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versally known and celebrated.

The moment selected by the painter is described in the
twenty-sixth chapter of St. Matthew, twenty-first and
twenty-seconl verses: "And as they did eat, he said.
Verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me


and they were exceedingly sorrowful, and began every one
of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?" The knowledge
of character displayed in the heads of the different apostles
is even more wonderful than the skilful arrangement of the
figures and the amazing beauty of the workmanship. The
space occupied by the picture is a wall twenty-eight feet in
length, and the figures are larger than life. The best judg-
ment we can now form of its merits is from the fine copy
executed by one of Leonardo's best pupils, Marco Uggione,
for the Certosa at Pa via, and now in London, in the col-
lection of the Royal Academy. Eleven other copies, by
various pupils of Lionardo, painted either during his life-
time or within a few years after his death, while the picture
was in perfect preservation, exist in different churches and

Of the grand equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza, Lio-
nardo never finished more than the model in clay, which
was considered a masterpiece. Some years afterwards, (in
1499,) when Milan was invaded by the French, it was used
as a target by the Gascon bowmen, and completely destroyed.
The profound anatomical studies which Lionardo made for
this work still exist.

In the year 1500, the French being in possession of
Milan, his patron Ludovico in captivity, and the affairs of
the state in utter confusion, Lionardo returned to his native
Florence, where he honed to re-establish his broken for-
tunes, arid to find employment. Here begins the third
period of his artistic life, from 1500 to 1513, that is, from
his forty-eighth to his sixtieth year. He found the Medici
family in exile, but was received by Pietro Soderini (who
governed the city as " Gonfaloniere perpetuo ") with great
distinction, and a pension was assigned to him as painter in
the service of the republic.

Then began the rivalry between Lionardo and Michael
Angelo, which lasted during the remainder of Lionardo's


life. The difference of age (for Michael Angelo was twenty-
two years younger) ought to have prevented all unseemly
jealousy. Bat Michael Angelo was haughty, and impatient
of all superiority, or even equality ; Lioriardo, sensitive,
capricious, and naturally disinclined to admit the pretensions
of a rival, to whom he could sav, and did say, " I was famous
before you were born ! " With all their admiration of each
other's genius, their mutual frailties prevented any real
good-will on either side. The two painters competed for
the honor of painting in fresco one side of the great Council-
hall in the Palazzo Vecchio at Florence. Each prepared
his cartoon ; each, emulous of the fame and conscious of the
abilities of his rival, threw all his best powers into his work.
Lionardo chose for his subject the Defeat of the Milanese
general, ifcccolo Piccinino, by the Florentine army in 1440.
One of tna finest groups represented a combat of cavalry
disputing the possession of a standard. " It was so wonder-
fully executed, that the horses themselves seemed animated
by the same fury as their riders ; nor is it possible to de-
scribe the variety of attitudes, the splendor of the dresses
and armor of the warriors, nor the incredible skill displayed
in the forms and actions of the horses."

Michael Angelo chose for his subject the moment before
the same battle, when a party of Florentine soldiers bathing
in the Arno are surprised by the sound of the trumpet call-
ing them to^arms. Of this cartoon we shall have more to
say in treating of his life. The preference was given to
Lionardo da Vinci. But, as Vasari relates, he spent so
much time in trying experiments, and in preparing the wall
to receive oil painting, which he preferred to fresco, that in
the interval some changes in the government intervened,
and the design was abandoned. The two cartoons remained
for several years open to the public, and artists flocked from
every part of Italy to study them. Subsequently they were
cut up into separate parts, dispersed, and lost. It is curious


that of Michael Angelo's composition only one small copy
exists ; of Lionardo's, not one. From a fragment which ex-
isted in his time, but which has since disappeared, Rubens
made a fine drawing, which was engraved by Edelinck, and
is known as the Battle of the Standard.

It was a reproach against Lionardo, in his own time, that
he began many things and finished few ; that his magnificent
designs and projects, whether it art or mechanics, were sel-
dom completed. This may be a subject of regret, but it is
unjust to make it a reproach. It was in the nature of the
man. The grasp of his mind was so nearly superhuman,
that he never, in anything he effected, satisfied himself or
realized his own vast conceptions. The most exquisitely
finished of his works, those that in the perfection of the exe-
cution have excited the wonder and despair of succeeding
artists, were put aside by him as unfinished sketches. Most
of the pictures now attributed to him were wholly or in
part painted by his scholars and imitators from his cartoons.
One of the most famous of these was designed for the altar-
piece of the church of the convent called the Nunziata. It
represented the Virgin Mary seated in the lap of her
mother, St. Anna, having in her arms the infant Christ,
while St. John is playing with a lamb at their feet; St.
Anna, looking on with a tender smile, rejoices in her divine
offspring. The figures were drawn with such skill, and the
various expressions proper to each conveyed with such inim-
itable truth and grace, that, when exhibited in a chamber of
the convent, the inhabitants of the city flocked to see it, and
for two days the streets were crowded with people, " as if it
had been some solemn festival " ; but the picture was never
painted, and the monks of the Nunziata, after waiting kng
and in vain for their altar-piece, were obliged to employ
other artists. The cartoon, or a very fine repetition of it,
is now in the possession of the Royal Academy, and it must
not be confounded with the St. Anna in the Louvre, a more
fantastic and apparently an earlier composition.


Lionardo, during his stay at Florence, painted the por-
trait of Ginevra Benci, already mentioned, in the memoir of
Ghirlandajo. as the reigning beauty of her time ; and also
the portrait of Mona Lisa del Giocondo, sometimes called
La Joconde. On this last picture he worked at intervals
for four years, but was still unsatisfied. It was purchased
by Francis I. for four thousand golden crowns, and is now
in the Louvre. We find Lionardo also engaged by Crcsar
Borgia to visit and report on the fortifications of his territo-
ries, and in this office he was employed for two years. In
1514 he was invited to Rome by Leo X., but more in his
character of philosopher, mechanic, and alchemist, than as a
painter. Here he found Raphael at the height of his fame,
and then engaged in his greatest works, the frescos of
the Vatican. Two pictures which Lionardo painted while
at Rome the Madonna of St. Onofrio, and the Holy Fam-
ily, painted for Filiberta of Savoy, the Pope's sister-in-law
(which is now at St. Petersburg) show that even this
veteran in art felt the irresistible influence of the genius of
his young rival. They were both Raffaellesque in the sub-
ject and treatment.

It appears that Lionardo was ill-satisfied with his sojourn
at Rome. He had long been accustomed to hold the first
rank as an artist wherever he resided ; whereas at Rome he
found himself only one among many who, if they acknowl-
edged his greatness, affected to consider his day as past.
Ho was conscious that many of the improvements m the
arts which were now brought into use. and which enabled
the painters of the day to produce such extraordinary effects,
were invented or introduced by himself. If he could no
longer assert that measureless superiority over all others
which he had done in his younger days, it was because he
himself had opened to them new paths to excellence. The
arrival of his old competitor Michael Angelo, and some
slight on the part of Leo X., who was annoyed by his spec-


ulative and dilatory habits in executing the works intrusted
to him, all added to his irritation and disgust. He left
Rome, and set out for Pavia, where the French king Fran-
cis I. then held his court. He was received by the young
monarch with every mark of respect, loaded with favors,
and a pension of seven hundred gold crowns settled on him
for life. At the famous conference between Francis I. and
Leo X. at Bologna, Lionardo attended his new patron, and
was of essential service to him on that occasion. In the fol-
lowing year, 1516, he returned with Francis I. to France,
and was attached to the French court as principal painter.
It appears, however, that during his residence in France he
did not paint a single picture. His health had begun to
decline from the time lie left Italy ; and, feeling his end
approach, he prepared himself for it by religious meditation,
by acts of charity, and by a most conscientious distribution
by will of all his worldly possessions to his relatives and
friends. At length, after protracted suffering, this great
and most extraordinary man died at Cloux, near Amboise,
on the 2d of May, 1519, being then in his sixty-seventh
year. It is to be regretted that we cannot wholly credit
the beautiful story of his dying in the arms of Francis I.,
who, as it is said, had come to visit him on his death-bed. It
would, indeed, have been, as Fuseli expressed it, "an honor
to the king, by which Destiny would have atoned to that
monarch for his future disaster at Pavia," had the incident
really happened, as it has been so often related by biogra-
phers, celebrated by poets, represented with a just pride by
painters, and willingly believed by all the world ; but the
well-authenticated fact that the court was on that day at St.
Germain-en-Laye, whence the royal ordinances are dated,
renders the story, unhappily, very doubtful.



TIZIANO VECELLI was born at Cadore in the Friuli, a
district to the north of Venice, where the ancient family of
the Vecelli had been long settled. There is something very
amusing and characteristic in the first indication of his love
of art ; tor while it is recorded of other young artists that
they took a piece of charcoal or a piece of slate to trace the
images in their fancy, we are told that the infant Titian,
with an instinctive feeling prophetic of his future excellence
as a colorist, used the expressed juice of certain flowers to
paint a figure of a Madonna. When he was a boy of nine
years old his father, Gregorio, carried him to Venice and
placed him under the tuition of Sebastian Zuccato, a
painter and worker in mosaic. He left this school for
that of the Bellini, where the friendship and fellowship of
Giorgione seems early to have awakened his mind to new
ideas of art and color. Albert Durer. who was at Venice
in 1494, and again in 1507, also influenced him. At this
time, when Titian and Giorgione were youths of eighteen
and nineteen, they lived and worked together. It has been
related that they were employed in painting the frescos of
the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. The preference being given to
Titian's performance, which represented the story of Judith,
caused such a jealousy between the two friends, that they
ceased to reside together ; but at this time, and for some
years afterwards, the influence of Giorgione on the mind
and the style of Titian was such that it became difficult to
distinguish their works ; and on the death of Giorgione,
Titian was required to complete his unfinished pictures.
This great lo?s to Venice and the world left him in the
prime of youth without a rival. We find him for a few
years chiefly employed in decorating the palaces of the
Venetian nobles, both in the city and on the mainland.


The first of his historical compositions which is celebrated
by his biographers is the Presentation of the Virgin in
the Temple, a large picture, now in the Academy of
Arts at Venice ; and the first portrait recorded is that of
Catherine, Queen of Cyprus, of which numerous repeti-
tions and copies were scattered over all Italy. There is
a fine original in the Dresden Gallery. This unhappy
Catherine Cornaro, the "daughter of St. Mark," having
been forced to abdicate her crown in favor of the Venetian
state, was at this time living in a sort of honorable captivity
at Venice. She had been a widow for forty years, and he
has represented her in deep mourning, holding a rosarv in
her hand, the face still bearing traces of that beauty for
which she was celebrated.

It appears that Titian was married about 1512, but of his
wife we do not hear anything more. It is said that her
name was Lucia, and we know that she bore him three chil
dren, two sons, and a daughter called Lavinia. It .seems
probable, on a comparison of dates, that she died about the
year 1530.

One of the earliest works on which Titian was engaged
was the decoration of the convent of St. Antony, at Padua,
in which he executed a series of frescos from the life of St.
Antony. He was next summoned to Ferrara by the Duke
Alphonso I., and was employed in his service for at least
two years. He painted for this prince the beautiful picture
of Bacchus and Ariadne, which is now in the National Gal-
lery, and which represents on a small scale an epitome of
all the beauties which characterize Titian, in the rich, pictur-
esque, animated composition, in the ardor of Bacchus, who
flings himself from his car to pursue Ariadne; the dancing
bacchanals, the frantic grace of the bacchante, and the little
joyous satyr in front, trailing the head of the sacrifice. He
painted for the same prince two other festive subjects: one
in which a nymph and two men are dancing, while another


nymph lies asleep ; and a third, in which a number of chil-
dren and cupids are sporting round a statue of Venus.
There are here upwards of sixty figures in every variety
of attitude, some fluttering in the air, some climbing the
fruit-trees, some shooting arrows, or embracing each other.
This picture is known as the Sacrifice to the Goddess of
Fertility. While it remained in Italy, it was a study for
the first painters, for Poussin, the Carracci, Albano, and
Fiamingo the sculptor, so famous for his models of children.
At Ferrara, Titian also painted the portrait of the first wife
of Alphonso, the famous and infamous Lucrezia Borgia;
and here also he formed a friendship with the poet Ariosto,
whose portrait he painted.

At this time he was invited to Rome by Leo X., for
whom Raphael, then in the zenith of his powers, was execut-
ing some of his finest works. It is curious to speculate
what influence these two distinguished men might have
exercised on each other had they met ; but it was not so
decreed. Titian was strongly attached to his home and his
friends at Venice ; and to hi< birthplace, the little town of
Cadore, he paid an annual summer visit. His long absence
at Ferrara had wearied him of courts and princes; and,
instead of going to Rome to swell the luxurious state of Leo
X., he returned to Venice and remained there stationary for
the next few years, enriching its palaces and churches with
his magnificent works. These were so numerous that it
would be in vain to attempt to give an account even of those
considered as the finest among them. Two, however, must be
pointed out as pre-eminent in beauty and celebrity. First,
the Assumption of the Virgin, painted for the Church of
Santa Maria de' Frari, and now in the Academy of the
Fine Arts at Venice, and well known from the magnificent
engraving of Schiavone the Virgin is soaring to heaven
amid groups of angels, while the apostles gaze upwards;
and, se '.ondly, the Death of St. Peter Martyr when attacked


by assassins at the entrance of a wood ; the resignation of
the prostrate victim and the ferocity of the murderer, the
attendant flying ** in the agonies of cowardice," with the trees
waving their distracted boughs amid the violence of the tem-
pest, have rendered this picture famous as a piece of scenic
poetry as well as of dramatic expression.

The next event of Titian's life was his journey to Bologna
in 1530. In that year the Emperor Charles V. and Pope
Clement VII. met at Bologna, each surrounded by a bril-
liant retinue of the most distinguished soldiers, statesmen,
and scholars, of Germany and Italy. Through the influence
of his friend Aretino, Titian was recommended to the Car-
dinal Ippolito de' Medici, the Pope's nephew, through whose
patronage he was introduced to the two potentates who sat
to him. One of the portraits of Clement VII., painted at
this time, is now in the Bridgewater Gallery. Charles V.
was so satisfied with his portrait, that he became the zealous
friend and patron of the painter. It is not precisely known
which of several portraits of the Emperor painted by Titian
was the one executed at Bologna on this memorable occa-
sion, but it is supposed to be that which represents him on
horseback charging with his lance, now in the Royal Gallery
at Madrid, and of which Mr. Rogers possesses the original
study. The two portraits of Ippolito de' Medici in the Pitti
Palace and the Louvre were also painted at this period.

After a sojourn of some months at Bologna, Titian re-
turned to Venice loaded with honors and rewards. There
was no potentate, prince, or poet, or reigning beauty, who
did not covet the honor of being immortalized by his pencil.
He had, up to this time, managed his worldly affairs with
great economy ; but now he purchased for himself a house
opposite to Murano, and lived splendidly, combining with
the most indefatigable industry the liveliest enjoyment of
existence ; his favorite companions were the architect San
Bovino and the witty profligate Pietro Aretii o. Titian has


often been reproached with his friendship for Aretino, and
nothing can be said in his excuse, except that the proudest
princes in Europe condescended to flatter and caress this
unprincipled literary ruffian, who was pleased to designate
himself as the ' ; friend of Titian, and the scourge of princes."
One of the finest of Titian's portraits is that of Aretino, in
the Munich Gallery.

Thus in the practice of his art, in the society of his
friends, and in the enjoyment of the pleasures of life, did
Titian pass several years. The only painter of his time
who was deemed worthy of competing with him was Lieinio
Regillo, better known as Pordenone, Between Titian and
Pordenone there existed not merely rivalry, but a personal
hatred, so bitter that Pordenone affected to think his life in
danger, and when at Venice painted with his shield and
poniard lying beside him. As long as Pordenone lived,
Titian had a spur to exertion, to emulation. All the other
good painters of the time, Palma, Bonifazio, Tintoretto,
were his pupils or his creatures ; Pordenone would never
owe anything to him; and the picture called the St. Jus-
tina, at Vienna, shows that he could equal Titian on his own

After the death of Pordenone at Ferrara, in 1539, Titian
was left without a rival. Everywhere in Italy art was on
the decline : Lionardo, Raphael, Correggio, had all passed
away. Titian himself, at the age of sixty, was no longer
young, but he still retained all the vigor and the freshness
of youth ; neither eye nor hand, nor creative energy of mind
had failed him yet. He was again invited to Ferrara, and
painted there the portrait of the old Pope Paul III. He
then visited Urbino, where he painted for the Duke the fa-
mous Venus which hangs in the Tribune of the Florence Gal-
lery, and many other pictures. He again, by order of Charles
V., repaired to Bologna, and painted the Emperor, standing,
and by his side a favorite Irish wolf-dog. This picture was


given by Philip IV. to Charles I. of England, but after his
death was sold into Spain, and is now at Madrid.

Pope Paul III. invited him to Rome, whither he repaired
in 1548. There he painted that wonderful picture of the
old Pope with his two nephews, the Duke Ottavio and Car-
dinal Farnese, which is now at Vienna. The head of the
Pope is a miracle of character and expression. A keen-vis-
aged, thin little man, with meagre fingers like birds' claws,
and an eager cunning look, riveting the gazer like the eye of
a snake, nature itself! and the Pope had cither so little
or so much vanity as to be perfectly satisfied. He rewarded
the painter munificently; he even offered to make his son
Pomponio Bishop of Ceneda, which Titian had the good
sense to refuse. While at Rome he painted several pic-
tures for the Farnese family, among them the Venus and
Adonis, of which a repetition is in the National Gallery,
and a Danae which excited the admiration of Michael An-
gelo. At this time Titian was seventy-two.

He next, by command of Charles V., repaired to Augs-
burg, where the Emperor held his court: eighteen years
had elapsed since he first sat to Titian, and he was now
broken by the cares of government, far older at fifty than
the painter at seventy-two. It was at Augsburg that the
incident occurred which has been so often related : Titian
dropped his pencil, and Charles, taking it up and presenting
it, replied to the artist's excuses that " Titian was worthy of
being served by Cassar." This pretty anecdote is not with-
out its parallel in modern times. When Sir Thomas Law-
rence was painting at Aix-la-Chapelle. as he stooped to place
a picture on his easel, the Emperor of Russia anticipated him,
and, taking it up, adju ted it himself; but we do not hear
that he made any speech on the occasion. When at Augs-
burg, Titian was ennobled and created a count of the em-
pire, with a pension of two hundred gold ducats, and his son
Pomponio was appointed canon of the cathedral of Milan.


After the abdication and death of Charles V., Titian contin-
ued in great favor with his successor Philip II., for whom
he painted several pictures. It is not true, however, thai
Titian visited Spain. The assertion that lie did so rests on
the sole authority of Palomino, a Spanish writer on art, and,
though wholly unsupported by evidence, has been copied
from one book into another. Later researches have proved
that Titian returned from Augsburg to Venice; and an
uninterrupted series of letters and documents, with dates of
time and place, remain to show that, with the exception of
this visit to Augsburg and another to Vienna, he resided
constantly in Italy, and principally at Venice, from 1530 to
his death. Notwithstanding the compliments and patronage
and nominal rewards he received from tlv j Spanish court,
Titian was worse off under Philip II. than he had been
under Charles V. : his pension was constantly in arrears ;
the payments for his pictures evaded by the officials : and
we find the great painter constantly presenting petitions
and complaints in moving terms, which always obtained gra-
cious but illusive answers. Philip II., who commanded the
riches of the Indies, was for many years a debtor to Titian
for at least two thousand gold crowns ; and his accounts
were not settled at the time of his death. For Queen
Mary of England, who wished to patronize one favored by
her husband, Titian painted several pictures, some of which
were in the possession of Charles I. ; others had been car-
ried to Spain after the death of Mary, and are now in the
Royal Gallery at Madrid.

Besides the pictures painted by command for royal and
noble patrons, Titian, who was unceasingly occupied, had
always a great number of pictures in his house which he
presented to his friends, or to the officers and attendants of
the court, as a means of procuring their favor. There is
extant a letter of Aretino, in which he describes the scene
which took place when the Emperor summoned his favorite



painter to attend the court at Augsburg. " Tt was," he
says, " the most flattering testimony to his excellence to
behold, as soon as it was known that the divine painter was
sent for, the crowds of people running to obtain, if possible,

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 61 of 66)