G. W. D. (George William David) Evans.

The classic and connoisseur in Italy and Sicily : with an appendix containing an abridged translation of Lanzi's Storia pittorica (Volume 3) online

. (page 2 of 46)
Online LibraryG. W. D. (George William David) EvansThe classic and connoisseur in Italy and Sicily : with an appendix containing an abridged translation of Lanzi's Storia pittorica (Volume 3) → online text (page 2 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the exception of its metal ornaments, still nearly entire.
The other, a work of the Tuscan order, and of little beauty
in itself, is seen to evident disadvantage beside the arch
of Trajan. Of these works, however, it has been well
observed, that, as arches suppose a triumph, a procession,
a road, or the entry to a city, they are here both of them
manifestly out of place.

The beauty of the women of Ancona has not escaped
the notice of travellers. " Wherever, indeed," says
Forsyth, " there is wealth or even comfort in Italy, the
sex runs naturally into beauty; and where should we look
for beauty if not here?"

Ante doimim Veneris quam Dorica sustinet Ancon. — Juv.iv. 40.
At the distance of about twenty miles from Ancona


we came to Senegaglia, a town which is said to take its
name from the GaUi Senones ; and a few miles further
we crossed the Metaurus, celebrated as the scene of
Asdrubal's defeat — a defeat which saved Rome, by de-
priving Hannibal of all chance of succour, and acceler-
ated the fall of Carthage, by cutting off at one blow the
flower of her troops, and the hopes of the rising gener-

The learned, however, have questioned the possibility
of assisnino' the exact scene of this memorable battle.
But as Livy tells us, " that the consul's camp was on the
Sena, and Asdrubal's only five hundred paces from it*;"
that Asdrubal began his retreat " at the first watch," or
about an hour after sun-set, and, after having wandered
for some time in the dark, came upon the Metaurus, about
eight miles from the Sena, and there halted till break of
day, when, following the banks of the river from the sea
towards the mountains, he was overtaken and attacked;
that the battle commenced at an early hour; and that,
after a most Vjloody contest, it was only mid-day when
victory decided in favour of the Romansf : from all these
circumstances — that the nights were short, for it was
summer — that the Carthaginians, after marching eight
miles only, " were bewildered and lost among the tortuous
windings of the river" — that they halted and were over-

* Ad Senam castra consulis evant, et quingeiitos inde passus As-
drubtil aberat.

•f- Et jam diei medium erat, sitisque et calor hiantes caedendos
capiuiidosque (hostes) afFatim pi-aebebant, — Lib. xxvii. 48.


taken early in the morning — and that they were defeated
by mid-day — the conckision seems inevitable that they
could not have marched more than eighteen miles from
the Sena; that therefore they had not reached the moun-
tains, and that the battle took place in the plain, though
nearer the mountains than the sea. Other circumstances
tend to confirm this opinion, and to fix the scene of the
conflict with still more precision. To the south of the
Metaurus, about fourteen miles from the Sena, on which
both armies were encamped the day before, is a hill still
called Monte Asdrubale. Now, we know that the left
wing of the Carthaginian army, composed chiefly of
Gauls, was covered by a hill; that round this hill, when
the consul Claudius had attacked the enemy in the rear,
was the principal slaughter; and hence it is not impro-
bable, that this spot was ennobled by the fall of the Car-
thaginian general.

Fang (Fanum Fortunse) derives its name from a tem-
ple of Fortune, erected here by the Romans after the
memorable defeat of Asdrubal. The fountain in the
market-place is crowned by a statue of the goddess, and
the inhabitants still point to some ruins, which, according
to them, belong to the ancient temple itself. One of
the gates of this town is formed by a defaced triumphal
arch, ascribed both to Augustus and Constantino. As,
however, Dion mentions but two arches built by the
former on the Flaminian Way, and as those two arches
are coupled on the existing coins with the two bridges of
Rimini and Ponte Molle, at the opposite extremities of
that way, doubts have been entertained whether Angus-


tus really had any share in the work, notwithstanding the
inscription on the frieze which ascribes it to him.

Rimini. — The objects here most worthy of notice
are, the arch and bridge built by Augustus. The former
of these works — a vial arch, and therefore wider than
the triumphal ones — is flanked by two Corinthian co-
lumns, and crowned, like the arch of Drusus and that of
Gallienus, by a pediment which scarcely covers half its
entablature. The work, however, Is confessedly too
much altered and mutilated to allow us to judge of its
orioinal effect. The bridge, owing partly to its greater
utility, partly to the greater solidity of its construction,
is in much better preservation, though it has passed
throuo-h a longer and severer trial than anv similar work
in Europe.

At Rimini the Flaminian Way terminates and the
Emilian Way begins. On this latter road, every post
town is an elegant city*, and the plain itself consists of
an exuberantly fertile soil cultivated with the care of a
kitchen oarden. On the left, the lower ranges of the
Apennines, crowned with castles and villages, diversify
the scene, and often bring to mind Virgil's descriptive
verse : —

Tot congesta manii prsvuptis oppida saxis. — Geoug. ii. ]^>6.
Castles and towns on steepy rocks that stand.

* The principal of these towns are, Cesena, Forli, Faonza, and


On approaching the rivers, however, yon meet with those
Jiumare as they are called, those extensive beds of sand
and gravel, usually formed by an Apennine stream: —

Che si confonde

Ne'giri, che mutar sempre le piacque,
Divora i liti, e d'infeconde arene
Semina i prati, e le campagne amene.

During summer, these streams frequently dwindle into
mere rills, and the traveller who should see these and
many other rivers of Italy and Sicily only during that
season, might well enough exclaim in the words of Ad-
dison : —

Sometimes misguided by the tuneful throng,

I look for streams immortalized in song,

That lost in silence and oblivion lie,

(Dumb are their fountains, and their channels dry)»

Yet run for ever by the Muses' skill,

And in the smooth description murmur still.

But should he chance to see them swollen by the heavy
rains of autumn, or the melted snows of spring, he would
find them transformed into impetuous torrents, rushing
headlong to the sea, and bearing away every thing be-
fore them.

Among these rivers was the Rubicon, though " now
lost in silence and oblivion;" for whether we are to as-
sign that celebrated name to the Fiumecino, the Pisa-
tello, the Borco, or the Rugone, has been matter of much
learned controversy. The first of these streams, which


is in fact nothing more than the other three united,
seems to have the fairest title to the name. Caesar
would probably march from Ravenna to Rimini by the
direct road; and that was not the Via Emilia, but the one
which runs along the sea-shore, called the Lower Road*.
The distance of the Fiumecino, at present, from Ravenna
on one side, and Rimini on the other, agrees with the
distance of the Rubicon from the same towns, as given
in the ancient itineraries. On the banks of this stream,
therefore, probably it was that Caesar paused, and sus-
pended for a moment the fate of Rome and the destinies
of mankind: " here appeared the warlike phantom, com-
missioned by the Furies to steel the bosom of the relent-
ing chief, and hurry him on to the work of destruction;
and here, too, arose the Genius of Rome, to restrain the
fury of her rebel son, and arrest the blow levelled at jus-
tice and libertyf :" —

. . . . Ut ventum est parvi Rubiconis ad undas,
Ingens visa duci patriae trepidantis imago,
Clara per obscuram vultu mcestissima noctem
Turrigero canos efFundens vertice crines. — Luc. lib. i.

* Cluverius maintains that the old -(Emilian Way, instead of cross-
ing the three streams, turned towards the sea, and passed the Rubi-
con by a bridge, at the point where all three unite, and which is
called in the Itineraries " ad Confluentes." If this was really the
case, the Fiumecino would still coincide with the Rubicon, even if
CJaesar marched along the JSmilian Way.

t Eustace.



Now near the banks of Rubicon he stood ;

When lo ! as he surveyed the narrow flood,

Amidst the dusky horrors of the night,

A wondrous vision stood confest to sight.

Her awful head Rome's reverend image reared;

Trembling and sad the matron form appeared ;

A towery crown her hoary temples bound,

And her torn tresses rudely hung around. — Rowe.



Bologna, il cui fato fu detto essere rinsegnave, come il goveniaie fii
detto essere il fato di Roma. — Lanzi.

In this venerable looking town, the attention is immedi-
ately attracted to the arcades projecting in front of the
houses, and affording the convenience of a covered way
on each side of the different streets. Each arch rests on
single columns, a style of architecture which has been
censured as unpleasing in itself, and unfit for the base-
ment of a house front. The arcades, though in them-
selves light and lofty in the principal streets, give the
town a somewhat gloomy appearance. Yet their utility
in such a climate is evident, and it is singular that they
have not been more frequently adopted in the south of
Italy, a country so subject to violent heat and rain.

Bologna has been famed rather as a school of painting
than of architecture. Its palaces are, for the most part,
plain brick buildings, without much pretension to external
elegance. Among the churches most deserving notice
may be mentioned the Cathedral, San Paolo, and San
Francesco — the latter a fine old church, but not strictly
Gothic. San Petronio — the scene of the coronation of
Charles V., and remarkable also for Cassini's meridian
line traced on the pavement — is an unfinished structure,
blending the modern with the Lombard style. The
Madonna di San Luca, on a high hill about three miles



from Bologna, is a rich and magnificent edifice, built in
the form of a Greek cross and crowned with a cupola,
yet less simple in execution than in plan. This structure,
as its name imports, was raised to enshrine one of those
antique portraits of the Virgin, which, in Italy, pass for
the works of St. Luke; while, to render an object of such
veneration the more accessible, a covered walk, called
the Porticato, was carried from Bologna up the face of
the hill to the portico before the church. This immense
work is said to have been built by the voluntary contri-
butions of the Bolognese, each individual who could af-
ford it contributed one, two, or three arches, according
to his means : whether considered, however, as a monu-
ment of public piety, or extravagant folly, it astonishes
only by its length.

The Garisenda, sometimes denominated Dante's Ga-
risenda, merely because the divine poet happens to have
compared Antaeus to it —

Qual pare a riguaidar la Caiisenda

Sotto '1 chinato, quand' un nuvol vada
Sovr' essa si, che 'd ella incontro penda;

Tal parve Anteo a me. — Inferno, c. xxxi.

is but a coarse brick-built tower, deviating about eight
feet from the perpendicular. It is sometimes styled the
Torre Mozza, or truncated tower, to distinguish it from
its taller neighbour, the Asinelli, which surpasses the
former in nothing but its height. They are in fact, as
Eustace observes of them, deformed monuments of a
barbarous age, remarkable only for their unmeaning ele-


vation, and dangerous deviation from the perpendicular.
Yet these leaning lumps of bricks, which may be justly
likened to the chimney of a steam-engine blown a little
out of the plumb line, have been compared to the grace-
ful and elegant tower of Pisa.

The Piazza del Gigante is decorated with a fountain
executed by John of Bologna, the design being a bronze
statue of Neptune of colossal size surrounded by a num-
ber of figures of the same material. " The Neptune is
admired for the style, anatomy, and technical details.
His air and expression are surely noble, powerful, com-
manding, perhaps too commanding for his situation.
Neptune has not the same local effect in an inland town
as at Naples, where the water, which spouts from every
prong of his trident, becomes an inmiediate tribute to
his sea*."

Bologna ranks as at least the second school of paint-
ing in Italy, a distinction for which it is indebted to the
three Caracci. Pursuing, but under happier auspices, the
example set by the three Campi of Cremona — that of
culling from the different schools of Italy whatever struck
them as most commendable in each — these celebrated
men contrived to compound out of the Florentine, the
Roman, the Parmesan, and the Venetian styles, another
that might in great measure be considered as original; and
thus, from diligently studying the efforts of others — tak-
ing due care, in the meantime, to divide their attention
between nature and art — they became in the end capa-

* Forsyth.


ble of giving lessons to all. Nowhere can we better ap-
])reciate the merit of these eminent masters, as well as
that of their two most distinguished scholars, Domeni-
chino and Guido, than at Bologna; where the works of
Guide, more especially, display a force and grandeur,
which we shall look for in vain in most of his other per-
formances. Among the most celebrated of his efforts,
in the grand style, may be enumerated the Crucifixion
and the Massacre of the Innocents, both of them in the
Clementine Academy*. The same collection contains
Domenichino's magnificent picture of the Persecution of
the Albigenses; together with a Madonna by Lodovico
Caracci, " exquisitely elegant," says Mathews, *' but
then it is the elegance and refinement of a woman of
fashion. She is not the Madonna, such as Raphael has
represented her, and such as she will ever exist personi-
fied in the imagination of him who has seen Raphael's
pictures." The Cecilia of Raphael, also in the same
collection, a work so much eulogized by Addison, has, in
the opinion of Mathews, been retouched and spoiled at
Paris. In the Zampieri Palace, where each of the Ca-
racci has his ceiling, the respective merits of the three
may be readily compared. There too, on another ceiling,
may be seen, in the Hercules and Antseus of Guercino,
a happy specimen of that artist's magic skill in chiaro-
scuro and foreshortenino-.

The Institute — a magnificent establishment, including

* Guido's famous picture of the two apostles Peter and Paul is
no longer at Bologna. It is now in the Brera Library at Milan.


both the Academy of Sciences and the Clementine Aca-
demy — is lodged in a noble palace, and supplied with
an extensive library — a well-furnished observatory — a
laboratory — a cabinet of natural history — two others for
the study of architecture, both civil and military — a col-
lection of antiques — another of statues — and a third of
paintings — every object, in short, requisite for the fur-
therance of science and art. The once celebrated Uni-
versity of Bologna, which, if not the oldest in Europe,
as the Bolognese maintain, was at any rate the first
where academical degrees were invented and conferred,
has now, like that of Padua, fallen into decrepitude.
" Yet with all this learning in its bosom," observes For-
syth, " Bologna has suffered its dialect — that dialect
which Dante admired as the purest in Italy — to degen-
erate into a coarse, thick, truncated jargon, full of apo-
cope, and unintelligible to strangers."



While thou, Ferrara ! when no longer dwell

The ducal chief's within thee, shalt fall down,

And crumbling piece-meal view thy hearthless halls,

A poet's wreath shall be thine only crown,

A poet's dungeon thy most far renown.

While strangers wonder o'er thy unpeopled walls. — Byron.

The road from Bologna to Ferrara is excellent, but the
country, intersected by the Reno, is little better than
a swamp. On approaching the delta of the Po, the vil-
lages and farm-houses become more thinly scattered over
the plain, the marks of cultivation gradually disappear,
and the Polisinos everywhere exhibit that desolation
which the Popes occasioned by turning the Reno from
its direct tendency to the former river, away through the

Ferrara itself, once the seat of one of the most cele-
brated courts in Europe, now exhibits, in its deserted
streets, and palaces verging to decay, that melancholy
contrast between former wealth and actual poverty which
so often meets the eye in Italy. Built for more than a
hundred thousand inhabitants, it now scarcely contains a
fourth part of the number. The fronts of its handsome
but untenanted palaces extend on both sides of its regu-
lar and grass-grown streets; while the old ducal residence


itself stands, " moated and flanked with towers, in the
heart of the subj novated town, hke a tyrant intrenched
among slaves," recalling the gloomy period described by

Clie le citta d' Italia tutte piene

Son di tiranni ; ed un Marcel' diventa

Ogni' villan che parteggiando viene. — Puro. c. vi. 124.

Little interest would now attach to the faded grandeur
of Ferrara, were it not intimately associated with far
greater names than those of its ducal chiefs. " Melan-
choly as this city now looks, every lover of Italian poetry
must view with affection the retreat of an Ariosto, a Tasso,
a Guarini. Such is the ascendant of wealth over genius,
that one or two princes could create an Athens in the
centre of this Boeotia. The little courts of Ferrara and
Urbino seemed to emulate those of Alexandria and Per-
gamos, contending for pre-eminence only in literature
and elegance*."

The prison in which Tasso was immured forms a part
of the hospital of St.- Anna. An inscription over the
entrance of his cell incorrectly claims for Bergamo the
merit of his liberation; which, though promised to the
city of Bergamo, was carried into effect at the interces-
sion of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Prince of Mantuaf . Ariosto's
tomb, which formerly stood in the church of the Bene-

• Forsyth.

■f Rispettate, O Posteri, la celebrita di questa stanza, dove Tor-
quato Tasso infermo pin di tristezza che deiirio, ditenuto dimor6


dictines, was removed to the Studii by Eugene Beauhar-
nois. The Ferrarese are more proud of Ariosto than of
Tasso ; for Tasso's history reflects disgrace on their city,
which is distinguished as the chosen residence of Ariosto.
They make hght of the accident by which their poet
was born abroad— for he was a native of Reggio — and
claim him exclusively for their own. They possess his
bones, they shew his arm-chair, and his inkstand, and
his autographs: —

. . . Hie illius arma,
Hie cunus fuit . . .

Rose, in his letters from the North of Italy, tells us,
tiiat the sensation which he experienced on looking over
an original manuscript of the Orlando Furioso, preserved
in the library of Ferrara, was something like that which
a person experiences on entering the studio of a sculptor
— a sensation of disappointment " on seeing a man work-
ing at a model covered with tacks to serve as land-marks,
when he had expected to see the artist dealing his blows
like Pygmalion in a ballet, and the statue starting into
life beneath the stroke. If (says he) there is a poet
who would appear to have written under immediate in-

anni vii mesi ii, scrisse verse e prose, e fu rimesso in liberta ad
istanza della citta di Bergamo, nel giorno vi Luglio 1586.

Tasso was confined in this cell only from March 1579, to Decem-
ber, 1580, being afterwards removed to a contiguous and more com-
modious apartment. (See Hist. Illustrations of Fourth Canto of
Childe Harold).


spiration, it is Ariosto; yet, in fact, few men have be-
stowed more of the file on their compositions, and, it may
be added, few men have used it with more effect.

" He who reviews this manuscript may convince him-
self that Ariosto, when he began his Orlando, was as yet
unpractised in the delicacies and proprieties of the Italian
language. It is not indeed necessary to recur to these
papers for a proof: the first line of a folio edition of the
work (I believe the first) exhibits a striking example of
this. Instead of the opening line, as it stands at present,
it has the following: —

/ donne e cavalier, 1' armi, gli amori.

" Such a construction may possibly be justifiable on the
principles of philosophical grammar, but it is certainly
foreign to the genius of the Italian. This line of Ariosto
seems to have been suggested by one in the fourteenth
canto of the Purgatorio : according to an after and more
accurate recollection of which he appears to have re-
modelled it:" —

Le donne e i cavalier, gli afFanni e gli agi.

Sismondi, in the second volume of his History of Ita-
lian Literature, has given an interesting analysis of this
eccentric poem: " The Orlando," says he, "is but a
fragment of the chivalrous and amorous history of Char-
lemagne, with no more of beginning or end than any
other period detached from the general course of time.
This want of unity is injurious to its interest and impres-
sion as a whole ; but the avidity with which all nations


and all ages read Arlosto, even when his fables are rob-
bed, by translation, of the charm of poetry, sufficiently
proves that he has been able to bestow on them, in de-
tail, the interest which he has failed of communicating
to the entire assemblage. In spite of the habitual ab-
surdity of chivalrous combats, of the constant dispropor-
tion between cause and effect, and of the air of raillery
which seems to accompany all his descriptions of battles,
Ariosto always knows how to excite a sort of indescrib-
able enthusiasm which makes every reader burn to arm
himself a knight."

It must, however, be admitted, that Ariosto sometimes
counteracts his object by the very multiplicity of the ad-
ventures which he records. He seems not to know where
to stop, and the reader becomes bewildered in the attempt
to follow him. Curiosity is apt to be fatigued by the
endless number of plots which the poet endeavours to
conduct simultaneously: " hurried from one to another,
without notice, and often without any connecting asso-
ciation, we

Find no end, in wandering mazes lost.

How indeed should we, when the poet so often forgets
himself? ' Soviemmi,' says he — in joke perhaps, but in
joke many a true word is spoken —

Soviemmi, die cantare io vi doveva

— Gia lo proynisi e poi m usci di mente —

D' una suspizion, &c.

In one canto he makes Charlemagne despatch a French


peer to procure succours in England, and in another tells
us that the English king, in person, is at Paris all the
while*. Sometimes he does not remember which of his
heroes are dead and which alive, and occasionally em-
ploys those in active service whom he has killed outright
several cantos beforef. Doubtless it may be argued
that Ariosto was treating of subjects with which his coun-
trymen were already familiar — that many of his tales
were popular legends — and that Bojardo had very fully
discharged for him the duties of a Prologus in his Orlando
InnamoratoJ. There we find detailed the commence-
ment of that enterprise, of which the Furioso is the con-
tinuation: see the African monarch in counsel debating
upon the chances of success against France and Charle-
magne — pass the sea — encamp before Paris, and carry
on the siege. There, too, we have men, women, swords,
and horses, bearing the same names as those in the Fu-

* Canto ii. 26. Canto viii. 27.

f Compare Canto xviii. with Canto xl.

+ L'Arioste semble avoir a dessein secoue le joiig de I'unite d'action .
11 prend le sujet et le heros que lui avait fournis le comte Boiardo
dans Roland I'amoureux. II entre en matiere au milieu des com-
bats, et dans le niomeut d'une confusion universelle ; et cependant il
ne fait nulle part una exposition de I'avant- scene, comme s'il comp-
tait que chacun aurait lu I'ouvrage de son predecesseur. En effet, il
est difficile de comprendre la situation etl'intrigue de Roland furieux,
si Ton n'a pas lu auparavant Roland I'amoureux, ou si du moins on
n'est pas au fait de ces traditions romanesques, qui se trouvaient
peut-etre au temps de I'Arioste plus generalement repandues. —
Sismotidi, torn. ii. 65 .

Online LibraryG. W. D. (George William David) EvansThe classic and connoisseur in Italy and Sicily : with an appendix containing an abridged translation of Lanzi's Storia pittorica (Volume 3) → online text (page 2 of 46)