Part 8 out of 8
Noufflard had a very alert appreciation of the early Renaissance,
especially in sculpture; he was passionately in love with the natural
beauties of Italy, from North to South, and he had a kind of national-
psychological gift of singling out peculiarly French, Italian or German
traits. He did not know the German language, but he was at home in
German music, and had studied a great deal of German literature in
translation; just then he was reading Hegel's "Aesthetics," the
abstractions in which veritably alarmed him, and to which he very much
preferred modern French Art Philosophy. In English Science, he had
studied Darwin, and he was the first to give me a real insight into the
Darwinian theory and a general summary of it, for in my younger days I
had only heard it attacked, as erroneous, in lectures by Rasmus Nielsen
Georges Noufflard was the first Frenchman of my own age with whom I had
been intimate and whose character I partly understood and entered into,
partly absorbed into my own. If many of the various opinions evident in
my first lectures were strikingly emancipated from Danish national
prejudices which no one hitherto had attempted to disturb, I owed this
in a great measure to him. Our happy, harmonious intimacy in the Sabine
Hills and in Naples was responsible, before a year was past, for whole
deluges of abuse in Danish newspapers.
One morning, the Consul's man-servant brought me a _permesso_ for
the Collection of Sculpture in the Vatican for the same day, and a
future _permesso_ for the Loggias, Stanzas, and the Sistine Chapel.
I laid the last in my pocket-book. It was the key of Paradise. I had
waited for it so long that I said to myself almost superstitiously: "I
wonder whether anything will prevent again?" The anniversary of the day
I had left Copenhagen the year before, I drove to the Vatican, went at
one o'clock mid-day up the handsome staircase, and through immense, in
part magnificently decorated rooms to the Sistine Chapel. I had heard so
much about the disappointment it would be that not the very slightest
suggestion of disappointment crossed my mind. Only a feeling of supreme
happiness shot through me: at last I am here. I stood on the spot which
was the real goal of my pilgrimage. I had so often examined
reproductions of every figure and I had read so much about the whole,
that I knew every note of the music beforehand. Now I heard it.
A voice within me whispered: So here I stand at last, shut in with the
mind that of all human minds has spoken most deeply home to my soul. I
am outside and above the earth and far from human kind. This is his
earth and these are his men, created in his image to people his world.
For this one man's work is a world, which, though that of one man only,
can be placed against the productions of a whole nation, even of the
most splendid nation that has ever lived, the Greeks. Michael Angelo
felt more largely, more lonely, more mightily than any other. He created
out of the wealth of a nature that in its essence was more than earthly.
Raphael is more human, people say, and that is true; but Michael Angelo
is more divine.
After the lapse of about an hour, the figures detached themselves from
the throng, to my mental vision, and the whole composition fixed itself
in my brain. I saw the ceiling, not merely as it is to-day, but as it
was when the colours were fresh, for in places there were patches, the
bright yellow, for instance, which showed the depth of colouring in
which the whole had been carried out. It was Michael Angelo's intention
to show us the ceiling pierced and the heavens open above it. Up to the
central figures, we are to suppose that the walls continue straight up
to the ceiling, as though the figures sat upright. Then all confusion
disappears, and all becomes one perfect whole.
The principal pictures, such as the creation of Adam, Michael Angelo's
most philosophical and most exquisite painting, I had had before my eyes
upon my wall every day for ten years. The expression in Adam's face was
not one of languishing appeal, as I had thought; he smiled faintly, as
if calmly confident of the dignity of the life the finger of God is
about to bestow upon him. The small, bronze-painted figures, expressed
the suspension and repose of the ceiling; they were architectonic
symbols. The troops of young heroes round about the central pillars were
Michael Angelo's ideals of Youth, Beauty and Humanity. The one resting
silently and thoughtfully on one knee is perhaps the most splendid.
There is hardly any difference between his build and that of Adam. Adam
is the more spiritual brother of these young and suffering heroes.
I felt the injustice of all the talk about the beginnings of
grotesqueness in Michael Angelo's style. There are a few somewhat
distorted figures, Haman, the knot of men and women adoring the snake,
Jonas, as he flings himself backwards, but except these, what calm, what
grandiose perfection! And which was still more remarkable, what imposing
charm! Eve, in the picture of "The Fall," is perhaps the most adorable
figure that Art has ever produced; her beauty, in the picture on the
left, was like a revelation of what humanity really ought to have been.
It sounded almost like a lie that one man had created this in twenty-two
months. Would the earth ever again produce frescoes of the same order?
The 360 years that had passed over it had damaged this, the greatest
pictorial work on earth, far less than I had feared.
A large aristocratic English family came in: man, wife, son, daughter,
another daughter, the governess, all expensively and fashionably
dressed. They stood silent for a moment at the entrance to the hall.
Then they came forward as far as about the middle of the hall, looked up
and about a little, said to the custodian: "Will you open the door for
us?" and went out again very gracefully.
I knew Raphael's Loggias from copies in _l'Ecole des Beaux Arts_ in
Paris. But I was curious to see how they would appear after this, and
so, although there was only three-quarters of an hour left of the time
allotted to me on my _permesso_, I went up to look at them. My
first impression, as I glanced down the corridor and perceived these
small ceiling pictures, barely two feet across, was: "Good gracious!
This will be a sorry enjoyment after Michael Angelo!" I looked at the
first painting, God creating the animals, and was quite affected: There
goes the good old man, saying paternally: "Come up from the earth, all
of you, you have no idea how nice it is up here." My next impression
was: "How childish!" But my last was: "What genius!" How charming the
picture of the Fall, and how lovely Eve! And what grandeur of style
despite the smallness of the space. A God a few inches high separates
light from darkness, but there is omnipotence in the movement of His
arm. Jacob sees the ladder to Heaven in his dream; and this ladder,
which altogether has six angels upon it, seems to reach from Earth to
Heaven, infinitely long and infinitely peopled; above, we see God the
Father, at an immense distance, spread His gigantic embrace (which
covers a space the length of two fingers). There was the favourite
picture of my childhood, Abraham prostrated before the Angels, even more
marvellous in the original than I had fancied it to myself, although it
is true that the effect of the picture is chiefly produced by its beauty
of line. And there was Lot, departing from Sodom with his daughters, a
picture great because of the perfect illusion of movement. They go on
and on, against the wind and storm, with Horror behind them and Hope in
front, at the back, to the right, the burning city, to the left, a
smiling landscape. How unique the landscapes on all these pictures are,
how marvellous, for instance, that in which Moses is found on the Nile!
This river, within the narrow limits of the picture, looked like a huge
stream, losing itself in the distance.
It was half-past five. My back was beginning to ache in the place which
had grown tender from lying so long; without a trace of fatigue I had
been looking uninterruptedly at pictures for four hours and a half.
Noufflard's best friend in Rome was a young lieutenant of the
Bersaglieri named Ottavio Cerrotti, with whom we were much together.
Although a Roman, he had entered the Italian army very young, and had
consequently been, as it were, banished. Now, through the breach at
Porta Pia, he had come back. He was twenty-four years of age, and the
naivest Don Juan one could possibly meet. He was beloved by the
beautiful wife of his captain, and Noufflard, who frequented their
house, one day surprised the two lovers in tears. Cerrotti was crying
with his lady-love because he had been faithless to her. He had
confessed to her his intimacy with four other young ladies; so she was
crying, and the end of it was that he cried to keep her company.
At meals, he gave us a full account of his principal romance. He had one
day met her by chance in the gardens of the Palazzo Corsini, and since
that day, they had had secret meetings. But the captain had now been
transferred to Terni, and tragedy had begun. Letters were constantly
within an ace of being intercepted, they committed imprudences without
count. He read aloud to us, without the least embarrassment, the letters
of the lady. The curious thing about them was the moderation she
exercised in the expression of her love, while at the same time her
plans for meetings were of the most foolhardy, breakneck description.
Another fresh acquaintance that I made in those days was with three
French painters, Hammon, Sain and Benner, who had studios adjoining one
another. Hammon and Sain both died long since, but Benner, whom I met
again in Paris in 1904, died, honoured and respected, in 1905. I was
later on at Capri in company with Sain and Benner, but Hammon I saw only
during this visit to Rome. His pretty, somewhat sentimental painting,
_Ma soeur n'y est pas_, hung, reproduced in engraving, in every
shop-window, even in Copenhagen. He was painting just then at his clever
picture, _Triste Rivage_.
Hammon was born in Brittany, of humble, orthodox parents, who sent him
to a monastery. The Prior, when he surprised him drawing men and women
out of his head, told him that painting was a sin. The young man himself
then strongly repented his inclination, but, as he felt he could not
live without following it, he left the monastery, though with many
strong twinges of conscience.
Now that he was older, he was ruining himself by drink, but had
manifested true talent and still retained a humorous wit. One day that I
was with him, a young man came to the studio and asked for his opinion
of a painting; the man talked the whole time of nothing but his mother,
of how much he loved her and all that he did for her. Hammon's patience
gave out at last. He broke out: "And do you think, sir, that _I_
have murdered my mother? I love her very much, I assure you, _not
enough to marry her_, I grant, but pretty well, all the same." After
that he always spoke of him as "the young man who loves his mother."
I felt as though this April, this radiant Spring, were the most glorious
time in my life, I was assimilating fresh impressions of Art and Nature
every hour; the conversations I was enjoying with my Italian and French
friends set me day by day pondering over new thoughts; I saw myself
restored to life, and a better life. At the beginning of April,
moreover, some girls from the North made their triumphal entry into the
Scandinavian Club. Without being specially beautiful or remarkable, they
absolutely charmed me. It was a full year since the language of home had
sounded in my ears from the lips of a girl, since I had seen the smile
in the blue eyes and encountered the heart-ensnaring charm, in jest, or
earnest, of the young women of the North. I had recently heard the
entrancing castrato singing at St. Peter's, and, on conquering my
aversion, could not but admire it. Now I heard once more simple, but
natural, Danish and Swedish songs. Merely to speak Danish again with a
young woman, was a delight. And there was one who, delicately and
unmistakably and defencelessly, showed me that I was not indifferent to
her. That melted me, and from that time forth the beauties of Italy were
enhanced tenfold in my eyes.
All that I was acquainted with in Rome, all that I saw every day with
Georges Noufflard, I could show her and her party, from the most
accessible things, which were nevertheless fresh to the newcomers, such
as the Pantheon, Acqua Paola, San Pietro in Montorio, the grave of
Cecilia Metella, and the grottoes of Egeria, to the great collections of
Art in the Vatican, or the Capitol, or in the wonderful Galleria
Borghese. All this, that I was accustomed to see alone with Noufflard,
acquired new splendour when a blonde girl walked by my side, asking
sensible questions, and showing me the gratitude of youth for good
instruction. With her nineteen years I suppose she thought me
marvellously clever. But the works of Art that lay a little outside the
beaten track, I likewise showed to my compatriots. I had never been able
to tolerate Guido Reni; but his playing angels in the chapel of San
Gregorio excited my profound admiration, and it was a satisfaction to me
to pour this into the receptive ear of a girl compatriot. These angels
delighted me so that I could hardly tear myself away from them. The fine
malice, the mild coquetry, even in the expression of the noblest purity
and the loftiest dignity, enchanted us.
I had been in the habit of going out to the environs of Rome with
Georges Noufflard, for instance, to the large, handsome gardens of the
Villa Doria Pamfili, or the Villa Madama, with its beautiful frescoes
and stucco-work, executed by Raphael's pupils, Giulio Romano and others,
from drawings by that master. But it was a new delight to drive over the
Campagna with a girl who spoke Danish by my side, and to see her
Northern complexion in the sun of the South. With my French friend, I
gladly joined the excursions of her party to Nemi, Albano, Tivoli.
Never in my life had I felt so happy as I did then. I was quite
recovered. Only a fortnight after I had risen from a sick-bed that had
claimed me four months and a half, I was going about, thanks to my
youth, as I did before I was ill. For my excursions, I had a comrade
after my own heart, well-bred, educated, and noble-minded; I fell in
love a little a few times a week; I saw lakes, fields, olive groves,
mountains, scenery, exactly to my taste. I had always a _permesso_
for the Vatican collections in my pocket. I felt intoxicated with
delight, dizzy with enjoyment.
It seemed to me that of all I had seen in the world, Tivoli was the most
lovely. The old "temple of the Sibyl" on the hill stood on consecrated
ground, and consecrated the whole neighbourhood. I loved those
waterfalls, which impressed me much more than Trollhaettan [Footnote:
Trollhaettan, a celebrated waterfall near Goeteborg in Sweden.], had done
in my childhood. In one place the water falls down, black and boiling,
into a hollow of the rock, and reminded me of the descent into Tartarus;
in another the cataract runs, smiling and twinkling with millions of
shining pearls, in the strong sunlight. In a third place, the great
cascade rushes down over the rocks. There, where it touches the nether
rocks, rests the end of the enormous rainbow which, when the sun shines,
is always suspended across it. Noufflard told me that Niagara itself
impressed one less. We scrambled along the cliff until we stood above
the great waterfall, and could see nothing but the roaring, foaming
white water, leaping and dashing down; it looked as though the seething
and spraying masses of water were springing over each other's heads in a
mad race, and there was such power, such natural persuasion in it, that
one seemed drawn with it, and gliding, as it were, dragged into the
abyss. It was as though all Nature were disembodied, and flinging
Like a Latin, Noufflard personified it all; he saw the dance of nymphs
in the waves, and their veils in the clouds of spray. My way of
regarding Nature was diametrically opposite, and pantheistic. I lost
consciousness of my own personality, felt myself one with the falling
water and merged myself into Nature, instead of gathering it up into
figures. I felt myself an individuality of the North, conscious of my
One afternoon a large party of us had taken our meal at an inn on the
lake of Nemi. The evening was more than earthly. The calm, still,
mountain lake, the old, filled-up crater, on the top of the mountain,
had a fairy-like effect. I dropped down behind a boulder and lay for a
long time alone, lost in ecstasy, out of sight of the others. All at
once I saw a blue veil fluttering in the breeze quite near me. It was
the young Danish girl, who had sat down with me. The red light of the
evening, Nemi and she, merged in one. Not far away some people were
setting fire to a blaze of twigs and leaves; one solitary bird warbled
across the lake; the cypresses wept; the pines glowered; the olive trees
bathed their foliage in the mild warmth; one cloud sailed across the
sky, and its reflection glided over the lake. One could not bear to
raise the voice.
It was like a muffled, muffled concert. Here were life, reality and
dreams. Here were sun, warmth and light. Here were colour, form and
line, and in this line, outlined by the mountains against the sky, the
artistic background of all the beauty.
Noufflard and I accompanied our Northern friends from Albano to the
station; they were going on as far as Naples, and thence returning home.
We said good-bye and walked back to Albano in the mild Summer evening.
The stars sparkled and shone bright, Cassiopaeia showed itself in its
most favourable position, and Charles's Wain stood, as if in sheer high
spirits, on its head, which seemed to be its recreation just about this
It, too, was evidently a little dazed this unique, inimitable Spring.
_Adventures on a Walking Tour_
_Ali and Gulhyndi_
Arrest, Professor d'
Art, Danish, French, German dramatic
Augustenborg, Duke of
Bergen, Carl von
_Boy, A Happy_
Brohan, The Sisters
_Buch der Lieder_
Chanson de Roland
Criticisms and Portraits
Dame aux Camelias, La
Dichtung und Wahrheit
Dualism in Our Modern Philosophy
Dumas, The Younger
Fights, Between the
Fils de Giboyer, Le
Fisher Girl, The
For Sweden and Norway
France Nouvelle, La
French Philosophers of the Nineteenth Century, The
_Gerusalemme liberata_, Tasso's
_Gods of the North, The_
Goncourt, the brothers; Edmond de
Grammont, The Duc de
Guell y Rente, Don Jose
_Hamilton's Philosophy, Examination of_
Heiberg, Johan Ludvig
Heiberg, Johanne Louise
_Hero of Our Time, A_
History, The Philosophy of
_History of English Literature,_
Holst, Professor H.P.
_Intelligence, De l'_
_Jesus, Life of_.
_Joie fait Peur, La_.
_Knowledge and Faith, On_.
_Last Supper, Leonardo's_.
_Law, Interpretation of the_.
Leopold of Hohenzollern.
_Lion Amoureux, Le_.
_Literature, History of_, Thortsen's.
Little Red Riding-Hood.
Logic of Fundamental Ideas.
M., Mademoiselle Mathilde.
_Mariage de Figaro, Le_.
Meza, General de.
Mill, John Stuart
_Musketeers, Les Trois_
Musset, Alfred de
Nerval, Gerard de
_Notes sur l'Angleterre_
_Notre Dame de Paris_
Oersted, Anders Sandoee
Ollivier, Prime Minister
_Once upon a Time_
_Over the Hills and Far Away_
Paiva, Madame de
Piedmont, History of
Pilgrimage to Kevlaar
_Poetry, The Infinitely Small and the Infinitely Great in_
Prim, Don Juan
Prose Writings, Heiberg's
_Rabbi and Knight_
Renan, M., L'Allemagne et l'Atheisme au 19me Siecle
Rosieny, Marc de
Sacy, Silvestre de
Scenes from the Lives of the Warriors of the North
School of Life, The
Scott, Sir Walter
Sickness unto Death
Soul after Death, A
Spang, The Sisters
Studies in Aesthetics
Subjection of Women
Supplice d'une Femme, Le
_Tragic Fate, The Idea of_
_Vanity and Modesty_, Luini's
Vigny, Alfred de
Vischer, Fr. Th.
_Without a Center_