Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Renaissance in Italy Vol. 3 by John Addington Symonds

Part 6 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

My soul, that turns to His great love on high,
Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread.

It is pleasant to know that these last years were also the happiest and
calmest. Though he had lost his faithful friend and servant Urbino; though
his father had died, an old man, and his brothers had passed away before
him one by one, his nephew Lionardo had married in Florence, and begotten
a son called Michael Angelo. Thus he had the satisfaction of hoping that
his name would endure and flourish, as indeed it has done almost to this
very day in Florence. What consolation this thought must have brought him,
is clear to those who have studied his correspondence and observed the
tender care and continual anxiety he had for his kinsmen.[335] Wealth now
belonged to him: but he had never cared for money; and he continued to
live like a poor man, dressing soberly and eating sparely, often taking
but one meal in the day, and that of bread and wine.[336] He slept little,
and rose by night to work upon his statues, wearing a cap with a candle
stuck in front of it, that he might see where to drive the chisel home.
During his whole life he had been solitary, partly by preference, partly
by devotion to his art, and partly because he kept men at a distance by
his manner.[337] Not that Michael Angelo was sour or haughty; but he
spoke his mind out very plainly, had no tolerance for fools, and was apt
to fly into passions.[338] Time had now softened his temper and removed
all causes of discouragement. He had survived every rival, and the world
was convinced of his supremacy. Princes courted him; the Count of Canossa
was proud to claim him for a kinsman; strangers, when they visited Rome,
were eager to behold in him its greatest living wonder.[339] His old age
was the serene and splendid evening of a toilsome day. But better than all
this, he now enjoyed both love and friendship.

If Michael Angelo could ever have been handsome is more than doubtful.
Early in his youth the quarrelsome and vain Torrigiani broke his nose with
a blow of the fist, when they were drawing from Masaccio's frescoes in the
Carmine together.[340] Thenceforth the artist's soul looked forth from a
sad face, with small grey eyes, flat nostrils, and rugged weight of
jutting brows. Good care was thus taken that light love should not trifle
with the man who was destined to be the prophet of his age in art. Like
Beethoven, he united a loving nature, sensitive to beauty and desirous of
affection, with a rude exterior. He seemed incapable of attaching himself
to any merely mortal object, and wedded the ideal. In that century of
intrigue and amour, we hear of nothing to imply that Michael Angelo was a
lover till he reached the age of sixty. How he may have loved in the
earlier periods of his life, whereof no record now remains, can only be
guessed from the tenderness and passion outpoured in the poems of his
latter years. That his morality was pure and his converse without stain,
is emphatically witnessed by both Vasari and Condivi.[341] But that his
emotion was intense, and that to beauty in all its human forms he was
throughout his life a slave, we have his own sonnets to prove.

In the year 1534 he first became acquainted with the noble lady Vittoria,
daughter of Fabrizio Colonna, and widow of the Marquis of Pescara. She was
then aged forty-four, and had nine years survived the loss of a husband
she never ceased to idolise.[342] Living in retirement in Rome, she
employed her leisure with philosophy and poetry. Artists and men of
letters were admitted to her society. Among the subjects she had most at
heart was the reform of the Church and the restoration of religion to its
evangelical purity. Between her and Michael Angelo a tender affection
sprang up based upon the sympathy of ardent and high-seeking natures. If
love be the right name for this exalted and yet fervid attachment, Michael
Angelo may be said to have loved her with all the pent-up forces of his
heart. None of his works display a predilection for girlish beauty, and it
is probable that her intellectual distinction and mature womanhood touched
him even more than if she had been younger. When they were together in
Rome they met frequently for conversation on the themes of art and piety
they both held dear. Of these discourses a charming record has been
preserved to us by the painter Francis of Holland.[343] When they were
separated they exchanged poems and wrote letters, some of which remain. On
the death of Vittoria, in 1547, the light of life seemed to be
extinguished for our sculptor. It is said that he waited by her bed-side,
and kissed her hand when she was dying. The sonnets he afterwards composed
show that his soul followed her to heaven.

Another friend whom Michael Angelo found in this last stage of life, and
whom he loved with only less warmth than Vittoria, was a young Roman of
perfect beauty and of winning manners. Tommaso Cavalieri must be mentioned
next to the Marchioness of Pescara as the being who bound this greatest
soul a captive.[344] Both Cavalieri and Vittoria are said to have been
painted by him, and these are the only two portraits he is reported to
have executed. It may here be remarked that nothing is more characteristic
of his genius than the determination to see through nature, to pass beyond
the actual to the abstract, and to use reality only as a stepping-stone to
the ideal. This artistic Platonism was the source both of his greatness
and his mannerism. As men choose to follow Blake or Ruskin, they may
praise or blame him; yet, blame and praise pronounced on such a matter
with regard to such a man are equally impertinent and insignificant. It is
enough for the critic to note with reverence that thus and thus the spirit
that was in him worked and moved.

When we read the sonnets addressed to Vittoria Colonna and Cavalieri, we
find something inexpressibly pathetic in this pure and fervent worship of
beauty, when the artist with a soul still young had reached the limit of
the years of man. Here and there we trace in them an echo of his youth.
The Platonic dialogues he heard while yet a young man at the suppers of
Lorenzo, reappear converted to the very substance of his thought and
style. At the same time Savonarola resumes ascendency over his mind; and
when he turns to Florence, it is of Dante that he speaks.

At last the moment came when this strong solitary spirit, much suffering
and much loving, had to render its account. It appears from a letter
written to Lionardo Buonarroti on February 15, 1564, that his old servant
Antonio del Francese, the successor of Urbino in his household, together
with Tommaso Cavalieri and Daniello Ricciarelli of Volterra, attended him
in his last illness. On the 18th of that month, having bequeathed his
soul to God, his body to the earth, and his worldly goods to his kinsfolk,
praying them on their death-bed to think upon Christ's passion, he
breathed his last. His corpse was transported to Florence, and buried in
the church of S. Croce, with great pomp and honour, by the Duke, the city,
and the Florentine Academy.


[289] See Vasari, vol. xii. p. 333, and Gotti's _Vita di Michelangelo
Buonarroti_, vol. i. p. 4, for a discussion of this claim, and for a
letter written by Alessandro Count of Canossa, in 1520, to the artist.

[290] That Michael Angelo was contemptuous to brother artists, is proved
by what Torrigiani said to Cellini: "Aveva per usanza di uccellare tutti
quelli che dissegnavano." He called Perugino _goffo_, told Francia's son
that his father made handsomer men by night than by day, and cast in
Lionardo's teeth that he could not finish the equestrian statue of the
Duke of Milan. It is therefore not improbable that when, according to the
legend, he corrected a drawing of Ghirlandajo's, he may have said things
unendurable to the elder painter.

[291] Engraved in outline in Harford's _Illustrations of the Genius of
Michael Angelo Buonarroti_, Colnaghi, 1857.

[292] This group, placed in S. Peter's, was made for the French Cardinal
de Saint Denys. It should be said that the first work of Michael Angelo
in Rome was the "Bacchus" now in the Florentine Bargello, executed for
Jacopo Gallo, a Roman gentleman.

[293] Pitti approved of the form of government represented by Soderini.
Machiavelli despised the want of decision that made him quit Florence,
and the euetheia of the man. Hence their curiously conflicting

[294] See the chapter entitled "Della Malitia e pessime Conditioni del
Tyranno," in Savonarola's "Tractato circa el reggimento e governo della
Citta di Firenze composto ad instantia delli excelsi Signori al tempo di
Giuliano Salviati, Gonfaloniere di Justitia." A more terrible picture has
never been drawn by any analyst of human vice and cruelty and weakness.

[295] Guasti's edition of the _Rime_, p. 26.

[296] He defends himself thus in a letter to Lodovico Buonarroti: "Del
caso dei Medici io non o mai parlato contra di loro cosa nessuna, se non
in quel modo che s' e parlato generalmente per ogn' uomo, come fu del
caso di Prato; che se le pietre avessin saputo parlare, n' avrebbono

[297] It seems clear from the correspondence in the Archivio Buonarroti,
recently published, that when Michael Angelo fled from Florence to Venice
in 1529, he did so under the pressure of no ignoble panic, but because
his life was threatened by a traitor, acting possibly at the secret
instance of Malatesta Baglioni. See Heath Wilson, pp. 326-330.

[298] See Guasti, p. 4.

[299] Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 251.

[300] To these years we must also assign the two unfinished medallions of
"Madonna and the infant Christ," the circular oil picture of the "Holy
Family," painted for Angelo Doni, and the beautiful unfinished picture of
"Madonna with the boy Jesus and S. John" in the National Gallery. The
last of these works is one of the loveliest of Michael Angelo's
productions, whether we regard the symmetry of its composition or the
refinement of its types. The two groups of two boys standing behind the
central group on either hand of the Virgin, have incomparable beauty of
form. The supreme style of the Sistine is here revealed to us in embryo.
Whether the "Entombment," also unfinished, and also in the National
Gallery, belongs to this time, and whether it be Michael Angelo's at all,
is a matter for the experts to decide. To my perception, it is quite
unworthy of the painter of the Doni "Holy family;" nor can I think that
his want of practice in oil-painting will explain its want of charm and

[301] It has long been believed that Baccio Bandinelli destroyed Michael
Angelo's; but Grimm, in his Life of the sculptor (vol. i. p. 376, Eng.
Tr.), adduces solid arguments against this legend. A few studies,
together with the engravings of portions by Marc Antonio and Agostino
Veneziano, enable us to form a notion of the composition. At Holkham
there is an old copy of the larger portion of the cartoon, which has been
engraved by Schiavonetti, and reproduced in Harford's _Illustrations_,
plate x.

[302] _Vita_, p. 23. Cellini, the impassioned admirer of Michael Angelo,
esteemed this cartoon so highly, that he writes: "Sebbene il divino
Michelagnolo fece la gran cappella di Papa Julio da poi, non arrivo mai a
questo segno alla meta: la sua virtu non aggiunse mai da poi alla forza
di quei primi studj."

[303] The cartoon was probably exhibited in 1505. See Gotti, vol. i. p.

[304] Gotti, pp. 277-282.

[305] Springer, in his essay, _Michael Agnolo in Rome_, p. 21, makes out
that this large design was not conceived till after the death of Julius.
It is difficult to form a clear notion of the many changes in the plan of
the tomb, between 1505 and 1542, when Michael Angelo signed the last
contract with the heirs of Julius.

[306] In the Uffizzi at Florence. See Heath Wilson, plate vi.

[307] Boboli Gardens, Bargello, Louvre. These captives are unfinished.
The "Rachel" and "Leah" at S. Pietro in Vincoli were committed to pupils
by Michael Angelo.

[308] "Che mi fosso messo a fare zolfanelli.... Son ogni di lapidato,
come se havessi crucifisso Cristo.... io mi truovo avere perduta tutta la
mia giovinezza legato a questa sepoltura."

[309] Gotti, p. 42. Grimm makes two visits to Carrara in 1505 and 1506,
vol. i. pp. 239, 243.

[310] See his letter. Gotti, p. 44.

[311] Our authorities for this episode in Michael Angelo's biography are
mainly Vasari and Condivi. Though there may be exaggeration in the
legend, it is certain that a correspondence took place between the Pope
and the Gonfalonier of Florence, to bring about his return. See Heath
Wilson, pp. 79-87, and the letter to Giuliano di San Gallo in Milanesi's
Archivio Buonarroti, p. 377. Michael Angelo appears to have had some
reason to fear assassination in Rome.

[312] See Michael Angelo's letters to Giovan Francesco Fattucci, and his
family. Gotti, pp. 55-65.

[313] See the sonnet to Giovanni da Pistoja:--

La mia pittura morta
Difendi orma', Giovanni, e 'l mio onore,
Non sendo in loco bon, ne io pittore.

[314] According to the first plan, Michael Angelo bargained with the Pope
for twelve Apostles in the lunettes, and another part to be filled with
ornament in the usual manner--"dodici Apostoli nelle lunette, e 'l resto
un certo partimento ripieno d' adornamenti come si usa." Michael Angelo,
after making designs for this commission, told the Pope he thought the
roof would look poor, because the Apostles were poor folk--"perche furon
poveri anche loro." He then began his cartoons for the vault as it now
exists. See the letter to Ser Giovan Francesco Fattucci, in the _Archivio
Buonarroti_, Milanesi, pp. 426-427. This seems to be the foundation for
an old story of the Pope's complaining that the Sistine roof looked poor
without gilding, and Michael Angelo's reply that the Biblical personages
depicted there were but poor people.

[315] Bramante, the Pope's architect, did in truth fail to construct the
proper scaffolding, whether through inability or jealousy. Michael Angelo
designed a superior system of his own, which became a model for future
architects in similar constructions.

[316] See chapters vi. vii. and viii. of Mr. Charles Heath Wilson's
admirable _Life of Michel Angelo_. Aurelio Gotti's _Vita di Michel
Agnolo_, and Anton Springer's _Michael Agnolo in Rome_, deserve to be
consulted on this passage in the painter's biography.

[317] The conditions under which Michael Angelo worked, without a trained
band of pupils, must have struck contemporaries, accustomed to Raphael's
crowds of assistants, with a wonder that justified Vasari's emphatic
language of exaggeration as to his single-handed labour.

[318] In speaking of the Sistine I have treated Michael Angelo as a
sculptor, and it was a sculptor who designed those frescoes. _Ne io
pittore_ is his own phrase. Compare an autotype of "Adam" in the Sistine
with one of "Twilight" in S. Lorenzo: it is clear that in the former
Michael Angelo painted what he would have been well pleased to carve. A
sculptor's genius was needed for the modelling of those many figures; it
was, moreover, not a painter's part to deal thus drily with colour.

[319] The Laurentian Library, however, was built in 1524.

[320] See Gotti, pp. 150, 155, 158, 159, for the correspondence which
passed upon the subject, and the various alterations in the plan. As in
the case of all Michael Angelo's works, except the Sistine, only a small
portion of the original project was executed.

[321] Cosimo de' Medici found it impossible to induce him to return to
Florence. See B. Cellini's Life, p. 436, for his way of receiving the
Duke's overtures.

[322] See above, Chapter II, Michael Angelo.

[323] Vasari names the gloomy statue, called by the Italians _Il
Penseroso_, "Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino," the sprightly one, "Giuliano, Duke
of Nemours;" and this contemporary tradition has been recently confirmed
by an inspection of the Penseroso's tomb (see a letter to the _Academy_,
March 13, 1875, by Mr. Charles Heath Wilson). Grimm, in his _Life of
Michael Angelo_, gave plausible aesthetic reasons why we should reverse
the nomenclature; but the discovery of two bodies beneath the Penseroso,
almost certainly those of Lorenzo and his supposed son Alessandro,
justifies Vasari. Neither of these statues can be accepted as a portrait.

[324] The "Bacchus" of the Bargello, the "David," the "Christ," of the
Minerva, the "Duke of Nemours," and the almost finished "Night," might
also be mentioned. His chalk drawings of the "Bersaglieri," the "Infant
Bacchanals," the "Fall of Phaethon," and the "Punishment of Tityos," now
in the Royal Collection at Windsor, prove that even in old age Michael
Angelo carried delicacy of execution as a draughtsman to a point not
surpassed even by Lionardo. Few frescoes, again, were ever finished with
more conscientious elaboration than those of the Sistine vault.

[325] See Varchi, at the end of the _Storia Fiorentina_, for episodes in
the life of Pier Luigi Farnese, and Cellini for a popular estimate of the
Cardinal, his father.

[326] This extract from Cesare Balbo's _Pensieri sulla Storia d' Italia_,
Le Monnier, 1858, p. 57, may help to explain the situation: "E se
lasciando gli uomini e i nomi grandi de' governanti, noi venissimo a
quella storia, troppo sovente negletta, dei piccoli, dei piu, dei
governati che sono in somma scopo d' ogni sorta di governo; se, coll'
aiuto delle tante memorie rimaste di quell' secolo, noi ci addestrassimo
a conoscere la condizione comune e privata degli Italiani di quell' eta,
noi troveremmo trasmesse dai governanti a' governati, e ritornate da
questi a quelli, tali universali scostumatezze ed immoralita, tali
fiacchezze e perfidie, tali mollezze e libidini, tali ozi e tali vizi,
tali avvilimenti insomma e corruzioni, che sembrano appena credibili in
una eta d' incivilmento cristiano."

[327] Vasari's description moves our laughter with its jargon about
"attitudini bellissime e scorti molto mirabili," when the man, in spite
of his honest and enthusiastic admiration, is so little capable of
penetrating the painter's thought. Mr. Ruskin leaves the same impression
as Vasari: he too makes much talk about attitudes and muscles in Michael
Angelo, and seems to be on Vasari's level as to comprehending him. The
difference is that Vasari praises, Ruskin blames; both miss the mark.

[328] "E possibile che voi, che _per essere divino non degnate il
consortio degli huomini_, haviate cio fatto nel maggior tempio di
Dio?.... In un bagno delitioso, non in un choro supremo si conveniva il
far vostro." Those who are curious may consult Aretino's correspondence
with Michael Angelo in his published letters (Parigi, 1609), lib. i. p.
153; lib. ii. p. 9; lib. iii. pp. 45, 122; lib. iv. p. 37.

[329] Braun's autotypes of the vault frescoes show what ravage the lapse
of time has wrought in them, by the cracking of the plaster, the peeling
off in places of the upper surface, and the deposit of dirt and cobwebs.
Mr. Heath Wilson, after careful examination, pronounces that not only
time, but the wilful hand of man, re-painting and washing the delicate
tint-coats with corrosive acids, has contributed to their ruin.

[330] _Histoire de la Peinture en Italie_, p. 332.

[331] That is not counting the frescoes of the Cappella Paolina in the
Vatican, painted about 1544, which are now in a far worse state even than
the "Last Judgment," and which can never have done more than show his
style in decadence.

[332] See above, Chapter II, S. Peter's.

[333] See Gotti, p. 307, or _Archivio Buonarroti_, p. 535.

[334] I have reserved my translation of the sonnets that cast most light
upon Michael Angelo's thought and feeling for an Appendix, No. II.

[335] The majority of Michael Angelo's letters are written on domestic
matters--about the affairs of his brothers and his father. When they
vexed him, he would break out into expressions like the following: "Io
son ito, da dodici anni in qua, tapinando per tutta Italia; sopportato
ogni vergognia; patito ogni stento; lacerato il corpo mio in ogni fatica;
messa la vita propria a mille pericoli, solo per aiutar la casa mia."
They are generally full of good counsel and sound love. How he loved his
father may be seen in the _terza rima_ poem on his death in 1534.

[336] Notice this expression in a letter to his father, written from
Rome, about 1512, "Bastivi avere del pane, e vivete ben con Cristo e
poveramente; come fo io qua, che vivo meschinamente." It does not seem
that he ever altered this poor way of living. For his hiring at Bologna,
in 1507, a single room with one bed in it, for himself and his three
workmen, see Gotti, p. 58. His father in 1500 rebuked him for the
meanness of his establishment; _ibid_. p. 23. It appears that he was
always sending money home.

[337] "Io sto qua in grande afanno, e con grandissima fatica di corpo, e
non o amici di nessuna sorte, e none voglio: e non o tanto tempo che io
possa mangiare el bisognio mio." Letter to Gismondo, published by Grimm.
See, too, Sebastian del Piombo's letter to him of November 9, 1520: "Ma
fate paura a ognuno, insino a' papi." Compare, too, the letter of
Sebastian, Oct. 15, 1512, in which Julius is reported to have said, "E
terribile, come tu vedi, non se pol praticar con lui." Again, Michael
Angelo writes: "Sto sempesolo, vo poco attorno e non parlo a persona e
massino di fiorentini." Gotti, p. 255.

[338] When anything went wrong with him, he became moody and vehement:
"Non vi maravigliate che io vi abbi scritto alle volte cosi stizosamente,
che io o alle volte di gran passione, per molte cagioni che avengono a
chi e fuor di casa." So he writes to his father in 1498. A letter to
Luigi del Riccio of 1545, is signed "Michelagnolo Buonarroti non pittore,
ne scultore, ne architettore, ma quel che voi volete, ma none briaco,
come vi dissi, in casa."

[339] See the letters of Cosimo de' Medici, Gotti, pp. 301-313, the
letter of Count Alessandro da Canossa, _ibid._ p. 4, and Pier Vettori's
letter to Borghini, about the visit of some German gentlemen, _ibid._ p.

[340] See the story as told by Torrigiani himself in Cellini, ed. Le
Monnier, p. 23.

[341] After saying that he talked of love like Plato, Condivi continues:
"Non senti mai uscir di quella bocca se non parole onestissime, e che
avevan forza d' estinguere nella gioventu ogni incomposto e sfrenato
desiderio che in lei potesse cadere." Compare Scipione Ammirato, quoted
by Guasti, "Le Rime," p. xi.

[342] Her intense affection for the Marquis of Pescara, to whom she had
been betrothed by her father at the age of five, is sufficiently proved
by those many sonnets and _canzoni_ in which she speaks of him as her

[343] See Grimm, vol. ii.

[344] See the Sonnets translated in my Appendix and in my _Sonnets of
Michael Angelo and Campanella_, London, Smith & Elder, 1878. See also the
letters to Cavalieri, quoted by Gotti, pp. 231, 232, 234. It is surely
strained criticism to conjecture, as Gotti has done, that these epistles
were meant for Vittoria, though written to Cavalieri. Taken together with
the sonnets and the letter of Bartolommeo Angiolini (Gotti, p. 233), they
seem to me to prove only Michael Angelo's warm love for this young man.



His Fame--His Autobiography--Its Value for the Student of History,
Manners, and Character, in the Renaissance--Birth, Parentage, and
Boyhood--Flute-playing--Apprenticeship to Marcone--Wanderjahr--The
Goldsmith's Trade at Florence--Torrigiani and England--Cellini leaves
Florence for Rome--Quarrel with the Guasconti--Homicidal Fury--Cellini a
Law to Himself--Three Periods in his Manhood--Life in Rome--Diego at the
Banquet--Renaissance Feeling for Physical Beauty--Sack of Rome--Miracles
in Cellini's Life--His Affections--Murder of his Brother's
Assassin--Sanctuary--Pardon and Absolution--Incantation in the
Colosseum--First Visit to France--Adventures on the Way--Accused of
Stealing Crown Jewels in Rome--Imprisonment in the Castle of S.
Angelo--The Governor--Cellini's Escape--His Visions--The Nature of his
Religion--Second Visit to France--The Wandering Court--Le Petit
Nesle--Cellini in the French Law Courts--Scene at Fontainebleau--Return to
Florence--Cosimo de' Medici as a Patron--Intrigues of a petty
Court--Bandinelli--The Duchess--Statue of Perseus--End of Cellini's
Life--Cellini and Machiavelli.

Few names in the history of Italian art are more renowned than that of
Benvenuto Cellini. This can hardly be attributed to the value of his
extant works; for though, while he lived, he was the greatest goldsmith of
his time, a skilled medallist and an admirable statuary, few of his many
masterpieces now survive. The plate and armour that bear his name, are
only in some rare instances genuine; and the bronze "Perseus" in the
Loggia de' Lanzi at Florence remains almost alone to show how high he
ranked among the later Tuscan sculptors. If, therefore, Cellini had been
judged merely by the authentic productions of his art, he would not have
acquired a celebrity unique among his fellow-workers of the sixteenth
century. That fame he owes to the circumstance that he left behind him at
his death a full and graphic narrative of his stormy life. The vivid style
of this autobiography dictated by Cellini while still engaged in the
labour of his craft, its animated picture of a powerful character, the
variety of its incidents, and the amount of information it contains, place
it high both as a life-romance and also as a record of contemporary
history. After studying the laboured periods of Varchi, we turn to these
memoirs, and view the same events from the standpoint of an artisan
conveying his impressions with plebeian raciness of phrase. The sack of
Rome, the plague and siege of Florence, the humiliation of Clement VII.,
the pomp of Charles V. at Rome, the behaviour of the Florentine exiles at
Ferrara, the intimacy between Alessandro de' Medici and his murderer,
Lorenzino, the policy of Paul III., and the method pursued by Cosimo at
Florence, are briefly but significantly touched upon--no longer by the
historian seeking causes and setting forth the sequence of events, but by
a shrewd observer interested in depicting his own part in the great game
of life. Cellini haunted the private rooms of popes and princes; he knew
the chief actors of his day, just as the valet knows the hero; and the
picturesque glimpses into their life we gain from him, add the charm of
colour and reality to history.

At the same time this book presents an admirable picture of an artist's
life at Rome, Paris, and Florence. Cellini was essentially an Italian of
the Cinque-cento. His passions were the passions of his countrymen; his
vices were the vices of his time; his eccentricity and energy and vital
force were what the age idealised as _virtu_. Combining rare artistic
gifts with a most violent temper and a most obstinate will, he paints
himself at one time as a conscientious craftsman, at another as a
desperate bravo. He obeys his instincts and indulges his appetites with
the irreflective simplicity of an animal. In the pursuit of vengeance and
the commission of murder he is self-reliant, coolly calculating, fierce
and fatal as a tiger. Yet his religious fervour is sincere; his impulses
are generous; and his heart on the whole is good. His vanity is
inordinate; and his unmistakable courage is impaired, to Northern
apprehension, by swaggering bravado.

The mixture of these qualities in a personality so natural and so clearly
limned renders Cellini a most precious subject for the student of
Renaissance life and character. Even supposing him to have been
exceptionally passionate, he was made of the same stuff as his
contemporaries. We are justified in concluding this not only from
collateral evidence and from what he tells us, but also from the meed of
honour he received. In Europe of the present day he could hardly fail to
be regarded as a ruffian, a dangerous disturber of morality and order. In
his own age he was held in high esteem and buried by his fellow-citizens
with public ceremonies. A funeral oration was pronounced over his grave
"in praise both of his life and works, and also of his excellent
disposition of mind and body."[345] He dictated the memoirs that paint him
as bloodthirsty, sensual, and revengeful, in the leisure of his old age,
and left them with complacency to serve as witness of his manly virtues to
posterity. Even Vasari, whom he hated, and who reciprocated his ill-will,
records that "he always showed himself a man of great spirit and veracity,
bold, active, enterprising, and formidable to his enemies; a man, in
short, who knew as well how to speak to princes as to exert himself in his

Enough has been said to prove that Cellini was not inferior to the average
morality of the Renaissance, and that we are justified in accepting his
life as a valuable historical document.[346] To give a detailed account of
a book pronounced by Horace Walpole "more amusing than any novel,"
received by Parini and Tiraboschi as the most delightful masterpiece of
Italian prose, translated into German by Goethe, and placed upon his index
of select works by Auguste Comte, may seem superfluous. Yet I cannot
afford to omit from my plan the most singular and characteristic episode
in the private history of the Italian Renaissance. I need it for the
concrete illustration of much that has been said in this and the preceding
volumes of my work.

Cellini was born of respectable parents at Florence on the night of All
Saints' Day in 1500, and was called Benvenuto to record his father's joy
at having a son.[347] It was the wish of Giovanni Cellini's heart that his
son should be a musician. Benvenuto in consequence practised the flute for
many years attentively, though much against his will. At the age of
fifteen so great was his desire to learn the arts of design that his
father placed him under the care of the goldsmith Marcone. At the same
time he tells us in his memoirs: "I continued to play sometimes through
complaisance to my father either upon the flute or the horn; and I
constantly drew tears and deep sighs from him every time he heard me."
While engaged in the workshop of Marcone, Benvenuto came to blows with
some young men who had attacked his brother, and was obliged to leave
Florence for a time. At this period he visited Siena, Bologna, and Pisa,
gaming his livelihood by working in the shops of goldsmiths, and steadily
advancing in his art.

It must not be thought that this education was a mean one for so great an
artist. Painting and sculpture in Italy were regarded as trades, and the
artist had his _bottega_ just as much as the cobbler or the
blacksmith.[348] I have already had occasion to point out that an
apprenticeship to goldsmith's work was considered at Florence an almost
indispensable commencement of advanced art-study.[349] Brunelleschi,
Botticelli, Orcagna, Verocchio, Ghiberti, Pollajuolo, Ghirlandajo, Luca
della Robbia, all underwent this training before they applied themselves
to architecture, painting, and sculpture. As the goldsmith's craft was
understood in Florence, it exacted the most exquisite nicety in
performance as well as design. It forced the student to familiarise
himself with the materials, instruments, and technical processes of art;
so that, later on in life, he was not tempted to leave the execution of
his work to journeymen and hirelings.[350] No labour seemed too minute, no
metal was too mean, for the exercise of the master-workman's skill; nor
did he run the risk of becoming one of those half-amateurs in whom
accomplishment falls short of first conception. Art ennobled for him all
that he was called to do. Whether cardinals required him to fashion silver
vases for their banquet-tables; or ladies wished the setting of their
jewels altered; or a pope wanted the enamelled binding of a book of
prayers; or men-at-arms sent swordblades to be damascened with acanthus
foliage; or kings desired fountains and statues for their palace courts;
or poets begged to have their portraits cast in bronze; or generals needed
medals to commemorate their victories, or dukes new coins for their mint;
or bishops ordered reliquaries for the altars of their patron saints; or
merchants sought for seals and signet rings engraved with their device; or
men of fashion asked for medallions of Leda and Adonis to fasten in their
caps--all these commissions could be undertaken by a workman like Cellini.
He was prepared for all alike by his apprenticeship to _orfevria_; and to
all he gave the same amount of conscientious toil. The consequence was
that, at the time of the Renaissance, furniture, plate, jewels, and
articles of personal adornment were objects of true art. The mind of the
craftsman was exercised afresh in every piece of work. Pretty things were
not bought, machine-made, by the gross in a warehouse; nor was it
customary, as now it is, to see the same design repeated with mechanical
regularity in every house.

In 1518 Benvenuto returned to Florence and began to study the cartoons of
Michael Angelo. He must have already acquired considerable reputation as a
workman, for about this time Torrigiani invited him to go to England in
his company and enter the service of Henry VIII. The Renaissance was now
beginning to penetrate the nations of the North, and Henry and Francis
vied with each other in trying to attract foreign artists to their
capitals. It does not, however, appear that the English king secured the
services of men so distinguished as Lionardo da Vinci, II Rosso,
Primaticcio, Del Sarto, and Cellini, who shed an artificial lustre on the
Court of France. Going to London then was worse than going to Russia now,
and to take up a lengthy residence among _questi diavoli ... quelle bestie
di quegli Inglesi_, as Cellini politely calls the English, did not suit a
Southern taste. He had, moreover, private reasons for disliking
Torrigiani, who boasted of having broken Michael Angelo's nose in a
quarrel. "His words," says Cellini, "raised in me such a hatred of the
fellow that, far from wishing to accompany him to England, I could not
bear to look at him." It may be mentioned that one of Cellini's best
points was hero-worship for Michael Angelo. He never speaks of him except
as _quel divino Michel Agnolo, il mio maestro_, and extols _la bella
maniera_ of the mighty sculptor to the skies. Torrigiani, as far as we can
gather from Cellini's description of him, must have been a man of his own
kidney and complexion: "he was handsome, of consummate assurance, having
rather the airs of a bravo than a sculptor; above all, his fierce gestures
and his sonorous voice, with a peculiar manner of knitting his brows, were
enough to frighten everyone that saw him; and he was continually talking
of his valiant feats among those bears of Englishmen." The story of
Torrigiani's death in Spain is worth repeating. A grandee employed him to
model a Madonna, which he did with more than usual care, expecting a great
reward. His pay, however, falling short of is expectation, in a fit of
fury he knocked his statue to pieces. For this act of sacrilege, as it was
deemed, to the work of his own brain and hand, Torrigiani was thrown into
the dungeons of the Inquisition. There he starved himself to death in 1522
in order to escape the fate of being burned. This story helps to explain
why the fine arts were never well developed in Spain, and why they
languished after the introduction of the Holy Office into Italy.[351]

Instead of emigrating to England, Benvenuto, after a quarrel with his
father about the obnoxious flute-playing, sauntered out one morning toward
the gate of S. Piero Gattolini. There he met a friend called Tasso, who
had also quarrelled with his parents; and the two youths agreed, upon the
moment, to set off for Rome. Both were nineteen years of age. Singing and
laughing, carrying their bundle by turns, and wondering "what the old
folks would say," they trudged on foot to Siena, there hired a return
horse between them, and so came to Rome. This residence in Rome only
lasted two years, which were spent by Cellini in the employment of various
masters. At the expiration of that time he returned to Florence, and
distinguished himself by the making of a marriage girdle for a certain
Raffaello Lapaccini.[352] The fame of this and other pieces of jewellery
roused against him the envy and malice of the elder goldsmiths, and led to
a serious fray, in the course of which he assaulted a young man of the
Guasconti family, and was obliged to fly disguised like a monk to Rome.

As this is the first of Cellini's homicidal quarrels, it is worth while to
transcribe what he says about it. "One day as I was leaning against the
shop of these Guasconti, and talking with them, they contrived that a load
of bricks should pass by at the moment, and Gherardo Guasconti pushed it
against me in such wise that it hurt me. Turning suddenly and seeing that
he was laughing, I struck him so hard upon the temple that he fell down
stunned. Then turning to his cousins, I said, That is how I treat cowardly
thieves like you; and when they began to show fight, being many together,
I, finding myself on flame, set hand to a little knife I had, and cried,
If one of you leaves the shop, let another run for the confessor, for a
surgeon won't find anything to do here." Nor was he contented with this
truculent behaviour; for when Gherardo recovered from his blow, and the
matter had come before the magistrates, Cellini went to seek him in his
own house. There he stabbed him in the midst of all his family, raging
meanwhile, to use his own phrase, "like an infuriated bull."[353] It
appears that on this occasion no one was seriously hurt; but the affair
proved perilous to Cellini, since it was a mere accident that he had not
killed more than one of the Guasconti. These affrays recur continually
among the adventures recorded by Cellini in his Life. He says with comical
reservation of phrase that he was "naturally somewhat choleric;" and then,
describes the access of his fury as a sort of fever, lasting for days,
preventing him from taking food or sleep, making his blood boil in his
veins, inflaming his eyes, and never suffering him to rest till he
revenged himself by murder or at least by blows. To enumerate all the
people he killed or wounded, or pounded to a jelly in public brawls or
private quarrels, in the pursuit of deliberate _vendetta_ or under a
sudden impulse of ungovernable rage, would take too long. We are forced by
an effort to recall to mind the state of society at that time in Italy, in
order to understand how it is that he can talk with unconcern and even
self-complacency about his homicides. He makes himself accuser, judge, and
executioner, and is quite satisfied with the goodness of his cause, the
justice of his sentence, and the equity of his administration. In a sonnet
written to Bandinelli, he compares his own victims with the mangled
statues of that sculptor, much to his own satisfaction.[354]

There is the same callousness of conscience in his record of spiteful acts
that we should blush to think of--stabs in the dark, and such a piece of
revenge as cutting the beds to bits in the house of an innkeeper who had
offended him.[355] Nor does he speak with any shame of the savage cruelty
with which he punished a woman who was sitting to him as a model, and whom
he hauled up and down his room by the hair of her head, kicking and
beating her till he was tired.[356] It is true that on this occasion he
regrets having spoiled, in a moment of blind passion, the best arms and
legs that he could find to draw from. Such episodes, to which it is
impossible to allude otherwise than very briefly, illustrate with
extraordinary vividness what I have already had occasion to say about the
Italian sense of honour at this period.[357]

The consciousness of physical courage and the belief in his own moral
superiority sustained Cellini in all his dangers and in all his crimes.
Armed with his sword and dagger, and protected by his coat of mail, he was
ready to stand against the world and fight his way towards any object he
desired. When a man opposed his schemes or entered into competition with
him as an artist, he swaggered up with hand on hilt and threatened to run
him through the body if he did not mind his business. At the same time he
attributes the success of his own violence in quelling and maltreating
his opponents to the providence of God. "I do not write this narrative,"
he says, "from a motive of vanity, but merely to return thanks to God, who
has extricated me out of so many trials and difficulties; who likewise
delivers me from those that daily impend over me. Upon all occasions I pay
my devotions to Him, call upon Him as my defender, and recommend myself to
His care. I always exert my utmost efforts to extricate myself, but when I
am quite at a loss, and all my powers fail me, then the force of the Deity
displays itself--that formidable force which, unexpectedly, strikes those
who wrong and oppress others, and neglect the great and honourable duty
which God has enjoined on them." I shall have occasion later on to discuss
Cellini's religious opinions; but here it may be remarked that the feeling
of this passage is thoroughly sincere and consistent with the spirit of
the times. The separation between religion and morality was complete in
Italy.[358] Men made their own God and worshipped him; and the God of
Cellini was one who always helped those who began to help themselves by
taking justice into their own hands.

From the date of his second visit to Rome in 1523, Cellini's life divides
itself into three periods, the first spent in the service of Popes Clement
VII. and Paul III., the second in Paris at the Court of Francis, and the
third at Florence under Cosimo de' Medici.

On arriving in Rome, his extraordinary abilities soon brought him into
notice at the Court. The Chigi family, the Bishop of Salamanca, and the
Pope himself employed him to make various jewels, ornaments, and services
of plate. In consequence of a dream in which his father appeared and
warned him not to neglect music, under pain of the paternal malediction,
he accepted a post in the Papal band. The old bugbear of flute-playing
followed him until his father's death, and then we hear no more of it. The
history of this portion of his life is among the most entertaining
passages of his biography. Drawing the Roman ruins, shooting pigeons,
scouring the Campagna on a pony like a shaggy bear, fighting duels,
prosecuting love-affairs, defending his shop against robbers, skirmishing
with Moorish pirates on the shore by Cerveterra, stabbing, falling ill of
the plague and the French sickness--these adventures diversify the account
he gives of masterpieces in gold and silver ware. The literary and
artistic society of Rome at this period was very brilliant. Painters,
sculptors, and goldsmiths mixed with scholars and poets, passing their
time alternately in the palaces of dukes and cardinals and in the lodgings
of gay women. Bohemianism of the wildest type was combined with the
manners of the great world. A little incident described at some length by
Cellini brings this varied life before us. There was a club of artists,
including Giulio Romano and other pupils of Raphael, who met twice a week
to sup together and to spend the evening in conversation, with music and
the recitation of sonnets. Each member of this company brought with him a
lady. Cellini, on one occasion, not being provided for the moment with an
_innamorata_, dressed up a beautiful Spanish youth called Diego as a
woman, and took him to the supper. The ensuing scene is described in the
most vivid manner. We see before us the band of painters and poets, the
women in their bright costumes, the table adorned with flowers and fruit,
and, as a background to the whole picture, a trellis of jasmines with dark
foliage and starry blossoms. Diego, called Pomona, with regard doubtless
to his dark and ruddy beauty, is unanimously proclaimed the fairest of the
fair. Then a discovery of his sex is made; and the adventure leads, as
usual in the doings of Cellini, to daggers, midnight ambushes, and
vendettas that only end with bloodshed.

An episode of this sort may serve as the occasion for observing that the
artists of the late Renaissance had become absorbed in the admiration of
merely carnal beauty. With the exception of Michael Angelo and Tintoretto,
there was no great master left who still pursued an intellectual ideal.
The Romans and the Venetians simply sought and painted what was splendid
and luxurious in the world around them. Their taste was contented with
well-developed muscles, gorgeous colour, youthful bloom, activity of limb,
and grace of outline. The habits of the day, voluptuous yet hardy,
fostered this one-sided development of the arts; while the asceticism of
the Middle Ages had yielded to a pagan cult of sensuality. To draw _un bel
corpo ignudo_ with freedom was now the _ne plus ultra_ of achievement. How
to express thought or to indicate the subtleties of emotion, had ceased to
be the artist's aim. We have already noticed the passionate love of beauty
which animated the great masters of the golden age. This, in the less
elevated natures of the craftsmen who succeeded them, and under the
conditions of advancing national corruption, was no longer refined or
restrained by delicacy of feeling or by loftiness of aim. It degenerated
into soulless animalism. The capacity for perceiving and for reproducing
what is nobly beautiful was lost. Vulgarity and coarseness stamped
themselves upon the finest work of men like Giulio Romano. At this crisis
it was proved how inferior was the neo-paganism of the sixteenth century
to the paganism of antiquity it aped. Mythology preserved Greek art from
degradation, and connected a similar enthusiasm for corporeal beauty with
the thoughts and aspirations of the Hellenic race. The Italians lacked
this safeguard of a natural religion. To throw the Christian ideal aside,
and to strive to grasp the classical ideal in exchange, was easy. But
paganism alone could give them nothing but its vices; it was incapable of
communicating its real source of life--its poetry, its faith, its cult of
nature. Art, therefore, as soon as the artists pronounced themselves for
sensuality, merged in a skilful selection and reproduction of elegant
forms, and nothing more. A handsome youth upon a pedestal was called a
god. A duke's mistress on Titian's canvas passed for Aphrodite. Andrea del
Sarto's faithless wife figured as Madonna. Cellini himself, though
sensitive to every kind of physical beauty--as we gather from what he
tells us of Cencio, Diego, Faustina, Paolino, Angelica, Ascanio--has not
attempted to animate his "Perseus," or his "Ganymede," or his "Diana of
Fontainebleau," with a vestige of intellectual or moral loveliness. The
vacancy of their expression proves the degradation of an art that had
ceased to idealise anything beyond a faultless body. Not thus did the
Greeks imagine even their most sensual divinities. There is at least a
thought in Faun and Satyr. Cellini's statues have no thought; their blank
animalism corresponds to the condition of their maker's soul.[359]

When Rome was carried by assault in 1527, and the Papal Court was besieged
in the castle of S. Angelo, Cellini played the part of bombardier. It is
well known that he claims to have shot the Constable of Bourbon dead with
his own hand, and to have wounded the Prince of Orange; nor does there
seem to be any adequate reason for discrediting his narrative. It is
certain that he was an expert marksman, and that he did Clement good
service by directing the artillery of S. Angelo. If we believed all his
assertions, however, we should have to suppose that nothing memorable
happened without his intervention. In his own eyes his whole life was a
miracle. The very hailstones that fell upon his head could not be grasped
in both hands. His guns and powder brought down birds no other marksman
had a chance of hitting. When he was a child, he grasped a scorpion
without injury, and saw a salamander "living and enjoying himself in the
hottest flames." After his fever at Rome in 1535, he threw off from his
stomach a hideous worm--hairy, speckled with green, black, and red--the
like whereof the doctors never saw.[360] When he finally escaped from the
dungeons of S. Angelo in 1539, a luminous appearance like an aureole
settled on his head, and stayed there for the rest of his life.[361] These
facts are related in the true spirit of Jerome Cardan, Paracelsus, Lord
Herbert of Cherbury, and Sir Thomas Browne. Cellini doubtless believed in
them; but they warn us to be cautious in accepting what he says about his
exploits, since imagination and self-conceit could so far distort his

It may be regretted that Cellini has not given a fuller account of the
memorable sack of Borne. Yet, confining himself almost wholly to his own
adventures, he presents a very vivid picture of the sad life led by the
Pope and cardinals, vainly hoping for succour from Urbino, wrangling
together about the causes of the tragedy, sewing the crown jewels into
their doublets, and running the perils of the siege with common soldiers
on the ramparts. When peace at last was signed, Cellini paid a visit to
Florence, and found that his father and some other relatives had died of
plague.[362] His brother Cecchino, however, who was a soldier in the Bande
Nere of Giovanni de' Medici, and his sister Liperata survived. With them
he spent a pleasant evening; for Liperata having "for a while lamented her
father, her sister, her husband, and a little son that she had been
deprived of, went to prepare supper, and during the rest of the evening
there was not a word more spoken of the dead, but much about weddings.
Thus we supped together with the greatest cheerfulness and satisfaction
imaginable." In these sentences there is no avowal of hard-heartedness;
only the careless familiarity with loss and danger, engendered by war,
famine, plague, and personal adventures in those riotous times.[363]
Cellini gladly risked his life in a quarrel for his friends; but he would
not sadden the present by reflecting on inevitable accidents. This elastic
temper permeates his character. His affections were strong, but transient.
The one serious love-affair he describes, among a multitude of mere
debaucheries, made him miserable for a few days. His mistress, Angelica,
ran away, and left him "on the point of losing his senses or dying of
grief." Yet, when he found her again, a short time sufficed to satisfy his
longing, and he turned his back with jibes upon her when she bargained
about money.

It is worthy of notice that, at the same time, he was an excellent son and
brother. His sister was left a widow with two children; whereupon he took
them all into his house, without bragging about what appears to have been
the best action of his life. In the same spirit he conscientiously
performed what he conceived to be his duty to Cecchino, murdered by a
musketeer in Rome. After nursing his revenge till he was nearly mad, he
stole out one evening and stabbed the murderer in the back.[364] So
violent was the blow that he could not extricate his dagger from the man's
spine, but had to leave it sticking in his nape. Next to his own egotism
the strongest feelings in Cellini were domestic; and he showed them at one
moment by charity to his sister's family, at another by a savage

After killing the musketeer, Cellini retired for refuge to the house of
Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Civita di Penna, who had been his brother's
patron. The matter reached the Pope's ears, for whom Benvenuto was at work
upon crown jewels. Clement sent for him, and simply said: "Now you have
recovered your health, Benvenuto, take care of yourself." This shows how
little they thought of homicide in Rome. After killing a man, some
powerful protector had to be sought, who was usually a cardinal, since the
cardinals had right of sanctuary in their palaces. There the assassin lay
in hiding, in order to avoid his victim's friends and relatives, until
such time as a pardon and safe-conduct and absolution had been obtained
from his Holiness. When Cellini, soon after this occurrence, stabbed a
private enemy, by name Pompeo, two cardinals were anxious to screen him
from pursuit, and disputed the privilege of harbouring so talented a
criminal.[365] The Pope, with marvellous good-humour, observed: "I have
never heard of the death of Pompeo, but often of Benvenuto's provocation;
so let a safe-conduct be instantly made out, and that will secure him from
all manner of danger." A friend of Pompeo's who was present, ventured to
insinuate that this was dangerous policy. The Pope put him down at once by
saying, "You do not understand these matters; I would have you know that
men who are unique in their profession, like Benvenuto, are not subject to
the laws." Whether Paul really said these words, may be doubted; but it is
clear that much was conceded to a clever workman, and that the laws were a
mere _brutum fulmen_. No man of spirit appealed to them. Cellini, for
example, was poisoned by a parish priest near Florence:[366] yet he never
brought the man to justice; and in the case of his own murders, he only
dreaded the retaliation of his victims' kinsmen. On one occasion, indeed,
the civil arm came down upon him; when the city guard attempted to arrest
him for Pompeo's assassination. He beat them off with swords and sticks;
and, after all, it appeared that they were only acting at the instigation
of Pier Luigi Farnese, whom Benvenuto had offended.

During his residence at Rome, Cellini witnessed an incantation conducted
in the Colosseum by a Sicilian priest and necromancer. The conjurer and
the artist, accompanied by two friends, and by a boy, who was to act as
medium, went by night to the amphitheatre. The magic circle was drawn;
fires were lighted, and perfumes scattered on the flames. Then the
spirit-seer began his charms, calling in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, or what
passed for such, upon the leaders of the hosts of hell. The whole hollow
space now filled with phantoms, surging up by legions, rushing down from
the galleries, issuing from subterranean caverns, and wheeling to and fro
with signs of fury. All the party, says Cellini, were thrown into
consternation, except himself, who, though terribly afraid, kept up the
fainting spirits of the rest. At last the conjurer summoned courage to
inquire when Cellini might hope to be restored to his lost love,
Angelica;--for this was the trivial object of the incantation. The demons
answered (how we are not told) that he would meet her ere a month had
passed away. This prophecy, as it happened, was fulfilled. Then they
redoubled their attacks; the necromancer kept crying out that the peril
was most imminent, until the matin bells of Rome swung through the
darkness, freeing them at last from fear. As they walked home, the boy,
holding the Sicilian by his robe and Benvenuto by his mantle, told them
that he still saw giants leaping with fantastic gestures on their path,
now running along the house roofs, and now dancing on the earth. Each one
of them that night dreamed in his bed of devils.[367]

The interest of this incident is almost wholly picturesque. It throws but
little light upon the superstitions of the age.[368] The magnitude of the
Colosseum, the popular legends concerning its magical origin, and the
terrible uses of blood to which it had been put, invested this building
with peculiar mystery. Robbers haunted the huge caves. Rubbish and weeds
choked the passages. Sickly trees soared up from darkness into light among
the porches, and the moon peered through the empty vomitories. If we call
imagination to our aid, and place the necromancers and their brazier in
the centre of this space;--if we fancy the priest's chaunted spells, the
sacred names invoked in his unholy rites, the shuddering terror of the
conscience-stricken accomplices, and Cellini with defiant mien but
quailing heart, we can well believe that he saw more than the amphitheatre
contained. Whether the spectres were projected by the conjurer from a
magic lantern on the smoke that issued from his heaps of blazing wood, so
that the volumes of vapour, agitated by the wind and rolling in thick
spirals, showed them retreating and advancing, and varying in shape and
number, is a matter for conjecture. Cellini firmly believed that he had
been environed by living squadrons of the spirits of the damned.

The next four years were spent by Cellini chiefly in Rome, in peril of his
life at several seasons, owing to the animosity of Pier Luigi Farnese. One
journey he took at this period to Venice, passing through Ferrara, where
he came to blows with the Florentine exiles. It is interesting to find the
respectable historian Jacopo Nardi involved, if only as a peacemaker, in
this affray.[369] He also visited Florence and cast dies for Alessandro's
silver coinage. It was here that he found opportunities of observing the
perilous intimacy between the Duke of Civita di Penna and his
cousin--_quel pazzo malinconico filosofo di Lorenzino._[370] In April
1537, having quarrelled with the Pope, who seems to have adopted Pier
Luigi's prejudice against him, Cellini set out for France with two of his
workmen. They passed through Florence, Bologna, Venice, and Padua, staying
in the last place to model a medallion portrait of Pietro Bembo;[371] then
they crossed the Grisons by the Bernina and Albula passes. We hear nothing
about this part of the journey, except that the snow was heavy, and that
they ran great danger of their lives. Cellini must have traversed some of
the most romantic scenery of Switzerland at the best season of the year;
yet not a word escapes him about the beauty of the Alps or the wonder of
the glaciers, which he saw for the first time. The pleasure we derive from
contemplating savage scenery was unknown to the Italians of the sixteenth
century; the height and cold, the gloom and solitude of mountains struck
them with a sense of terror or of dreariness. On the Lake of Wallenstadt
Cellini met with a party of Germans, whom he hated as cordially as an
Athenian of the age of Pericles might have loathed the Scythians for their
barbarism.[372] The Italians embarked in one boat, the Germans in
another; Cellini being under the impression that the Northern lakes would
not be so likely to drown him as those of his own country. However, when a
storm swept down the hills, he took a terrible fright, and compelled the
boatmen at the point of the poniard to put him and his company ashore. The
description of their struggles to drag their heavily laden horses over the
uneven ground near Wesen, is extremely graphic, and gives a good notion of
the dangers of the road in those days.[373] That night they "heard the
watch sing at all hours very agreeably; and as the houses of that town
were all of wood, he kept bidding them to take care of their fires." Next
day they arrived, not without other accidents, at Zurich, "a marvellous
city, as clear and polished as a jewel." Thence by Solothurn, Lausanne,
Geneva, and Lyons, they made their way to Paris.

This long and troublesome journey led to nothing, for Cellini grew weary
of following the French Court about from place to place; his health too
failed him, and he decided that he would rather die in Italy than
France.[374] Accordingly he returned to Rome, and there, not long after
his arrival, he was arrested by the order of Pope Paul III.[375] The
charge against him, preferred by one of his own prentices, was this.
During the siege of Rome, he had been employed by Clement to melt down the
tiaras and papal ornaments, in order that the precious stones might be
conveyed away in secrecy. He did so; and afterwards confessed to having
kept a portion of the gold filings found in the cinders of his brazier
during the operation. For this crime Clement gave him absolution.[376]
Now, however, he was accused of having stolen gold and jewels to the
amount of nearly eighty thousand ducats. "The avarice of the Pope, but
more that of his bastard, then called Duke of Castro," inclined Paul to
believe this charge; and Pier Luigi was allowed to farm the case. Cellini
was examined by the Governor of Rome and two assessors; in spite of his
vehement protestations of innocence, the absence of any evidence against
him, and the sound arguments adduced in his defence, he was committed to
the castle of S. Angelo. When he received his sentence, he called heaven
and earth to witness, thanking God that he had "the happiness not to be
confined for some error of his sinful nature, as generally happens to
young men." Whereupon "the brute of a Governor replied, Yet you have
killed enough men in your time." This remark was pertinent; but it
provoked a torrent of abuse and a long enumeration of his services from
the virtuous Cellini.

The account of this imprisonment, and especially of the hypochondriacal
Governor who thought he was a bat and used to flap his arms and squeak
when night was coming on, is highly entertaining.[377] Not less
interesting is the description of Cellini's daring escape from the castle.
In climbing over the last wall, he fell and broke his leg, and was carried
by a waterman to the palace of the Cardinal Cornaro. There he lay in
hiding, visited by all the rank and fashion of Rome, who were not a little
curious to see the hero of so perilous an escapade. Cornaro promised to
secure his pardon, but eventually exchanged him for a bishopric. This
remarkable proceeding illustrates the manners of the Papal Court. The
cardinal wanted a benefice for one of his followers, and the Pope wished
to get his son's enemy once more into his power. So the two ecclesiastics
bargained together, and by mutual kind offices attained their several

Cellini with his broken leg went back to languish in his prison. He found
the flighty Governor furious because he had "flown away," eluding his
bat's eyes and wings. The rigour used towards him made him dread the worst
extremities. Cast into a condemned cell, he first expected to be flayed
alive; and when this terror was removed, he perceived the crystals of a
pounded jewel in his food. According to his own account of this mysterious
circumstance, Messer Durante Duranti of Brescia, one of Cellini's numerous
enemies, had given a diamond of small value to be broken up and mixed with
a salad served to him at dinner. The jeweller to whom this charge was
entrusted, kept the diamond and substituted a beryl, thinking that the
inferior stone would have the same murderous properties. To the avarice of
this man Cellini attributed his escape from a lingering death by
inflammation of the mucous membrane.[378]

During his first imprisonment he had occupied a fair chamber in the upper
turret of the castle. He was now removed to a dungeon below ground where
Fra Fojano, the reformer, had been starved to death. The floor was wet and
infested with crawling creatures. A few reflected sunbeams slanting from a
narrow window for two hours of the afternoon, was all the light that
reached him. Here he lay, alone, unable to move because of his broken leg,
with his hair and teeth falling away, and with nothing to occupy him but a
Bible and a volume of Villani's "Chronicles." His spirit, however, was
indomitable; and the passionate energy of the man, hitherto manifested in
ungoverned acts of fury, took the form of ecstasy. He began the study of
the Bible from the first chapter of Genesis, and trusting firmly to the
righteousness of his own cause, compared himself to all the saints and
martyrs of Scripture, men of whom the world was not worthy. He sang
psalms, prayed continually, and composed a poem in praise of his prison.
With a piece of charcoal he made a great drawing of angels surrounding God
the Father on the wall. Once only his courage gave way: he determined on
suicide, and so placed a beam that it should fall on him like a trap. When
all was ready, an unseen hand took violent hold of him, and dashed him on
the ground at a considerable distance. From this moment his dungeon was
visited by angels, who healed his broken leg, and reasoned with him of

The mention of these visions reminds us that Cellini had become acquainted
with Savonarola's writings during his first imprisonment.[379] Impressed
with the grandeur of the prophet's dreams, and exalted by the reading of
the Bible, he no doubt mistook his delirious fancies for angelic visitors,
and in the fervour of his enthusiasm laid claim to inspiration. One of
these hallucinations is particularly striking. He had prayed that he might
see the sun at least in trance, if it were impossible that he should look
on it again with waking eyes. But, while awake and in possession of his
senses, he was hurried suddenly away and carried to a room, where the
invisible power sustaining him appeared in human shape, "like a youth
whose beard is but just growing, with a face most marvellous, fair, but of
austere and far from wanton beauty." In that room were all the men who had
ever lived and died on earth; and thence they two went together, and came
into a narrow street, one side whereof was bright with sunlight. Then
Cellini asked the angel how he might behold the sun; and the angel pointed
to certain steps upon the side of a house. Up these Cellini climbed, and
came into the full blaze of the sun, and, though dazzled by its
brightness, he gazed steadfastly and took his fill. While he looked, the
rays fell away upon the left side and the disk shone like a bath of molten
gold. This surface swelled, and from the glory came the figure of a
Christ upon the cross, which moved and stood beside the rays. Again the
surface swelled, and from the glory came the figure of Madonna and her
Child; and at the right hand of the sun there knelt S. Peter in his
sacerdotal robes, pleading Cellini's cause; and "full of shame that such
foul wrong should be done to Christians in his house." This vision
marvellously strengthened Cellini's soul, and he began to hope with
confidence for liberty. When free again, he modelled the figures he had
seen in gold.

The religious phase in Cellini's history requires some special comment,
since it is precisely at this point that he most faithfully personifies
the spirit of his age and nation. That he was a devout Catholic there is
no question. He made two pilgrimages to Loreto, and another to S. Francis
of Vernia. To S. Lucy he dedicated a golden eye after his recovery from an
illness. He was, moreover, always anxious to get absolution from the Pope.
More than this; he continually sustained himself at the great crises of
his life, when in peril of imprisonment, while defending himself against
assassins, and again on the eve of casting his "Perseus," by direct and
passionate appeals to God. Yet his religion had but little effect upon his
life; and he often used it as a source of moral strength in doing deeds
repugnant to real piety. Like love, he put it off and on quite easily,
reverting to it when he found himself in danger or bad spirits, and
forgetting it again when he was prosperous. Thus in the dungeon of S.
Angelo he vowed to visit the Holy Sepulchre if God would grant him to
behold the sun. This vow he forgot until he met with disappointment at the
Court of Francis, and then he suddenly determined to travel to Jerusalem.
The offer of a salary of seven hundred crowns restored his spirits, and he
thought no more about his vow.

While he loved his life so dearly and indulged so freely in the pleasures
of this earth, he made a virtue of necessity as soon as death approached,
crying, "The sooner I am delivered from the prison of this world, the
better; especially as I am sure of salvation, being unjustly put to
death." His good opinion of himself extended to the certainty he felt of
heaven. Forgetting his murders and debaucheries, he sustained his courage
with devotion when all other sources failed. As to the divine government
of the world, he halted between two opinions. Whether the stars or
Providence had the upper hand, he could not clearly say; but by the stars
he understood a power antagonistic to his will, by Providence a force that
helped him to do what he liked. There is a similar confusion in his mind
about the Pope. He goes to Clement submissively for absolution from
homicide and theft, saying, "I am at the feet of your Holiness, who have
the full power of absolving, and I request you to give me permission to
confess and communicate, that I may with your favour be restored to the
divine grace." He also tells Paul that the sight of Christ's vicar, in
whom there is an awful representation of the divine Majesty, makes him
tremble. Yet at another time he speaks of Clement being "transformed to a
savage beast," and talks of him as "that poor man Pope Clement."[380] Of
Paul he says that he "believed neither in God nor in any other article of
religion;" he sincerely regrets not having killed him by accident during
the siege of Rome, abuses him for his avarice, casts his bastards in his
teeth, and relates with relish the crime of forgery for which in his youth
he was imprisoned in the castle of S. Angelo.[381] Indeed, the Italians
treated the Pope as negroes treat their fetishes. If they had cause to
dislike him, they beat and heaped insults on him--like the Florentines who
described Sixtus IV. as "leno matris suae, adulterorum minister, diaboli
vicarius," and his spiritual offspring as "simonia, luxus, homicidium,
proditio, haeresis." On the other hand, they really thought that he could
open heaven and shut the gates of hell.

At the end of the year 1539, the Cardinal Ippolito d'Este appeared in Rome
with solicitations from Francis I. that the Pope would release Cellini and
allow him to enter his service.[382] Upon this the prison door was opened.
Cellini returned to his old restless life of violence and pleasure. We
find him renewing his favourite pastimes--killing, wantoning, disputing
with his employers, and working diligently at his trade. The temporary
saint and visionary becomes once more the bravo and the artist. A more
complete parallel to the consequences of revivalism in Italy could not be
found.[383] Meanwhile the first period of his history is closed and the
second begins.

Cellini's account of his residence in France has much historical interest
besides the charm of its romance. When he first joined the Court, he found
Francis travelling from city to city with a retinue of eighteen thousand
persons and twelve thousand horses. Frequently they came to places where
no accommodation could be had, and the suite were lodged in wretched
tents. It is not wonderful that Cellini should complain of the French
being less civilised than the Italians of his time. Francis among his
ladies and courtiers, pretending to a knowledge of the arts, sauntering
with his splendid train into the goldsmith's workshop, encouraging
Cellini's violence with a boyish love of mischief, vain and flattered,
peevish, petulant, and fond of show, appears upon these pages with a
life-like vividness.[384] When the time came for settling in Paris, the
King presented his goldsmith with a castle called Le Petit Nesle, and made
him lord thereof by letters of naturalisation. This house stood where the
Institute has since been built; of its extent we may judge from the number
of occupations carried on within its precincts when Cellini entered into
possession. He found there a tennis-court, a distillery, a printing press,
and a factory of saltpetre, besides residents engaged in other trades.
Cellini's claims were resisted. Probably the occupiers did not relish the
intrusion of a foreigner. So he stormed the place and installed himself by
force of arms. Similar violence was needed in order to maintain himself in
possession; but this Cellini loved, and had he been let alone, it is
probable he would have died of _ennui_.

Difficulties of all kinds, due in part to his ungovernable temper, in part
to his ill-regulated life, in part to his ignorance of French habits,
gathered round him. He fell into disfavour with Madame d'Estampes, the
mistress of the King; and here it may be mentioned that many of his
troubles arose from his inability to please noble women.[385] Proud,
self-confident, overbearing, and unable to command his words or actions,
Cellini was unfitted to pay court to princes. Then again he quarrelled
with his brother artists, and made the Bolognese painter, Primaticcio, his
enemy. After being attacked by assassins and robbers on more than one
occasion, he was involved in two lawsuits. He draws a graphic picture of
the French courts of justice, with their judge as grave as Plato, their
advocates all chattering at once, their perjured Norman witnesses, and the
ushers at the doors vociferating _Paix, paix, Satan, allez, paix_. In this
cry Cellini recognised the gibberish at the beginning of the seventh
canto of Dante's "Inferno." But the most picturesque group in the whole
scene presented to us is that made by Cellini himself, armed and mailed,
and attended by his prentices in armour, as they walked into the court to
browbeat justice with the clamour of their voice. If we are to trust his
narrative, he fought his way out of one most dangerous trial by simple
vociferation. Afterwards he took the law, as usual, into his own hands.
One pair of litigants were beaten; Caterina was nearly kicked to death;
and the attorneys were threatened with the sword.

In the midst of these disturbances, Cellini began some important works for
Francis. At Paris the King employed him to make huge silver candelabra,
and at Fontainebleau to restore the castle gate. For the chateau of
Fontainebleau Cellini executed the nymph in bronze, reclining among
trophies of the chase, which may still be seen in the Louvre. It is a
long-limbed, lifeless figure, without meaning--a snuff-box ornament
enlarged to a gigantic size. Francis, who cannot have had good taste in
art, if what Cellini makes him say be genuine, admired these designs above
the bronze copies of the Vatican marbles he had recently received. He
seems to have felt some personal regard for Benvenuto, and to have done
all he could to retain him in his service. The animosity of Madame
d'Estampes, and a grudge against his old patron, Ippolito d'Este, however,
determined the restless craftsman to quit Paris. Leaving his castle, his
unfinished works, and other property behind him in the care of Ascanio,
his friend and pupil, he returned alone to Italy. This step, taken in a
moment of restless pique, was ever after regretted by Cellini, who looked
back with yearning from Florence to the generosity of Francis.

Cosimo de' Medici was indeed a very different patron from Francis.
Cautious, little-minded, meddling, with a true Florentine's love of
bargaining and playing cunning tricks, he pretended to protect the arts,
but did not understand the part he had assumed. He was always short of
money, and surrounded by old avaricious servants, through whose hands his
meagre presents passed. As a connoisseur, he did not trust his own
judgment, thus laying himself open to the intrigues of inferior artists.
Henceforward a large part of Cellini's time was wasted in wrangling with
the Duke's steward, squabbling with Bandinelli and Ammanati, and
endeavouring to overcome the coldness or to meet the vacillations of his
patron. Those who wish to gain insight into the life of an artist at Court
in the sixteenth century, will do well to study attentively the chapters
devoted by Cellini to his difficulties with the Duchess, and his wordy
warfares with Bandinelli.[386] This atmosphere of intrigue and animosity
was not uncongenial to Benvenuto; and as far as words and blows went, he
almost always got the best of it. Nothing, for example, could be keener
and more cutting than the very just criticism he made in Bandinelli's
presence of his "Hercules and Cacus." "Quel bestial buaccio Bandinello,"
as he delights to name him, could do nothing but retort with vulgar terms
of insult.[387]

The great achievement of this third period was the modelling and casting
of the "Perseus." No episode in Cellini's biography is narrated with more
force than the climax to his long-protracted labours, when at last, amid
the chaos and confusion of innumerable accidents, the metal in his furnace
liquefied and filled the mould. After the statue was uncovered in the
Loggia de' Lanzi, where it now stands, Cellini achieved a triumph
adequate to his own highest expectations. Odes and sonnets in Italian,
Greek, and Latin, were written in its praise. Pontormo and Bronzino, the
painters, loaded it with compliments. Cellini, ruffling with hand on hilt
in silks and satins through the square, was pointed out to foreigners as
the great sculptor who had cast the admirable bronze. It was, in truth, no
slight distinction for a Florentine artist to erect a statue beneath the
Loggia de' Lanzi in the square of the Signory. Every great event in
Florentine history had taken place on that piazza. Every name of
distinction among the citizens of Florence was connected with its
monuments. To this day we may read the course of Florentine art by
studying its architecture and sculpture; and not the least of its many
ornaments, in spite of all that may be said against it, is the "Perseus"
of Cellini.

Cellini completed the "Perseus" in 1554. His autobiography is carried down
to the year 1562, when it abruptly terminates. It appears that in 1558 he
received the tonsure and the first ecclesiastical orders; but two years
later on he married a wife, and died at the age of sixty-nine, leaving
three legitimate children. He was buried honourably, and a funeral oration
was pronounced above his bier in the Chapter House of the Annunziata.

As a man, Cellini excites more interest than as an artist; and for this
reason I have refrained from entering into minute criticism of his few
remaining masterpieces. It has been well said that the two extremes of
society, the statesman and the craftsman, find their point of meeting in
Machiavelli and Cellini, inasmuch as both recognise no moral authority but
the individual will.[388] The _virtu_, extolled by Machiavelli is
exemplified by Cellini. Machiavelli bids his prince ignore the laws;
Cellini respects no tribunal and takes justice into his own hands. The
word conscience does not occur in Machiavelli's phraseology of ethics;
conscience never makes a coward of Cellini, and in the dungeons of S.
Angelo he is visited by no remorse. If we seek a literary parallel for the
statesman and the artist in their idealisation of force and personal
character, we find it in Pietro Aretino. In him, too, conscience is
extinct; for him, also, there is no respect of King or Pope; he has placed
himself above law, and substituted his own will for justice. With his pen,
as Cellini with his dagger, he assassinates; his cynicism serves him for a
coat of armour. And so abject is society, so natural has tyranny become,
that he extorts blackmail from monarchs, makes princes tremble, and
receives smooth answers to his insults from Buonarroti. These three men,
Machiavelli, Cellini, and Aretino, each in his own line, and with the
proper differences that pertain to philosophic genius, artistic skill, and
ribald ruffianism, sufficiently indicate the dissolution of the social
bond in Italy. They mark their age as the age of adventurers, bandits,
bullies, Ishmaelites, and tyrants.


[345] "In lode e onor della vita sua e opere d'esso, e buona disposizione
della anima e del corpo." _La Vita di Benvenuto Cellini_, Firenze, Le
Monnier, 1852; _Documenti_, p. 578.

[346] I do not by this mean to commit myself to the opinion that Cellini
is accurate in details or truthful. On the contrary, it is impossible to
read his life without feeling that his vanity and self-esteem led him to
exaggeration and mis-statement. The value of the biography consists in
its picturesqueness, its brilliant and faithful colouring, and its
unconscious self-revelation of an energetic character.

[347] With regard to his pedigree Cellini tells a ridiculous story about
a certain Fiorino da Cellino, one of Julius Caesar's captains, who gave
his name to Florence. For the arms of the Cellini family, see lib. i.
cap. 50.

[348] To enlarge upon this point is hardly necessary; or it would be easy
to prove from documentary evidence that artists so eminent as Simone
Martini, Gentile da Fabriano, Perugino, and Ghirlandajo kept open shops,
where customers could buy the products of their craft from a
highly-finished altar-piece down to a painted buckler or a sign to hang
above the street-door. The commercial status of fine art in Italy was
highly beneficial to its advancement, inasmuch as it implied a thorough
technical apprenticeship for learners. The defective side of the system
was apparent in great workshops like that of Raphael, who undertook
painting-commissions quite beyond his powers of conscientious execution.

[349] See above, Chapter III, Orcagna's Tabernacle.

[350] See lib. ii. cap. 5, for the description of Francis I. visiting
Cellini in his work-room. He finds him hammering away at the metal, and
suggests that he might leave that labour to his prentices. Cellini
replies that the excellence of his work would suffer if he did not do it

[351] See Yriarte, _Vie d'un Gentilhomme de Venise_, p. 439, for a
process instituted by the Inquisition against Paolo Veronese.

[352] He calls it "un chiavaquore di argento, il quale era in quei tempi
chiamato cosi. Questo si era una cintura di tre dita larga, che alle
spose novelle s' usava di fare."

[353] "Si come un toro invelenito."

[354] "Living men have felt my blows: those many maimed and mutilated
stones one sees, attest to your disgrace: the earth hides my bad work."
See the lines quoted by Perkins, _Tuscan Sculptors_, vol. ii. p. 140.

[355] Lib. i. cap. 79.

[356] Lib. ii. cap. 34. The whole history of this woman Caterina, and of
the revenge he took upon her and his prentice Paolo, is one of the most
extraordinary passages in the life.

[357] See Vol. 1., _Age of the Despots_, pp. 377-380.

[358] See Vol. 1., _Age of the Despots_, pp. 362-363.

[359] This might be further illustrated by analysing Cellini's mode of
loving. He never rises above animal appetite.

[360] Lib. i. cap. 85. "Nel qual vomito mi usci dello stomaco un verme
piloso, grande un quarto di braccio: e' peli erano grandi ed il verme era
bruttissimo, macchiato di diversi colori, verdi, neri e rossi."

[361] Lib. i. cap. 128.

[362] Notice lib. i. cap. 40, p. 90, the dialogue between Cellini and the
old woman, on his return to the paternal house: "Oh dimmi, gobba
perversa," &c.

[363] "Per essere il mondo intenebrato di peste e di guerra," is a phrase
of Cellini's, i. 40.

[364] Lib. i. cap. 51.

[365] Lib. i. cap. 74. Clement was dead, and Paul III. had just been
elected, 1534. Paul sent Cellini a safe-conduct and pardon for Pompeo's
murder to Florence in 1535. Lib. i. cap. 81.

[366] Lib. ii. cap. 104.

[367] Lib. i. cap. 64.

[368] See, however, what is said about the mountain villages of Norcia
being good for incantations. That district in Roman times was famous for
such superstitions. Burckhardt, _Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien_,
pp. 427-428, gives curious information on this topic.

[369] Lib. i. cap. 76.

[370] Lib. i. cap. 88. "That mad melancholy philosopher Lorenzino." Cf.
i. 80 and 81. "Molte volte lo trovavo a dormicchiare dopo desinare con
quel suo Lorenzino, che poi l'ammazzo, e non altri; ed io molto mi
maravigliavo che un duca di quella sorte cosi si fidava ... il duca' che
lo teneva quando per pazzericcio, e quando per poltrone." Cf. again, cap.

[371] This glimpse of Bembo in his Paduan villa is very pleasing. Lib. i.
cap. 94.

[372] "Quei diavoli di quei gentiluomini tedeschi." This is, however, the
language he uses about nearly all foreigners--Spaniards, French, and

[373] Lib. i. cap. 96. "Io ero tutto armato di maglia con istivali grossi
e con uno scoppietto in mano, e pioveva quanto Iddio ne sapeva mandare,"

[374] Lib. i. cap. 98.

[375] _Ib._ cap. 101.

[376] See lib. i. cap. 38, 43.

[377] The Governor, perplexed by Cellini's vaunt that if he only tried he
was sure he could fly, put him under strict guard, saying, "Benvenuto e
un pipistrello contrafatto, ed io sono un pipistrello da dovero."

[378] Lib. i. cap. 125.

[379] Lib. i. cap. 105.

[380] "Il Papa diventato cosi pessima bestia," lib. i. 58; "Il Papa
entrato in un bestial furore," _ib_. 60; "Quel povero uomo di Papa
Clemente," _ib_. 103.

[381] _Ib_. 36, 101, 111.

[382] The scene is well described, lib. i. 127. The Pope was wont to have
a weekly debauch, and the cardinal chose this favourable moment for his
appeal: "Gli usava una volta la settimana di fare una crapula assai
gagliarda, perche da poi la gomitava.... Allora il papa, sentendosi
appressare all' ora del suo vomito, e perche la troppa abbundanzia del
vino ancora faceva l' ufizio suo, disse," &c.

[383] See Vol. I., _Age of the Despots_, p. 485.

[384] See especially the visit to the Paris workshop, lib. ii. cap. 15,
and the scene in the Gallery at Fontainebleau, ib. 41.

[385] His quarrels, for example, with the Duchess of Florence.

[386] Lib. ii. cap. 83, 84, 87, 70, 71.

[387] "That beastly big ox, Bandinelli." Cf. cap. 70 for the critique. It
may be said here, in passing, that the insult of Bandinelli, "Oh sta
cheto, soddomitaccio," seems to have been justified by Benvenuto's
conduct, though of course he carefully conceals it in his memoirs. After
the charge brought against him by Cencio, for instance, he thought it
better to leave Florence.--_Ib_. cap. 61, 62.

[388] Edgar Quinet, _Les Revolutions d'Italie_, p. 358.



Full Development and Decline of Painting--Exhaustion of the old
Motives--Relation of Lionardo to his Pupils--His Legacy to the
Lombard School--Bernardino Luini--Gaudenzio Ferrari--The Devotion
of the Sacri Monti--The School of Raphael--Nothing left but
Imitation--Unwholesome Influences of Rome--Giulio Romano--Michael
Angelesque Mannerists--Misconception of Michael Angelo--Correggio founds
no School--Parmigianino--Macchinisti--The Bolognese--After-growth of Art in
Florence--Andrea del Sarto--His Followers--Pontormo--Bronzino--Revival of
Painting in Siena--Sodoma--His Influence on Pacchia, Beccafumi,
Peruzzi--Garofalo and Dosso Dossi at Ferrari--The Campi at
Cremona--Brescia and Bergamo--The Decadence in the second half of the
Sixteenth Century--The Counter-Reformation--Extinction of the Renaissance

In the foregoing chapters I have not sought to write again the history of
art, so much as to keep in view the relation between Italian art and the
leading intellectual impulses of the Renaissance. In the masters of the
sixteenth century--Lionardo, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Correggio, and the
Venetians--the force inherent in the Italian genius for painting reached
full development. What remained was but an after-bloom rapidly tending to
decadence. To surpass those men in their own line seemed impossible. What
they had achieved was so transcendent that imitation satisfied their
successors; and if they refused imitation, originality had to be sought by
deviating into extravagances. Meanwhile no new stock of thoughts had been
acquired; and students of history are now well aware that for really
great art ideas common to the nation are essential. The motives suggested
by mediaeval Christianity, after passing through successive stages of
treatment in the _quattrocento_, had received the grand and humane
handling of the golden age. The motives of revived paganism in like manner
were exhausted, and at this time the feeling for antiquity had lost its
primal freshness. It might seem superfluous to carry this inquiry further,
when we have thus confessedly attained the culminating point of painting.
Yet the sketch attempted in this volume would be incomplete and liable to
misinterpretation, if no account were taken of the legacy bequeathed to
the next generation by the great masters.

Lionardo da Vinci formed, as we have seen, a school at Milan. It was the
special good fortune of his pupils that what he actually accomplished,
bore no proportion to the suggestiveness of his teaching and the fertility
of his invention. Of finished work he left but little to the world; while
his sketches and designs, the teeming thoughts of his creative brain, were
an inestimable heritage. The whole of this rich legacy of masterpieces,
projected, but not executed, was characterised by a feeling for beauty
which has fallen to no other painter. When we examine the sketches in the
Royal Collection at Windsor, we perceive that the exceeding sense of
loveliness possessed by Lionardo could not have failed to animate his
pupils with a high spirit of art. At the same time the extraordinary
variety of his drawing--sometimes reminding us of German method, sometimes
modern in the manner of French and English draughtsmen--by turns bold and
delicate, broad and minute in detail--afforded to his school examples of
perfect treatment in a multiplicity of different styles. There was no
formality of fixed unalterable precedent in Lionardo, nothing for his
scholars to repeat with the monotony of mannerism.

It remained for his disciples, each in his own sphere, with inferior
powers and feebler intellect, to perpetuate the genius of their master.
Thus the spirit of Lionardo continued to live in Lombardy after he was
dead. There alone imitation was really fruitful, because it did not imply
mere copying. Instead of attempting to give a fresh and therefore a
strained turn to motives that had already received consummate treatment,
Lionardo's successors were able to execute what he had planned but had not
carried to completion. Nor was the prestige of his style so oppressive
through the mass of pictures painted by his hand as to check individuality
or to prevent the pupil from working out such portions of the master's
vein as suited his own talent. Each found enough suggested, but not used,
to give his special faculty free scope. This is in fact the reason why the
majority of pictures ascribed to Lionardo are really the production of his
school. They have the excellence of original work, but not such excellence
as Lionardo could have given them. Their completion is due, as searching
criticism proves, to lesser men; but the conception belongs to the

Andrea Salaino, Marco d'Oggiono, Francesco Melzi, Giovanni Antonio
Beltraffio, and Cesare da Sesto, are all of them skilled workmen, losing
and finding their individuality, as just described, in the manner of their
master. Salaino brings exquisite delicacy of execution; d'Oggiono, wild
and bizarre beauty; Melzi, the refinements of a miniaturist; Beltraffio,
hard brilliancy of light and colour; Cesare da Sesto, somewhat of
effeminate sweetness; and thus the qualities of many men emerge, to blend
themselves again in what is Lionardo's own. It is surely not without
significance that this metempsychosis of genius should have happened in
the case of Lionardo, himself the magician of Renaissance art, the lover
of all things double-natured and twin-souled.

Two painters of the Lombard school, Bernardino Luini and Gaudenzio
Ferrari, demand separate notice. Without Lionardo it is difficult to say
what Luini would have been: so thoroughly did he appropriate his teacher's
type of face, and, in oil-painting, his refinement. And yet Luini stands
on his own ground, in no sense an imitator, with a genius more simple and
idyllic than Da Vinci's. Little conception of his charm can be formed by
those who have not seen his frescoes in the Brera and S. Maurizio Maggiore
at Milan, in the church of the Angeli at Lugano, or in the pilgrimage
church of Saronno. To the circumstance of his having done his best work in
places hardly visited until of late years, may in part perhaps be
attributed the tardy recognition of a painter eminently fitted to be
popular. Luini was essentially a fresco-painter. None, perhaps, of all the
greatest Italian _frescanti_ realised a higher quality of brilliancy
without gaudiness, by the scale of colours he selected and by the purity
with which he used them in simple combinations. His frescoes are never
dull or heavy in tone, never glaring, never thin or chalky. He knew how to
render them both luminous and rich, without falling into the extremes that
render fresco-paintings often less attractive than oil-pictures. His
feeling for loveliness of form was original and exquisite. The joy of
youth found in Luini an interpreter only less powerful and even more
tender than in Raphael. While he shared with the Venetians their
sensibility to nature, he had none of their sensuousness or love of pomp.
In idyllic painting of a truly great type I know of nothing more
delightful than his figures of young musicians going to the marriage feast
of Mary, nothing more graceful than the genius ivy-crowned and seated at
the foot of the cross.[389] The sentiment for naive and artless grace, so
fully possessed by Luini, gave freshness to his treatment of conventional
religious themes. Under his touch they appeal immediately to the most
untutored taste, without the aid of realistic or sensational effects. Even
S. Sebastian and S. Rocco, whom it is difficult to represent with any
novelty of attitude or expression, became for him the motives of fresh
poetry, unsought but truly felt.[390] Among all the Madonnas ever painted
his picture of Mary with the espalier of white roses, and another where
she holds the infant Christ to pluck a purple columbine, distinguish
themselves by this engaging spontaneity. The frescoes of the marriage of
the Virgin and of S. Catherine carried by angels to Mount Sinai might be
cited for the same quality of freshness and unstudied poetry.[391]

When the subject demanded the exercise of grave emotion, Luini rose to the
occasion without losing his simplicity. The "Martyrdom of S. Catherine"
and the fresco of Christ after the Flagellation are two masterpieces,
wherein the depths of pathos have been sounded, and not a single note of
discord is struck.[392] All harsh and disagreeable details are either
eliminated, or so softened that the general impression, as in Pergolese's
music, is one of profoundest and yet sweetest sorrow. Luini's genius was
not tragic. The nearest approach to a dramatic motive in his work is the
figure of the Magdalen kneeling before the cross, with her long yellow
hair streaming over her shoulders, and her arms thrown backwards in an
ecstasy of grief.[393] He did well to choose moments that stir tender
sympathy--the piety of deep and calm devotion. How truly he felt
them--more truly, I think, than Perugino in his best period--is proved by
the correspondence they awake in us. Like melodies, they create a mood in
the spectator.

What Luini did not learn from Lionardo, was the art of composition. Taken
one by one, the figures that make up his "Marriage of the Virgin" at
Saronno, are beautiful; but the whole picture is clumsily constructed; and
what is true of this, may be said of every painting in which he attempted
complicated grouping.[394] We feel him to be a great artist only where the
subject does not demand the symmetrical arrangement of many parts.

Gaudenzio Ferrari was a genius of a different order, more robust, more
varied, but less single-minded than Luini. His style reveals the
influences of a many-sided, ill-assimilated education; blending the
manners of Bramantino, Lionardo, and Raphael without proper fusion. Though
Ferrari travelled much, and learned his art in several schools, he, like
Luini, can only be studied in the Milanese district--at his birthplace
Varallo, at Saronno, Vercelli, and Milan. It is to be regretted that a
painter of such singular ability, almost unrivalled at moments in the
expression of intense feeling and the representation of energetic
movement, should have lacked a simpler training, or have been unable to
adopt a manner more uniform. There is a strength of wing in his
imaginative flight, a swiftness and impetuosity in his execution, and a
dramatic force in his conception, that almost justify Lomazzo's choice of
the eagle for his emblem. Yet he was unable to collect his powers, or to
rule them. The distractions of an age that had produced its masterpieces,
were too strong for him; and what he failed to find was balance. His
picture of the "Martyrdom of S. Catherine," where reminiscences of Raphael
and Lionardo mingle with the uncouth motives of an earlier style in a
medley without unity of composition or harmony of colouring, might be
chosen as a typical instance of great resources misapplied.[395]

The most pleasing of Ferrari's paintings are choirs of angels, sorrowing
or rejoicing, some of them exquisitely and originally beautiful, all
animated with unusual life, and poised upon wings powerful enough to bear
them--veritable "birds of God."[396] His dramatic scenes from sacred
history, rich in novel motives and exuberantly full of invention, crowd
the churches of Vercelli; while a whole epic of the Passion is painted in
fresco above the altar of S. Maria delle Grazie at Varallo, covering the
wall from basement to ceiling. The prodigality of power displayed by
Ferrari makes up for much of crudity in style and confusion in aim; nor
can we refuse the tribute of warmest admiration to a master, who, when the
schools of Rome and Florence were sinking into emptiness and bombast,
preserved the fire of feeling for serious themes. What was deadly in the
neo-paganism of the Renaissance--its frivolity and worldliness, corroding
the very sources of belief in men who made of art a decoration for their
sensuous existence--had not penetrated to those Lombard valleys where
Ferrari and Luini worked. There the devotion of the Sacri Monti still
maintained an intelligence between the people and the artist, far more
fruitful of results to painting than the patronage of splendour-loving
cardinals and nobles.[397]

Passing from Lionardo to Raphael, we find exactly the reverse of what has
hitherto been noticed. Raphael worked out the mine of his own thought so
thoroughly--so completely exhausted the motives of his invention, and
carried his style to such perfection--that he left nothing unused for his
followers. We have seen that he formed a school of subordinates in Rome
who executed his later frescoes after his designs. Some of these men have
names that can be mentioned--Giulio Romano, of whom more hereafter; Perino
del Vaga, the decorator of Genoese palaces in a style of overblown but
gorgeous Raphaelism; Andrea Sabbatini, who carried the Roman tradition
down to Naples; Francesco Penni, Giovanni da Udine, and Polidoro da
Caravaggio. Their work, even while superintended by Raphael himself, began
to show the signs of decadence. In his Roman manner the dramatic element
was conspicuous; and to carry dramatic painting beyond the limits of good
style in art is unfortunately easy. The Hall of Constantine, left
unfinished at his death, still further proved how little his pupils could
do without him.[398] When Raphael died, the breath whose might sustained
and made them potent, ceased. For all the higher purposes of genuine art,
inspiration passed from them as colour fades from eastern clouds at
sunset, suddenly.

It has been customary to account for this rapid decline of the Roman
school by referring to the sack of Rome in 1527. No doubt the artists
suffered at that moment at least as severely as the scholars; their
dispersion broke up a band of eminent painters, who might in combination
and competition have still achieved great things. Yet the secret of their
subsequent failure lay far deeper; partly in the full development of their
master's style, already described; and partly in the social conditions of
Rome itself. Patrons, stimulated by the example of the Popes, desired vast
decorative works; but they expected these to be performed rapidly and at a
cheap rate. Painters, familiarised with the execution of such
undertakings, forgot that hitherto the conception had been not theirs but
Raphael's. Mistaking hand-work for brain-work, they audaciously accepted
commissions that would have taxed the powers of the master himself.
Meanwhile moral earnestness and technical conscientiousness were both
extinct. The patrons required show and sensual magnificence far more than
thought and substance. They were not, therefore, deterred by the vacuity
and poor conceptive faculty of the artists from employing them. What the
age demanded was a sumptuous parade of superficial ornament, and this the
pupils of Raphael felt competent to supply without much effort. The result
was that painters who under favourable circumstances might have done some
meritorious work, became mere journeymen contented with the soulless
insincerity of cheap effects. Giulio Romano alone, by dint of robust
energy and lurid fire of fancy flickering amid the smoke of his coarser
nature, achieved a triumph in this line of labour. His Palazzo del Te will
always remain the monument of a specific moment in Renaissance history,
since it is adequate to the intellectual conditions of a race demoralised
but living still with largeness and a sense of grandeur.

Michael Angelo formed no school in the strict sense of the word. Yet his
influence was not the less felt on that account, nor less powerful than
Raphael's in the same direction. During his manhood the painters Sebastian
del Piombo, Marcello Venusti, and Daniele da Volterra, had endeavoured to
add the charm of oil-colouring to his designs; and long before his death,
the seduction of his mighty mannerism had begun to exercise a fatal charm
for all the schools of Italy. Painters incapable of fathoming his
intention, unsympathetic to his rare type of intellect, and gifted with
less than a tithe of his native force, set themselves to reproduce
whatever may be justly censured in his works. To heighten and enlarge
their style was reckoned a chief duty of aspiring craftsmen; and it was
thought that recipes for attaining to this final perfection of the modern
arts might be extracted without trouble from Michael Angelo's
masterpieces. Unluckily, in proportion as his fame increased, his
peculiarities grew with the advance of age more manneristic and defined;
so that his imitators fixed precisely upon that which sober critics now
regard as a deduction from his greatness. They failed to perceive that he
owed his grandeur to his personality; and that the audacities which
fascinated them, became mere whimsical extravagances when severed from his
_terribilita_ and sombre simplicity of impassioned thought. His power and
his spirit were alike unique and uncommunicable, while the admiration of
his youthful worshippers betrayed them into imitating the externals of a
style that was rapidly losing spontaneity and sense of beauty. Therefore
they fancied they were treading in his footsteps and using the grand
manner when they covered church-roofs and canvases with sprawling figures
in distorted attitudes. Instead of studying nature, they studied Michael
Angelo's cartoons, exaggerating by their unintelligent discipleship his
wilfulness and arbitrary choice of form.

Vasari's and Cellini's criticisms of a master they both honestly revered,
may suffice to illustrate the false method adopted by these mimics of
Michael Angelo's ideal. To charge him with faults proceeding from the
weakness and blindness of the decadence--the faults of men too blind to
read his art aright, too weak to stand on their own feet without
him--would be either stupid or malicious. If at the close of the sixteenth
century the mannerists sought to startle and entrance the world by empty
exhibitions of muscular anatomy misunderstood, and by a braggadocio
display of meaningless effects--crowding their compositions with studies
from the nude, and painting agitated groups without a discernible cause
for agitation--the crime surely lay with the patrons who liked such
decoration, and with the journeymen who provided it. Michael Angelo
himself always made his manner serve his thought. We may fail to
appreciate his manner and may be incapable of comprehending his thought;
but only insincere or conceited critics will venture to gauge the latter
by what they feel to be displeasing in the former. What seems lawless in
him, follows the law of a profound and peculiar genius, with which,
whether we like it or not, we must reckon. His imitators were devoid of
thought and too indifferent to question whether there was any law to be
obeyed. Like the jackass in the fable, they put on the dead lion's skin of
his manner, and brayed beneath it, thinking they could roar.

Correggio, again, though he can hardly be said to have founded a school,
was destined to exercise wide and perilous influence over a host of
manneristic imitators. Francesco Mazzola, called Il Parmigianino, followed
him so closely that his frescoes at Parma are hardly distinguishable from
the master's; while Federigo Baroccio at Urbino endeavoured to preserve
the sensuous and almost childish sweetness of his style in its
integrity.[399] But the real attraction of Correggio was only felt when
the new _barocco_ architecture called for a new kind of decoration. Every
cupola throughout the length and breadth of Italy began then to be
painted with rolling clouds and lolling angels. What the wits of Parma had
once stigmatised as a _ragout_ of frogs, now seemed the only possible
expression for celestial ecstasy; and to delineate the joy of heaven upon
those multitudes of domes and semi-domes was a point of religious
etiquette. False lights, dubious foreshortenings, shallow colourings,
ill-studied forms, and motiveless agitation suited the taste that cared
for gaudy brightness and sensational effects. The painters, for their
part, found it convenient to adopt a mannerism that enabled them to
conceal the difficult parts of the figure in feather beds of vapour,
requiring neither effort of conception nor expenditure of labour on
drawing and composition. At the same time, the Caracci made Correggio's
style the object of more serious study; and the history of Bolognese
painting shows what was to be derived from this master by intelligent and
conscientious workmen.

Hitherto, I have had principally to record the errors of artists copying
the external qualities of their great predecessors. It is refreshing to
turn from the _epigoni_ of the so-called Roman school to masters in whom
the flame of the Renaissance still burned brightly. Andrea del Sarto, the
pupil of Piero di Cosimo, but more nearly related in style to Fra
Bartolommeo than to any other of the elder masters, was himself a
contemporary of Raphael and Correggio. Yet he must be noticed here;
because he gave new qualities to the art of Tuscany, and formed a
tradition decisive for the subsequent history of Florentine painting. To
make a just estimate of his achievement is a task of no small difficulty.
The Italians called him "il pittore senza errori," or the faultless
painter. What they meant by this must have been that in all the technical
requirements of art, in drawing, composition, handling of fresco and oils,
disposition of draperies, and feeling for light and shadow, he was above
criticism. As a colourist he went further and produced more beautiful
effects than any Florentine before him. His silver-grey harmonies and
liquid blendings of hues cool, yet lustrous, have a charm peculiar to
himself alone. We find the like nowhere else in Italy. And yet Andrea del
Sarto cannot take rank among the greatest Renaissance painters. What he
lacked was precisely the most precious gift--inspiration, depth of
emotion, energy of thought. We are apt to feel that even his best pictures
were designed with a view to solving an aesthetic problem. Very few have
the poetic charm belonging to the "S. John" of the Pitti or the "Madonna"
of the Tribune. Beautiful as are many of his types, like the Magdalen in
the large picture of the "Pieta"[400] we can never be sure that he will
not break the spell by forms of almost vulgar mediocrity. The story that
his wife, a worthless woman, sat for his Madonnas, and the legends of his
working for money to meet pressing needs, seem justified by numbers of his
paintings, faulty in their faultlessness and want of spirit. Still, after
making these deductions, we must allow that Andrea del Sarto not
unworthily represents the golden age at Florence. There is no affectation,
no false taste, no trickery in his style. His workmanship is always solid;
his hand unerring. If Nature denied him the soul of a poet, and the stern
will needed for escaping from the sordid circumstances of his life, she
gave him some of the highest qualities a painter can desire--qualities of
strength, tranquillity, and thoroughness, that in the decline of the
century ceased to exist outside Venice.

Among Del Sarto's followers it will be enough to mention Franciabigio,
Vasari's favourite in fresco painting, Rosso de' Rossi, who carried the
Florentine manner into France, and Pontormo, the masterly painter of
portraits.[401] In the historical pictures of these men, whether sacred
or secular, it is clear how much was done for Florentine art by Fra
Bartolommeo and Del Sarto independently of Michael Angelo and Lionardo.
Angelo Bronzino, the pupil of Pontormo, is chiefly valuable for his
portraits. Hard and cold, yet obviously true to life, they form a gallery
of great interest for the historian of Duke Cosimo's reign. His frescoes
and allegories illustrate the defects that have been pointed out in those
of Raphael's and Buonarroti's imitators.[402] Want of thought and feeling,
combined with the presumptuous treatment of colossal and imaginative
subjects, renders these compositions inexpressibly chilling. The
psychologist, who may have read a poem from Bronzino's pen, will be
inclined to wonder how far this barren art was not connected with personal
corruption.[403] Such speculations are, however, apt to be misleading.

Siena, after a long period of inactivity, received a fresh impulse at the
same time as Florence. Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, or Razzi, called Il Sodoma,
was born at Vercelli about 1477. He studied in his youth under Lionardo da
Vinci, training his own exquisite sense of natural beauty in that
scientific school. From Milan, after a certain interval of time, he
removed to Rome, where he became a friend and follower of Raphael. These
double influences determined a style that never lost its own originality.
With what delicacy and _naivete_, almost like a second Luini, but with
more of humour and sensuousness, he approached historic themes, may be
seen in his frescoes at Monte Oliveto.[404] They were executed before his
Roman visit, and show the facility of a most graceful improvisatore. One
painting representing the "Temptation of Monks by Dancing Women" carries
the melody of fluent lines and the seduction of fair girlish faces into a
region of pure poetry. These frescoes are superior to Sodoma's work in the
Farnesina. Impressed, as all artists were, by the monumental character of
Borne, and fired by Raphael's example, he tried to abandon his sketchy and
idyllic style for one of greater majesty and fulness. The delicious
freshness of his earlier manner was sacrificed; but his best efforts to
produce a grandiose composition ended in a confusion of individually
beautiful but ill-assorted motives. Like Luini, Sodoma was never
successful in pictures requiring combination and arrangement. He lacked
some sense of symmetry and sought to achieve massiveness by crowding
figures in a given space. When we compare his group of "S. Catherine
Fainting under the Stigmata" with the medley of agitated forms that make
up his picture of the same saint at Tuldo's execution, we see plainly that
he ought to have confined himself to the expression of very simple
themes.[405] The former is incomparable for its sweetness; the latter is
indistinct and wearying, in spite of many details that adorn it. Gifted
with an exquisite feeling for the beauty of the human body, Sodoma
excelled himself when he was contented with a single figure. His "S.
Sebastian," notwithstanding its wan and faded colouring, is still the very
best that has been painted.[406] Suffering, refined and spiritual, without
contortion or spasm, could not be presented with more pathos in a form of
more surpassing loveliness. This is a truly demonic picture in the
fascination it exercises and the memory it leaves upon the mind. Part of
its unanalysable charm may be due to the bold thought of combining the
beauty of a Greek Hylas with the Christian sentiment of martyrdom. Only
the Renaissance could have produced a hybrid so successful, because so
deeply felt.

Sodoma's influence at Siena, where he lived a picturesque life, delighting
in his horses and surrounding himself with strange four-footed pets of all
sorts, soon produced a school of worthy masters. Girolamo del Pacchia,
Domenico Beccafumi, and Baldassare Peruzzi, though they owed much to the
stimulus of his example, followed him in no servile spirit. Indeed, it may
be said that Pacchia's paintings in the Oratory of S. Bernardino, though
they lacked his siren beauty, are more powerfully composed; while
Peruzzi's fresco of "Augustus and the Sibyl," in the church of
Fontegiusta, has a monumental dignity unknown to Sodoma. Beccafumi is apt
to leave the spectator of his paintings cold. From inventive powers so
rich and technical excellence so thorough, we demand more than he can
give, and are therefore disappointed. His most interesting picture at
Siena is the "Stigmatisation of S. Catherine," famous for its mastery of
graduated whites. Much of the paved work of the Duomo is attributed to his
design. Both Beccafumi and Peruzzi felt the cold and manneristic Roman
style of rhetoric injuriously.

To mention the remaining schools of Italy in detail would be superfluous.
True art still flourished at Ferrara, where Garofalo endeavoured to carry
on the Roman manner of Raphael without the necessary strength or ideality,
but also without the soulless insincerity of the mannerists. His best
quality was colouring, gemlike and rich; but this found little scope for
exercise in the dry and laboured style he affected. Dosso Dossi fared
better, perhaps through having never experienced the seductions of Rome.
His glowing colour and quaint fancy give the attraction of romance to
many of his pictures. The "Circe," for example, of the Borghese Palace, is
worthy to rank with the best Renaissance work. It is perfectly original,
not even suggesting the influence of Venice by its deep and lustrous hues.
No painting is more fit to illustrate the "Orlando Innamorato." Just so,
we feel in looking at it, did Dragontina show herself to Boiardo's fancy.
Ariosto's Alcina belongs to a different family of magnificent witches.

Cremona, at this epoch, had a school of painters, influenced almost
equally by the Venetians, the Milanese, and the Roman mannerists. The
Campi family covered those grave Lombard vaults with stucco, fresco, and
gilding in a style only just removed from the _barocco_.[407] Brescia and
Bergamo remained within the influence of Venice, producing work of nearly
first-rate quality in Moretto, Romanino, and Lorenzo Lotto. Moroni, the
pupil of Moretto, was destined to become one of the most powerful
character painters of the modern world, and to enrich the studies of
historians and artists with a series of portraits impressive by their
fidelity to the spirit of the sixteenth century at its conclusion. Venice
herself at this period was still producing masterpieces of the genuine
Renaissance. But the decline into mannerism, caused by circumstances
similar to those of Rome, was not far distant.

It may seem strange to those who have visited the picture galleries of
Italy, and have noticed how very large a number of the painters flourished
after 1550, that I should have persistently spoken of the last half of the
sixteenth century as a period of decadence. This it was, however, in a
deep and true sense of the word. The force of the Renaissance was
exhausted, and a time of relaxation had to be passed through, before the
reaction known as the Counter-Reformation could make itself felt in art.
Then, and not till then, a new spiritual impulse produced a new style.
This secondary growth of painting began to flourish at Bologna in
accordance with fresh laws of taste. Religious sentiments of a different
order had to be expressed; society had undergone a change, and the arts
were governed by a genuine, if far inferior, inspiration. Meanwhile, the
Renaissance, so far as Italy is concerned, was ended.

It is one of the sad features of this subject, that each section has to
end in lamentation. Servitude in the sphere of politics; literary
feebleness in scholarship; decadence in art:--to shun these conclusions is
impossible. He who has undertaken to describe the parabola of a
projectile, cannot be satisfied with tracing its gradual rise and
determining its culmination. He must follow its spent force, and watch it
slowly sink with ever dwindling impetus to earth. Intellectual movements,
when we isolate them in a special country, observing the causes that set
them in motion and calculating their retarding influences, may, not
unreasonably, be compared to the parabola of a projectile. To shrink from
studying the decline of mental vigour in Italy upon the close of the
Renaissance, would be therefore weak; though the task of tracing the
impulse communicated by her previous energy to other nations, and their
stirring under a like movement, might be more agreeable.


[389] Frescoes in the Brera and at Lugano.

[390] S. Maurizio, on the Screen, inner church. Lugano in the Angeli.

[391] In the Brera. See also the Madonna, with Infant Christ, S. John,
and a Lamb, at Lugano.

[392] Side chapel of S. Maurizio at Milan. These frescoes are, in my
opinion, Luini's very best. The whole church is a wonderful monument of
Lombard art.

[393] "Crucifixion" at Lugano.

[394] See, for example, the oil-paintings in the cathedral of Como, so
fascinating in their details, so lame in composition.

[395] In the Brera.

[396] Frescoes at Saronno and in the Sacro Monte at Varallo.

[397] The whole lake-district of Italy, where the valleys of Monte Rosa
and the Simplon descend upon the plain of Lombardy, is rich in works of
this school. At Luino and Lugano, on the island of San Giulio, and in the
hill-set chapels of the Val Sesia, may be found traces of frescoes of
incomparable beauty. One of these sites deserves special mention. Just at
the point where the pathway of the Colma leaves the chestnut groves and
meadows to join the road leading to Varallo, there stands a little
chapel, with an open loggia of round Renaissance arches, designed and
painted, according to tradition, by Ferrari, and without doubt
representative of his manner. The harmony between its colours, so mellow
in their ruin, its graceful arcades and quiet roofing, and the glowing
tones of those granite mountains, with their wealth of vineyards, and
their forests of immemorial chestnut trees, is perfect beyond words.

[398] This, the last of the Stanze, was only in part designed by Raphael.
In spite of what I have said above, the "Battle of Constantine," planned
by Raphael, and executed by Giulio, is a grand example of a pupil's power
to carry out his master's scheme.

[399] Baroccio had great authority at Florence in the seventeenth
century, when the cult of Correggio had overspread all Italy.

[400] Pitti Palace.

[401] Franciabigio's and Rosso's frescoes stand beside Del Sarto's in the
atrium of the Annunziata at Florence. Pontormo's portraits of Cosimo and
Lorenzo de' Medici in the Uffizzi, though painted from busts and
medallions, have a real historical value.

[402] The "Christ in Limbo" in S. Lorenzo at Florence, and the detestable
picture of "Time, Beauty, Love, and Folly," in our National Gallery.

[403] _Opere Burlesche_, vol. iii. pp. 39-46.

[404] Near Siena. These pictures are a series of twenty-four subjects
from the life of S. Benedict.

[405] In the church of S. Domenico, Siena.

[406] In the Uffizzi. See also Sodoma's "Sacrifice of Isaac" in the
cathedral of Pisa, and the "Christ Bound to the Pillar" in the Academy at

[407] The church of S. Sigismondo, outside Cremona, is very interesting
for the unity of style in its architecture and decoration.



_The Pulpits of Pisa and Ravello_

Having tried to characterise Niccola Pisano's relation to early Italian
art in the second chapter of this volume, I adverted to the recent doubts
which have been thrown by very competent authorities upon Vasari's legend
of this master. Messrs. Crowe and Cavalcaselle, while discussing the
question of his birthplace and his early training, observe, what is no
doubt true, that there are no traces of good sculpture in Pisa antecedent
to the Baptistery pulpit of 1260, and remark that for such a phenomenon as
the sudden appearance of this masterpiece it is needful to seek some
antecedents elsewhere.[408] This leads them to ask whether Niccola did not

Book of the day: