in 1586 was only just
finished enough to allow it to be called finished, and that its full
excellence was not yet displayed to the public, though it was about
to be so very shortly.

Signor Arienta tells me that Tabachetti has adhered rather closely to
a design for the same subject by Albert Durer, but I have failed to
find the design to which he is referring.

Bordiga again calls attention to the extreme beauty of the view of
Varallo that is to be had on leaving this chapel.


This and the two following chapels are on the top of the small rise
of some fifteen or twenty feet in which Bernardino Caimi is said to
have seen a resemblance to Mount Calvary; they are approached by a
staircase which leads directly to Giovanni D'Enrico's largest work.

Bordiga says that the chapel was begun in 1589 at the expense of
Marchese Giacomo d'Adda; he probably, however, refers only to the
building itself. It is not mentioned as even contemplated in the
1586 edition of Caccia, nor yet, unless my memory fails me, in that
of 1590. It is not known when the terra-cotta work was begun, but it
was not yet quite finished in 1644, when, as I have said, D'Enrico

The frescoes are by Melchiorre Gilardini, and have been sufficiently
praised by other writers; they are fairly well preserved, and show,
as in the preceding chapel and in Gaudenzio's Crucifixion, how much
more is to be said for the union of painting and sculpture when both
are in the hands of capable men, than we are apt to think. If the
reader will divest the sculpture of its colour and background, how
cold and uninteresting will it not seem in comparison even with its
present somewhat impaired splendour. Looking at the really
marvellous results that have been achieved, we cannot refrain from a
passing regret at the spite that threw Tabachetti half a century off
Gaudenzio, instead of letting them come together, but we must take
these things as we find them.

On first seeing Giovanni D'Enrico's Nailing to the Cross we are
tempted to think it even finer than the Journey to Calvary. The work
is larger, comprising some twenty or so more terra-cotta figures--
making about sixty in all--and ten horses, all rather larger than
life, but the first impression soon wears off and the arrangement is
then felt to be artificial as compared with Tabachetti's. Tabachetti
made a great point when, instead of keeping his floor flat or sloping
it evenly up to any one side, he threw his stage up towards one
corner, which is much higher than any other. The unevenness, and
irregular unevenness, of the ground is of the greatest assistance to
him, by giving him variety of plane, and hence a way of escaping
monotony without further effort on his part. If D'Enrico had taken
his ground down from the corner up to which Tabachetti had led it, he
would have secured both continuity with Tabachetti's scene, and an
irregularly uneven surface, without repeating his predecessor's
arrangement. True, the procession was supposed to be at the top of
Mount Calvary, but that is a detail. As it is, D'Enrico has copied
Tabachetti in making his ground slope, but, unless my memory fails
me, has made it slope evenly along the whole width of the chapel,
from the foreground to the wall at the back--with the exception of a
small mound in the middle background. The horses are arranged all
round the walls, and the soldiers are all alongside of the horses,
and every figure is so placed as to show itself to the greatest
advantage. This perhaps is exaggeration, but there is enough truth
in it to help the reader who is unfamiliar with this class of work to
apprehend Tabachetti's superiority more readily than he might
otherwise do in the short time that tourists commonly have at their
disposal. The general impression left upon myself and Jones was that
it contains much more of Giacomo Ferro than of D'Enrico; but in spite
of this it is impossible to deny that the work is important and on
the whole impressive.


Neither Fassola nor Torrotti date this work, but I have already shown
reasons for believing that it should be given to the years 1524-1528.
Fassola says that the figure of Christ on the Cross is not the
original one, which was stolen, and somehow or other found its way to
the Church of S. Andrea at Vercelli, where, according to Colombo (p.
237), a crucifix, traditionally said to be this one, was preserved
until the close of the last century. Bordiga says that there is no
reason to believe this story. The present crucifix is of wood, and
is probably an old one long venerated, and embodied in his work by
Gaudenzio himself, partly out of respect to public feeling, and
partly, perhaps, as an unexceptionable excuse for avoiding a great
difficulty. The thieves also, according to Bordiga and Cusa, are of
wood, not terra-cotta, being done from models in clay by Gaudenzio as
though the wood were marble. We may be sure there was an excellent
reason for this solitary instance of a return to wood, but it is not
immediately apparent to a layman.

We have met with the extreme figure to the spectator's left in the
Ecce Homo chapel. He is also, as I have said, found in the Disputa
fresco, done some twenty years or so before the work we are now
considering, and we might be tempted to think that the person who was
so powerfully impressed on Gaudenzio's mind during so many years was
some Varallo notable, or failing this that he was some model whom he
was in the habit of employing. This, however, is not so; for in the
first place the supposed model was an old man in, say, 1507, and he
is not a day older in 1527, so that in 1527 Gaudenzio was working
from a strong residuary impression of a figure with which he had been
familiar many years previously and not from life; and in the second,
we find the head repeated in the works of Milanese artists who in all
probability never came near Varallo. We certainly find it in a
drawing, of which I give a reduced reproduction, and which the
British Museum authorities ascribe, no doubt correctly, to Bernardino
de' Conti. I also recognise it unquestionably in a drawing in the
Windsor collection ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci--a drawing, however,
which it is not easy to think is actually by him. I have no doubt
that a reminiscence of the same head is intended in a drawing
ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, only that
the artist, whoever he may be, has added hair (which is obviously not
drawn from nature), and has not produced so good a likeness as
Gaudenzio and Bernardino de' Conti have done, but about this last I
am less certain. At any rate there can be no doubt that the figure
represents a Milanese character who in the time of Gaudenzio's youth
was familiar to Milanese artists, and who made a deep impression upon
more than one of them. This will be even more apparent to those who
are familiar with the terra-cotta figures at Varallo, for these can
be seen from several points of view, and a fuller knowledge of the
head is thus obtained than a flat impression from a single point can

It is not likely that the figure is that of a mere model, for it has
no, or very little connection with the action of the piece, and is
evidently placed where it is--the extreme figure to the left, which
is always a place of honour--for the sake of introducing the portrait
into the composition. Gaudenzio would not have been so impressed,
say, with old Christie {14} as to give his portrait from memory
twenty years after he had seen him last, to put this portrait in the
place of honour, and to make the work much more emphatic as a
portrait than as the figure of an actor in his drama, inasmuch as he
has turned the head towards the spectator and away from the central
incident. It is more probable, then, that we must look for some
well-known Milanese art-world character as the original for which the
figure was intended.

We know that Gaudenzio Ferrari studied under Stefano Scotto, and have
every reason to think that Bernardino de' Conti--who, I see, studied
in the school of Foppa, one of Scotto's predecessors, if not under
Scotto himself, must have known him perfectly well. Leonardo da
Vinci kept the rival school at Milan, and the two schools were to one
another much what those kept by the late Mr. F. S. Cary and Mr. Lee
were some thirty years ago in London. Leonardo, therefore, also
doubtless knew Scotto by sight if not personally. I incline to
think, then, that we have here the original we are looking for, and
that Gaudenzio when working at what he probably regarded as the most
important work of his life determined to introduce his master, just
as I, if I were writing a novel, might be tempted to introduce a
reminiscence of my own old schoolmaster, and to make the portrait as
faithful as I could.

I am confirmed in this opinion by noting, as I have done for many
years past, that the figure next to that of Scotto is not unlike the
portraits of Leonardo da Vinci, of which I give the one (whether by
himself or no I do not know) that I believe to be the best. I had
been reminded of Leonardo da Vinci by this figure long before I knew
of Scotto's existence, and had often wondered why he was not made the
outside and most prominent figure; now, then, that I see reason to
think the outside figure intended for Gaudenzio's own master, I
understand why the preference has been given him, and have little
doubt that next to his own master Gaudenzio has placed the other
great contemporary art-teacher at Milan whose pupil he never actually
was, but whose influence he must have felt profoundly. I also derive
an impression that Gaudenzio liked and respected Scotto though he may
have laughed at him, but that he did not like Leonardo, who by the
way had been dead about ten years when this figure was placed where
it now is.

I see, therefore, the two figures as those of Scotto and of Leonardo
da Vinci, and think it likely that in the one portrait we have by far
the most characteristic likeness of Leonardo that has come down to
us. In his own drawings of himself he made himself out such as he
wanted others to think him; here, if I mistake not, he has been
rendered as others saw him. The portrait of Scotto is beyond
question an admirable likeness; it is not likely that the Leonardo is
less successful, and we find in the searching, eager, harassed, and
harassing unquiet of the figure here given a more acceptable
rendering of Leonardo's character and appearance than any among the
likenesses of himself which are more or less plausibly ascribed to
him. The question is one of so much interest that I must defer its
fuller treatment for another work, in which I hope to deal with the
portraits of Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, and with Holbein's "Danse
des Paysans." I have, however, given above the greater part of the
information of which I am as yet possessed upon the subject. In
conclusion, I may say that I mentioned the matter to Signor
Boccioloni the Sindaco of Varallo, and to other friends with whom I
have discussed the question on the spot, and found that people
generally seemed to consider the case as rather a strong one.

As regards the portraits supposed to be found on the frescoes, they
are all so doubtful that I will refrain from discussing them, but
will refer my readers to Colombo. The only exception is a portrait
of one of the Scarrognini family which is seen on the right-hand wall
above the door, the fact of the portraiture being attested by a
barbarous scrawl upon the fresco itself.

Caccia says of the work with more enthusiasm than even I can command,
but in a style of poetry which I find it fairly easy to render, that
we may see among the spectators

" . . . a maraviglia,
Vi son piu donne con la sua famiglia;"

which means in English -

"And here you may behold with wondering eyes,
Several ladies with their families."

He continues that

"Gli Angeli star nel ciel tutti dolenti
Si veggon per pieta del suo Signore,
E turbati mostrarsi gli elementi,
Privi del sole, e d' ogni suo splendore,
E farsi terremoti, e nascer venti,
Par che si veda, d' estremo dolore,
E il tutto esser non pinto ne in scultura,
Ma dell' istesso parto di Natura.

"E se a pieno volessi ricontare
Di questo tempio la bellezza, e l' arte,
Le statue, le pitture, e l' opre rare,
Saria (?) un vergar in infinite carte
Che non han queste in tutto il mondo pare,
Cerchisi pur in qual si voglia parte,
Che di Fidia, Prasitele, e d' Apelle,
Ne di Zeuxi non fur l' opre si belle."

"Search the world through in whatsoever part,
And scan each best known masterpiece of art,
In Phidias or Praxiteles or Apelles,
You will find nothing that done half so well is."

In this translation I have again attempted to preserve--not to say
pickle--the spirit of the original.

Returning to the work as a whole, if the modelled figures fail
anywhere it is in respect of action--more especially as regards the
figures to the spectator's right, which want the concert and
connection without which a scene ceases to be dramatic, and becomes a
mere assemblage of figures placed in juxtaposition. It would be
going too far to say that complaint on this score can be justly
insisted on in respect even of these figures; nevertheless it will be
felt that Gaudenzio Ferrari the painter could harmonise his figures
and give them a unity of action which was denied to him as a
sculptor. It must not be forgotten that his modelled work derives an
adventitious merit from the splendour of the frescoes with which it
is surrounded, and from our admiration of the astounding range of
power manifested by their author.

As a painter, it must be admitted that Gaudenzio Ferrari was second
to very few that had gone before him, but as a sculptor, he did not
do enough to attain perfect mastery over his art. If he had done as
much in sculpture as in painting he would doubtless have been as
great a master of the one as the other; as it was, in sculpture he
never got beyond the stage of being an exceedingly able and
interesting scholar;--this, however, is just the kind of person whose
work in spite of imperfection is most permanently delightful. Among
the defects which he might have overcome is one that is visible in
his earlier painting as well as in his sculpture, and which in
painting he got rid of, though evidently not without difficulty--I
mean, a tendency to get some of his figures unduly below life size.
I have often seen in his paintings that he has got his figures rather
below life size, when apparently intending that they should be full-
sized, and worse than this, that some are smaller in proportion than
others. Nevertheless, when we bear in mind that the Crucifixion
chapel was the first work of its kind, that it consists of four large
walls and a ceiling covered with magnificent frescoes, comprising
about 150 figures; that it contains twenty-six life-sized statues,
two of them on horseback, and much detail by way of accessory, all
done with the utmost care, and all coloured up to nature,--when we
bear this in mind and realise what it all means, it is not easy to
refrain from saying, as I have earlier done, that the Crucifixion
chapel is the most daringly ambitious work of art that any one man
was ever yet known to undertake; and if we could see it as Gaudenzio
left it, we should probably own that in the skill with which the
conception was carried out, no less than in its initial daring, it
should rank as perhaps the most remarkable work of art that even
Italy has produced.


Fassola and Torrotti both say that the terra-cotta figures here are
by a pupil of Giovanni D'Enrico. Bordiga says that the three figures
forming the group upon the cross were done contemporaneously with the
Nailing of Christ to the Cross, which we have already considered, and
are in the style of D'Enrico. If so, they are not in his best style,
while the others are among the worst on the Sacro Monte, with the
exception of one, which I never even observed until last summer, so
completely is it overpowered by the worse than mediocrity with which
it is surrounded. This figure is perhaps, take it all round, the
finest on the Sacro Monte, and is generally known as "Il Vecchietto"
or "the little old man." It is given as the frontispiece of this

I was led to observe it by a casual remark made by my old and valued
friend Signor Dionigi Negri of Varallo, to whom I am indebted for
invaluable assistance in writing this book, and indeed at whose
instigation it was undertaken. He told me there was a portrait of
the man who gave this part of the ground to the founders of the
Sanctuary; he was believed to be a small peasant proprietor--one of
the "alcuni particolari poueri" mentioned by Fassola as owning the
site--who, having been asked to sell the land, gave it instead. This
was the story, but I knew that the land was given not later than
1490-1493, whereas the chapel in question is not earlier than 1630,
when no portrait of the peasant benefactor was possible. I therefore
went to the chapel, and finding the figure, saw what must be obvious
to any one who looks at it with attention, I mean, firstly, how fine
it was, and secondly, that it had not been designed for its present

This last is clear from the hand, which from outside at first appears
to be holding a pair of pincers and a hammer, as though to assist at
the Deposition, but which proves to have been originally designed to
hold a stick--or something round, the hammer and pincers being at
present tied on with a piece of string, to a hand that is not holding
them. I asked the opinion of Cav. Prof Antonini of Varallo and his
son, both of them admirable sculptors, and found them as decided as
myself in their admiration of the figure. Both of them, at different
times, were good enough to go inside the chapel with me, and both
agreed with me that the figure was no part of the design of the group
in which it now is. Cav. Prof. Antonini thought the whole right arm
had been restored, but it was getting dusk when he suggested this,
and I could not see clearly enough to form an opinion; I have the
greatest diffidence in differing from so excellent an authority, but
so far as I could see, I did not think there had been any
restoration. I thought nothing had been done except to put a piece
of string through the hole in the hand where a stick or roll had
been, and to hang the hammer and pincers with it. Leaving Varallo
early on the following morning, I was unable to see the figure again
by day-light, and must allow the question of restoration or non-
restoration to remain unsettled.

There is a large well-defined patch of mended ground covering the
space occupied by the figure itself. There is no other such patch
under any other figure, and the most reasonable inference is that
some alteration has been made here. The expression, moreover, of the
face is not suitable for a Deposition.

There is a holy tranquil smile of joy, thankfulness, and
satisfaction, which perfectly well befits one who is looking up into
the heavens, as he might at an Assumption of the Virgin, or an
Ascension, but is not the expression which so consummate an artist as
the man who made this figure, would give to a bystander at a
Deposition from the Cross. Grief and horror, would be still too
recent to admit of the sweet serene air of ineffable contentment
which is here given.

Lastly, the style of the work is so different from that of all the
other figures in the chapel, that no solidarity can be seen between
it and them. It would be too much to say that the others are as bad
as this is good, but the difference between Rembrandt's old woman in
our National Gallery and an average Royal Academy portrait of fifty
years ago, is not more striking than that between the Vecchietto and
his immediate neighbours.

I can find no mention of the figure in Fassola, or Torrotti. Bordiga
says, "On the left there is a man in peasant's costume, holding his
hat in reverence of Jesus, and said to be a benefactor of the
chapel." He does not say anything about the excellence of the
workmanship, nor, indeed, have I heard any one, except the two
sculptors, Cav. Prof. Antonini and his son, speak of the work in
terms which showed a perception of its merit. If the world knows
little of its greatest men it seems to know not much more about its
greatest works of art, nor, if it continues to look for guidance in
this matter to professional critics and society art-dabblers, is it
likely to improve its knowledge. Cusa says of it:-

"E fra essi un vecchietto naturale assai pel rozzo costume che veste,
e per la semplicita del atto; egli guarda Gesu in atto di levarsi il
cappello, mentre con l'altra mano tiene le tenaglie ed il martello.
Lo si dice ritratto di un Rimellese, benefattore della cappella."

I asked the two sculptors Antonini if they could help me in settling
the question to whom the work should be assigned, and they agreed
with me that it could not be given to Gaudenzio. It is too masterly,
easy, and too like the work of Velasquez in painting, to be by one
who is not known to have done more in sculpture than some two score
or so of figures on the Sacro Monte now remaining, and a few others
that have been lost. The Vecchietto is the work of one to whom
modelling in clay was like breathing, walking, or eating and
drinking, and Gaudenzio never reached such freedom and proficiency as

With few exceptions even the best art-work falls into one of two
classes, and offers signs either of immaturity or decline. Take
Donatello, and Luca della Robbia, or, in painting, Giovanni Bellini,
John Van Eyck, Holbein, Giotto, and even Gaudenzio Ferarri in his
earlier work; take again, in music, Purcell and Corelli; no words of
affectionate admiration are good enough for any one of these great
men, but they none of them say the last word that is to be said in
their respective arts. Michael Angelo said the last word; but then
he said just a word or two over. So with Titian and Leonardo Da
Vinci, and in music with Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. We admire
them, and know that each in many respects surpassed everything that
has been done either before or since, but in each case (and more
especially with the three last named) we feel the presence of an
autumnal tint over all the luxuriance of development, which, while
hardly detracting from the pleasure we receive, still tells of an art
that has taken not an upward but a downward path. I know that I am
apt to take fancies to works of art and artists; I hold, for example,
that my friend Mr. H. F. Jones's songs, of which I have given the
titles at the end of this volume, are finer than an equal number of
any written by any other living composer--and I believe that people
will one day agree with me, though they will doubtless take their
time in doing so--but with all this tendency towards extravagance I
endeavour to preserve a method in my madness, and with most works
find that they fall readily into the growing or the decaying. It is
only with very few, as with Homer and Shakespeare at their best, the
Venus of Milo, the Ilyssus, the finest work of Rembrandt, Giorgione,
and Velasquez, and in music with Handel, that I can see no step left
unclimbed, yet none taken on the downward path. Assuredly the
Vecchietto must be classed with the very few works which, being of
the kind of fruit that they are, are dead ripe, without one trace
either of immaturity or decay.

Difficult, however, as the problem who made this statue is, it is
simplified by the reflection that it can only be given either to
Gaudenzio or Tabachetti. I suggested D'Enrico's name to Cav. Prof.
Antonini to see how he received it, but--thinking doubtless more of
Giacomo Ferro than of D'Enrico--he said "E-whew," and tossed his
thumb over his shoulder, as only an Italian can, as much as to say
that D'Enrico set about his figures with too light a heart to get a
Vecchietto out of them; Gaudenzio, then, being impossible and
D'Enrico ordered out of court, it only remains to give the work to
Tabachetti, with whose sleeping St. Joseph and with not a little else
of whose work it presents much analogy; for the notion that a
stranger of name unknown came to Varallo, did this single figure, and
then went away without doing any more either there or anywhere else
in the least like it, is as incredible as that it is the work of

As for the question of the source from which the figure came we
should remember that the Chiesa Vecchia dell' Assunta was pulled down
at the end of the last century; and this, considering the excellent
preservation in which the Vecchietto is still found, and the
comparatively recent appearance of the disturbance of the ground
under his feet, seems the most likely place for him to have come
from. There were two opportunities in this church, one of which
certainly was, while the other very well might have been, made the
occasion for a group of figures with upturned heads. The first of
these, of course, is the Assumption of the Madonna, of which Caccia
says there was a representation of her "Come ascese in Cielo, con le
statue delli dodeci Apostoli intorno di rilievo," and there may very
well have been a benefactor or so in addition. The second was the
impress of our Saviour's last footprint on the Mount of Olives before
He ascended into heaven. This is mentioned by Fassola as a feature
of special importance, and as having had an indulgence conceded to it
by the Pope in 1488 while it was on its road from Jerusalem. This
relic was held in great veneration, and it is easy to imagine that
its effect may have been enhanced by surrounding it with figures
looking upwards into the heavens towards the clouds that had already
received the body of the Redeemer. All this, however, is mere
conjecture, for there is not a tittle of evidence in support of it,
and we are left practically with nothing more than we can still see
within the limits of the figure itself to give a clue either to its
maker, or the source from which it came, but we may incline to think
that it is the portrait of a benefactor, for no one but a benefactor
would have been treated with so much realism. The man is not a mere
peasant; his clothes are homely, but they are good, and there is that
about him which harmonises well enough with his having been in a
position of comfort. Common peasants may be seen in the Shepherd's
chapel, and the Vecchietto is clearly of higher social status than
these. He looks like a Valsesian yeoman or peasant proprietor, of
some substance; and he was doubtless a benefactor, not of this, but
some other chapel.

I have said there are analogies between this figure and others by
Tabachetti which after all make it not very difficult to decide the
question to whom it should be given. We do not, indeed, find another
Vecchietto, but we shall find more than one figure that exhibits
equal truth to nature, and equal freedom from exaggeration. It is
not possible, for example, to have greater truth to nature than we
find in the figures of Adam and Eve in the first chapel. There is
not one trace either of too much or too little, of exaggeration or of
shortcoming; the nude figure of a man and of a woman were wanted, and
the nude figure of a man and of a woman are given, with neither more
or less modelling than what would be most naturally seen in a young
and comely couple. So again with the charming figure of the Virgin
sewing in the First Vision of St. Joseph chapel. The Virgin and the
Vecchietto are as unlike each other as two figures can be, but they
are both stamped with the same freedom from affectation, and the same
absolute and easy mastery over the means employed. The same applies
to the sleeping St. Joseph, in which case there is a closer analogy
between the two figures themselves. It applies also to a not
inconsiderable extent to the man with a goitre who is leading Christ
in the Calvary chapel. This figure is not done from life, being a
repetition of one by Gaudenzio, but it is so living that we feel sure
it would have been more living still if Tabachetti had had the model
before him from which Gaudenzio in all probability actually worked.
At Crea, there are other figures by Tabachetti to which I will call
attention presently, and which present not inconsiderable analogies
to the Vecchietto. I explain the fact that the analogies are not
closer, by reflecting that this is the one of the few cases in which
Tabachetti has left us a piece of portrait work, pure and simple, and
that his treatment of the head and figure in pure portraiture, would
naturally differ from that adopted in an ideal and imaginative work.


The remaining chapels are few in number, and, whatever they may once
have been, unimportant in character. The first is


The three preceding chapels are supposed to be on Mount Calvary, and
from them we descend by a flight of stone steps to the level of the
piazza. Immediately on reaching this we come upon the Pieta. We
have seen that this chapel originally contained Gaudenzio's Journey
to Calvary, and that the fresco background still, in so far as it is
not destroyed, treats this subject, while the modelled figures
represent the Pieta. Of Gaudenzio's original work Caccia says:-

"Come fu Christo de' panni spogliato,
Montando il Monte poi Calvario detto,
Nel mezzo a manigoldi mal trattato,
Contemplar possi con pietoso affetto,

Seguito da Maria e da l'amato
Discepolo di lui, et e l'effetto
Sculto si bene e doitamente fatto
Che sembra vero e non del ver ritratto."

"Per una scala asceso al Sacro Monte
Si entra nel piu d'ogn' altro sacro tempio," &c.

The words "montando il monte poi," &c., must refer to a supposed
ascent on the part of Christ Himself, for Gaudenzio's work was on a
level with Tabachetti's present Journey to Calvary which Caccia has
just described, and Caccia goes on to say that from Gaudenzio's
chapel (the present Pieta) one "ascends by a staircase to" the most
sacred chapel of all--the Crucifixion--as one does at present. That
the present Pieta and the adjacent Entombment chapels were once one
chapel, may be seen by any one who examines the vaulting inside the
first-named chapel. Signor Arienta pointed this out to me, and at
the same time called my attention to the fact that Gaudenzio's fresco
on the wall facing the spectator does not turn the corner and join on
with the subject that fills the left-hand wall. A flag and a horse
are cut off, and the rest of them is not seen. I sometimes question
whether the original wooden-figured entombment was in the chapel in
which the present modern figures are seen, but it probably was so.

There was also a fainting Madonna mentioned in the prose part of
Caccia as a work by itself and described as follows:-

"Come la Madonna e tramortita vedendo N.S. condotto a morte."

This is not referred to in the poetical part, and must have been a
mere cell occupied by a single figure. No doubt it was seen through
the window that is still approached by two steps on the south side of
the present Pieta, and the space it occupied has been thrown into the
present work.

I do not know when Gaudenzio's Journey to Calvary was dispersed, but
it was some time, doubtless, between 1600 and 1644. It is puzzling
to note that the Pieta appears in the plan of 1671 as situated rather
in the part of the building now occupied by the Entombment than by
the Pieta, while the 39 that should mark the site of the Entombment
does not appear; but this is perhaps only an error in the plan
itself. I find, however, the attempt to understand the changes that
have taken place here so difficult that I shall abandon it and will
return to the present aspect of the work.

Torrotti says that some of the statues in the present chapel are by
Gaudenzio, which they are not. Fassola gives them all to Giovanni
D'Enrico; Bordiga speaks of the work in the highest terms, but for my
own part I do not admire it, nor, I am afraid, can I accept the more
fresh-looking parts of the fresco background as by Gaudenzio. I do
not doubt that his work has been in these parts repainted, and that
the outlines alone are really his. It is not likely we have lost
much by the repainting, for where the work has not been touched it
has so perished as to be hardly worth preserving, and we may think
that what has been repainted was in much the same state. This is the
only chapel in which Gaudenzio's frescoes at Varallo have been much
repainted. If those in the Crucifixion and Magi chapels have been
retouched they have taken little harm; the frescoes in the church of
Sta. Maria delle Grazie have certainly not been touched, and are in
such good preservation that it may be questioned whether they ever
looked much better than they do now. The fine oil picture in the
church of S. Gaudenzio has gone a little yellow through the darkening
of the oil, but is in a good state, and generally, though no painter
of the highest rank has been so much neglected, or suffered more from
the actual destruction of his works, yet for the most part Gaudenzio
has been spared the reckless restoration which is the most cruel ill
that can befall an artist.


We have already seen that this was the first chapel with figures in
it on the Sacro Monte. Of the old eight wooden figures that it
contained, two are still on the mountain in a sort of vault adjacent
to, or under, the main church, and near the furnace in which those
that superseded them were baked. Six are in the Museum at Varallo.
I saw them a few weeks ago, not yet arranged, leaning up against the
wall with very battered and dilapidated glories; the recumbent Christ
was standing more or less on end, and the whole group was in a
pathetic state of dismemberment that will doubtless soon make way for
a return to their earlier arrangement. The figures are interesting,
but it cannot be pretended that they are of great value. They look
very much as if they had been out somewhere the night before.

Of the figures in the present chapel the less said the better.


The chapel of St. Francis is open to the air, and contains nothing
but an altar, and a modern fresco of the death of the saint.

Near it is the Holy Sepulchre, which is entered from a small cell in
which there is a figure of the Magdalene, and from which the visitor
must creep on hands and knees into the Sepulchre itself. The figure
of Christ is not actually in the Sepulchre, but can be seen through a
window opening into the contiguous chapel, where it is over the
altar. The early writers say that there were also two angels by
Gaudenzio (statue di Gaudenzio divoissime), but Bordiga says nothing
of this. The upper part of this building was the abode of Bernardino
Caimi and his successors until the year 1577.

As for the Holy Sepulchre itself it is low and dark, which I have no
doubt is the reason why I have neglected it on the occasions of each
of my two latest visits to Varallo, and thus failed to reach the
adjacent Oratory, which Bordiga says was erected about the year 1702.
Fassola and Torrotti wrote before this date, so that the angels
mentioned by them as by Gaudenzio may have been removed when the
present fabric was erected. At any rate Bordiga speaks as though
they were paintings by one Tarquinio Grassi and not sculptured
figures at all. Torrotti says that visitors to the Holy Sepulchre
used to burn candles, tapers, and torches, each one according to his
purse or piety, and that they did this not so much to see with as to
pray. "Here," he continues, "the great S. Carlo spent his evenings
agreeably" (spendeva gradevolmente le notti). "Few," he concludes
drily, and perhaps with a shade of the same quiet irony that led the
Psalmist to say what he did about "one" day in certain courts, "can
leave it without feeling devoutly thankful." About the candles
Fassola says that there was a kind of automatic arrangement for
getting them like that whereby we can now buy butter-scotch or
matches at the railway stations, by dropping a penny into a slot. He

"And as the figure of Christ can only be seen by the help of candles
(for which reason all pilgrims whose means permit are accustomed to
burn them, being naturally prompted thereto each one according to his
faith)--by throwing money into a hole wherein the same candles lie,
each pilgrim can be made quite comfortable, and contented."

["Gettando il denaro per un buco dove stanno le medesime candelette,
commodamente puo restar ogni divoto contento."]

"The mercies vouchsafed here," continues the same writer; "are
innumerable--in all parts may be seen votive pictures both old and

In the open cloister hard by is shown the wooden bed on which S.
Carlo lay when he came to visit the Sacro Monte, and the stone which
is said to be a facsimile of the one rolled in front of the Holy
Sepulchre itself. Many years ago I spent several weeks at Varallo
sketching and painting on the Sacro Monte. A most excellent and
lovable old priest, now doubtless long since dead, took rather a
fancy to me, and used to implore me to become a Catholic. One day he
took me up to this stone and spoke long and earnestly about it. What
a marvellous miracle it was. There was the stone; I could see it for
myself. What a dumb but eloquent testimony was it not offering; how
could I account for such things? and more to the same effect, all
said obviously in good faith, and with no idea save that of guiding
me to the truth. I was powerless. I could not go into facts or
arguments--I could not be obstinate without getting something like
his consent--and he was instant in season and out of season in
endeavouring to get mine. At last I could stand it no longer, and
said, "My dearest sir, I am the son of an English clergyman who is
himself the son of another English clergyman; my father and mother
are living. If you will tell me that I am to hold my father born in
more than common sin, to have committed a crime in marrying my
mother, and that I am to hold myself as one who ought never to have
been born, then I will accept what you have said about that stone.
Till then let me go my way, and you yours." He said not a word more,
and never again approached the subject; the nearest he ever went to
it was to say that he liked to see me sketching about the Sacro
Monte, for it could do me nothing but good. I trust that I have done
it no harm.

The chapel representing the Magdalene at the feet of the risen Christ
has disappeared. It contained two statues only, and two prophets by
Gaudenzio were painted outside on the wall. It stood "Sotto un
auanzo dei Portici antichi seguentemente al Sepolcro." It was
probably a very early work.

Through an arch under the raised portico or arcaded gallery are three
small ruined cells called now "Il Paradiso," and numbered 43, 44, and
45; of one of these Fassola tells us that it contained "many modern
statues" by Gaudenzio Sceti, and frescoes by Gianoli; they are all
now mere wrecks. There is no important work by Gaudenzio Sceti
remaining on the Sacro Monte, but there is a terra-cotta crucifix
with a Virgin and a St. John by him, of no great value, in the church
of S. Gaudenzio. What remains of his work on the Sacro Monte itself
consists of statues of Sta. Anna and the Virgin as a child upon her
lap in the chapel or cell numbered 43.

Chapel 44 need not detain us. What few remains of figures it
contains are uninteresting and ruined.

I have already spoken of chapel No. 45, which once represented an
entombment of the Madonna, as in all probability the oldest building,
and as certainly containing the oldest, and by no means least
interesting frescoes on the Sacro Monte. There is nothing inside the
chapel except these frescoes, but outside it there are many scrawls,
of which the earliest I have noticed is 1520--the supposed 1437 being
certainly 1537. The writer of one of these scrawls has added the
words "fuit hic" to his signature as John Van Eyck has done to the
signature of his portrait of John Arnolfini and his wife. I have
found this addition of "fuit hic" in a signature of a certain
"Cardinalis de al . . . " who scratched his name "1389 die 19 Mag" on
a fresco to the left of the statue of S. Zenone in the church S.
Zenone at Verona. On a fresco in the very interesting castle of
Fenis in the valley of Aosta, to which I hope to return in another
work, there is scratched "Hic sponsus cum sponsa fuit 1790 25 May,"
the "May" being an English May; Jones and I thought the writer had
begun to add "London" but had stopped. The "fuit hic," therefore, of
John Van Eyck's signature should not be translated as we might be
tempted to wish to translate it, "This was John Van Eyck."

Returning to the Sacro Monte, there remains only the Chiesa Vecchia,
removed at the end of the last century to make room for the building
that was till lately the "casa degli esercizi," or house in which the
priests on the mountain performed their spiritual exercises. This is
now let out in apartments during the summer, and is called the
Casino. The old sacristy, now used as the archivio of the Sacro
Monte, still remains, and contains a fresco by Lanini, that bears
strong traces of the influence of his master Gaudenzio. Besides the
impress of Christ's foot and the Assumption of the Virgin, the church
contained an Annunciation by Gaudenzio and frescoes of St. Catherine
and St. Cecilia; the Cupola was also decorated by him. This work was
undertaken in 1530, the greater angels being by Gaudenzio and the
smaller by Lanini and Fermo Stella. These frescoes all perished when
the church was pulled down.

The present Chiesa Maggiore was begun on the 9th of June 1614--
D'Enrico's design having, so Bordiga says, been approved on the 1st
of April in that year. Fassola says that in 1671 the only parts
completed were the Choir and Cupola, the whole body of the church
being left unfinished. Bordiga speaks of the church as having been
finished in 1649, in which year, on the feast of the Birth of the
Virgin, her image was taken from the old church and placed in the
new, so when Fassola says "unfinished" he must refer to decoration
only. The steps leading up to the church and the unfinished columns
were erected in 1825 from designs by Marchese Don Luigi Cagnola, the
architect of the Arco della Pace at Milan. It was ere long found
that the stone selected was unreliable, so that all must be done over
again; the work has, therefore, been suspended.

The Cupola is covered with about 140 modelled figures of angels, by
Dionigi Bussola and Giambattista Volpino, Milanese sculptors, who
worked from designs made by Antonio Tempesta, a Florentine. They did
this work about the year 1660. The brothers Montalti painted the
frescoes, some more highly coloured groups being added by Antonio
Cucchi of Milan in 1750.

In the crypt there is a sumptuous shrine containing the statue of the
Madonna, said to have been made by St. Luke. This was erected in
1854, but on the night between the 4th and 5th of October in the same
year the crown was stolen from the Virgin's head, and in the
following year there was a solemn expiatory function, with
festivities extending over three days, in order to celebrate the
replacing of the stolen crown by a new one.

It cannot be said that any of the works of art now in the church are
of considerable interest, but an important work of art was
nevertheless produced in it at the celebration of the fourth
centenary of the birth of Gaudenzio Ferrari, which was held in 1885.
I refer to the Mass by Cagnoni, which was here performed for the
first time, and which showed that the best traditions of old Italian
ecclesiastical music are still occasionally adhered to. I was
present at the production of the work, and have heard no modern
Italian music that has pleased me nearly as much. I ventured to ask
the Maestro for the baton he had used in conducting it, and am proud
to keep it as a memorial of a fine performance of a very fine work.
The baton is several old newspapers neatly folded up and covered with


I have now to add a short account of what remains of Tabachetti's
work at Crea, to the very inadequate description of his work at
Varallo that has been given in some earlier chapters.

Crea is most easily approached from Casale, a large opulent
commercial town upon the Po, that has already received the waters of
the Dora Baltea, and though not yet swelled by the influx of the
Ticino and Adda, has become a noble river. The town is built
entirely on the plain, but the rich colline of the Monferrato
district begin to rise immediately outside it, and continue in an
endless series of vineclad slopes and village-capped hill-tops as far
as the eye can reach. These colline are of exquisite beauty in
themselves, and from their sides the most magnificent views of
Piedmont and the Alps extend themselves in every direction. The
people are a well-grown comely race, kind and easy to get on with.
Nothing could exceed the civility and comfort of the Hotel Rosa
Rossa, the principal inn of the city. The town contains many
picturesque bits, but in our short stay we did not see any very
remarkable architectural features, and it does not form an exception
to the rule that the eastern cities of Northern Italy are far more
beautiful than the western. The churches, never one would imagine
very striking, have been modernised and restored; nor were we told
that there is any collection of pictures in the town which is likely
to prove of interest.

The visitor should leave Casale by the 7.58 A.M. train on the line
for Asti, and get out at Serralunga, the third station on the road.
Here the sanctuary of Crea can be seen crowning a neighbouring
collina with a chapel that has an arcaded gallery running round it,
like some of those at Varese. Many other chapels testify to the
former importance of the place; on the whole, however, the effect of
the buildings cannot compare with that of the sanctuaries of Varallo
and Varese. Taking a small carriage, which can always be had at the
station (fare, to the sanctuary and back, eight francs), my friend,
Mr. H. F. Jones, and myself ascended to Serralunga, finding the views
continually become more and more bewitching as we did so; soon after
passing through Serralunga we reached the first chapel, and after
another zigzag or two of road found ourselves in the large open court
in front of the church. Here there is an inn, where any one who is
inclined to do so could very well sleep. The piazza of the sanctuary
is some two thousand feet above the sea, and the views are in some
respects finer even than those from the Sacro Monte of Varese itself,
inasmuch as we are looking towards the chain of the Alps, instead of
away from them.

We have already seen that the sanctuary at Crea was begun about 1590,
a hundred years or so later than the Sacro Monte of Varallo, and a
dozen years earlier than that of Varese. The church attached to the
convent, in which a few monks still remain, contains a chapel with
good frescoes by Macrino D'Alba; they are somewhat damaged, and the
light is so bad that if the guardiano of the sanctuary had not kindly
lent us a candle we could not have seen them. It is not easy to
understand how they can have been painted in such darkness; they are,
however, the most important work of this painter that I have yet
seen, and give a more favourable impression of him than is likely to
be formed elsewhere. Behind the high altar there is an oil picture
also by Macrino d'Alba, signed as by the following couplet, which
they may scan who can:

"Hoc tibi, diva parens, posuit faciente Macrino
Bladratensis opus Johes ille Jacobus.1503."

The "Macrino," and "1503," are in red paint, the rest in black. The
picture is so dark, and the view of it so much obstructed by the high
altar, that it is impossible to see it well, but it seemed good.
There is nothing else in the church, nor need the frescoes in the
chapels containing the terra-cotta figures be considered; we were
told they were painted by Caccia, better known as Moncalvo, but we
could see nothing in them to admire. The sole interest of the
sanctuary--except, of course, the surpassing beauty of its position--
is vested in what few remains of Tabachetti's work may be found
there, and in the light that these may throw upon what he has left at

All the work by Tabachetti now remaining at Crea consists of the
Martyrdom of St. Eusebius chapel, almost all of which is by him,
perhaps a figure or two in the Sposalizio chapel, but certainly not
the figures of St. Joseph and the Virgin, which are not even ascribed
to him, the Virgin in the Annunciation chapel, some parts of the
Judith and Holofernes, with which this subject is strangely backed;
some few of the figures in the Marriage Feast at Cana chapel, and
lastly, the wreck, which is all that remains, of the Assumption of
the Virgin--commonly called "Il Paradiso." All the other chapels are
either in a ruined state or have been renewed with modern figures
during the last thirty years, and more especially during the last
ten, at the instance, and, as we understood, at the expense, of the
present Archbishop of Milan, who does his campagna here every summer.

The most important chapel is the Martyrdom of St. Eusebius, below the
sanctuary itself. The saint is supposed to have been martyred in
front of the church of St. Andrea at Vercelli. Some four or so of
the figures to the spectator's right are modern restorations; among
them, however, there is a child of extreme sweetness and beauty,
which must certainly be by Tabachetti, looking up and clinging to the
dress of its mother, who has been restored, and is as commonplace as
the child is the reverse. There are two restored or rather entirely
new priests close by the mother and child, and near these is another
new figure--a girl immediately to the child's right; this is so
absurdly bad and out of proportion that it is not easy to understand
how even the restorer can have allowed himself to make it. All the
rest of the figures are by Tabachetti. A little behind the mother
and child, but more to the spectator's right, and near to the wall of
the chapel, there stands a boy one of whose lower eyelids is
paralysed, and whose expression is one of fear and pain. This figure
is so free alike from exaggeration or shortcoming, that it is hard to
praise it too highly. Another figure in the background to the
spectator's left--that of a goitred cretin who is handing stones to
one of the stoners, has some of the same remarkably living look as is
observable in the two already referred to; so also has another man in
a green skull-cap, who is holding a small battle-axe and looking over
the stoner's shoulders. Two of the stoners are very powerful
figures. The man on horseback, in the background, appears to be a
portrait probably of a benefactor. In spite of restoration, the work
is still exceedingly impressive. The figures behind the saint act
well together, the crowd is a crowd--a one in many, and a many in
one--not, as with every one except Tabachetti who has tried to do a
crowd in sculpture, a mere collection of units, that, whatever else
they may be, are certainly not crowding one another. The main
drawback of the work is that the chapel is too small for the subject-
-a matter over which Tabachetti probably had no control.

It is with very great regret that I have been unable to photograph
the work, but I was flatly refused permission to do so, though I
applied through influential people to the Archbishop himself. No one
need be at the trouble of going to see it who is not already
impressed with a sense of Tabachetti's in some respects unrivalled
genius, and who does not know how to take into consideration the evil
influences of all sorts with which he was surrounded; those, however,
who realise the magnitude of the task attempted, who will be at the
pains of putting themselves, as far as may be, in the artist's place
and judging of the work from the stand-point intended by him, and who
will also in their imagination restore the damage which three
centuries of exposure and restoration must assuredly have involved,
will find themselves rewarded by a fuller comprehension of the work
of a sculptor of the foremost rank than they can attain elsewhere
except at Varallo itself.

I have said that some of the figures in the Sposalizio chapel, except
Joseph and Mary, are ascribed to Tabachetti. I do not know on what
grounds the ascription rests; they have been restored,--clogged with
shiny paint, and suffered every ill that could well befall them short
of being broken up and carted away. Any one who sampled Tabachetti
by these figures might well be disappointed; two or three may be by
him, but hardly more. In spite, however, of all that may be justly
urged against them, they are marked by the same attempt at concert
and unity of purpose which goes so far to redeem individual
comparative want of interest. In the background is a coloured bas-
relief of Rachel and Jacob at the well and five camels.

In the Annunciation chapel the Virgin may well be, as she is said to
be, by Tabachetti; she is a very beautiful figure, though not so fine
as his Madonna and Child in the church of St. Gaudenzio at Varallo;
she has been badly painted, and it is hard to say how much she has
not suffered in consequence. Some parts of the story of Judith and
Holofernes in the background are also good, but I do not think I
should have seen Tabachetti in them unless I had been told that he
was there.

The wreck of the chapel commonly called "Il Paradiso" crowns the
hill, conspicuous for many a mile in every direction, but on reaching
the grating we found no trace of the figures that doubtless once
covered the floor of the chapel. All that remained was a huge
pendant of angels, cherubs, and saints, swarming as it were to the
ceiling in an inextricable knot of arms, legs, wings, faces, and
flowing drapery; two circles of saints, bishops, and others, who
might be fitly placed in Paradise, rising one above the other high up
the walls of the chapel--the lower circle full-length figures, and
the other half-length; and above this a higher and richly coloured
crown of musical saints and angels in good preservation. In passing
I may say that this is the place where the Vecchietto ought to have
come from, though it is not likely that he did so.

The pendant retains much of its original colour, and must once have
been a gorgeous and fitting climax. Still, no one can do much with
such a subject. To attempt it is to fly in the face of every canon
by the observance of which art can alone give lasting pleasure. It
is to crib, cabin, and confine, within the limits of well-defined
sensation and perception, ideas that are only tolerable when left in
the utmost indefiniteness consistent with thought at all. It is
depressing to think that he who could have left us portrait after
portrait of all that was noblest and loveliest in the men and women
of his age--who could give a life such as no one but himself, at any
rate at that time, could give--should have had to spend months if not
years upon a work that even when new can have been nothing better
than a magnificent piece of stage decoration.

But of such miscarriages the kingdom of art is full. In the kingdom
of art not only are many called and few chosen, but the few that do
get chosen are for the most part chosen amiss, or are lavished in the
infinite prodigality of nature. We flatter ourselves that among the
kings and queens of art, music, and literature, or at any rate in the
kingdom of the great dead, all wrongs shall be redressed, and patient
merit shall take no more quips and scorns from the unworthy: there,
if an able artist, as, we will say, F. H. Potter just dead, dies
poor, neglected, and unable to fight his way through the ranks of men
with not a tenth part of his genius, there, at any rate, shall right
be done; there the mighty shall be put down from his seat, and the
lowly and meek, if clever as well as good, shall meet his just
reward. It is not so. There is no circle so exalted but the devil
has got the run of it. As for the reputations of the great dead,
they are governed in the main by the chicane that obtains among the
living; it is only after generations of flourishing imposture, that
even approximate right gets done. Look at Raphael, see how he still
reigns supreme over those who have the people's ears and purses at
command. True, Guido, Guercino, and Domenichino have at last tumbled
into the abyss, and we know very well that Raphael will ere long fall
too, but Guido, Guercino, and Domenichino had a triumph of some two
hundred years, during which none dared lift hand against them. Look
again at that grossest of impostors--Bacon. Look at by far the
greater number of the standard classical authors, painters, and
musicians. All that can be said is that there is a nisus in the
right direction which is not wholly in vain, and that though tens of
thousands of men and women of genius are as dandelion seeds borne
upon the air and perishing without visible result, yet there is here
and there a seed that really does take root and spring upwards to be
a plant on the whole more vigorous than that from which it sprung.
Right and truth and justice, in their relation to human affairs, are
as asymptotes which, though continually drawing nearer and nearer to
the curve, can never reach it but by a violation of all on which
their own existence is founded.

As for the Assumption chapel, those who would see it even as a wreck
should lose no time; it is in full process of restoration; it is
swept and garnished for immediate possession by a gentleman whom we
met on the road down, and whose facility of execution in making
crucified Christs out of plaster of Paris is something almost
incredible. His type of face was Jewish, and it struck both Jones
and me that his proficiency must be in some degree due to hereditary
practice. He showed us one crucifix which he had only begun at eight
o'clock that morning, and by eleven was as good as finished. He told
us he had done the brand new Disputa chapel and the Agony in the
Garden with the beautiful blue light thrown all over Christ through
deep French ultramarine glass, and he was now going on with the other
chapels as fast as he could. He said they had no oven for baking
terra-cotta figures; besides, terra-cotta was such a much slower
material to work in; he could make a gross of apostles in plaster
more quickly than a single set of twelve in terra-cotta, and the
effect was just as good when painted; so plaster of Paris and
unrivalled facility of execution are to have everything their own
way. Already what I can only call a shoddy bishop or pope or two, I
forget which, have got in among the circle of Tabachetti's saints and
angels that still remains. These are many of them portraits full of
serious dignity and unspotted by the world of barocco with which
Tabachetti was surrounded. At the present moment they have been
partly scraped and show as terra-cotta; no doubt they have suffered
not a little in the scraping and will do so still further when they
are repainted, but there is no help for it. Great works of art have
got to die like everything else.

And, after all, it is as well they should, lest they come to weigh us
down too heavily. Why should a man live too long after he is dead?
For a while, yes, if he has done good service in his generation, give
him a new lease of life in the hearts and memories of his successors,
but do not let even the most eminent be too exacting; do not let them
linger on as nonagenarians when their strength is now become but
labour and sorrow. We have statutes of mortmain to restrain the dead
hand from entering in among the living--why not a statute of
limitations or "a fixed period" as against reputations and works of
art--say a thousand years or so--behind which time we will resolutely
refuse to go, except in rare cases by acclamation of the civilised
world? How is it to end if we go on at our present rate, with huge
geological formations of art and book middens accreting in every city
of Europe? Who is to see them, who even to catalogue them? Remember
the Malthusian doctrine, and that the mind breeds in even more rapid
geometrical ratio than the body. With such a surfeit of art and
science the mind pails and longs to be relieved from both. As the
true life which a man lives is not in that consciousness in the midst
of which the thing he calls "himself" sits and the din and roar of
which confuse and deafen him, but in the life he lives in others, so
the true life a man's work should live after his death is not in the
mouths but in the lives of those that follow him; in these it may
live while the world lasts, as his lives who invented the wheel or
arch, but let it live in the use which passeth all praise or thanks
or even understanding, and let the story die after a certain time as
all things else must do.

Perhaps; but at any rate let us give them decent burial. Crush the
wounded beetle if you will, but do not try to mend it. I am glad to
have seen the remains of the Assumption chapel while they are in
their present state, but am not sure whether I would not rather see
them destroyed at once, than meet the fate of restoration that is in
store for them. At the same time I am confident that no more
competent restorer than the able and eminent sculptor who has the
work in hand is at all likely to be found. My complaint is not
against him, but against the utter hopelessness of the task. I would
again urge those who may be induced to take an interest in
Tabachetti's work to lose no time in going to see what still remains
of it at Crea.

Last January I paid a second visit to Crea; and finding a scaffolding
up, was able to get on a level with the circle of full-length
figures. They were still unpainted, the terra-cotta figures showing
as terra-cotta and the plaster of Paris white. When they are all
repainted the visitor will find it less easy to say which are new
figures and which old. I will therefore say that of the lower circle
of twenty full-length figures the only two entirely new figures are
the sixth to the left of the door on entering, which represents a man
holding an open book by his left hand and resting it on his thigh,
and the sixth figure to the right of the door on entering. There are
several unimportant restorations of details of dress, feet, and
clouds; the rest of the work in this circle is all by Tabachetti.

In the circle of busts and half-length figures, the first new work to
the left of the door on entering is a figure that holds a lamb, the
two half-length figures that come next in sequence are also new--the
second of these is a nun holding a little temple. The second upper
choir of angels and saints is still in its original [?] colour and
seems to have been little touched, as also the pendant.

The chapel containing the Marriage Feast at Cana has been much
restored and badly repainted. Most of the figures are very poor, but
some, and especially a waiter with his hair parted down the middle,
who is offering a hare (not cut up) to a guest who seems to have had
too much already, are very good indeed. I find it difficult to think
that this waiter can be by any one but Tabachetti. The guitar-player
is good, or rather was good before he was repainted--so is a lady
near him, so are some of the waiters at the other end, and so are the
bride and bridegroom; at any rate they are life-like and effective as
seen from outside, but the chapel has suffered much from restoration.

There is one other chapel at Crea which may be by Tabachetti though I
do not know that it is ascribed to him, I mean the one containing
figures of the founder and his wife, a little below the main piazza.
The shepherds and sheep to the left are probably not by Tabachetti,
but the lady is a well-modelled figure. Both she, however, and her
husband have been so cruelly clogged with new paint that it is hard
to form an opinion about them.

On the piazza itself is a chapel representing the Birth of the Virgin
which is also pleasing. It is not always easy for us English to tell
the Birth of the Virgin from the Nativity, and it may help the reader
to distinguish these subjects readily if he will bear in mind, that
at the Birth of the Virgin the baby is always going to be washed--
which never happens at the Nativity; this, and that the Virgin's
mother is almost invariably to have an egg, and generally a good deal
more, whereas the Virgin never has anything to eat or drink. The
Virgin's mother always wants keeping up. Gaudenzio Ferrari has a
Birth of the Virgin in the Church of S. Cristoforo at Vercelli. The
Virgin's mother is eating one egg with a spoon, and there is another
coming in on a tray, which I think is to be beaten up in wine.
Something more substantial to follow is coming in on a hot plate with
a cover over it and a napkin. The baby is to be washed of course,
and the kind old head nurse is putting her hand in the bath, while
the under nurse pours in the hot water, to make sure that the
temperature is exactly right. It is to be just nicely loo-warm. The
bath itself is certainly a very little one; it will hold about a pint
and a half, but medieval washing apparatus did run rather small, and
Gaudenzio was not going to waste more of his precious space than he
could help upon so uninteresting an object as a bath; in actual life
the bath was doubtless larger. The under-under nurse is warming a
towel, which will be nicely ready when the bath is over. Joachim
appears to have been in very easy circumstances, and the arrangements
could hardly be more commodious even though the event had taken place
at a certain well-known establishment in the Marylebone Road.

At Milan, in a work that I only know by Pianazzi's engraving, there
are two eggs coming in on a tray, and they too, I should say, are to
be beaten up in wine. The under nurse is again filling a very little
bath with warm water, and the head nurse is trying the temperature
with her hand. There is no room for the warming of the towel, but
there is no question that the towel is being warmed just out of the
picture on the left hand. Here, at Crea, the attendant is giving the
Virgin's mother a plain boiled egg, and has a spoon in her hand with
which she is going to crack it. The Virgin's mother is frowning and
motioning it away; she is quite as well as can be expected; still she
does not feel equal to taking solid food, and the nurse is saying,
"Do try, ma'am, just one little spoonful, the doctor said you was to
have it, ma'am." In the smaller picture by Carpaccio at Bergamo she
is again to have an egg; in the larger she is to have some broth now,
but a servant can be seen in the kitchen plucking a fowl for dear
life, so probably the larger picture refers to a day or two later
than the earlier.

The only other thing that struck us at Crea was the Virgin in the
Presentation chapel. She is so much too small that one feels as
though there must be some explanation that is not obvious. She is
not more than 2 ft. 6 in. high, while the High Priest, and Joachim
and St. Anne are all life-sized. The Chief Priest is holding up his
hands, and seems a good deal surprised, as though he were saying--
"Well, St. Anne my dear, I must say you are the very smallest Virgin
that I ever had presented to me during the whole course of my
incumbency." Joachim and St. Anne seem very much distressed, and
Joachim appears to be saying, "It is not our fault; I assure you,
sir, we have done everything in our power. She has had plenty of
nourishment." There must be some explanation of the diminutive size
of the figure that is not apparent.


Returning to Varallo, in the town itself the most important work is
the fresco by Gaudenzio Ferrari in the church of Sta. Maria delle
Grazie, already several times referred to. The reader will find it
fully described in the pages of Colombo; moreover, in January last
Signor Pizetta took excellent negatives of all the compartments into
which the work is divided, and I learn that he has sent impressions--
put together so as to give a very good idea of the work--to the
Italian Exhibition that will open as these pages leave my hands. I
have myself also sent to the same Exhibition a few unreduced
impressions from the negatives used in the illustrations that face
earlier pages: these will give the reader a more correct impression
of the works from which they are taken than he can get from the
reduction. I do not yet know whether they will be hung.

The fresco of Sta. Petronilla painted by Gaudenzio by moonlight on a
chapel just outside the town, is now little more than a wreck.

There are a few works by Gaudenzio of no great importance in the
Pinacoteca of the Museum; a few frescoes by Lanini, one or two
drawings by Tanzio D'Enrico, which show that he was a well-trained
draughtsman; two pictures by him, barocco in character, but not
without power, and other works of more or less interest, are also in
the Pinacoteca.

In the parish church of S. Gaudenzio, behind the altar, there is an
exceedingly fine Ancona by Gaudenzio, to which I have already
referred. Over an altar in the north transept, but for the most part
hidden behind a painted tela, is Tabachetti's very beautiful Madonna
del Rosario, which the visitor should ask the Sacristan to show him;
and last, but hardly least, there is a Madonna by Dedomenici of
Rossa--a village higher up the Valsesia--painted on linen, in the
chapel dedicated to St. Joseph.

I referred to this last-named work in my book "Alps and Sanctuaries"
(pp. 177, &c.), and have seen no reason to modify the opinion I then
expressed. I may repeat that about twenty years ago I was much
struck with the painting and could not make out its strong and
evidently unaffected medieval feeling, yet modernness at the same
time. On consulting the Sacristan I learned that Dedomenici had died
about 1840. He added that the extraordinary thing was that
Dedomenici had never studied painting, and had never travelled out of
the Valsesia; that he had, in fact, acquired his art by doing rather
than by learning how to do.

This, as it appeared to me, explained his excellence. As a general
rule the more people study how to do things the more hopelessly
academic they become. Learning how to say ends soon in having
nothing to say. Learning how to paint, in having nothing that one so
longs to paint as to be unable to keep one's hands off it. It
gratifies the lust of doing sufficiently to appease it, and then
kills it. Learning how to write music, ends in the dreary
symphonies, operas, cantatas, and oratorios which it seems are all
that modern composers can give us. The only way to study an art is
to begin at once with doing something that one wants very badly to
do, and doing it--even though it be only very badly. Study, of
course, but synchronously--letting the work be its own exercises.

If a man defers doing till he knows how to do, when is the hunting
the ignis fatuus of a perfect manner to end, and the actual work that
he is to leave behind him to begin? I know nothing so deadening, as
a long course of preliminary study in any art, and nothing so living
as work plunged into at once by one who is studying hard--over it,
rather than in preparation for it. Jones talking with me once on
this subject, and about agape as against gnosis in art, said, "Oh
that men should put an enemy into their brains to steal away their
hearts." At any rate he and I have written "Narcissus" on these
principles, and are not without hope that what it has lost in
erudition it may have gained in freshness. I have, however, dealt
with the question of how to study painting more at length in the
chapter on the Decline of Italian art in "Alps and Sanctuaries."

I said I would return to the chapel of Loreto a little way out of
Varallo on the road to Novara. This work has a lunette which is
generally, and I suppose correctly, ascribed to Gaudenzio. It is
covered with frescoes not of extraordinary merit, but still
interesting, and the chapel itself is extremely beautiful. I had
intended dwelling upon it at greater length, but find that my space
will not allow me to do so, though I shall hope to describe it more
fully in another work on Italy, for which I have many notes that I
have been unable to use here.

And now to conclude. A friend once said to me on the Sacro Monte,
"How is it that they have no chapel of the Descent of the Holy
Spirit?" I answered that the work of Gaudenzio Ferrari, Tabachetti,
D'Enrico, and Paracca was a more potent witness to, and fitter temple
for, the Holy Spirit, than any that the hands even of these men could
have made for it expressly. For that there is a Holy Spirit, and
that it does descend on those that diligently seek it, who can for a
moment question? A man may speak lightly of the Father and it shall
be forgiven him; he may speak lightly of the Son and it shall be
forgiven him; but woe to him if he speak lightly of that Divine
Spirit, inspiration of which alone it is that makes a work of art
either true or permanently desirable.

Of the letter in which the Sacro Monte is written, I have at times in
the preceding pages spoken lightly enough. Who in these days but the
advocates whose paid profession it is to maintain the existing order,
and those whom custom and vested interests hold enthralled, accepts
the letter of Christianity more than he accepts the letter of
Oriental exaggerated phraseology? If three days and three nights
means in reality only thirty-six hours, so should full fifty per
cent. be deducted wherever else seems necessary, and "dead" be read
as "very nearly dead," and "the Son of God" as "rarely perfect man."
Who, on the other hand, that need be reckoned with, denies the
eternal underlying verity that there is an omnipresent unknown
something for which Mind, Spirit, or God, is, as Professor Mivart has
well said, "the least misleading" expression? Who doubts that this
Mind or God is immanent throughout the whole universe, sustaining it,
guiding it, living in it, he in it and it in him? I heard of one not
long since who said he had been an atheist this ten years--and added,
"thank God." Who, again, doubts that the spirit of self-sacrifice
for a noble end is lovelier and brings more peace at the last than
one of self-seeking and self-indulgence? And who doubts that of the
two great enemies both to religion and science referred to in the
passage I have taken for my motto, "the too much" is even more
dangerous than "the too little"?

I, and those who think as I do, would see the letter whether of
science or of Christianity made less of, and the spirit more.
Slowly, but very slowly--far, as it seems to our impatience, too
slowly--things move in this direction. See how even the Church of
Rome, and indeed all churches, are dropping miracles that they once
held proper objects of faith and adoration. The Sacro Monte is now
singularly free from all that we Protestants are apt to call

The miracles and graces so freely dealt in by Fassola and Torrotti
find no place in the more recent handbooks. The Ex Votos and images
in wax and silver with which each chapel formerly abounded have long
disappeared, and the sacred drama is told with almost as close an
adherence to the facts recorded in the Gospels, as though the whole
had been done by Protestant workmen. Where is the impress of
Christ's footprint now? carted away or thrown into a lumber room as a
child's toy that has been outgrown--so surely as has been often said
do the famous words "E pur si muove" apply to the Church herself, as
well as to that world whose movement she so strenuously denied.

The same thing is happening here among ourselves. As the good
churchmen at Varallo have thrown away their Flemish dancer, their
footprint of the Saviour, and their Virgins that box thieves' ears
and persist in turning round and smiling even after they have been
asked not to do so, so we, by the mouths of our Bishops, are flinging
away our Genesis, our Exodus, and I know not how much more. In the
Nineteenth Century for last December the Bishop of Carlisle says that
the account of Creation given in the Book of Genesis "does not
pretend to be historical in any ordinary sense"--or, in other words,
that it does not pretend to be historical, or true, at all. Surely
this is rather a startling jettison. The Bishop goes on to say that
"the account of the flood is a very precious tradition full of
valuable teaching," and is, he doubts not, a record of some great
event that actually occurred; "but," he continues, "I confess that
until Bishop Colenso brought his arithmetic to bear upon it and some
other portions of Old Testament history, I was quite [why "quite?"]
under the impression that the common sense of Christians abstained
from criticising this ancient record by the canons applicable to
ordinary history." This was not my own impression, but the Bishop's
is doubtless more accurate. If things, however, go on at this rate,
a hundred years hence we shall have a Bishop writing to the Twentieth
Century that till X, Y or Z brought their canons of historical
criticism to bear on the Resurrection itself, he was "quite" under
the impression that the common sense of Christians abstained from
criticising this ancient record by the canons applicable to ordinary
history. The Bishop appeals, and rightly, to common sense. This is
of all courts the safest and rightest to abide by, but it must not be
forgotten that the common sense of one generation is not that of the
next, and that the modification with which common sense descends
cannot be effected, however gently we may try to do so, without some
disturbance of the pre-existing common sense, and some reversal of
its decrees.

That the letter of the coming faith will be greatly truer than that
of the many that have preceded it I for one do not believe. Let us
have no more "Lo heres" and "Lo theres" in this respect. I would as
soon have a winking Madonna or a forged decretal, as the doubtful
experiments or garbled articles which the high priests of modern
science are applauded with one voice for trying to palm off upon
their devotees; and I should look as hopefully for good result from a
new monastery, as from a new school of art, college of music, or
scientific institution. Whatever faith or science the world at large
bows down to will in its letter be tainted with the world that
worships it. Whoever clings to the spirit that underlies all the
science obtaining among civilised peoples will assuredly find that he
cannot serve God and Mammon. The true Christ ever brings a sword on
earth as well as peace, and if he maketh men to be of one mind in an
house, he divideth a house no less surely. The way will be straight

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