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A. L. (Antoine Laurent) Castellan.

Letters on Italy : illustrated by engravings online

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seen busily employed with his workmen in the labours of the
forge: — a miller, also, carries sacks of grain to a mill, the me-
chanism of which is most complete. — In the distance is heard
the sound of horns and the barking of dogs, and we are enter
tained with the representation of a hunt: many wild animals
run across the bottom of the stage, pursued by a pack of
hounds and hunters. — In the foreground, birds, perched in the
branches, pour forth their song; and swans and ducks are
seen sporting in the waters.

A theatre placed opposite to the former represents the attack
and taking of a fortress. There are also several other me-
chanical inventions, all very ingenious, and astonishing, when
we consider the period at which they were executed.

The grotto delta Stuffa, or of the Bath, is small, but orna-
mented very carefully with madrepores and corals, from which



Pratolino. ^

an exceedingly fine rain escapes, or rather a tepid mist, which
sinks into the basin of the batli. This basin occupies the centre
of the grotto : it is of red marble, and is supplied at will with
cold or warm water, from two satyrs of bronze. From the
grottos you descend into the gardens by two magnificent flights
of steps.

In the construction of these grottos it seems as if all the
resources of the most inventive art had been exhausted to
obviate the attacks of heat ; though one would almost think it
impossible to preserve the liumidity and freshness of this arti-
ficial atmosphere. Nevertheless, they have here contrived,
under the influence of a fiery sky, to create a new temperature,
of the most equal mildness; comparable indeed with that ot
the gardens of Arm ida, the delusions of which were probably
intended to be here realized; unless, as we have already in-
sinuated, Tasso himself has copied the gardens of Pratolino.

On leaving the grotto which we have just described, you
'enter a magnificent avenue of fir trees and tufted laurels,
which, extending along an insensible declivity for about nine
hundred feet, is mingled at its extremity with the masses qf
wood which cover the neighbouring mountains.

The grotto of Cupid, the fountain of Esculapius, the urns,
the tombs, and the statues, which people these woods with
recollections, attest the respect of the Medici for the precious
monuments of art and antiquity — here rises Mount Parnassus,
with the statues of Apollo and the Muses ; Pegasus is boimd-
ing from the summit of the mountain, whence also a limpid
stream starts, the sound of which is mingled with the
notes of a musical instrument, which is played by water —
there rise fountains, ornamented with groups of statues, re-
presenting fabulous personages, or scenes from common life.

That temple of such architectural elegance is consecrated
to love and the graces I This rude grotto, covered with moss,
forms a slielter from the storm — to such a cave Dido and
iEneas retreated. A ray of light piercing the rocky cieling,
enables us to distinguish the verses of Virgil carved on the
marble.

In the midst of a retired spot, a stream flows through the
scented shrubs, giving increase to the waters of several little
lakes, which are completely surrounded with large forest
trees ; a light skift' conveys you to an islet covered with the
thickest foliage, where a seat of turf covered with daisies is
the only ornament of the thicket — retired from the gaze of the
world, shut out from every interruption, here you can medi-
tate at leisure, invited to contemplation rather than disturbed
by the murmur of the leaves, and of the Avaters. From out



94 Castellan's Travels in Italy,

the myrtles and the rose hushes rises a cohimn, on which are
engraved some verses consecrating the stillness of this retreat
to the divinity of mystery.

Such are the gardens of Pratolino, such is the vast enclosure
fenced in by a curtain of impenetrable forests, where Fran-
cesco de Medici forgot fame and honour in the lap of plea-
sure. The seductive Bianca Capello was the queen of these
solitudes ; frequently armed with the symbols of Diana, and
surrounded like her' with her nymphs, she traversed the woods
to the sounds of horns and warlike music ; more frequently,
however, in the diviner habit of the queen of love, she wan-
dered through these paths with her lover, consecrating the
places which witnessed their delights, with monuments, alas !
more durable than their happiness.

Having now given some account of the palace and gardens
of Pratolino, I shall proceed to say something of that extraor-
dinary work the Colossus of the Apennines. In front of the
castle I have said there lies an open space of ground about
300 feet in length, and 100 in breadth; this piece of ground is
bordered on each side by loity fir trees and beeches, the
trunks of which are hidden by tufts of laurels, in which are
placed niches for statues ; the middle of it is covered with
turf, and farther on a piece of water extends itself in the
shape of a half-circle, behind n hich rises the colossal statue of
the Apennines.

Rising from an elevated and apparently irregular base,
to which you arrive by two flights of steps which follow the
semicircular bend of the basin, this statue at first appears to
be a pyramidal rock, on which the hand of man has rudely
attempted to execute the project which the statuary intended
to work on Mount Athos, and M'hich Alexander had the proud
wisdom to reject ; but on a second view we recognize the
genius of a pupil, and worthy rival of the great Michael An-
gelo.

John of Bologna, inspired by the writings of the ancients,
executed in this work, the idea which they formed, and
have transmitted to us of their Jupiter Flu vi alls, a name
much more applicable to this figure than tliat of the Colossus
of the Apennines, which has been attributed to it one knows
not why. The; style is grand, and the character of the head
is perfectly suited to the subject ; his bushy temples brave the
storm, and seem covered with a hoar frost ; his hair descends
like icicles upon his large shoulders, and the locks of his
beard resemble stalactites. In order to add to the extraordi-
nary effect of this Colossus, a sort of crown is placed on his
head formed of small Je^« d'eav. which fall upon his shoulders^



Colossits of the Appemiines, 95

and rolling over the whole figure make it sparkle in the rays
of the sun.

The position is good, setting and bending forward, the God
rests one hand on a rock, whilst the other presses the head of
a marine monster, which spouts a large volume of water j
although by this position much of his height is lost, his head
still overtops the trees, and standing off from the blue heavens
almost seems to touch the clouds ; it would be difficult to
imagine a more picturesque and perfect composition in all its
proportions ; when you gaze on it you perceive no enormous
disparity with the objects around, so well does it harmonize
with all that surrounds it, and you only conceive an idea of
its real magnitude, by comparing it with the groups of pas-
sengers, which, when seen at a certain distance, resemble
pigmies : if we suppose this giant standing up, it would not
be too much to say, that he would be an hundred feet in
height.

In the interior of the body there are several apartments,
and in the head there is a beautiful chamber, to which the
eye-balls serve as windows j the extremities are constructed
of a coarse laying of stones ; the trunk is formed of bricks
covered with mortar or cement, which has acquired the hard-
ness of marble, but which when fresh must have been easily
worked, and capable of taking the requisite impressions.

It is said that many of the pupils of John of Bologna who
were employed on this work, when they came to execute
figures of ordinary dimensions, found that in their giant
labours they had lost their exactness of eye and skill of hand.

The untenanted Pratolino is now a melancholy spectacle j
the vast apartments, the long galleries, formerly ornamented
with pictures or rich hangings, now only display the naked-
ness of uncovered walls ; the mosaic pavements are covered
with dust, and the wind sobs through the broken casements.
This beautiful place, now almost forgotten, attracts only the
traveller, whose affection for the arts prompts him to search
for them in the midst of the ruins, w hich the hand of time
and the negligence of man have accumulated.

In the gardens, the walks, formerly so level and covered
with the finest gravel, are now broken into gutters, or
choaked up sometimes with briars, and sometimes by the
enormous branches of some pine which has been struck with
lightning; every thing has broken from out the bounds in
which they were anciently confined; the walls are crumbling
away ; and in the midst of the disjointed statues, parasitic
plants spring up, and fasten their clasping fingers, covering
them with a sombre verdure. The virgin vme climbing



"96 Castellan* s Travels in Italy,

round the columns, mingles its light garlands with the ara-
besque ornaments which run along the friezes, and which are
themselves only an imitation of this natural and rustic decora-
tion.

A few marble statues arc still standing, but they are all
mutilated, or if any of them are still perfect, they owe their
preservation to the thorny shrubs which surround their base.
Mosses and lichens however are destroying what even man
appears to have been forced to respect. Every where art slowly
yielding to nature has nothing to oppose to her but her own
massiness and vis inertice.



LETTER XIV.



Campo-Santo-— Description of the Pictures — Convents of the
Apennines — TJie Hermit — Conclusion.



L HE distance between Florence and Pisa is traversed with
such facility and pleasure, that it is more like taking a walk
than a journey. There is no country which abounds with more
beautiful prospects, or where cultivation is better understood,
or which is inhabited by a race whose exterior announces more
ease, sweetness, and urbanity. The fields are like gardens,
and the rivers resemble canals bordered with picturesque edi-
fices, connected together with garlands of foliage, flowers, and
fruits. There is no exaggeration in this picture. The banks
of the Arno are planted with fruit trees, round which the vines
cling, and their branches intertwining with one another, form
garlands of the most picturesque beauty.

I enjoyed with great zest my visit to the celebrated Campo-
Santo, where the artist can form an exact idea of the revival
of painting, since he finds there specimens of the earliest mo-
dern painters, not dispersed and confounded with other works,
which must necessarily throw them into the shade, but united
and following one another in regular progression. By this
means he can judge ot the affiliation of picturesque ideas, and
of their successive developement, till he arrives at the works
of the great artists of the sixteenth century, who carried
painting to the highest pitch of perfection.

The Campo-Santo is a most magnificent building ; the inside
is coated with black marble, and the outside is covered with



Campo Santo. 97

lead : the interior of the building is most rich in architecture^
sculpture, and painting. It was intended to be used as a place
of sepulture for the principal inhabitants of Pisa, and to per-
petuate, by inscriptions and other funeral monuments, the
memory of those persons who had distinguished themselves in
science or the arts.

The shape of the edifice at first view appears to be a right
angle, but it is in fact slightly rhomboidal, that is to say, the
corners are not exact right angles. The pavement of the
cloister is formed into different compartments of various co-
loured marbles, and these compartments display monumental
stones, on which are engraved the names and the arms of the
ancient families of Pisa, to the number of more than six hun-
dred. Under the arcade there are placed some ancient Sar-
cophagi, supported on brackets ; they amount in number to
about six hundred, and they all of them have covers or lids -
most of them are of Parian marble; they are ornamented with
mythological or similar subjects, and, from the inscriptions
which yet remain on them, they are of Etmscan or else of
Grecian or Roman origin. Notwithstanding this, most of the
Sarcophagi contain the ashes of noble Pisans.

Before the erection of the Campo-Santo these tombs were
ranged around the Avails of the cathedral. Being afterwards,
about the year 1297, placed outside of the cloister, where they
were exposed to total destruction, they were collected under
the arcades by Ferdinand de Medici, who gave a proof of his
love for the arts, by causing them to be deposited in the place
which they now occupy. Nevertheless, whether it was owing
to the ignorance of those who were entrusted to convey them,
or whether the dilapidated state, in which some of the sculp-
tures were, made them look upon them as unw^orthy of their
attention, certainly a great quantity, and those too of the most
valuable kind, were neglected. They are all of the best age
of sculpture, and have served as models to the early Pisan
artists, whom we may call the restorers of sculpture.

Independently of these Sarcophagi, there are other antique
monuments dispersed here and there on the walls, as well as
a variety of modern tombs erected at different periods. We
will finish what we have to say of these curiosities before we
describe the singular paintings which cover the walls of this
immense edifice.

Near a miliary column, on the ancient Via Emilia, there is
an antique bas-relief, which has been long supposed to have
been wrought in commemoration of a cage of iron, in which
an enormous serpent was enclosed in 1109 by the skill of a
man called Nino Orlandi, and carried in triumph through the

Voyages and Travels, No. 5, Vol. IIL O



98 Castellan's Travels in Italy.

streets of Pisa. It is said the marble was sculptured and placed
on this spot in memory of this strange achievement, Avhich
has been mentioned bv many historians. I rather thmk that
there is veiy little credit due either to the tradition or to the
inscription/ which was only made in 1777; for one view of the
monument plainly shews that the bas-relief bears no traces of
a cage or a serpent, while the marble indicates an age stdl
more remote than the fact in question. This marble is in fact
only a fragment of an antique sarcophagus.

Amongst the ancient tombs there is one bearing the follow-
ing inscription : — ■

D. M. T. MLIUS. AUG. LIB. LUCIFER. FIBUS. {vivus) SIBL
POSUIT.

In fact, amongst the ancients there are many examples of
people who, not having any great confidence in their heirs,
have raised their own tombs in their life-time, in order to be
sure that their names would reach posterity. The Campo-
Santo presents a modern instance of this singular precaution.
It is the tomb of Filippo Decio, a lawyer of Milan, and a pro-
fessor in the university of Pisa. We shall only quote the last
words of the inscription, which are curious : —

. hoc sepulcrum sibifabricari curavit, ne posteris suis crederet.

Amongst other modern tombs that of Matteo Corte, a phi-
losopher and physician of Pavia, is curious : it was built in
1544 by order of the Grand Duke Cosmo. The statue reposing
on the cenotaph is from nature ; the drapery is fine ; the head
rests upon the right hand, the fingers of which are lost in the
curls of his long beard; his left hand holds a closed book.
The skilfiil sculptor seems almost to have given a new and
eternal life to his model.

It is well known that Tuscany had the honour of mainly
contributing to the revival of the arts in modern times. The
Pisans distinguished themselves by the eifectual encouragement
M^hich at this period they afforded, and the Campo-Santo be-
came the theatre in which, successively, the most celebrated^
pictures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuiy were displayed.
Here you see passing in review, as it were, Giotto, Simon de
Sienna, Buffalmacco, Piero Laurati, the Brothers Orcagna,
Spinello d'Arezzo, Taddeo Bartoli, and lastly, Benozzo Goz-
zoli, who surpassed them all, and who, in concert with his
coteniporary Masaccio, gave existence to that new style, which,
superseding that of Giotto, spread itself abroad throughout
Europe, and more especially in Flanders, and served as a
model for the great masters of the following age.



Campo Santo. 99

It is very curious to see, in the pictures of Campo-Santo,
painting" rising through various stages to perfection. As we
trace it, we see it casting off its early rude clothing, assuming
a form of simplicity, and then of elegance, then attaining
beauty and natural graces, till it at last reaches that sublime
and ideal beauty, beyond which all is exaggeration — the rock
on which art founders when the boundaries of reason are once
passed.

The first paintings, which you see on the left, are descriptive
of the life of St. Ranieri, the protector of Pisa. There are six
in immber, and in two lines ; the three higher ones are attri-
buted to Simon Memmi di Sienna, and those below to Antonio
called Veneziano, from his having painted many pictures at
Venice : he was however born at Florence, where he learned
the art of painting under Angelo Gaddi. Simon Memmi was
the pupil of Giotto, according to Vasari, but according to the
conjectures in the Lettere Senesi^ he appears rather to have been
a pupil of Francesco Jacopo di Turrita. He commenced about
the year 1300, and painted till 1344. You remark in his pic-
tures more grace and less hardness than in those of his cotem-
poraries. He was particularly celebrated for his skill in por-
trait-painting ; and Pandolfo Malatesta sent for him to Avignon
to take the portrait of Petrarch. The poet begged him to
trace for him the features of his beloved Laura, and he recom-
pensed him with two sonnets in his praise, which will form a
more lasting monument than any of his paintings.

Dante had already immortalized Giotto in those well known
verses —

Cedette Cimahue nella pittura

Tener lo campo, ed ora Giotto il grido

Siche la Jama di colui osciwa.

Giovanni Villani, the historian, calls him the most cele-
brated master of his day, and Angelo Politiano commences
the sepulcral inscription which was raised by the command of
Lorenzo de Medici, with these words : —

Ilia ego sum per quern picturu extincta revixit.

Giotto has also contributed to the embellishment of the
Campo-Santo. The paintings which represent the history of
Job added so greatly to his reputation that Benedict XI. sent
for him to Rome, and entrusted him with the execution of se-
veral pictures, of which only some very slight remains are
now to be found.

On the same side are seen some paintings of Spinello Are-
tino, which are not very excellent ; and as you return on the
western side are some of Ghirlandajo, and a few of more mo-



100 Castellan's Travels in Italy.

deni date, executed in the places of those which have been
destroyed.

We' now arrive at the northern part of the cloister, where in
the first compartments we see the history of the creation,
painted by Buonamico Buffalmacco, a pupil of Andrea Tafi.
The first of these pictures occupies the whole height of the
cloister, and presents a gigantic figure of the eternal Father,
embracing and sustaining the whole celestial system, such as
it was conceived to be at this period. Then follow the prin-
cipal facts in Genesis to the Flood. The pictures of this artist
are remarkable for their simplicity, and even grace, and for
the justice of movement and expression which they display,
though they have a dryness of contour and a stiffness of fonii,
which betray the infancy of art. In representing Noah's Ark
he has given the exact forms of various mechanical instruments.
The costume of his figures is extremely simple and pictiu'esque,
with the exception of the shoes, which are long and pointed
beyond measure. His perspective is veiy bad. The paintings
which follow are the work of an artist who was a man of ge-
nius, Benozzo Gozzoli, much admired in the fifteenth centuiy,
and by the greatest painters of the following age, to whom his
works served as models ; but who was despised as soon as he
was surpassed. All eyes and all hopes were turned to that ele-
vated station where sat Michael Angelo and Raffaele. Nothing
else was studied but their works, and no account was taken of
those who had pointed out the way. In the pictures of this
artist those seeds of talent are discernible which grew to bril-
liant maturity in the works of Raffaele. Divinity is repre-
sented in a becoming manner, while the simple grace and an-
gelic beauty of his virgins and heavenly ministers, the noble
and severe character of his patriarchs, and in one word the
whole variety of his phisiognomies are all exceedingly appro-
priate and true to nature. In design he is easy, though not
without force. The proportions of his figures are elegant,
their postures are noble and graceful, and their movements are
just and expressive. His draperies are large, and adjusted
with taste. His colouring often possesses vigour and bright-
ness, and his tints are skilftilly managed. Gozzoli may be
considered the precursor of Raffaele. The pictures of this
artist at Campo-Santo are twenty-three in number, occupying
in two rows a space of three hundred and twenty-four feet,
with the exception of five pictures by other artists. It is
scarcely possible to believe, although tradition and historical
evidence agree upon the fact, that these pictures commenced
in 1434, were completed in the space of two years, a most ter-
rible enterprize, fit, as Vasari says, to frigl^ten a whole legion



Vov: roi .j/i.v^r.




CKi'l-"!!' O - PORTICr S .



(hmpo Santo. 101

of painters, when one takes into account the time absolutely
necessary for subsisting the bodily powers only, still more
above the capacity of one man, whatever might be his active
facility. We can only account for the fact, by supposing that
Benozzo was assisted by his pupils.

Many of these pictures are almost entirely destroyed. Some
of them have been retouched, and the rapid approaches of
the destruction which threatens those in the best state of
preservation are visible. They are daily falling in por-
tions from the walls. An ingenious engraver, who has been
employed in preserving these specimens of art to after times,
has had the chagrin of frequently seeing fragments of figures
crumbling before his eyes, which he was just about to copy.
It has been remarked with surprise, that under the stucco,
which is pretty thick, and on the wall which is exposed by the
falUng of the mortar, the painters appear to have traced the
outline of their composition in a red tint, and that this sketch,
very wonderfully, has a perfect correspondence with the con-
tours of the painting executed on the stucco, although the
plaister must have completely concealed the first labour I

The pictures of Rondinosi, a Pisan artist, painted about
1666, follow those of Gozzoli. As we gaze on them we invo-
luntarily repeat the verse of Dante : —

Non favellar di lor ma guarda e passa.

The chapel at the bottom of the Campo-Santo, which is sur-
mounted by a cupola, was erected by the Archbishop Carlo-
Antonio del Pozzo, and was consecrated in 1593.

Over the altar is seen a picture by Aurelio Lomi, painted in
1595, which represents St. Jerome with a pair of spectacles on
his nose. This anacronism is common with several painters,
ignorant that spectacles were not invented till the twelfth
century.

Andrea Orgagna, or Orcagna, was a sculptor, a painter,
and a poet, and a great admirer of Dante. His picture of the
Last Judgment, though filled with a prodigious number of
figures, is yet vei7 simple in the distribution of the various
groups, and veiy clear in the exposition of the subject.
Scarcely was this picture finished, when Orcagna was recalled
to Florence to execute some work of sculpture. He entrusted
to his brother Bernardo the continuation of the subject, per-
haps after his own sketches : — the subject was Hell, alia Dan-
tesca, or in the manner of Dante.

The prince of Italian poetry made such an impression on the
spirit of his cotemporaries by his poem, that the painters
knew not how to represent Paradise or Hell, except in the
shape which the great poet had given them. Giotto painted,



102 Castellan's Travels in Italy.

about 1306, these subjects in the church dell' Arena at Padua ;
and it is said that Dante, then in that city, used to watch him
at work and suggest ideas to him. The same imitations ap-


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