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KNIGHTS OF ART
STORIES OF THE ITALIAN PAINTERS
BY AMY STEEDMAN
AUTHOR OF `IN GOD'S GARDEN'
ABOUT THIS BOOK
What would we do without our picture-books,
I wonder? Before we knew how to read, before
even we could speak, we had learned to love them.
We shouted with pleasure when we turned the pages
and saw the spotted cow standing in the daisy-
sprinkled meadow, the foolish-looking old sheep with
her gambolling lambs, the wise dog with his friendly
eyes. They were all real friends to us.
Then a little later on, when we began to ask for
stories about the pictures, how we loved them more
and more. There was the little girl in the red cloak
talking to the great grey wolf with the wicked eyes;
the cottage with the bright pink roses climbing
round the lattice-window, out of which jumped a
little maid with golden hair, followed by the great
big bear, the middle-sized bear, and the tiny bear.
Truly those stories were a great joy to us, but we
would never have loved them quite so much if we
had not known their pictured faces as well.
Do you ever wonder how all these pictures came
to be made? They had a beginning, just as everything
else had, but the beginning goes so far back
that we can scarcely trace it.
Children have not always had picture-books to
look at. In the long-ago days such things were not
known. Thousands of years ago, far away in
Assyria, the Assyrian people learned to make
pictures and to carve them out in stone. In Egypt,
too, the Egyptians traced pictures upon the walls
of their temples and upon the painted mummy-
cases of the dead. Then the Greeks made still
more beautiful statues and pictures in marble, and
called them gods and goddesses, for all this was at
a time when the true God was forgotten.
Afterwards, when Christ had come and the people
had learned that the pictured gods were not real,
they began to think it wicked to make beautiful
pictures or carve marble statues. The few pictures
that were made were stiff and ugly, the figures were
not like real men and women, the animals and trees
were very strange-looking things. And instead of
making the sky blue as it really was, they made it
a chequered pattern of gold. After a time it seemed
as if the art of making pictures was going to die out
Then came the time which is called `The Renaissance,'
a word which means being born again, or a
new awakening, when men began to draw real
pictures of real things and fill the world with images
Now it is the stories of the men of that time, who
put new life into Art, that I am going to tell you--
men who learned, step by step, to paint the most
beautiful pictures that the world possesses.
In telling these stories I have been helped by an
old book called The Lives of the Painters, by
Giorgio Vasari, who was himself a painter. He
took great delight in gathering together all the
stories about these artists and writing them down
with loving care, so that he shows us real living
men, and not merely great names by which the
famous pictures are known.
It did not make much difference to us when we
were little children whether our pictures were good
or bad, as long as the colours were bright and we
knew what they meant. But as we grow older and
wiser our eyes grow wiser too, and we learn to know
what is good and what is poor. Only, just as our
tongues must be trained to speak, our hands to
work, and our ears to love good music, so our eyes
must be taught to see what is beautiful, or we may
perhaps pass it carelessly by, and lose a great joy
which might be ours.
So now if you learn something about these great
artists and their wonderful pictures, it will help your
eyes to grow wise. And some day should you visit
sunny Italy, where these men lived and worked,
you will feel that they are quite old friends. Their
pictures will not only be a delight to your eyes, but
will teach your heart something deeper and more
wonderful than any words can explain.
GIOTTO, . . . BORN 1276, DIED 1337
FRA ANGELICO, . . '' 1387, '' 1466
MASACCIO, . . . '' 1401, '' 1428
FRA FILIPPO LIPPI,. . '' 1412, '' 1469
SANDRO BOTTICELLI,. . '' 1446, '' 1610
DOMENICO GHIRLANDAIO, '' 1449, '' 1494
FILIPPINO LIP . . '' 1467, '' 1604
PIETRO PERUGINO, . '' 1446, '' 1624
LEONARDO DA VINCI,. . '' 1462, '' 1619
RAPHAEL, . . . '' 1483, '' 1620
MICHELANGELO, . . '' 1476, '' 1664
ANDREA DEL SARTO, . '' 1487, '' 1631
GIOVANNI BELLINI, . '' 1426, '' 1616
VITTORE CARPACCIO,. . '' 1470? '' 1619
GIORGIONE, . . '' 1477? '' 1610
TITIAN, . . . '' 1477, '' 1676
TINTORETTO, . . '' 1662, '' 1637
PAUL VERONESE, . . '' 1628, '' 1688
LIST OF PICTURES
THE RELEASE OF ST. PETER. BY FILIPPO LIPPI,
`The tall angel in flowing white robes gently leads St. Peter
out of prison,'
Church of the Carmine, Florence.
THE VISIT OF THE MAGI. BY GIOTTO,
`The little Baby Jesus sitting on His Mother's knee,'
THE MEETING OF ANNA AND JOACHIM. BY GIOTTO,
`Two homely figures outside the narrow gateway,'
Sta. Maria Novella, Florence.
THE ANNUNCIATION. BY FRA ANGELICO,
`The gentle Virgin bending before the Angel messenger,'
S. Marco, Florence.
THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT. BY FRA ANGELICO,
`The Madonna in her robe of purest blue holding the Baby
close in her arms,'
THE ANNUNCIATION. BY FILIPPO LIPPI,
`The Madonna with the dove fluttering near, and the Angel
messenger bearing the lily branch,'
THE NATIVITY. BY FILIPPO LIPPI,
`His Madonnas grew ever more beautiful,'
THE ANGEL. BY BOTTICELLI,
TOBIAS AND THE ANGEL.
`His figures seemed to move as if to the rhythm of music,'
ST. PETER IN PRISON. BY FILIPPO LIPPI,
`The sad face of St. Peter looks out through the prison
Church of the Carmine, Florence.
TWO SAINTS. BY PERUGINO,
THE FRESCO OF THE CRUCIFIXION.
`Beyond was the blue thread of river and the single trees
Sta. Maddalena de Pazzi, Florence.
TWO SAINTS. BY PERUGINO,
THE FRESCO OF THE CRUCIFIXION.
`Quiet dignified saints and spacious landscapes,'
Sta. Maddalena de Pazzi, Florence.
ST. JAMES. BY ANDREA DEL SARTO.
`The kind strong hand of the saint is placed lovingly
beneath the little chin,'
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
CHERUB. BY GIOV. BELLINI,
`Giovanni's angels are little human boys with grave sweet
Church of the Frari, Venice.
ST. TRYPHONIUS AND THE BASILISK. BY CARPACCIO,
`The little boy saint has folded his hands together and
looks upward in prayer,'
S. Giorgio Schiavari, Venice.
THE LITTLE VIRGIN. BY TITIAN,
`The little maid is all alone,'
THE LITTLE ST. JOHN. BY VERONESE,
THE MADONNA ENTHRONED.
`The little St. John with the skin thrown over his bare
shoulder and the cross in his hand,'
RELIEF IN MARBLE BY GIOTTO,
`The shepherd sitting under his tent, with the sheep in
DRAWING BY MASACCIO,
`His models were ordinary Florentine youths,'
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
DRAWING BY GHIRLANDAIO,
`The men of the market-place,'
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
DRAWING BY LEONARDO DA VINCI,
`He loved to draw strange monsters,'
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
DRAWING BY RAPHAEL,
`Round-limbed rosy children, half human, half divine,'
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
DRAWING BY MICHELANGELO,
`A terrible head of a furious old man,'
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
DRAWING BY GIORGIONE,
`A man in Venetian dress helping two women to mount one
of the niches of a marble palace,'
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
DRAWING BY TINTORETTO,
`The head of a Venetian boy, such as Tintoretto met daily
among the fisher-folk of Venice,'
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
It was more than six hundred years ago that a little
peasant baby was born in the small village of
Vespignano, not far from the beautiful city of Florence,
in Italy. The baby's father, an honest, hard-working
countryman, was called Bondone, and the name
he gave to his little son was Giotto.
Life was rough and hard in that country home,
but the peasant baby grew into a strong, hardy boy,
learning early what cold and hunger meant. The
hills which surrounded the village were grey and
bare, save where the silver of the olive-trees shone
in the sunlight, or the tender green of the shooting
corn made the valley beautiful in early spring. In
summer there was little shade from the blazing sun
as it rode high in the blue sky, and the grass which
grew among the grey rocks was often burnt and
brown. But, nevertheless, it was here that the
sheep of the village would be turned out to find
what food they could, tended and watched by one
of the village boys.
So it happened that when Giotto was ten years
old his father sent him to take care of the sheep
upon the hillside. Country boys had then no
schools to go to or lessons to learn, and Giotto spent
long happy days, in sunshine and rain, as he followed
the sheep from place to place, wherever they could
find grass enough to feed on. But Giotto did something
else besides watching his sheep. Indeed, he
sometimes forgot all about them, and many a search
he had to gather them all together again. For
there was one thing he loved doing better than
all beside, and that was to try to draw pictures of
all the things he saw around him.
It was no easy matter for the little shepherd lad.
He had no pencils or paper, and he had never, perhaps,
seen a picture in all his life. But all this
mattered little to him. Out there, under the blue
sky, his eyes made pictures for him out of the fleecy
white clouds as they slowly changed from one form
to another. He learned to know exactly the shape
of every flower and how it grew; he noticed how
the olive-trees laid their silver leaves against the
blue background of the sky that peeped in between,
and how his sheep looked as they stooped to eat, or
lay down in the shadow of a rock.
Nothing escaped his keen, watchful eyes, and then
with eager hands he would sharpen a piece of stone,
choose out the smoothest rock, and try to draw on
its flat surface all those wonderful shapes which had
filled his eyes with their beauty. Olive-trees, flowers,
birds and beasts were there, but especially his sheep,
for they were his friends and companions who were
always near him, and he could draw them in a
different way each time they moved.
Now it fell out that one day a great master painter
from Florence came riding through the valley and
over the hills where Giotto was feeding his sheep.
The name of the great master was Cimabue, and he
was the most wonderful artist in the world, so men
said. He had painted a picture which had made all
Florence rejoice. The Florentines had never seen
anything like it before, and yet it was but a strange-
looking portrait of the Madonna and Child, scarcely
like a real woman or a real baby at all. Still, it
seemed to them a perfect wonder, and Cimabue was
honoured as one of the city's greatest men.
The road was lonely as it wound along. There
was nothing to be seen but waves of grey hills on
every side, so the stranger rode on, scarcely lifting
his eyes as he went. Then suddenly he came upon
a flock of sheep nibbling the scanty sunburnt grass,
and a little brown-faced shepherd-boy gave him a
cheerful `Good-day, master.'
There was something so bright and merry in the
boy's smile that the great man stopped and began to
talk to him. Then his eye fell upon the smooth flat
rock over which the boy had been bending, and he
started with surprise.
`Who did that?' he asked quickly, and he pointed
to the outline of a sheep scratched upon the stone.
`It is the picture of one of my sheep there,'
answered the boy, hanging his head with a shame-
faced look. `I drew it with this,' and he held out
towards the stranger the sharp stone he had been
`Who taught you to do this?' asked the master
as he looked more carefully at the lines drawn on
The boy opened his eyes wide with astonishment
`Nobody taught me, master,' he said. `I only try
to draw the things that my eyes see.'
`How would you like to come with me to Florence
and learn to be a painter?' asked Cimabue, for he
saw that the boy had a wonderful power in his little
Giotto's cheeks flushed, and his eyes shone with
`Indeed, master, I would come most willingly,'
he cried, `if only my father will allow it.'
So back they went together to the village, but not
before Giotto had carefully put his sheep into the
fold, for he was never one to leave his work half
Bondone was amazed to see his boy in company
with such a grand stranger, but he was still more
surprised when he heard of the stranger's offer. It
seemed a golden chance, and he gladly gave his
Why, of course, the boy should go to Florence if
the gracious master would take him and teach him
to become a painter. The home would be lonely
without the boy who was so full of fun and as bright
as a sunbeam. But such chances were not to be met
with every day, and he was more than willing to let
So the master set out, and the boy Giotto went
with him to Florence to begin his training.
The studio where Cimabue worked was not at
all like those artists' rooms which we now call
studios. It was much more like a workshop, and
the boys who went there to learn how to draw and
paint were taught first how to grind and prepare
the colours and then to mix them. They were not
allowed to touch a brush or pencil for a long time,
but only to watch their master at work, and learn
all that they could from what they saw him do.
So there the boy Giotto worked and watched, but
when his turn came to use the brush, to the amazement
of all, his pictures were quite unlike anything
which had ever been painted before in the workshop.
Instead of copying the stiff, unreal figures,
he drew real people, real animals, and all the
things which he had learned to know so well on
the grey hillside, when he watched his father's
sheep. Other artists had painted the Madonna and
Infant Christ, but Giotto painted a mother and a
And before long this worked such a wonderful
change that it seemed indeed as if the art of making
pictures had been born again. To us his work still
looks stiff and strange, but in it was the beginning
of all the beautiful pictures that belong to us now.
Giotto did not only paint pictures, he worked in
marble as well. To-day, if you walk through
Florence, the City of Flowers, you will still see its
fairest flower of all, the tall white campanile or bell-
tower, `Giotto's tower' as it is called. There it
stands in all its grace and loveliness like a tall white
lily against the blue sky, pointing ever upward, in
the grand old faith of the shepherd-boy. Day after
day it calls to prayer and to good works, as it has
done all these hundreds of years since Giotto
designed and helped to build it.
Some people call his pictures stiff and ugly, for
not every one has wise eyes to see their beauty, but
the loveliness of this tower can easily be seen by all.
`There the white doves circle round and round, and
rest in the sheltering niches of the delicately carved
arches; there at the call of its bell the black-robed
Brothers of Pity hurry past to their works of mercy.
There too the little children play, and sometimes
stop to stare at the marble pictures, set in the first
story of the tower, low enough to be seen from
the street. Their special favourite is perhaps the
picture of the shepherd sitting under his tent, with
the sheep in front, and with the funniest little dog
keeping watch at the side.
Giotto always had a great love for animals, and
whenever it was possible he would squeeze one into
a corner of his pictures. He was sixty years old
when he designed this wonderful tower and cut
some of the marble pictures with his own hand,
but you can see that the memory of those old days
when he ran barefoot about the hills and tended his
sheep was with him still. Just such another little
puppy must have often played with him in those
long-ago days before he became a great painter and
was still only a merry, brown-faced boy, making
pictures with a sharp stone upon the smooth rocks.
Up and down the narrow streets of Florence now,
the great painter would walk and watch the faces
of the people as they passed. And his eyes would
still make pictures of them and their busy life, just
as they used to do with the olive-trees, the sheep,
and the clouds.
In those days nobody cared to have pictures in
their houses, and only the walls of the churches
were painted. So the pictures, or frescoes, as they
were called, were of course all about sacred subjects,
either stories out of the Bible or of the lives of the
saints. And as there were few books, and the poor
people did not know how to read, these frescoed
walls were the only story-books they had.
What a joy those pictures of Giotto's must have
been, then, to those poor folk! They looked at the
little Baby Jesus sitting on His mother's knee,
wrapped in swaddling bands, just like one of their
own little ones, and it made Him seem a very real
baby. The wise men who talked together and
pointed to the shining star overhead looked just
like any of the great nobles of Florence. And
there at the back were the two horses looking on
with wise interested eyes, just as any of their own
horses might have done.
It seemed to make the story of Christmas a thing
which had really happened, instead of a far-away
tale which had little meaning for them. Heaven
and the Madonna were not so far off after all. And
it comforted them to think that the Madonna had
been a real woman like themselves, and that the
Jesu Bambino would stoop to bless them still, just
as He leaned forward to bless the wise men in the
How real too would seem the old story of the
meeting of Anna and Joachim at the Golden Gate,
when they could gaze upon the two homely figures
under the narrow gateway. No visionary saints
these, but just a simple husband and wife, meeting
each other with joy after a sad separation, and yet
with the touch of heavenly meaning shown by the
angel who hovers above and places a hand upon
It was not only in Florence that Giotto did his
work. His fame spread far and wide, and he went
from town to town eagerly welcomed by all. We
can trace his footsteps as he went, by those
wonderful old pictures which he spread with loving care
over the bare walls of the churches, lifting, as it
were, the curtain that hides Heaven from our view
and bringing some of its joys to earth.
Then, at Assisi, he covered the walls and ceiling
of the church with the wonderful frescoes of the
life of St. Francis; and the little round commonplace
Arena Chapel of Padua is made exquisite
inside by his pictures of the life of our Lord.
In the days when Giotto lived the towns of Italy
were continually quarrelling with one another, and
there was always fighting going on somewhere.
The cities were built with a wall all round them,
and the gates were shut each night to keep out
their enemies. But often the fighting was between
different families inside the city, and the grim old
palaces in the narrow streets were built tall and
strong that they might be the more easily defended.
In the midst of all this war and quarrelling Giotto
lived his quiet, peaceful life, the friend of every one
and the enemy of none. Rival towns sent for him
to paint their churches with his heavenly pictures,
and the people who hated Florence forgot that he
was a Florentine. He was just Giotto, and he
belonged to them all. His brush was the white flag of
truce which made men forget their strife and angry
passions, and turned their thoughts to holier things.
Even the great poet Dante did not scorn to be a
friend of the peasant painter, and we still have the
portrait which Giotto painted of him in an old fresco
at Florence. Later on, when the great poet was a
poor unhappy exile, Giotto met him again at Padua
and helped to cheer some of those sad grey days,
made so bitter by strife and injustice.
Now when Giotto was beginning to grow famous,
it happened that the Pope was anxious to have the
walls of the great Cathedral of St. Peter at Rome
decorated. So he sent messengers all over Italy to
find out who were the best painters, that he might
invite them to come and do the work.
The messengers went from town to town and
asked every artist for a specimen of his painting.
This was gladly given, for it was counted a great
honour to help to make St. Peter's beautiful.
By and by the messengers came to Giotto and
told him their errand. The Pope, they said, wished
to see one of his drawings to judge if he was fit for
the great work. Giotto, who was always most
courteous, `took a sheet of paper and a pencil
dipped in a red colour, then, resting his elbow on
his side, with one turn of the hand, he drew a circle
so perfect and exact that it was a marvel to behold.'
`Here is your drawing,' he said to the messenger,
with a smile, handing him the drawing.
`Am I to have nothing more than this?' asked
the man, staring at the red circle in astonishment
`That is enough and to spare,' answered Giotto.
`Send it with the rest.'
The messengers thought this must all be a joke.
`How foolish we shall look if we take only a
round O to show his Holiness,' they said.
But they could get nothing else from Giotto, so
they were obliged to be content and to send it with
the other drawings, taking care to explain just how
it was done.
The Pope and his advisers looked carefully over
all the drawings, and, when they came to that round
O, they knew that only a master-hand could have
made such a perfect circle without the help of a
compass. Without a moment's hesitation they
decided that Giotto was the man they wanted, and
they at once invited him to come to Rome to
decorate the cathedral walls. So when the story
was known the people became prouder than ever of
their great painter, and the round O of Giotto has
become a proverb to this day in Tuscany.
`Round as the O of Giotto, d' ye see;
Which means as well done as a thing can be.'
Later on, when Giotto was at Naples, he was
painting in the palace chapel one very hot day, when the
king came in to watch him at his work. It really
was almost too hot to move, and yet Giotto painted
`Giotto,' said the king, `if I were in thy place I
would give up painting for a while and take my
rest, now that it is so hot.'
`And, indeed, so I would most certainly do,'
answered Giotto, `if I were in your place, your
It was these quick answers and his merry smile
that charmed every one, and made the painter a
favourite with rich and poor alike.
There are a great many stories told of him, and they
all show what a sunny-tempered, kindly man he was.
It is said that one day he was standing in one of
the narrow streets of Florence talking very earnestly
to a friend, when a pig came running down the road
in a great hurry. It did not stop to look where it
was going, but ran right between the painter's legs
and knocked him flat on his back, putting an end to
his learned talk.
Giotto scrambled to his feet with a rueful smile,
and shook his finger at the pig which was fast
disappearing in the distance.
`Ah, well!' he said, `I suppose thou hadst as
much right to the road as I had. Besides, how
many gold pieces I have earned by the help of thy
bristles, and never have I given any of thy family
even a drop of soup in payment.'
Another time he went riding with a very learned
lawyer into the country to look after his property.
For when Bondone died, he left all his fields and his
farm to his painter son. Very soon a storm came on,
and the rain poured down as if it never meant to stop.
`Let us seek shelter in this farmhouse and borrow
a cloak,' suggested Giotto.
So they went in and borrowed two old cloaks
from the farmer, and wrapped themselves up from
head to foot. Then they mounted their horses and
rode back together to Florence.
Presently the lawyer turned to look at Giotto, and
immediately burst into a loud laugh. The rain was
running from the painter's cap, he was splashed with
mud, and the old cloak made him look like a very
`Dost think if any one met thee now, they would
believe that thou art the best painter in the
world?' laughed the lawyer.
Giotto's eyes twinkled as he looked at the funny
figure riding beside him, for the lawyer was very
small, and had a crooked back, and rolled up in the
old cloak he looked like a bundle of rags.
`Yes!' he answered quickly, `any one would
certainly believe I was a great painter, if he could
but first persuade himself that thou dost know
thy A B C.'
In all these stories we catch glimpses of the good-
natured kindly painter, with his love of jokes, and
his own ready answers, and all the time we must
remember that he was filling the world with beauty,
which it still treasures to-day, helping to sow the
seeds of that great tree of Art which was to blossom
so gloriously in later years.
And when he had finished his earthly work it
was in his own cathedral, `St. Mary of the Flowers,'
that they laid him to rest, while the people mourned
him as a good friend as well as a great painter.
There he lies in the shadow of his lily tower, whose
slender grace and delicate-tinted marbles keep his
memory ever fresh in his beautiful city of Florence.
Nearly a hundred years had passed by since Giotto
lived and worked in Florence, and in the same hilly
country where he used to tend his sheep another
great painter was born.
Many other artists had come and gone, and had
added their golden links of beauty to the chain of
Art which bound these years together. Some day
you will learn to know all their names and what
they did. But now we will only single out, here
and there, a few of those names which are perhaps
greater than the rest. Just as on a clear night,
when we look up into the starlit sky, it would
bewilder us to try and remember all the stars, so
we learn first to know those that are most easily
recognised--the Plough, or the Great Bear, as they
shine with a clear steady light against the background
of a thousand lesser stars.
The name by which this second great painter is
known is Fra Angelico, but that was only the name
he earned in later years. His baby name was
Guido, and his home was in a village close to where
Giotto was born.
He was not a poor boy, and did not need to
work in the fields or tend the sheep on the hillside.
Indeed, he might have soon become rich and
famous, for his wonderful talent for painting would
have quickly brought him honours and wealth if he
had gone out into the world. But instead of this,
when he was a young man of twenty he made up
his mind to enter the convent at Fiesole, and to
become a monk of the Order of Saint Dominic.
Every brother, or frate, as he is called, who leaves
the world and enters the life of the convent is given
a new name, and his old name is never used again.
So young Guido was called Fra Giovanni, or
Brother John. But it is not by that name that
he is known best, but that of Fra Angelico, or the
angelic brother--a name which was given him afterwards
because of his pure and beautiful life, and the
heavenly pictures which he painted.
With all his great gifts in his hands, with all the
years of youth and pleasure stretching out green
and fair before him, he said good-bye to earthly
joys, and chose rather to serve his Master Christ in
the way he thought was right.
The monks of St. Dominic were the great
preachers of those days--men who tried to make
the world better by telling people what they ought
to do, and teaching them how to live honest and
good lives. But there are other ways of teaching
people besides preaching, and the young monk who
spent his time bending over the illuminated prayer-
book, seeing with his dreamy eyes visions of saints
and white-robed angels, was preparing to be a
greater teacher than them all. The words of the
preacher monks have passed away, and the world
pays little heed to them now, but the teaching of
Fra Angelico, the silent lessons of his wonderful
pictures, are as fresh and clear to-day as they were
in those far-off years.
Great trouble was in store for the monks of
the little convent at Fiesole, which Fra Angelico
and his brother Benedetto had entered. Fierce
struggles were going on in Italy between different
religious parties, and at one time the little band
of preaching monks were obliged to leave their
peaceful home at Fiesole to seek shelter in other
towns. But, as it turned out, this was good fortune
for the young painter-monk, for in those hill towns
of Umbria where the brothers sought refuge there
were pictures to be studied which delighted his
eyes with their beauty, and taught him many a
lesson which he could never have learned on the
quiet slopes of Fiesole.
The hill towns of Italy are very much the same
to-day as they were in those days. Long winding
roads lead upwards from the plain below to the
city gates, and there on the summit of the hill the
little town is built. The tall white houses cluster
close together, and the overhanging eaves seem
almost to meet across the narrow paved streets, and
always there is the great square, with the church
the centre of all.
It would be almost a day's journey to follow the
white road that leads down from Perugia across
the plain to the little hill town of Assisi, and many
a spring morning saw the painter-monk setting
out on the convent donkey before sunrise and
returning when the sun had set. He would thread
his way up between the olive-trees until he reached
the city gates, and pass into the little town without
hindrance. For the followers of St. Francis in their
brown robes would be glad to welcome a stranger
monk, though his black robe showed that he
belonged to a different order. Any one who came
to see the glory of their city, the church where
their saint lay, which Giotto had covered with his
wonderful pictures, was never refused admittance.
How often then must Fra Angelico have knelt
in the dim light of that lower church of Assisi,
learning his lesson on his knees, as was ever his
habit. Then home again he would wend his way,
his eyes filled with visions of those beautiful
pictures, and his hand longing for the pencil and brush,
that he might add new beauty to his own work from
what he had learned.
Several years passed by, and at last the brothers
were allowed to return to their convent home of
San Dominico at Fiesole, and there they lived
peaceably for a long time. We cannot tell exactly
what pictures our painter-monk painted during
those peaceful years, but we know he must have
been looking out with wise, seeing eyes, drinking in
all the beauty that was spread around him.
At his feet lay Florence, with its towers and
palaces, the Arno running through it like a silver
thread, and beyond, the purple of the Tuscan hills.
All around on the sheltered hillside were green
vines and fruit-trees, olives and cypresses, fields
flaming in spring with scarlet anemones or golden
with great yellow tulips, and hedges of rose-bushes
covered with clusters of pink blossoms. No wonder,
then, such beauty sunk into his heart, and we see
in his pictures the pure fresh colour of the spring
flowers, with no shadow of dark or evil things.
Soon the fame of the painter began to be whispered
outside the convent walls, and reached the ears of
Cosimo da Medici, one of the powerful rulers of
Florence. He offered the monks a new home, and,
when they were settled in the convent of San Marco
in Florence, he invited Fra Angelico to fresco the
One by one the heavenly pictures were painted
upon the walls of the cells and cloister of the new
home. How the brothers must have crowded round
to see each new fresco as it was finished, and how
anxious they would be to see which picture was to
be near their own particular bed. In all the
frescoes, whether he painted the gentle Virgin
bending before the angel messenger, or tried to
show the glory of the ascended Lord, the artist-
monk would always introduce one or more of the
convent's special saints, which made the brothers
feel that the pictures were their very own. Fra
Angelico had a kind word and smile for all the
brothers. He was never impatient, and no one
ever saw him angry, for he was as humble and
gentle as the saints whose pictures he loved to
It is told of him, too, that he never took a brush
or pencil in his hand without a prayer that his work
might be to the glory of God. Often when he
painted the sufferings of our Lord, the tears would
be seen running down his cheeks and almost blinding
There is an old legend which tells of a certain
monk who, when he was busily illuminating a page
of his missal, was called away to do some service
for the poor. He went unwillingly, the legend
says, for he longed to put the last touches to the
holy picture he was painting; but when he returned,
lo! he found his work finished by angel hands.
Often when we look at some of Fra Angelico's
pictures we are reminded of this legend, and feel
that he too might have been helped by those same
angel hands. Did they indeed touch his eyes that
he might catch glimpses of a Heaven where saints
were swinging their golden censers, and white-robed
angels danced in the flowery meadows of Paradise?
We cannot tell; but this we know, that no other
painter has ever shown us such a glory of heavenly
Best of all, the angel-painter loved to paint
pictures of the life of our Lord; and in the picture
I have shown you, you will see the tender care with
which he has drawn the head of the Infant Jesus
with His little golden halo, the Madonna in her
robe of purest blue, holding the Baby close in her
arms, St. Joseph the guardian walking at the side,
and all around the flowers and trees which he loved
so well in the quiet home of Fiesole.
He did not care for fame or power, this dreamy
painter of angels, and when the Pope invited him to
Rome to paint the walls of a chapel there, he
thought no more of the glory and honour than if he
was but called upon to paint another cell at
But when the Pope had seen what this quiet monk
could do, he called the artist to him.
`A man who can paint such pictures,' he said,
`must be a good man, and one who will do well
whatever he undertakes. Will you, then, do other
work for me, and become my Archbishop at
Florence?' But the painter was startled and dismayed.
`I cannot teach or preach or govern men,' he
said, `I can but use my gift of painting for the
glory of God. Let me rather be as I am, for it is
safer to obey than to rule.'
But though he would not take this honour
himself, he told the Pope of a friend of his, a humble
brother, Fra Antonino, at the convent of San Marco,
who was well fitted to do the work. So the Pope
took the painter's advice, and the choice was so
wise and good, that to this day the Florentine people
talk lovingly of their good bishop Antonino.
It was while he was at work in Rome that Fra
Angelico died, so his body does not rest in his own
beloved Florence. But if his body lies in Rome,
his gentle spirit still seems to hover around the old
convent of San Marco, and there we learn to know
and love him best. Little wonder that in after
ages they looked upon him almost as a saint, and
gave him the title of `Beato,' or the blessed angel-
It must have been about the same time when Fra
Angelico was covering the walls of San Marco with
his angel pictures, that a very different kind of
painter was working in the Carmine church in
This was no gentle, refined monk, but just an
ordinary man of the world--an awkward, good-
natured person, who, as long as he had pictures
to paint, cared for little else. Why, he would even
forget to ask for payment when his work was done;
and as to taking care of his clothes, or trying to
keep himself tidy, that was a thing he never thought
What trouble his mother must have had with
him when he was a boy! It was no use sending
him on an errand, he would forget it before he had
gone a hundred yards, and he was so careless and
untidy that it was enough to make any one lose
patience with him. But only let him have a pencil
and a smooth surface on which to draw, and he was
a different boy.
It is said that even now, in the little town of
Castello San Giovanni, some eighteen miles from
Florence, where Tommaso was born, there are still
some wonderfully good figures to be seen, drawn
by him when he was quite a little boy. Certainly
there was no carelessness and nothing untidy about
As the boy grew older all his longings would
turn towards Florence, the beautiful city where
there was everything to learn and to see, and so he
was sent to become a pupil in the studio of Masolino,
a great Florentine painter. But though his drawings
improved, his careless habits continued the
`There goes Tommaso the painter,' the people
would say, watching the big awkward figure passing
through the streets on his way to work. `Truly
he pays but little heed to his appearance. Look
but at his untidy hair and the holes in his boots.'
`Ay, indeed!' another would answer; `and yet
it is said if only people paid him all they owed he
would have gold enough and to spare. But what
cares he so long as he has his paints and brushes?
``Masaccio'' would be a fitter name for him than
So the name Masaccio, or Ugly Tom, came to
be that by which the big awkward painter was
known. But no one thinks of the unkind meaning
of the nickname now, for Masaccio is honoured as
one of the great names in the history of Art.
This painter, careless of many things, cared with
all his heart and soul for the work he had chosen
to do. It seemed to him that painters had always
failed to make their pictures like living things.
The pictures they painted were flat, not round as
a figure should be, and very often the feet did not
look as if they were standing on the ground at all,
but pointed downwards as if they were hanging in
So he worked with light and shadow and careful
drawing until the figures he drew looked rounded
instead of flat, and their feet were planted firmly
on the ground. His models were taken from the
ordinary Florentine youths whom he saw daily in
the studio, but he drew them as no one had drawn
figures before. The buildings, too, he made to look
like real houses leading away into the distance, and
not just like a flat picture.
He painted many frescoes both in Florence and
Rome, this Ugly Tom, but at the time the people
did not pay him much honour, for they thought him
just a great awkward fellow with his head always
in the clouds. Perhaps if he had lived longer fame
and wealth would have come to him, but he died
when he was still a young man, and only a few
realised how great he was.
But in after years, one by one, all the great
artists would come to that little chapel of the
Carmine there to learn their first lessons from those
life-like figures. Especially they would stand before
the fresco which shows St. Peter baptizing a crowd
of people. And in that fresco they would study
more than all the figure of a boy who has just come
out of the water, shivering with cold, the most
natural figure that had ever been painted up to that
All things must be learnt little by little, and
each new thing we know is a step onwards. So
this figure of the shivering boy marks a higher step
of the golden ladder of Art than any that had
been touched before. And this alone would have
made the name of Masaccio worthy to be placed
upon the list of world's great painters.
FRA FILIPPO LIPPI
It was winter time in Florence. The tramontana,
that keen wind which blows from over the snow
mountains, was sweeping down the narrow streets,
searching out every nook and corner with its icy
breath. Men flung their cloaks closer round them,
and pulled their hats down over their eyes, so that
only the tips of their noses were left uncovered for
the wind to freeze. Women held their scaldinoes,
little pots of hot charcoal, closer under their shawls,
and even the dogs had a sad, half-frozen look.
One and all longed for the warm winds of spring
and the summer heat they loved. It was bad
enough for those who had warm clothes and plenty
of polenta, but for the poor life was very hard those
cold wintry days.
In a doorway of a great house, in one of the narrow
streets, a little boy of eight was crouching behind
one of the stone pillars as he tried to keep out of
the grip of the tramontana. His little coat was
folded closely round him, but it was full of rents and
holes so that the thin body inside was scarcely
covered, and the child's blue lips trembled with the
cold, and his black eyes filled with tears.
It was not often that Filippo turned such a sad
little face to meet the world. Usually those black
eyes sparkled with fun and mischief, and the mouth
spread itself into a merry grin. But to-day, truly
things were worse than he ever remembered them
before, and he could remember fairly bad times, too,
if he tried.
Other children had their fathers and mothers who
gave them food and clothes, but he seemed to be
quite different, and never had had any one to care
for him. True, there was his aunt, old Mona
Lapaccia, who said he had once had a father and
mother like other boys, but she always added with
a mournful shake of her head that she alone had
endured all the trouble and worry of bringing him
up since he was two years old. `Ah,' she would
say, turning her eyes upwards, `the saints alone
know what I have endured with a great hungry
boy to feed and clothe.'
It seemed to Filippo that in that case the saints
must also know how very little he had to eat, and
how cold he was on these wintry days. But of
course they would be too grand to care about a
In summer things were different. One could
roll merrily about in the sunshine all day long, and
at night sleep in some cool sheltering corner of the
street. And then, too, there was always a better
chance of picking up something to eat. Plenty of
fig skins and melon parings were flung carelessly out
into the street when fruit was plentiful, and people
would often throw away the remains of a bunch
of grapes. It was wonderful how quickly Filippo
learned to know people's faces, and to guess who
would finish to the last grape and who would throw
the smaller ones away. Some would even smile as
they caught his anxious, waiting eye fixed on the
fruit, and would cry `Catch' as they threw a goodly
bunch into those small brown hands that never let
anything slip through their fingers.
Oh, yes, summer was all right, but there was always
winter to face. To-day he was so very hungry, and
the lupin skins which he had collected for his breakfast
were all eaten long ago. He had hung about
the little open shops, sniffing up the delicious smell
of fried polenta, but no one had given him a morsel.
All he had got was a stern `be off' when he ventured
too close to the tempting food. If only this day
had been a festa, he might have done well enough.
For in the great processions when the priests and
people carried their lighted candles round the church,
he could always dart in and out with his little iron
scraper, lift the melted wax of the marble floor and
sell it over again to the candlemakers.
But there were no processions to-day, and there
remained only one thing to be done. He must go
home and see if Mona Lapaccia had anything to
spare. Perhaps the saints took notice when he was
Down the street he ran, keeping close to the wall,
just as the dogs do when it rains. For the great
overhanging eaves of the houses act as a sheltering
umbrella. Then out into the broad street that runs
beside the river, where, even in winter, the sun shines
warmly if it shines anywhere.
Filippo paused at the corner of the Ponte alla
Carraja to watch the struggles of a poor mule which
was trying to pull a huge cartload of wood up the
steep incline of the bridge. It was so exciting that
for a moment he forgot how cold and hungry he was,
as he shouted and screamed directions with the rest
of the crowd, darted in and out in his eagerness to
help, and only got into every one's way.
That excitement over, Filippo felt in better spirits
and ran quickly across the bridge. He soon threaded
his way to a poor street that led towards one of the
city gates, where everything looked dirtier and more
cheerless than ever. He had not expected a welcome,
and he certainly did not get one, as, after climbing
the steep stairs, he cautiously pushed open the door
and peeped in.
His aunt's thin face looked dark and angry. Poor
soul, she had had no breakfast either, and there would
be no food that day unless her work was finished.
And here was this troublesome boy back again, when
she thought she had got rid of him for the day
`Away!' she shouted crossly. `What dost thou
mean by coming back so soon? Away, and seek thy
living in the streets.'
`It is too cold,' said the boy, creeping into the bare
room, `and I am hungry.'
`Hungry!' and poor Mona Lapaccia cast her eyes
upwards, as if she would ask the saints if they too
were not filled with surprise to hear this word. `And
when art thou anything else? It is ever the same
story with thee: eat, eat, eat. Now, the saints help
me, I have borne this burden long enough. I will
see if I cannot shift it on to other shoulders.'
She rose as she spoke, tied her yellow handkerchief
over her head and smoothed out her apron. Then
she caught Filippo by his shoulder and gave him a
good shake, just to teach him how wrong it was to
talk of being hungry, and pushing him in front of her
they went downstairs together.
`Where art thou going?' gasped the boy as she
dragged him swiftly along the street.
`Wait and thou shalt see,' she answered shortly;
`and do thou mind thy manners, else will I mind
them for thee.'
Filippo ran along a little quicker on hearing this
advice. He had but a dim notion of what minding
his manners might mean, but he guessed fairly well
what would happen if his aunt minded them. Ah!
here they were at the great square of the Carmine.
He had often crept into the church to get warm and
to see those wonderful pictures on the walls. Could
they be going there now?
But it was towards the convent door that Mona
Lapaccia bent her steps, and, when she had rung the
bell, she gave Filippo's shoulder a final shake, and
pulled his coat straight and smoothed his hair.
A fat, good-natured brother let them in, and led
them through the many passages into a room where
the prior sat finishing his midday meal.
Filippo's hungry eyes were immediately fixed on
a piece of bread which lay upon the table, and
the kindly prior smiled as he nodded his head
Not another invitation did Filippo need; like a
bird he darted forward and snatched the piece of
good white bread, and holding it in both hands he
began to munch to his heart's content. How long
it was since he had tasted anything like this! It
was so delicious that for a few blissful moments he
forgot where he was, forgot his aunt and the great
man who was looking at him with such kind eyes.
But presently he heard his own name spoken
and then he looked up and remembered. `And
so, Filippo, thou wouldst become a monk?' the prior
was saying. `Let me see--how old art thou?'
`Eight years old, your reverence,' said Mona
Lapaccia before Filippo could answer. Which was
just as well, as his mouth was still very full.
`And it is thy desire to leave the world, and
enter our convent?' continued the prior. `Art
thou willing to give up all, that thou mayest
become a servant of God?'
The little dirty brown hands clutched the bread
in dismay. Did the kind man mean that he was to
give up his bread when he had scarcely eaten half
`No, no; eat thy bread, child,' said the prior, with
an understanding nod. `Thou art but a babe, but we
will make a good monk of thee yet.'
Then, indeed, began happy days for Filippo. No
more threadbare coats, but a warm little brown
serge robe, tied round the waist with a rope whose
ends grew daily shorter as the way round his waist
grew longer. No more lupin skins and whiffs of
fried polenta, but food enough and to spare; such
food as he had not dreamt of before, and always as
much as he could eat.
Filippo was as happy as the day was long. He
had always been a merry little soul even when life
had been hard and food scarce, and now he would
not have changed his lot with the saints in Paradise.
But the good brothers began to think it was time
Filippo should do something besides play and
`Let us see what the child is fit for,' they said.
So Filippo was called in to sit on the bench with
the boys and learn his A B C. That was dreadfully
dull work. He could never remember the names of
those queer signs. Their shapes he knew quite
well, and he could draw them carefully in his copy-
book, but their names were too much for him. And
as to the Latin which the good monks tried to
teach him, they might as well have tried to teach a
All the brightness faded from Filippo's face the
moment a book was put before him, and he looked
so dull and stupid that the brothers were in despair.
Then for a little things seemed to improve. Filippo
suddenly lost his stupid look as he bent over the
pages, and his eyes were bright with interest.
`Aha!' said one brother nudging the other, `the
boy has found his brains at last.'
But great indeed was their wrath and disappointment
when they looked over his shoulder. Instead
of learning his lessons, Filippo had been making all
sorts of queer drawings round the margin of the
page. The A's and B's had noses and eyes, and
looked out with little grinning faces. The long
music notes had legs and arms and were dancing
about like little black imps. Everything was
scribbled over with the naughty little figures.
This was really too much, and Filippo must be
taken at once before the prior.
`What, in disgrace again?' asked the kindly old
man. `What has the child done now?'
`We can teach him nothing,' said the brother,
shaking a severe finger at Filippo, who hung his
head. `He cannot even learn his A B C. And
besides, he spoils his books, ay, and even the walls
and benches, by drawing such things as these upon
them.' And the indignant monk held out the book
where all those naughty figures were dancing over
The prior took the book and looked at it closely.
`What makes thee do these things?' he asked
the boy, who stood first on one foot and then on the
other, twisting his rope in his fingers.
At the sound of the kind voice, the boy looked
up, and his face broke into a smile.
`Indeed, I cannot help it, Father,' he said. `It is
the fault of these,' and he spread out his ten little
The prior laughed.
`Well,' he said, `we will not turn thee out, though
they do say thou wilt never make a monk. Perhaps
we may teach these ten little rascals to do good
work, even if we cannot put learning into that
round head of thine.'
So instead of books and Latin lessons, the good
monks tried a different plan. Filippo was given as
a pupil to good Brother Anselmo, whose work it was
to draw the delicate pictures and letters for the
This was a different kind of lesson, indeed.
Filippo's eyes shone with eagerness as he bent over
his work and tried to copy the beautiful lines and
curves which the master set for him.
There were other boys in the class as well, and
Filippo looked at their work with great admiration.
One boy especially, who was bigger than Filippo,
and who had a kind merry face, made such beautiful
copies that Filippo always tried to sit next him if
possible. Very soon the boys became great friends.
Diamante, as the elder boy was called, was
pleased to be admired so much by the little new
pupil; but as time went on, his pride in his own
work grew less as he saw with amazement how
quickly Filippo's little brown fingers learned to
draw straighter lines and more beautiful curves than
any he could manage. Brother Anselmo, too, would
watch the boy at work, and his saintly old face
beamed with pleasure as he looked.
`He will pass us all, and leave us far behind, this
child who is too stupid to learn his A B C,' he
would say, and his face shone with unselfish joy.
Then when the boys grew older, they were
allowed to go into the church and watch those
wonderful frescoes, which grew under the hand of
the great awkward painter, `Ugly Tom,' as he was
Together Filippo and Diamante stood and watched
with awe, learning lessons there which the good
father had not been able to teach. Then they
would begin to put into practice what they had
learned, and try to copy in their own pictures the
work of the great master.
`Thou hast the knack of it, Filippo,' Diamante
would say as he looked with envy at the figures
Filippo drew so easily.
`Thy pictures are also good,' Filippo would
answer quickly, `and thou thyself art better than
any one else in the convent.'
There was no complaint now of Filippo's dullness.
He soon learned all that the painter-monks could
teach him, and as years passed on the prior would
rub his hands in delight to think that here was an
artist, one of themselves, who would soon be able to
paint the walls of the church and convent, and make
them as famous as the convent of San Marco had
been made famous by its angelical painter.
Then one day he called Filippo to him.
`My son,' he said, `you have learned well, and it is
time now to turn your work to some account. Go
into the cloister where the walls have been but
newly whitewashed, and let us see what kind of
pictures thou canst paint.'
With burning cheeks and shining eyes, Filippo
began his work. Day after day he stood on the
scaffolding, with his brown robe pinned back and
his bare arm moving swiftly as he drew figure after
figure on the smooth white wall.
He did not pause to think what he would draw,
the figures seemed to grow like magic under his
touch. There were the monks in their brown and
white robes, fat and laughing, or lean and anxious-
minded. There were the people who came to say
their prayers in church, little children clinging to
their mothers' skirts, beggars and rich folks, even
the stray dog that sometimes wandered in. Yes,
and the pretty girls who laughed and talked in
whispers. He drew them all, just as he had often
seen them. Then, when the last piece of wall was
covered, he stopped his work.
The news soon spread through all the convent
that Brother Filippo had finished his picture, and all
the monks came hurrying to see. The scaffolding
was taken down, and then they all stood round,
gazing with round eyes and open mouths. They
had never seen anything like it before, and at first
there was silence except for one long drawn `ah-h.'
Then one by one they began to laugh and talk,
and point with eager, excited fingers. `Look,'
cried one, `there is Brother Giovanni; I would know
his smile among a hundred.'
`There is that beggar who comes each day to ask
for soup,' cried another.
`And there is his dog,' shouted a third.
`Look at the maid who kneels in front,' said Fra
Diamante in a hushed voice, `is she not as fair as
Then suddenly there was silence, and the brothers
looked ashamed of the noise they had been making,
as the prior himself looked down on them from the
`What is all this?' he asked. And his voice
sounded grave and displeased as he looked from the
wall to the crowd of eager monks. Then he turned
to Filippo. `Are these the pictures I ordered thee
to paint?' he asked. `Is this the kind of painting to
do honour to God and to our Church? Will these
mere human figures help men to remember the
saints, teach them to look up to heaven, or help
them with their prayers? Quick, rub them out,
and paint your pictures for heaven and not for
Filippo hung his head, the crowd of admiring
monks swiftly disappeared, and he was left to begin
his work all over again.
It was so difficult for Filippo to keep his thoughts
fixed on heaven, and not to think of earth. He did
so love the merry world, and his fingers, those same
ten brown rascals which had got him into trouble
when he was a child, always longed to draw just
the faces that he saw every day. The pretty face
of the little maid kneeling at her prayers was so
real and so delightful, and the Madonna and angels
seemed so solemn and far off.
Still no one would have pictures which did not
tell of saints and angels, so he must paint the best
he could. After all, it was easy to put on wings and
golden haloes until the earthly things took on a
But the convent life grew daily more and more
wearisome now to Filippo. The world, which he
had been so willing to give up for a piece of good
white bread when he was eight years old, now
seemed full of all the things he loved best.
The more he thought of it, the more he longed
to see other places outside the convent walls, and
other faces besides the monks and the people who
came to church.
And so one dark night, when all the brothers were
asleep and the bells had just rung the midnight
hour, Fra Filippo stole out of his cell, unlocked
the convent door, and ran swiftly out into the quiet
How good it felt to be free! The very street
itself seemed like an old friend, welcoming him with
open arms. On and on he ran until he came to the
city gates of San Frediano, there to wait until he
could slip through unnoticed when the gates were
opened at the dawn of day. Then on again until
Florence and the convent were left behind and the
whole world lay before him.
There was no difficulty about living, for the
people gave him food and money, and good-natured
countrymen would stop their carts and offer him a
lift along the straight white dusty roads. So by
and by he reached Ancona and saw for the first
time the sea.
Filippo gazed and gazed, forgetting everything
else as he drank in the beauty of that great stretch
of quivering blue, while in his ears sounded words
which he had almost forgotten--words which had
fallen on heedless ears at matins or vespers--and
which never had held any meaning for him before:
`And before the throne was a sea of glass, like unto
He stood still for a few minutes and then the
heavenly vision faded, and like any other boy he
forgot all about beauty and colour, and only longed
to be out in a boat enjoying the strange new
Very lucky he thought himself when he reached
the shore to find a boat just putting of, and to hear
himself invited to jump in by the boys who were
going for a sail.
Away they went, further and further from the
shore, laughing and talking. The boys were so
busy telling wonderful sea-tales to the young
stranger that they did not notice how far they had
gone. Then suddenly they looked ahead and sat
speechless with fear.
A great Moorish galley was bearing down upon
them, its rows of oars flashed in the sunlight, and
its great painted sails towered above their heads. It
was no use trying to escape. Those strong rowers
easily overtook them, and in a few minutes Filippo
and his companions were hoisted up on board the
It was all so sudden that it seemed like a dream.
But the chains were very real that were fastened
round their wrists and ankles, and the dark cruel
faces of the Moors as they looked on smiling at
their misery were certainly no dream.
Then followed long days of misery when the new
slaves toiled at the oars under the blazing sun, and
nights of cold and weariness. Many a time did
Filippo long for the quiet convent, the kindly
brothers, and the long peaceful days. Many a time
did he long to hear the bells calling him to prayer,
which had once only filled him with restless
But at last the galley reached the coast of Barbary,
and the slaves were unchained from the oars and
taken ashore. In all his misery Filippo's keen eyes
still watched with interest the people around him,
and he was never tired of studying the swarthy
faces and curious garments of the Moorish pirates.
Then one day when he happened to be near
a smooth white wall, he took a charred stick from
a fire which was built close by, and began to draw
the figure of his master.
What a delight it was to draw those rapid strokes
and feel the likeness grow beneath his fingers! He
was so much interested that he did not notice the
crowd that gathered gradually round him, but he
worked steadily on until the figure was finished.
Just as the band of monks had stood silent round
his first picture in the cloister of the Carmine, so
these dark Moors stood still in wonder and amazement
gazing upon the bold black figure sketched
upon the smooth white wall.
No one had ever seen such a thing in that land
before, and it seemed to them that this man must
be a dealer in magic. They whispered together, and
one went off hurriedly to fetch the captain.
The master, when he came, was as astonished as
the men. He could scarcely believe his eyes when
he saw a second self drawn upon the wall, more like
than his own shadow. This indeed must be no
common man; and he ordered that Filippo's chains
should be immediately struck off, and that he should
be treated with respect and honour.
Nothing now was too good for this man of magic,
and before long Filippo was put on board a ship
and carried safely back to Italy. They put him
ashore at Naples, and for some little time Filippo
stayed there painting pictures for the king; but his
heart was in his own beloved town, and very soon
he returned to Florence.
Perhaps he did not deserve a welcome, but every
one was only too delighted to think that the runaway
had really returned. Even the prior, though
he shook his head, was glad to welcome back the
brother whose painting had already brought fame
and honour to the convent.
But in spite of all the troubles Filippo had gone
through, he still dearly loved the merry world and
all its pleasures. For a long time he would paint
his saints and angels with all due diligence, and
then he would dash down brushes and pencils, leave
his paints scattered around, and of he would go for
a holiday. Then the work would come to a stand-
still, and people must just wait until Filippo should
feel inclined to begin again.
The great Cosimo de Medici, who was always the
friend of painters, desired above all things that
Fra Filippo should paint a picture for him. And
what is more, having heard so many tales about the
idle ways of this same brother, he was determined
that the picture should be painted without any
`Fra Filippo shall take no holidays while at work
for me,' he said, as he talked the matter over with
`That may not be so easy as thou thinkest,' said
the prior, for he knew Filippo better than did this
But Cosimo did not see any difficulty in the
matter whatever. High in his palace he prepared
a room for the painter, and placed there everything
he could need. No comfort was lacking, and when
Filippo came he was treated as an honoured guest,
except for one thing. Whenever the heavy door
of his room swung to, there was a grating sound
heard, and the key in the lock was turned from
outside. So Filippo was really a captive in his
That was all very well for a few days. Filippo
laughed as he painted away, and laid on the tender
blue of the Virgin's robe, and painted into her eyes
the solemn look which he had so often seen on the
face of some poor peasant woman as she knelt at
prayer. But after a while he grew restless and
weary of his work.
`Plague take this great man and his fine manners,'
he cried. `Does he think he can catch a lark and
train it to sing in a cage at his bidding? I am
weary of saints and angels. I must out to breathe
the fresh sweet air of heaven.'
But the key was always turned in the lock and
the door was strong. There was the window, but
it was high above the street, and the grey walls,
built of huge square stones, might well have been
intended to enclose a prison rather than a palace.
It was a dark night, and the air felt hot as Filippo
leaned out of the window. Scarce a breath stirred
the still air, and every sound could be heard
distinctly. Far below in the street he could hear the
tread of the people's feet, and catch the words of a
merry song as a company of boys and girls danced
`Flower of the rose,
If I've been happy, what matter who knows,'
It was all too tempting; out he must get. Filippo
looked round his room, and his eye rested on the
bed. With a shout of triumphant delight he ran
towards it. First he seized the quilt and tore it
into strips, then the blankets, then the sheets.
`Whoever saw a grander rope?' he chuckled to
himself as he knotted the ends together.
Quick as thought he tied it to the iron bar that
ran across his window, and, squeezing out, he began
to climb down, hand over hand, dangling and
swinging to and fro. The rope was stout and good,
and now he could steady himself by catching his
toes in the great iron rings fastened into the wall,
until at last he dropped breathless into the street
Next day, when Cosimo came to see how the
painting went on, he saw indeed the pictures and
the brushes, but no painter was there. Quickly he
stepped to the open window, and there he saw the
dangling rope of sheets, and guessed at once how
the bird had flown.
Through the streets they searched for the missing
painter, and before long he was found and brought
back. Filippo tried to look penitent, but his eyes
were dancing with merriment, and Cosimo must
needs laugh too.
`After all,' said Filippo, `my talent is not like a
beast of burden, to be driven and beaten into doing
its work. It is rather like one of those heavenly
visitors whom we willingly entertain when they
deign to visit us, but whom we can never force
either to come or go at will.'
`Thou art right, friend painter,' answered the
great man. `And when I think how thou and thy
talent might have taken wings together, had not
the rope held good, I vow I will never seek to keep
thee in against thy will again.'
`Then will I work all the more willingly,' answered
So with doors open, and freedom to come and go,
Filippo no longer wished to escape, but worked with
all his heart. The beautiful Madonna and angel
were soon finished, and besides he painted a
wonderful picture of seven saints with St. John sitting
in their midst.
From far and near came requests that Fra Filippo
Lippi should paint pictures for different churches
and convents. He would much rather have painted
the scenes and the people he saw every day, but he
remembered the prior's lecture, and still painted
only the stories of saints and holy people--the
gentle Madonna with her scarlet book of prayers,
the dove fluttering near, and the angel messenger
with shining wings bearing the lily branch. True,
the saints would sometimes look out of his pictures
with the faces of some of his friends, but no one
seemed to notice that. On the whole his was a
happy life, and he was always ready to paint for
any one that should ask him.
Many people now were proud to know the famous
young painter, but his old companion Fra Diamante
was still the friend he loved best. Whenever it was
possible they still would work together; so, great
was their delight when one day an order came from
Prato that they should both go there to paint the
walls of San Stefano.
`Good-bye to old Florence for a while,' cried
Filippo as they set out merrily together. He
looked back as he spoke at the spires and sunbaked
roofs, the white marble facade of San Miniato, and
the dark cypresses standing clear against the pure
warm sky of early spring. `I am weary of your
great men and all your pomp and splendour.
Something tells me we shall have a golden time
among the good folk of Prato.'
Perhaps it was the springtime that made Filippo
so joyous that morning as he rode along the dusty
Spring had come with a glad rush, as she ever
comes in Italy, scattering on every side her flowers
and favours. From under the dead brown leaves of
autumn, violets pushed their heads and perfumed all
the air. Under the grey olives the sprouting corn
spread its tender green, and the scarlet and purple
of the anemones waved spring's banner far and near.
It was good to be alive on such a day.
Arrived at Prato, the two painters, with a favourite
pupil called Botticelli, worked together diligently,
and covered wall after wall with their frescoes.
It seemed as if they would never be done, for
each church and convent had work awaiting them.
`Truly,' said Filippo one day when he was putting
the last touches to a portrait of Fra Diamante, whom
he had painted into his picture of the death of St.
Stephen, `I will undertake no more work for a while.
It is full time we had a holiday together.'
But even as he spoke a message was brought to
him from the good abbess of the convent of Santa
Margherita, begging him to come and paint an
altarpiece for the sisters' chapel.
`Ah, well, what must be, must be,' he said to
Fra Diamante, who stood smiling by. `I will do
what I can to please these holy women, but after
The staid and sober abbess met him at the convent
door, and silently led him through the sunny
garden, bright with flowers, where the lizards darted
to right and left as they walked past the fountain
and entered the dim, cool chapel. In a low, sweet
voice she told him what they would have him paint,
and showed him the space above the high altar
where the picture was to be placed.
`Our great desire is that thou shouldst paint for
us the Holy Virgin with the Blessed Child on the
night of the Nativity,' she said.
The painter seemed to listen, but his attention
wandered, and all the time he wished himself back
in the sunny garden, where he had seen a fair
young face looking through the pink sprays of
almond blossoms, while the music of the vesper
hymn sounded sweet and clear in his ears.
`I will begin to-morrow,' he said with a start
when the low voice of the abbess stopped. `I will
paint the Madonna and Babe as thou desirest.'
So next day the work began. And each time
the abbess noiselessly entered the room where the
painter was at work and watched the picture grow
beneath his hand, she felt more and more sure that
she had done right in asking this painter to decorate
their beloved chapel.
True, it was said by many that the young artist
was but a worldly minded man, not like the blessed
Fra Angelico, the heavenly painter of San Marco;
but his work was truly wonderful, and his handsome
face looked good, even if a somewhat merry smile
was ever wont to lurk about his mouth and in his
Then came a morning when the abbess found
Filippo standing idle, with a discontented look upon
his face. He was gazing at the unfinished picture,
and for a while he did not see that any one had
entered the room.
`Is aught amiss?' asked the gentle voice at his
side, and Filippo turned and saw the abbess.
`Something indeed seems amiss with my five
fingers,' said Filippo, with his quick bright smile.
`Time after time have I tried to paint the face of
the Madonna, and each time I must needs paint it
Then a happy thought came into his mind.
`I have seen a face sometimes as I passed through
the convent garden which is exactly what I want,' he
cried. `If thou wouldst but let the maiden sit where
I can see her for a few hours each day, I can promise
thee that the Madonna will be finished as thou
The abbess stood in deep thought for a few
minutes, for she was puzzled to know what she
`It is the child Lucrezia,' she thought to herself.
`She who was sent here by her father, the noble
Buti of Florence. She is but a novice still, and there
can be no harm in allowing her to lend her fair face
as a model for Our Lady.'
So she told Filippo it should be as he wished.
It was dull in the convent, and Lucrezia was only
too pleased to spend some hours every morning,
idly sitting in the great chair, while the young
painter talked to her and told her stories while he
painted. She counted the hours until it was time to
go back, and grew happier each day as the Madonna's
face grew more and more beautiful.
Surely there was no one so good or so handsome
as this wonderful artist. Lucrezia could not bear to
think how dull her life would be when he was gone.
Then one day, when it happened that the abbess
was called away and they were alone, Filippo told
Lucrezia that he loved her and could not live without
her; and although she was frightened at first, she
soon grew happy, and told him that she was ready to
go with him wherever he wished. But what would
the good nuns think of it? Would they ever let
her go? No; they must think of some other plan.
To-morrow was the great festa of Prato, when all
the nuns walked in procession to see the holy centola,
or girdle, which the Madonna had given to St. Thomas.
Lucrezia must take care to walk on the outside of
the procession, and to watch for a touch upon the
arm as she passed.
The festa day dawned bright and clear, and all
Prato was early astir. Procession after procession
wound its way to the church where the relic was to
be shown, and the crowd grew denser every moment.
Presently came the nuns of Santa Margherita. A
figure in the crowd pressed nearer. Lucrezia felt a
touch upon her arm, and a strong hand clasped hers.
The crowd swayed to and fro, and in an instant the
two figures disappeared. No one noticed that the
young novice was gone, and before the nuns thought
of looking for their charge Lucrezia was on her way
to Florence, her horse led by the painter whom she
loved, while his good friend Fra Diamante rode
Then the storm burst. Lucrezia's father was
furious, the good nuns were dismayed, and every
one shook their heads over this last adventure of
the Florentine painter.
But luckily for Filippo, the great Cosimo still
stood his friend and helped him through it all. He
it was who begged the Pope to allow Fra Filippo to
marry Lucrezia (for monks, of course, were never
allowed to marry), and the Pope, too, was kind and
granted the request, so that all went well.
Now indeed was Lucrezia as happy as the day
was long, and when the spring returned once more
to Florence, a baby Filippo came with the violets
`How wilt thou know us apart if thou callest him
Filippo?' asked the proud father.
`Ah, he is such a little one, dear heart,' Lucrezia
answered gaily. `We will call him Filippino, and
then there can be no mistake.'
There was no more need now to seek for pleasures
out of doors. Filippo painted his pictures and lived
his happy home life without seeking any more
adventures. His Madonnas grew ever more beautiful,
for they were all touched with the beauty that
shone from Lucrezia's fair face, and the Infant Christ
had ever the smile and the curly golden hair of the
And by and by a little daughter came to gladden
their hearts, and then indeed their cup of joy was full.
`What name shall we give the little maid?' said
`Methought thou wouldst have it Lucrezia,'
answered the mother.
`There is but one Lucrezia in all the world for
me,' he said. `None other but thee shall bear that
As they talked a knock sounded at the door, and
presently the favourite pupil, Sandro, looked in.
There was a shout of joy from little Filippino, and