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THE

MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS



The University Press certifies that only seven hundred

and fifty copies of this book have been printed

on Windsor hand-made paper

September, 1895

This copy is No.




™i'ii'''ifiii"'iii'i'ili|inHlllH|i|llllllH'ii|'l 'Hiiiaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii^^^



THE



Master Mosaic-Workers

BY

GEORGE SAND

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY
CHARLOTTE C JOHNSTON




BOSTON
LITTLE, BJRQWN. AND COMf AI^JX



Copyright, 1895,
By Little, Brown, and Company.



J(3rt$ Wilson akd^Conj ^Jib^idgk, U. S. A.



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

INTRODUCTION.

WHILE it is true that the gifted author of •
"Consuelo" has not, in this charming nov-
elette, adhered with absolute accuracy to known
facts concerning the Venetian painters and mosaic-
workers whom she introduces to her readers, she
has followed them with sufficient closeness to jus-
tify the classification of the story as an historical
romance.

Byzantine workers in mosaics found employment
in Venice early in the history of Venetian civiliza-
tion ; and as the demand for work of this descrip-
tion increased, it was deemed advisable to form a
school in which apprentices should be instructed in
the art of setting colored stones in patterns on the
walls of churches and other editices to which this



<y^^



55136



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

form of ornamentation was best adapted. About
1520 it seemed necessary to found a special estab-
lishment of professional workers in mosaics, assisted
by designers selected from among the more eminent
masters of the day, with especial reference to the
restoration and renovation of the Cathedral of Saint
Mark.

The founders of the modern school of mosaic
artists were Marco Rizzo and Vincenzo Bianchini,
who were appointed by the Senate in 1517. In 1524
an important addition was made to the school in
the person of Francesco Zuccato, who for more
than half a century remained the favorite and best-
paid master of the Venetian government. In 1542
Bartolommeo Bozza became a pupil and assistant of
Francesco.

Francesco and Valerio Zuccato were the sons of
Sebastiano Zuccato, who was Titian's first master
in the art of painting. All authors who have writ-
ten upon the subject agree in ascribing much of
the perfection attained in the mosaic art to the
influence and encouragement of Titian, to whom
the Zuccati were endeared by his early association
with their father. Francesco's portrait was fre-
quently painted by him.

The feud between the Zuccati and the Bianchini



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

eventually involved the friends and enemies of both
families. It is said that Vincenzo Bianchini's im-
prisonment for coining was upon a charge made
by Francesco.

The controversy which forms the main theme of
this sketch seems to have arisen while Francesco
and Valerio were employed upon the vestibule of
Saint Mark, and the Bianchini were designing the
tree of Jesse in the chapel of Sant' Isidore. The bar-
barism of writing Saxihus for Saxis was committed
by Francesco himself, instead of by the procurator,
and he remedied the error by the use of a piece of
painted paper. " Bianchini received intelligence of
this and other alleged irregularities from Bozza, who
abandoned his master and went over to Bianchini,
on grounds of which there is at present no explana-
tion, and the Procurator-Cassiere, Melchior Michelle,
was privately informed that irregularities had taken
place which ought to be prevented or punished. A
commission of inquiry was appointed, and the Pro-
curator was present when the mosaics of the vesti-
bule were washed, and the paper which covered
Saxihus was swept away. On the 22d of May, 1563,
after suspicion had been thus aroused, Melchior
Michelle went to the cathedral, accompanied by
Sansovino and followed by Titian, Jacopo Pistoja,
3-



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

Andrea Schiavone, Jacopo Tintoretto, and Paolo
Veronese, when a diligent examination of all the
mosaics was made. It was found that paint had
been used in various places; but the judges were
unanimous in thinking that this was not material,
as the mosaics were otherwise perfect. Still Fran-
cesco was ordered to renew the parts that had
been painted, at his own expense; and Valerio was
deprived of his salary till such time as he should
prove his skill afresh." i

The following, from a contemporary source,
throws a still stronger light upon the author's
fidelity to history as the groundwork of her
story.

" I must not here omit to mention," says Vasari
in his Life of Titian, "that the art of mosaic,
almost abandoned in all other places, is encouraged
and kept in life by the Most Serene Senate of
Venice, and of this Titian has been the principal
cause; seeing that, so far as in him lies, he has
ever labored to promote the exercise thereof, and
to procure respectable remuneration for those who
practise the art. All that has been done in Venice
has been executed after the designs of Titian and

' Crowe and Cavalcaselle, " Life and Times of Titian."



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

other excellent painters, who have made colored
cartoons for the same ; thus the works are brought
to perfection, as may be seen in the portico of San
Marco, where there is a 'Judgment of Solomon,' so
beautiful that it could scarcely be executed more
delicately with the pencil and colors.^ But in the
art of mosaic there are none who have distinguished
themselves more highly in our times than have
Valerio and Vincenzio Zuccheri, natives of Treviso,2
many stories by whom may be seen in San Marco.
Those from the Apocalypse may more particularly
be specified. In this work the four Evangelists,
under the form of various animals, are seen to
surround the throne of God; the Seven Candle-
sticks, and other things, are also represented so
admirably well that to him who looks at them
from below they appear to be paintings in oil.
There are besides numerous small pictures by those
artists, and these are filled with figures which look,
I do not say like paintings only, but like miniatures ;
and yet they are made of stones joined together.
There are portraits, moreover, of various person-

^ The Judgment of Solomon is by Vincenzo Bianchini.

^ According to Federici, these brothers, more correctly
called Zuccati, were not of Treviso, but Da Ponta ; and the
name of the one was not Vincenzio, but Francesco.

5



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

ages, ... all executed so carefully, and with so
much harmony, so admirable a distribution of light
and shadow, and such exquisite tints of the carna-
tions (to say nothing of other qualities), that no-
better or more perfect works of the kind could
possibly be conceived. Bartolommeo Bozza has
also worked on the Church of San Marco; he is
the rival of the Zuccheri, and has acquitted himself
in a sufficiently praiseworthy manner. But that
which has most effectually contributed to the suc-
cess of all these artists has without doubt been the
superintendence of Titian, with the designs prepared
for these mosaics by his hand."

There seems to be no historical foundation for
the competition described in the later chapters, in
which each competitor was required to produce a
Saint Jerome in mosaic work, and which resulted
in the rehabilitation of the Zuccati; but a Saint
Jerome (or Girolamo) in mosaic by Francesco is
known to have been presented to the Court of
SaVoy.

Upon the facts here sketched, the author has con-
structed a romance in no way unworthy of her
enduring reputation. Not only by the lifelike
glimpses it affords us of the great masters, at whose
feet have sat so many generations of artists, nor
6



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

by its vivid pictures of outdoor life in Venice —
notably the celebration of the Feast of Saint Mark
— in the palmy days of the Serene Republic, does
the " Master Mosaic- Workers " attract and hold our
interest. The author is no less successful in dealing
with the historical personages who figure in her
pages ; in portraying the strange mixture of incor-
ruptible honesty, jealous suspicion, and unsatisfied
ambition in the character of Bozza, and thereby
suggesting the undiscovered " explanation " of his
actions; in depicting the constant struggle in the
heart of old Sebastiano Zuccato between his affection *
for his sons and his pride in their talent, and his
contempt for what was in his eyes a degrading pro-
fession; and if she has painted the Bianchini in
somewhat darker colors than history seems to war-
rant, we can easily make excuses for her, because
their treacherous machinations serve to bring out
in bolder relief the sentiment which appeals most
strongly to our emotions. The author tells us that
she promised the poor child who had read nothing
but "Paul and Virginia," that she would write a
story for him in which there should be no love, and
in which everything should end happily. She was
true to her promise, if the word "love" is taken
in its ordinary acceptation as applied to the art of
7



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

novel-writing; but it would be hard to conceive a
truer, holier affection between man and woman
than that which united the brothers Zuccato, —
which led Valerio to share his brother's imprison-
ment, and Francesco to exclaim, when his brother's
work was adjudged more meritorious than his own,
** I drink to my master, Valerio Zuccato I "




PREFACE.

T WROTE the "Master Mosaic- Workers " in 1837
for my son, who had as yet read but one romance,
" Paul and Virginia." That story was too trying
for the nerves of a poor little child. He cried so
much that I promised to write him a romance in
which there should be no love, and where every-
thing should turn out for the best. To add a little
instruction to his pastime, I took a real fact in the
history of art. The adventures of the mosaic-
workers of St. Mark's are in the main true. I
have woven in but a few embellishments, and have
developed some characters which history only
touches on.

I do not know v/hy, but I have written few books
with so much pleasure as this. It was in the country,
during a summer as warm as the climate of Italy,
9



AUTHOR'S PREFACE.

which I had just left. I had never seen so many
flowers and birds in my garden. Liszt was playing
on the ground floor, and the nightingales, intoxi-
cated with music and sun, sang themselves hoarse
in the surrounding lilacs.

George Sand.

NOHANT, May, 1852.




TO MAURICE D.

YOU find fault with me, my child, for always
teliing you stories which end unhappily and
make you sad, or with narratives so long, so long,
that you fall sound asleep in the midst of them. Do
you think, then, little one, that your old father can
have cheerful thoughts after such a severe winter,
after a spring so bleak, so cold, so productive of
rheumatism ? When the dreary north wind moans
in our old fir trees, when the crane utters its mourn-
ful cry at the sound of the Angelus saluting the dim
and chilly dawn, I can dream only of blood and
misery. Great green spectres dance about my
flickering lamp, and I arise uneasily to drive them
from your bed. But the time is past when children
believed in ghosts. You smile when we tell you of
the superstition and terror which surrounded our
childhood. Ghost stories which used to keep us
wide awake and trembling in our beds until the dull
break of day make you smile, and you sleep on. So
II



DEDICATION.

you want a simple and natural story, hey, young
man ? I will try to recall one of those which the
Abbe' Panorio related at Beppa, when I was in Venice.
The Abbe Panorio was of your opinion regarding
stories. He was sated with the fantastic. The con-
fessions of old fanatical women had made him look
upon witches and apparitions with horror. Neither
was he much in favor of sentimentality. Love
stories seemed to him very fooHsh ; but, like you,
he enjoyed the reveries of the lovers of nature, the
labors and trials of artists. His stories were always
founded on historic fact; and if they sometimes
made us sad, they ended always with a consoling
truth or a useful lesson.

It was during the beautiful summer nights, by
the light of the soft full moon of the eastern sea,
that, seated under an arbor all abloom, intoxicated
with the perfume of grape and jasmine, we were
enjoying our supper from midnight until two
o'clock in the gardens of Santa-Margarita. Our
companions were Assem Zuzuf, an honest merchant
of Corcyra, Seigneur Lelio, the leading singer in
the Fenice Theatre, Dr. Acroceronius, the charming
Beppa, and the excellent Abbe' Panorio. A nightin-
gale sang in its green cage suspended from the arbor
which sheltered our table. At the sherbet, Beppa

12



DEDICATION.

tuned a lute, and sang with a voice even more melo-
dious than that of the nightingale. The jealous bird
often interrupted him with precipitate runs, wild
outbursts of melody, or lyric declamation. Then
we extinguished the candles, and the nightingale was
silent. The moon tinted with delicate sapphires and
bluish diamonds the crystals and silver flagons
spread before us. Afar we heard the voluptuous
swell of the sea, breaking against the flowery beach,
and now and then the breeze wafted to us the
sound of the slow, monotonous recitative of the
gondoliers : —

" Intanto la bella Erminia fugge," etc.i

Then the abbe told us of the happy days of the
Republic and its lordly customs, when his fatherland
was at the zenith of its glory and power. At other
times, also, he had taken pleasure in recalling its
gayety and pomp. Although young, the abb^ knew
the history of Venice better than her oldest inhabit-
ants. He had lovingly studied it in her monuments
and public documents. He had also enjoyed search-
ing her popular traditions for the details regarding
the lives of some of her greatest artists. One day
he told us a little anecdote relating to Tintoretto and

1 " In the mean time, the beautiful Erminie nms (away)."
13



DEDICATION.

Titian, which I shall try to recall, if this warm breeze
swaying our linden trees, and the lark continuing his
ecstatic song among the clouds, are not interrupted
by a gale, and if the breath of spring opening our
lazy roses and expanding my heart deigns to blow
over us until to-morrow morning.




H



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.
I.

^'OELIEVE me, Messer Jacopo, I am a most un-
■L-^ happy father. I shall never be consoled for
this disgrace. We live in an age of decadency.
Hereditary prestige no longer prevails. In my time
every one tried to equal, if not to surpass, his par-
ents. To-day, provided one makes a fortune, no
one considers the means, no one fears to degrade
the established standard. The nobleman turns
shopkeeper; the master, workman; the architect,
mason; the mason, hod-carrier. Where will it all
end, holy Mother of God ? "

Thus spoke Messire Sebastian Zuccato, a painter
forgotten to-day, but noted in his time as the
teacher of the illustrious master, Jacopo Robusti,
better known to us by the name of Tintoretto.

" Ah ! ah ! '* replied the master, who, through
habitual preoccupation, was often extremely out-
15



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

spoken, " it is better to be a good workman than a
commonplace master, a great mechanic than a poor
artist, a—"

"Ah! ah! my dear master," exclaimed old Zuc-
cato, a little piqued, " do you mean by poor artists,
commonplace painters, the syndic of painters, the
master of so many masters who are the glory of
Venice, and form a grand constellation where you
are set like a star among its dazzling rays, but where
my pupil Titian shines with no less lustre?"

" Oh ! oh ! Master Sebastian," replied Tintoretto,
calmly, " if such stars and such constellations shed
their lustre on the Republic, if from your studio
come forth so many great masters, beginning with
the illustrious Titian, before whom I bow without
jealousy or resentment, we do not live in an age
of decadency, as you said just now."

"Ah, well! of course," said the dolorous old
man, impatiently, " it is a good age, a fine age for
the arts. But I cannot console myself with having
contributed to its glory and being the last to enjoy
it. What is it to me to have produced a Titian if
no one remembers it, and no one cares ? Who will
know it a hundred years hence.? Even to-day no
one would know it but for the gratitude of this
great man, who goes about everywhere singing my
i6



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

praises and calling me his dear compeer. But what
does it all amount to? Ah! why did not Heaven
allow me to be the father of Titian, that he might
be called Zuccato, or I be called Vecelli ? At least, my
name would live from age to age, and a thou'sand
years hence they would say, ' The head of that line
was a good master.' But I have two sons false to
my honor, faithless to the noble Muses, — two sons
full of brilliant talent, who should have made my
glory, who perhaps would have ecHpsed Giorgione,
Schiavone, the Bellini, Veronese, Titian, and even
Tintoretto himself. Yes, I venture to say that,
with their natural talents, and the advice which,
in spite of my age, I still think I could give them,
they might efface their ignominy, quit the ladder
of the workman, and mount the scaflfold of the
painter. It is for you then, my dear master, to
give me a new proof of the friendship with which
you honor me, by joining Messer Tiziano in a last
effort to curb the erring minds of these unfortunate
boys. If you can reclaim Francesco, he will take it
upon himself to bring back his brother ; for Valerio
is a young man without brains, I should say almost
without capacity, if he were not my son, and if
he had not occasionally given proof of intelligence
by the fresco friezes he has drawn on the walls of
17



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

his studio. My Checo is a very different man. He
can handle the brush like a master, and knows how
to impart to other artists those grand conceptions
which they, and even you, as you have often told
me, Messer Jacopo, do but execute. In addition to
this, he is refined, energetic, persevering, restless,
and ambitious. He has all the qualifications of
a great artist. Alas! I shall never understand
how he has allowed himself to follow such an evil
course."

''I will do what you wish," replied Tintoretto;
" but, first, I will tell you in all conscience what I
think of your bitter opposition to the profession
your sons have embraced. The mosaic art is not,
as you call it, a low vocation; it is a true art,
brought from Greece by able masters, of whom we
should speak only with deep respect; for this art
alone has preserved to us, still more than that of
painting on metal, the lost traditions of Byzantine
art. If it has transmitted them to us altered and
hardly recognizable, it is none the less true that
without it they would have been lost entirely.
Canvas does not outlast the ravages of time.
Apelles and Zeuxis have left only names. What
gratitude should we not feel to-day towards those
courageous artists, had they but immortalized their
i8



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

works by the aid of crystal and marble ! More-
over, the mosaic-work has preserved to us intact
the traditions of color; and herein, so far from
being inferior to painting, it has this advantage
which cannot be dented: it resists the wear and
tear of time, as well as the ravages of the atmos-
phere — "

" Since it resists so wel\" interrupted old Zuccato
testily, " how comes it that the Seigniory is repair-
ing all the domes of St. Mark's, which to-day are
as bare as my skull?"

" Because, at the time when they were decorated
with mosaics, Greek artists were scarce in Venice.
They came from a distance, and remained but a
short time. Their apprentices were hastily trained,
and executed the works intrusted to them without
knowing their business, and without being able to
give to them the necessary solidity. Now that this
art has been cultivated in Venice century after cen-
tury, we have become as skilful as the Greeks ever
were. The works of your son Francesco will be
handed down to posterity, and he will be blessed for
having placed upon the walls of our basilica imper-
ishable frescos. The canvas upon which Titian or
Veronese have flung their masterpieces will crumble
to dust, and a day will come when our great mas-
19



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

ters will be known only by the mosaics of the
Zuccati."

" Indeed, then/' said the obstinate old man, "you
might as well say that Scarpone, my shoemaker, is
a greater master than the Almighty ; for my foot,
which is the work of the Divinity, will crumble to
ashes, while my shoe will retain for ages the form
and impress of my foot."

" But the color, Messer Sebastian, the color I
Your comparison is worthless. What material man-
ufactured by the hand of man could preserve the
exact color of your flesh for an unlimited time, —
while stone and metal, primitive and unchangeable
substances, retain to the last grain of powder the
Venetian color, the most beautiful in all the world,
before which Buonarotti and all his Florentine school
are forced to lower the flag ? No, no, you are in
the wrong. Master Sebastian, you are unjust, if you
do not say, ' Honor to the engraver, the depositary
and propagator of correct drawing ! Honor to
the mosaic-worker, the guardian and preserver of
color ! ' "

" I am your humble servant," replied the old man.
"Thanks for your good advice, Messer. It only
remains for me to beseech you to see that my name
is engraved upon my tomb with the title Pictoi; so

20



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

that it may be known, a year after, that there was in
Venice a man of my name wiio handled the brush
and not the trowel."

"Tell me, Messer Sebastian," replied the kindly
master, interrupting him, " have you not seen the
last works executed by your sons in the interior of
the basilica?"

"God preserve me from ever seeing Francesco
and Valerio Zuccato hoisted up by a rope Uke
slaters, cutting enamel and handling mastic ! "

"But you know, my dear Sebastian, that these
works have obtained the greatest praise from the
Senate, and the highest compensation from the
Republic?"

**I know, Messer," answered Zuccato haughtily,
" that there is on the ladders of the basilica of St.
Mark a young man who is my oldest son, who for
a hundred ducats a year abandons the noble profes-
sion of his fathers, in spite of the reproaches of his
conscience and the humiliation of his pride. I know
that there walks the streets of Venice a young man
who is my second son, who, in order to pay for his
idle pleasures and foolish extravagance, consents
to sacrifice all his pride, hire himself out to his
brother, throw aside the much too elegant apparel
of the debauchee for the much too humble garb of

21



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

the workman, set himself up for a nobleman in the
gondolas in the evening, and play the part of a
mason all day, and all to pay for the supper and
serenade of the evening before. This I know,
Messer, and I know nothing more."

"And I tell you. Master Sebastian," replied Tin-
toretto, "that you have two good and noble sons,
two excellent artists, one of whom is industrious,
patient, original, painstaking, in fact, an acknowl-
edged master in his art ; while the other, lovable,
upright, genial, full of talent and enthusiasm, less
steady at his work perhaps, but more ready with
large ideas and lofty conceptions — "

"Yes, yes," retorted the old man, "ready with
ideas, and with words even more so. Oh, yes, I
know very well these theoretical people who feel
art, as they say, who explain it, define it, exalt it,
and do it no good. These are the lepers of the
studio. They make the noise, others do the work.
They come of too noble a race to work, or else they
have so much talent they do not know what to do
with it. Inspiration is the death of them. So, lest
they should be too much inspired, they prattle and
walk the streets from morning till night. Appar-
ently it is for fear the emotion of art and manual
labor will injure his health, that my son Valerio does

22



THE MASTER MOSAIC-WORKERS.

nothing with his ten fingers, and lets his brains run
away through his lips. This boy always makes me
think of a piece of canvas on which some one has
drawn, day after day, the first lines of a sketch
without taking the pains to erase the preceding ones,
presenting, after a little while, the odd spectacle of
a multitude of incoherent Unes, each one of which
might have had an intention and an end, but not
one of which would the artist, plunged in chaos, be


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