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Mornings in Florence by John Ruskin

Part 3 out of 3

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and sins, before he thinks of its beauty; but, were the arm not lost,
the quiet naturalness of this head and breast of Eve, and the bending
grace of the submissive rendering of soul and body to perpetual
guidance by the hand of Christ--(_grasping_ the arm, note, for
full support)--would be felt to be far beyond Ghiberti's in beauty, as
in mythic truth.

The line of her body joins with that of the serpent-ivy round the tree
trunk above her: a double myth--of her fall, and her support afterwards
by her husband's strength. "Thy desire shall be to thy husband." The
fruit of the tree--double-set filbert, telling nevertheless the happy

The leaves in this piece are finished with consummate poetical care and
precision. Above Adam, laurel (a virtuous woman is a crown to her
husband); the filbert for the two together; the fig, for fruitful
household joy (under thy vine and fig-tree [Footnote: Compare Fors
Clavigera, February, 1877.]--but vine properly the masculine joy); and
the fruit taken by Christ for type of all naturally growing food, in
his own hunger.

Examine with lens the ribbing of these leaves, and the insertion on
their stem of the three laurel leaves on extreme right: and observe
that in all cases the sculptor works the moulding _with_ his own
part of the design; look how he breaks variously deeper into it,
beginning from the foot of Christ, and going up to the left into full
depth above the shoulder.

3. _Original labour._

Much poorer, and intentionally so. For the myth of the creation of
humanity, the sculptor uses his best strength, and shows supremely the
grace of womanhood; but in representing the first peasant state of
life, makes the grace of woman by no means her conspicuous quality. She
even walks awkwardly; some feebleness in foreshortening the foot also
embarrassing the sculptor. He knows its form perfectly--but its
perspective, not quite yet.

The trees stiff and stunted--they also needing culture. Their fruit
dropping at present only into beasts' mouths.

4. _Jabal._

If you have looked long enough, and carefully enough, at the three
previous sculptures, you cannot but feel that the hand here is utterly
changed. The drapery sweeps in broader, softer, but less true folds;
the handling is far more delicate; exquisitely sensitive to gradation
over broad surfaces--scarcely using an incision of any depth but in
outline; studiously reserved in appliance of shadow, as a thing
precious and local--look at it above the puppy's head, and under the

This is assuredly painter's work, not mere sculptor's. I have no doubt
whatever it is by the own hand of the shepherd-boy of Fesole. Cimabue
had found him drawing, (more probably _scratching_ with Etrurian
point,) one of his sheep upon a stone. These, on the central
foundation-stone of his tower he engraves, looking back on the fields
of life: the time soon near for him to draw the curtains of his tent.

I know no dog like this in method of drawing, and in skill of giving
the living form without one touch of chisel for hair, or incision for
eye, except the dog barking at Poverty in the great fresco of Assisi.

Take the lens and look at every piece of the work from corner to
corner--note especially as a thing which would only have been enjoyed
by a painter, and which all great painters do intensely enjoy--the
_fringe_ of the tent, [Footnote: "I think Jabal's tent is made of
leather; the relaxed intervals between the tent-pegs show a curved
ragged edge like leather near the ground" (Mr. Caird). The edge of the
opening is still more characteristic, I think.] and precise insertion
of its point in the angle of the hexagon, prepared for by the archaic
masonry indicated in the oblique joint above; [Footnote: Prints of
these photographs which do not show the masonry all round the hexagon
are quite valueless for study.] architect and painter thinking at once,
and _doing_ as they thought.

I gave a lecture to the Eton boys a year or two ago, on little more
than the shepherd's dog, which is yet more wonderful in magnified scale
of photograph. The lecture is partly published--somewhere, but I can't
refer to it.

5. _Jubal_.

Still Giotto's, though a little less delighted in; but with exquisite
introduction of the Gothic of his own tower. See the light surface
sculpture of a mosaic design in the horizontal moulding.

Note also the painter's freehand working of the complex mouldings of
the table--also resolvedly oblong, not square; see central flower.

6. _Tubal Cain_.

Still Giotto's, and entirely exquisite; finished with no less care than
the shepherd, to mark the vitality of this art to humanity; the spade
and hoe--its heraldic bearing--hung on the hinged door. [Footnote:
Pointed out to me by Mr. Caird, who adds farther, "I saw a forge
identical with this one at Pelago the other day,--the anvil resting on
a tree-stump: the same fire, bellows, and implements; the door in two
parts, the upper part like a shutter, and used for the exposition of
finished work as a sign of the craft; and I saw upon it the same
finished work of the same shape as in the bas-relief--a spade and a
hoe."] For subtlety of execution, note the texture of wooden block under
anvil, and of its iron hoop.

The workman's face is the best sermon on the dignity of labour yet
spoken by thoughtful man. Liberal Parliaments and fraternal Reformers
have nothing essential to say more.

7. _Noah_.

Andrea Pisano's again, more or less imitative of Giotto's work.

8. _Astronomy_.

We have a new hand here altogether. The hair and drapery bad; the face
expressive, but blunt in cutting; the small upper heads, necessarily
little more than blocked out, on the small scale; but not suggestive of
grace in completion: the minor detail worked with great mechanical
precision, but little feeling; the lion's head, with leaves in its
ears, is quite ugly; and by comparing the work of the small cusped arch
at the bottom with Giotto's soft handling of the mouldings of his, in
5, you may for ever know common mason's work from fine Gothic. The
zodiacal signs are quite hard and common in the method of bas-relief,
but quaint enough in design: Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces, on the
broad heavenly belt; Taurus upside down, Gemini, and Cancer, on the
small globe.

I think the whole a restoration of the original panel, or else an
inferior workman's rendering of Giotto's design, which the next piece
is, with less question.

9. _Building_.

The larger figure, I am disposed finally to think, represents civic
power, as in Lorenzetti's fresco at Siena. The extreme rudeness of the
minor figures may be guarantee of their originality; it is the
smoothness of mass and hard edge work that make me suspect the 8th for
a restoration.

10. _Pottery_.

Very grand; with much painter's feeling, and fine mouldings again. The
_tiled_ roof projecting in the shadow above, protects the first
Ceramicus-home. I think the women are meant to be carrying some kind of
wicker or reed-bound water-vessel. The Potter's servant explains to
them the extreme advantages of the new invention. I can't make any
conjecture about the author of this piece.

11. _Riding_.

Again Andrea Pisano's, it seems to me. Compare the tossing up of the
dress behind the shoulders, in 3 and 2. The head is grand, having
nearly an Athenian profile: the loss of the horse's fore-leg prevents
me from rightly judging of the entire action. I must leave riders to

12. _Weaving_.

Andrea's again, and of extreme loveliness; the stooping face of the
woman at the loom is more like a Leonardo drawing than sculpture. The
action of throwing the large shuttle, and all the structure of the loom
and its threads, distinguishing rude or smooth surface, are quite
wonderful. The figure on the right shows the use and grace of finely
woven tissue, under and upper--that over the bosom so delicate that the
line of separation from the flesh of the neck is unseen.

If you hide with your hand the carved masonry at the bottom, the
composition separates itself into two pieces, one disagreeably
rectangular. The still more severely rectangular masonry throws out by
contrast all that is curved and rounded in the loom, and unites the
whole composition; that is its aesthetic function; its historical one
is to show that weaving is queen's work, not peasant's; for this is
palace masonry.

13. _The Giving of Law_.

More strictly, of _the_ Book of God's Law: the only one which
_can_ ultimately be obeyed. [Footnote: Mr. Caird convinced me of
the real meaning of this sculpture. I had taken it for the giving of a
book, writing further of it as follows:--

All books, rightly so called, are Books of Law, and all Scripture is
given by inspiration of God. (What _we_ now mostly call a book,
the infinite reduplication and vibratory echo of a lie, is not given
but belched up out of volcanic clay by the inspiration of the devil.)
On the Book-giver's right hand the students in cell, restrained by the
lifted right hand:

"Silent, you, till you know"; then, perhaps, you also.

On the left, the men of the world, kneeling, receive the gift.

Recommendable seal, this, for Mr. Mudie!

Mr. Caird says: "The book is written law, which is given by Justice to
the inferiors, that they may know the laws regulating their relations
to their superiors--who are also under the hand of law. The vassal is
protected by the accessibility of formularized law. The superior is
restrained by the right hand of power." ]

The authorship of this is very embarrassing to me. The face of the
central figure is most noble, and all the work good, but not delicate;
it is like original work of the master whose design No. 8 might be a

14 _Dadalus_.

Andrea Pisano again; the head superb, founded on Greek models, feathers
of wings wrought with extreme care; but with no precision of
arrangement or feeling. How far intentional in awkwardness, I cannot
say; but note the good mechanism of the whole plan, with strong
standing board for the feet.

15. _Navigation_.

An intensely puzzling one; coarse (perhaps unfinished) in work, and
done by a man who could not row; the plaited bands used for rowlocks
being pulled the wrong way. Right, had the rowers been rowing Englishwise:
but the water at the boat's head shows its motion forwards, the way the
oarsmen look. I cannot make out the action of the figure at the stern; it
ought to be steering with the stern oar.

The water seems quite unfinished. Meant, I suppose, for surface and
section of sea, with slimy rock at the bottom; but all stupid and

16. _Hercules and Antaus._

The Earth power, half hidden by the earth, its hair and hand becoming
roots, the strength of its life passing through the ground into the oak
tree. With Cercyon, but first named, (Plato, _Laws_, book VII.,
796), Antaus is the master of contest without use;--[GREEK: philoneikias
achrestou]--and is generally the power of pure selfishness and its various
inflation to insolence and degradation to cowardice;--finding its strength
only in fall back to its Earth,--he is the master, in a word, of all such
kind of persons as have been writing lately about the "interests of
England." He is, therefore, the Power invoked by Dante to place Virgil
and him in the lowest circle of Hell;--"Alcides whilom felt,--that grapple,
straitened sore," etc. The Antaus in the sculpture is very grand; but the
authorship puzzles me, as of the next piece, by the same hand. I believe
both Giotto's design.

17. _Ploughing._

The sword in its Christian form. Magnificent: the grandest expression
of the power of man over the earth and its strongest creatures that I
remember in early sculpture,--(or for that matter, in late). It is the
subduing of the bull which the sculptor thinks most of; the plough,
though large, is of wood, and the handle slight. But the pawing and
bellowing labourer he has bound to it!--here is victory.

18. _The Chariot._

The horse also subdued to draught--Achilles' chariot in its first, and
to be its last, simplicity. The face has probably been grand--the
figure is so still. Andrea's, I think by the flying drapery.

19. _The Lamb, with the symbol of Resurrection._

Over the door: 'I am the door;--by me, if any man enter in,' etc. Put
to the right of the tower, you see, fearlessly, for the convenience of
staircase ascent; all external symmetry being subject with the great
builders to interior use; and then, out of the rightly ordained
infraction of formal law, comes perfect beauty; and when, as here, the
Spirit of Heaven is working with the designer, his thoughts are
suggested in truer order, by the concession to use. After this
sculpture comes the Christian arts,--those which necessarily imply the
conviction of immortality. Astronomy without Christianity only reaches
as far as--'Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels--and put
all _things_ under His feet':--Christianity says beyond this,--'Know
ye not that we shall judge angels (as also the lower creatures shall judge
us!)' [Footnote: In the deep sense of this truth, which underlies all the
bright fantasy and humour of Mr. Courthope's "Paradise of Birds," that
rhyme of the risen spirit of Aristophanes may well be read under the tower
of Giotto, beside his watch-dog of the fold.] The series of sculptures
now beginning, show the arts which _can_ only be accomplished through
belief in Christ.

20. _Geometry_.

Not 'mathematics': _they_ have been implied long ago in astronomy
and architecture; but the due Measuring of the Earth and all that is on
it. Actually done only by Christian faith--first inspiration of the
great Earth-measurers. Your Prince Henry of Spain, your Columbus, your
Captain Cook, (whose tomb, with the bright artistic invention and
religious tenderness which are so peculiarly the gifts of the
nineteenth century, we have just provided a fence for, of old cannon
open-mouthed, straight up towards Heaven--your modern method of
symbolizing the only appeal to Heaven of which the nineteenth century
has left itself capable--'The voice of thy Brother's blood crieth to
me'--your outworn cannon, now silently agape, but sonorous in the ears
of angels with that appeal)--first inspiration, I say, of these; constant
inspiration of all who set true landmarks and hold to them, knowing
their measure; the devil interfering, I observe, lately in his own way,
with the Geometry of Yorkshire, where the landed proprietors, [Footnote:
I mean no accusation against any class; probably the one-fielded statesman
is more eager for his little gain of fifty yards of grass than the squire
for his bite and sup out of the gypsy's part of the roadside. But it is
notable enough to the passing traveller, to find himself shut into a
narrow road between high stone dykes which he can neither see over nor
climb over, (I always deliberately pitch them down myself, wherever I need
a gap,) instead of on a broad road between low grey walls with all the moor
beyond--and the power of leaping over when he chooses in innocent trespass
for herb, or view, or splinter of grey rock.] when the neglected walls by
the roadside tumble down, benevolently repair the same, with better
stonework, _outside_ always of the fallen heaps;--which, the wall
being thus built _on_ what was the public road, absorb themselves,
with help of moss and time, into the heaving swells of the rocky field-and
behold, gain of a couple of feet--along so much of the road as needs
repairing operations.

This then, is the first of the Christian sciences: division of land
rightly, and the general law of measuring between wisely-held compass
points. The type of mensuration, circle in square, on his desk, I use
for my first exercise in the laws of Fesole.

21. _Sculpture_.

The first piece of the closing series on the north side of the
Campanile, of which some general points must be first noted, before any
special examination.

The two initial ones, Sculpture and Painting, are by tradition the only
ones attributed to Giotto's own hand. The fifth, Song, is known, and
recognizable in its magnificence, to be by Luca della Robbia. The
remaining four are all of Luca's school,--later work therefore, all
these five, than any we have been hitherto examining, entirely
different in manner, and with late flower-work beneath them instead of
our hitherto severe Gothic arches. And it becomes of course instantly a
vital question--Did Giotto die leaving the series incomplete, only its
subjects chosen, and are these two bas-reliefs of Sculpture and
Painting among his last works? or was the series ever completed, and
these later bas-reliefs substituted for the earlier ones, under Luca's
influence, by way of conducting the whole to a grander close, and
making their order more representative of Florentine art in its fulness
of power?

I must repeat, once more, and with greater insistence respecting Sculpture
than Painting, that I do not in the least set myself up for a critic of
authenticity,--but only of absolute goodness. My readers may trust me to
tell them what is well done or ill; but by whom, is quite a separate
question, needing for any certainty, in this school of much-associated
masters and pupils, extremest attention to minute particulars not at all
bearing on my objects in teaching.

Of this closing group of sculptures, then, all I can tell you is that
the fifth is a quite magnificent piece of work, and recognizably, to my
extreme conviction, Luca della Robbia's; that the last, Harmonia, is
also fine work; that those attributed to Giotto are fine in a different
way,--and the other three in reality the poorest pieces in the series,
though done with much more advanced sculptural dexterity.

But I am chiefly puzzled by the two attributed to Giotto, because they
are much coarser than those which seem to me so plainly his on the west
side, and slightly different in workmanship--with much that is common
to both, however, in the casting of drapery and mode of introduction of
details. The difference may be accounted for partly by haste or failing
power, partly by the artist's less deep feeling of the importance of
these merely symbolic figures, as compared with those of the Fathers of
the Arts; but it is very notable and embarrassing notwithstanding,
complicated as it is with extreme resemblance in other particulars.

You cannot compare the subjects on the tower itself; but of my series
of photographs take 6 and 21, and put them side by side.

I need not dwell on the conditions of resemblance, which are instantly
visible; but the _difference_ in the treatment of the heads is
incomprehensible. That of the Tubal Cain is exquisitely finished, and
with a painter's touch; every lock of the hair laid with studied flow,
as in the most beautiful drawing. In the 'Sculpture,' it is struck out
with ordinary tricks of rapid sculptor trade, entirely unfinished, and
with offensively frank use of the drill hole to give picturesque
rustication to the beard.

Next, put 22 and 5 back to back. You see again the resemblance in the
earnestness of both figures, in the unbroken arcs of their backs, in
the breaking of the octagon moulding by the pointed angles; and here,
even also in the general conception of the heads. But again, in the one
of Painting, the hair is struck with more vulgar indenting and
drilling, and the Gothic of the picture frame is less precise in touch
and later in style. Observe, however,--and this may perhaps give us
some definite hint for clearing the question,--a picture-frame _would
be_ less precise in making, and later in style, properly, than
cusped arches to be put under the feet of the inventor of all musical
sound by breath of man. And if you will now compare finally the eager
tilting of the workman's seat in 22 and 6, and the working of the wood
in the painter's low table for his pots of colour, and his three-legged
stool, with that of Tubal Cain's anvil block; and the way in which the
lines of the forge and upper triptych are in each composition used to
set off the rounding of the head, I believe you will have little
hesitation in accepting my own view of the matter--namely, that the
three pieces of the Fathers of the Arts were wrought with Giotto's
extremest care for the most precious stones of his tower; that also,
being a sculptor and painter, he did the other two, but with quite
definite and wilful resolve that they _should be_, as mere symbols
of his own two trades, wholly inferior to the other subjects of the
patriarchs; that he made the Sculpture picturesque and bold as you see
it is, and showed all a sculptor's tricks in the work of it; and a
sculptor's Greek subject, Bacchus, for the model of it; that he wrought
the Painting, as the higher art, with more care, still keeping it
subordinate to the primal subjects, but showed, for a lesson to all the
generations of painters for evermore,--this one lesson, like his circle
of pure line containing all others,--'Your soul and body must be all in
every touch.'

I can't resist the expression of a little piece of personal exultation,
in noticing that he holds his pencil as I do myself: no writing master,
and no effort (at one time very steady for many months), having ever
cured me of that way of holding both pen and pencil between my fore and
second finger; the third and fourth resting the backs of them on my

As I finally arrange these notes for press, I am further confirmed in
my opinion by discovering little finishings in the two later pieces
which I was not before aware of. I beg the masters of High Art, and
sublime generalization, to take a good magnifying glass to the
'Sculpture' and look at the way Giotto has cut the compasses, the edges
of the chisels, and the keyhole of the lock of the toolbox. For the
rest, nothing could be more probable, in the confused and perpetually
false mass of Florentine tradition, than the preservation of the memory
of Giotto's carving his own two trades, and the forgetfulness, or quite
as likely ignorance, of the part he took with Andrea Pisano in the
initial sculptures. I now take up the series of subjects at the point
where we broke off, to trace their chain of philosophy to its close.
To Geometry, which gives to every man his possession of house and land,
succeed 21, Sculpture, and 22, Painting, the adornments of permanent
habitation. And then, the great arts of education in a Christian home.

23. _Grammar_, or more properly Literature altogether, of which we
have already seen the ancient power in the Spanish Chapel series; then,

24. _Arithmetic_, central here as also in the Spanish Chapel, for
the same reasons; here, more impatiently asserting, with both hands,
that two, on the right, you observe-and two on the left-do indeed and
for ever make Four. Keep your accounts, you, with your book of double
entry, on that principle; and you will be safe in this world and the
next, in your steward's office. But by no means so, if you ever admit
the usurers Gospel of Arithmetic, that two and two make Five. You see
by the rich hem of his robe that the asserter of this economical first
principle is a man well to do in the world.

25. _Logic_. The art of Demonstration. Vulgarest of the whole
series, far too expressive of the mode in which argument is conducted
by those who are not masters of its reins.

26. _Song._

The essential power of music in animal life. Orpheus. the symbol of it
all, the inventor properly of Music, the Law of Kindness, as Dadalus of
Music, the Law of Construction. Hence the "Orphic life" is one of ideal
mercy, (vegetarian,)--Plato, _Laws_, Book VI., 782,--and he is
named first after Dadalus, and in balance to him as head of the school
of harmonists, in Book III., 677, (Steph.) Look for the two singing
birds clapping their wings in the tree above him; then the five mystic
beasts,--closest to his feet the irredeemable boar; then lion and bear,
tiger, unicorn, and fiery dragon closest to his head, the flames of its
mouth mingling with his breath as he sings. The audient eagle, alas!
has lost the beak, and is only recognizable by his proud holding of
himself; the duck, sleepily delighted after muddy dinner, close to his
shoulder, is a true conquest. Hoopoe, or indefinite bird of crested
race, behind; of the other three no clear certainty. The leafage
throughout such as only Luca could do, and the whole consummate in
skill and understanding.

27. _Harmony._

Music of Song, in the full power of it, meaning perfect education in
all art of the Muses and of civilized life: the mystery of its concord
is taken for the symbol of that of a perfect state; one day, doubtless,
of the perfect world. So prophesies the last corner stone of the
Shepherd's Tower.

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