Denton Jaques Snider.

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Stanza della Segnatura, with those that fol-
low. )

Certainly there was contrast enough be-
tween the alert, self-assertive, freedom-seek-
ing, and often turbulent people of Florence,
and the inert unchanging mass of Raphael's
home-folk. The spirit of the time was throb-
bing restlessly in the former, but left quite
untouched the latter. This is what the sen-
sitive artist must have often felt, and in-
leed this is the deepest strand of Raphael's
Florentine experience. In the Tuscan city
he learned much, saw many important per-
sons; but his chief acquisition was that he
felt the presence of the World-Spirit, which
was there in evidence at this time, and was
preparing the instruments for the supreme
expression of itself in Painting. This is
what will reach the highest fruition later at



The works executed at Florence, by Ra-
phael are all of moderate size and impor-
tance and pretention. It was largely a thne
of study, of experiment, of appropriation.
The new order which had broken into the
World's History he must make his own.
Still he was not entirely occupied with ex-
ternal acquisition; his original gift, his
genius would assert itself and so we have
quite a line of Florentine Madonnas under
various names. We see in all these female
faces Raphael's elemental type of the wo-
man's soul, of the God-mother, but it changes
its vesture not merely of external dress but
of facial lineaments; the Umbrian nun-like
Madonna has been transformed into her un-
cloistered, more social and earthly Floren-
tine sister, though both are daughters of the
same native artistic genius.

But in 1508 Raphael felt that he must take
a great new step in his Art. He asks the
Governor of Florence for a commission to
paint one of the rooms of the Palazzo Vec-
cliio, the scene of the rival cartoons of Lion-
ardo and Michel Angelo, beside both of
wdiom it seems his ambition to place himself.
To such a height he feels his growth risen in
his four Florentine years.

III. It w^as during this same year, 1508,
that Raphael, Avhile w^aiting for a response


from the Florentine government, received a
call from Rome to do some work for the Pope.
Thither he at once went, probably feeling that
the opportunity of his life had arrived, for he
must have received from his friend Bramante
some intimation of the grand artistic schemes
which had there begun to unfold. So the
Roman period of Raphael begins, lasting
some twelve years full of unparalleled

It may be said that Raphael at Rome be-
comes world-historical in his mental out-
reach and in his artistic work. Such he was
not yet at Florence, though he felt the spirit
of the age fermenting in that tumultuous
city. But he could not embody it there, it
broke not forth into his Art ; it was alive and
throbbing in him, still only as yet embryonic.
But as soon as he gets established at Rome
and strikes into the heart of his task, there
rises in his vision a colossal panorama of
Universal History which he at once trans-
forms to a pictured world, starting with the
Stanza della Segnafura of the Vatican.

This opens the long and densely peopled
procession of Raphael's mural pictures at
Rome. On the whole it is the best, at least
it is our favorite of them all. The artist,
fresh from Florence, brings with him the new
spirit of the Renaissance and works with a


freedom which he hardly felt afterwards.
This Stanza is broader in conception than
the later ones, there is a universality in it
which the rest lack, though they all be trans-
fused more or less with the distinctive genius
of Raphael So significant are the themes
here treated that we shall take note of each
of the four, though briefly.

The first fresco is called Theology, or the
Dispute of Sacrament, but neither of these
titles seem to us adequate. In its upper part
it gives the creative process of the Christian
religion, namely the descent of the God-Man
with its triune process. Father, Son and
Spirit, the Madonna also being present. In
the middle part are shown the apostles, and
in the lower part Saints, Doctors, Fathers of
the Church. It is evident that the artist has
here summarized what we have elsewhere
called the Christian Mythus, the original
source of Painting. Raphael thus connects
his new work with his Umbrian period, as
well as with the primal creative fact of
Christendom, yet with a totality of view not
attained by him hitherto. We might call it
an epitome of his Art.

The second fresco takes up by way of coun-
terpart the Heathen Mythus with its supreme
Art, that of Poetry, whose center is Parnas-
sus with the God Apollo surrounded by the


Muses. Very graceful and idyllic is the
scene, but not especially great ; Raphael was
probably not ready to portray Zeus in all
his grandeur on Oljaupus in the midst of his
antique God-world, though such a presenta-
tion would show the originative source of the
Heathen Mythus and its Art. As usually
employed in the Renaissance, Classic Myth-
ology was not truly mythical but only para-
mythical, that is a play of fancy round the
old Greek deities, yet with an allegorical sub-
strate devoid of all serious faith.

The third fresco is the famous School of
Athens, perhaps the favorite of this first
series. In general the theme is Heathen
Philosophy as the chief secular discipline of
thought not only for antiquity, but for all
time. Plato and Aristotle are the centers of
a large two-sided group and represent the
dualism running through all Philosophy, the
idealists and realists. It is a work of reflec-
tion and erudition, yet permeated with the
Raphaelitic spontaneity. There is a quiet
atmosphere of meditation spread over the
whole scene though not without some appear-
ance of difference and discussion. The work
has far more sincerity and indeed convic-
tion in it than we find in the Heathen Mythus
just mentioned. The artist could believe in
the Greek Philosopher Ijiit not in the Greek


God. The picture shows Florence and its
Platonic Academy which seems to have had
quite as much faith in Plato as in Christ.

The fourth and last fresco of this Stanza
celebrates Justice, the supreme Heathen
virtue, elaborated by Greek Philosophy and
realized by Roman jurisprudence. Of the
latter, two derived forms are here indicated,
the Pandects and the Decretals, or the civil
and the canon Law. Wisdom, Temperance
and Valor, the other cardinal Heathen vir-
tues would seem to be figured in the picture
along with Justice.

Such is that painted Stanza della Segna-
tura in the Vatican, with three of its frescos
dominantly Heathen, while only one is Chris-
tian. In this respect it may be regarded as
the most typical representation of the Ren-
aissance. Pope Julius the Second had the
ambition to resuscitate old Rome in all her
supremacies, artistic, intellectual, political.
But she has to stay papal in faith unques-
tioned. The criticism must have come to him
that Raphael's work, which made a great
stir, had altogether too much Heathendom
in it — actually measured, three parts to one.
He was the patron of Raphael and was de-
termined to be the Pope of Art, as well as of
the Church. That the artist received a hint
from the highest authority is credible, though
not documented.


At any rate there is a great change: the
mural paintings of Eaphael from this time
forth in the Vatican drop their Heathen
side, and become religious, yea papal, with
emphasis upon miracles wrought chiefly by
Popes. Thus the Christian My thus itself
becomes extremely narrowed. The artist
himself must have felt a diminished interest,
for he hands his work largely over to his
pupils. Still he employed the Heathen
Mythus outside the Vatican, as in the Tri-
wnph of Galatea and in the later Cupid and
Psyche. His last extensive mural work was
the Loggias of the Vatican, often called Ra-
phael's Bible, being a series of pictured
scenes from the Old Testament, in which he
appears as the rival or rather the imitator
of Michel Angelo, but much in the rear.

There is no doubt that Raphael began to
shirk and to slight his frescos. Over-
whelmed with tasks, he turned from the least
congenial to what appealed most strongly to
his native genius. Without any doubt the
theme which lay deepest and most imperish-
able in his soul, was the Divine Family with
its central Mother and Christ-child, to which
central twain was added a varying environ-
ment of persons and scenery. Thus he has
his Roman period of picturing the Madonna,
or rather of picturing his own genius in its


most intimate act of adoration. For Raphael
when he worshiped from the fountain of his
being would start to paint a Madonna; his
Art then became his Holy Communion with
God. But he felt no such nearness to the
Eternal in his frescos ; great and beautiful
as they are, they still proclaim themselves
external to the innermost man, they are
works of the understanding, wonderfully cal-
culated and put together, yet always trans-
fused with the magic touch of Raphaelitic
genius. And to our mind the World's His-
tory w^as not Raphael's natural field; it was
after all something appropriated from the
outside, which he had largely picked up from
the learned men at Florence and then at
Rome. Far more intimate was Michel An-
gelo's gigantic soul with the historic soul of
the ages.

As already indicated, each period of Ra-
phael, Umbrian, Florentine, Roman, has one
ideal Madonna (with Bambino of course)
manifesting herself in various visible forms
which make quite a distinct group or sister-
hood by themselves. Still the three sets are
not rigidly limited against one another, but
often seem to overlap. Indeed there is the
one underlying Raphaelitic type running
through and underlinking all three periods,
and thus is the deepest spiritual thread unit-



ing the artist's whole career. Still further,
Raphael had ultimately but one face from
which he painted not only his Madonnas, but
other women, especially those whom he
loved; yea even in some of his men there is
that same Eaphaelitic visage which he seems
to have drawn from his own soul as the
model of all his models. AVho has not felt
that Raphael's own portrait taken by him-
self is a variant upon his Madonnas ! In one
of his letters he gives us a brief peep into
his inner Workshop: "I paint after a cer-
tain Idea I have in mind. I am not conscious
that this Idea has any excellence in it, but I
strive to realize it."

The Umbrian Madonnas (the authenticity
of some of them is contested) is churchly in
look and even in dress, rather stiffly hieratic,
with more of the nunnery than of the fam-
ily, showing love more religious than moth-
erly. The Florentine Madonna changes all
this, though by gradations. She is domes-
tic, humanly affectionate, at home rather
than at church, more maidenly than anxious-
ly maternal, still somewhat of a child with
her child; a flower-girl whom Raphael loved
at Florence is said to have furnished the
naive, girlish loveliness enshrined in these
immortal faces which some prefer to all
other pictures of the artist. The line of


Roman Madonnas form a gradation out of
the Florentine which show a simple light-
hearted domesticity, to the mature, fore-
thoughtful, even care-worn mother who is
again religious and becomes the center of a
varying hierarchic environment — Saints, Fa-
thers, Popes, and other Church dignitaries.
Still the Virgin herself does not drop hack
into old stiff ecclesiastical formalism. But
the Umbrian is again in evidence though

There is little of the negative in Raphael,
even when he paints demons and dragons;
one cannot think of his having ever been in
any sort of Inferno, like Dante or Michel
Angelo. His temperament was a Paradise,
but not the Dantean; in his Eden there had
been no fall though he painted Adam's, or
rather his pupils did it for him.

As painter elect, he held communion with
his Creator through an act of painting. It
has already been indicated that such a mood
of worship would evoke in him a Madonna.
Suggestive is the fact that in this case he
would do his own painting, and not turn it
over to his pupils, who, however, of their own
accord sought to reproduce his Madonna
type. He had to do his own praying in that
way. Hence it comes that his best pictures
are his Madonnas, being his deepest and


most direct communications to us from above
through his Art. The greatest one we may
select for a few observations.

The Sistine Madonna. Nothing is known
of its origin except the half dozen words
found in Vasari that Raphael painted it for
the Blackfriars in Piacenza. The time of its
composition is not documented, but doubt-
less belongs to a period when several very
similar faces were painted by the artist
(1514-6). It is now in the Royal Gallery at
Dresden, having been sold from Italy in
1754. It has been pronounced the most fa-
mous picture in the world, being one of the
very few combining the greatest popularity
with the highest Art. It gives the concen-
trated soul of the Christian Mythus prob-
ably better than any other painting — the
manifestation of the Invisible through the

( 1 ) The unity of the work is the first mat-
ter to be noted. Inspect it, and you see that
all looks and acts are directed to one object
— rays from each person would converge to
a point. Six converging lenses or search-
lights are thrown upon the same center in
the distance, from six persons. This unites
you with them. You almost turn around to
see what they are looking at. Note on the
street a group of people at this corner and on


that looking at some common object and you
will look too.

So the picture has a unity, an active unity
which unifies you who look at it with the first
gaze, though you may not be conscious of it ;
just through your sense of sight you are uni-
fied, concentrated upon the one thing. The
primal artistic act may be deemed unifica-
tion of vision, which is of course followed by
the unification of mind.

(2) The next question is, What are they all
looking at or turned toward, those six forms?
Of course this is no longer your vision, but
your reflection. That act of looking com-
pels you to think, nay to think of the unity.
For when you ask yourself the (luestion :
What are they looking at? you are seeking
what unites their glances and unifies your
glance with theirs.

Then comes the fact that they are look-
ing at nothing visible, nothing which is in
the picture, but outside, beyond the picture.
It is not told in color and form what that ob-
ject is, and here we may conjecture in ad-
vance that it possibly cannot be so told or

Of course the answer to this question can-
not be given till the end, for those six faces
must in their looks communicate what they
are gazing at. Here, however, we may throw


out the faint premonition that this unseen
object may be just the Unseen, the Invisible
itself — wherein we glimpse the supreme
content as well as the inner dualism of Ro-
mantic Art.

(3) Now let us scan the form of the pic-
ture. There is a center (mother and child)
with its circumference made up of the
two cherubs below, and two human figures
on the two sides, while faint angel faces float
above and around. A rim or border and the
heart or center are suggested by this form.

The first group are the mortals, who are
alike in not looking directly with eyes upon
the object, yet both are turned toward it.
Also alike in having close relation to the
virgin, being near her; she and the child
mediate the two mortals in bringing them
nearer the object.

But they are also contrasted, and sharply
individualized. First as man and woman (one
questioning, the other receiving) ; the one
sees with open eyes (intellect) the mediator
and points to the object, the other receives
with shut eyes (the soul), yet both with faith
(pietas intellectus, and pietas cordis). Dif-
ference also in look, position, dress, color.

Two cherubs, the unfallen, gaze directly,
immediately. These should be put first in
contrast to those looking mediately. Also


tliey are different: one lower, just coming,
and less intent than the other. Also one has
childish wonder merely, the other has in ad-
dition a searching reflection. They connect
with the child in one look and in features.

The third group is the divine-human, unit-
ing the two sides, yet differently: the Child
is more the angel or cherub, the Mother is
more the human or Saint, she might be the
sister of Santa Barbara.

Often the figure is said to represent the
ideal mother; still we see it to be not alone
motherly. The human mother looks at her
child. Madonna does not here. The human
mother is more like the Florentine Madon-
nas, who turn mostly to the Child. Some
other element takes her eyes away from her
infant in the present instance.

What does her face say! Anxiety, yet a
joy; a deep pang, yet a triumph, both evi-
dently in reference to her Child; in her face
lies a foreboding of the whole history of the
Child — its trial, crucifixion, resurrection —
sorrow yet the triumph over sorrow.

The Child gazes intently with large open
eyes — he has wonder like the cherub, yet
something more, some intimacy with what is
seen, some childish presentiment, a wonder-
ing acceptance of his own future.

Now we may catch some notion of what


tliey are looking at — ''eye liatli not seen,"
etc., verily the Invisible, the divinely creative
principle of Christendom, hence the world-
creator in his process. You are to see the
divine essence of your life and world, and
commnne with the same, in this picture.

(4) This brings us to the external set of
lookers; who are they! Where are they?
Manifestly they are you who are now gaz-
ing at this picture.

It is really you for whom it is made, yea
all Art has been created for you and your
representatives. The artist had you, the be-
holder, in mind. Possiblv all these six are
looking at you, or at the monks of the mon-
astery for whom the picture was painted.
But I think not, those cherubs are not look-
ing at you, and so not the others.

You, through this picture, are to see what
they see, you are to behold the Divine, and to
feel it suggested to you. In their faces you
are to read sympathetically what they see
with their vision.

Here lies the function of Art at its best,
it brings you into communion with what is
highest and ultimately creative in this uni-
verse. Through the Seen it enables you to
realize in heart and imagination the Unseen,
the alsolute Spirit. Especially Romantic
painting, of which this is perhaps the su-


preme illustration, lias this supreme signifi-

The modern picture which stands next to
the Sistine Madonna in popularity and in
artistic worth is Millet's Angelus; both of
them are often seen hanging side by side up-
on the same wall. But the latter is alto-
gether without the cherubs, Pope, Saints,
without even the Madonna and Child. On
the other hand the people, wholly left out by
Raphael, are taken up into the new picture
whose center is just the communion of the
folk with the Divine through themselves, not
through the many-graded hierarchy, such as
we see in Raphael. It is understood that
Millet was a devout son of the Church, which,
however, has receded in his work into the
dim distance, and from whose belfry the
bell may be faintly glimpsed ringing. Noth-
ing could show better how every true work
of Art reflects the consciousness of its age.
It is now democratic; even the peasant in
wooden shoes is to commune immediatelv
with his God ; this is what has here the stress,
and the sacerdotal element quite vanishes
from the picture. It should be added that
the Christian Mythus also is nearly elim-
inated from the representation — a very sig-
nificant fact in regard to Painting itself.
Still the Angelus is deeply religious in spirit.


Raphael died April Gth, 1520, at tlie early
age of thirty-seven, leaving behind him an
incredible amount of work. Raphael was
companionable, made strong friends, gained
many pupils and disciples, and loved woman.
Quite the opposite was the artist Avliom w^e
are next to consider. Michel Angelo was not
associative; he kept apart, was a solitary
genius, creating his worlds and even per-
forming the pettiest details of his Art by
himself. Tremendously individualized, like
a lonely God — while Raphael was diffusive
and internally separative ; the twain are in-
deed antitypal, but belong together in the
one supreme artistic process of their time
and of all time.

o. Mid I el An (J el 0.

The greatest artist that ever lived : him we
have now reached and must grapple with
mentally, seeking to think out why he stands
on the summit. The most universal in his
sweep : in the three Arts of Design, those
Avliich appeal to the sense of vision — Sculp-
ture, Painting, Architecture — he was cre-
atively a master, producing works typical in
their domain, themselves creative of many
succeeding similar works. The supreme
artist in all three he has been acclaimed; in-


deed lie pushed each of his Arts quite to its
limit of expression, as if it grew to be too
small for the outreach of his genius. The
periods of his artistic evolution run through
the three mentioned Arts, beginning with
Sculpture and ending with Architecture, as
will be set forth more fully later. So we have
to think that Michel Angelo was too great
for any single Art; he unfolded it and him-
self till he broke over its bounds and pushed
forward into a new province. Undoubtedly
other artists also have been skilled in Sculp-
ture, Painting, and Architecture; Phidias,
who seems the artistic genius with whom
Michel Angelo has the nearest kinship, must
have been acquainted with all three, though
he was original only in one, as far as we can
now catch his outlines in the nebulous afore-

On the whole Michel Angelo was the most
creative of artists, because he stood nearest
to the Creator himself in the act of creation.
In his work he comes into peculiar inti-
macy with the Divine maker; his David is
the one whom God made originally, and
whom the human artist has copied at first
hand, though this be in a number of respects
a crude copy. All Art worthy of the name
taps the genetic fountain of being and lets
it flow down into visible form. This must be


filled with tlie supernal Presence, which is
beheld by the spectator who is to receive the
message from beyond. One feels that Michel
Angelo must have wrought in God's work-
shop and have drawn thence a share of
the generative energy of the First Cause. It
is not said that his shapes are elegant or
even accurate according to the rules; the
modern drawing-teacher can point out mis-
takes and the fastidious connoisseur can
revel in violations of good-taste; but the
floods of genius are his in which we too are
immersed by him and in a measure re-born.
Suggestive is the fact that Michel Angelo 's
greatest and most impressive work is just
the Creation of the Universe, at which he
was himself present and which he re-created
by his Art ; God, Nature and Man are brought
before us in their creative round which em-
braces the All (see the Ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel). Here is his masterpiece, as well
as the primal deed of his typical Self, dar-
ing humanly to measure his powder with the
generative All-Self in its first act of Creation.
From this highest point we are to construe
the elemental magnitude of Michel Angelo 's
genius, which participates in the genetic
source of the Universe itself at its primor-
dial overflow into its process.

We may next look at the artist in another


of his greater phases. Michel Angelo be-
longed to his age or to his particular tem-
poral moment in the universal sweep of His-
tory. Very limited, transitory, unfree is
such a moment on time's clock, unless it be
filled and made to represent the spirit mov-
ing in and through all such ephemeral mani-
festations, and directing them to its end.

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 24 of 32)