J. A. (Joseph Archer) Crowe.

A new history of painting in Italy, from the II to the XVI century; online

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virtue ; and one of the first acts that brought hun renown was his
secretly throwing gold into the room of a neighbour whose poverty
would have induced him to sacrifice the honour of his three daughters.'
He was depicted in the wall of the chapel, to the right of the entrance,
standing on the threshold of a room where three females and their
father all lie in sleep, a curious and probably real picture of humble
life in the fourteenth century. Lower down, on the same wall,
S. Nicholas may be seen pardoning the consul at the intercession of
the three youths whose lives he had ordered to be taken. In the next
lunette the saint restores to Ufe a child enticed from home and killed
by an evil spirit. Beneath this, again, S. Nicholas snatches away
from before a king a captive youth, and restores him to hb parents.
The saint flies downwards ana catches the youth by the head. The
latter is in the act of handing a cup to the king, seated on a throne.

^ In the old ex-chapter, as one issues from the church, wh^re a door
leads to the room, celebrated as being that in which S. Qiuseppe da Copertino
died, are, on a wall, frescoes, now restored, of a Crucifixion with figures of
SS. Paul, Peter, Louis, and Anthony of Padua, and at the foot of the Cross,
S. Francis. Six angels hover about the Cross. In the arch, traces of saints
appear. These paintings, much damaged by restoring are like those above
the pulpit in the body of the Lower Church of Assisi.

' Purgatorio, xx., v. 30, sings the praise of Nicholas for this.

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To the left, the child stands befoie two persons, seated at a table.
Beneath this, again, a youth who had be^i drowned as he drew water
in a cup originally intended as a present to the altar of S. Nicholas,
is restored to his parents by the saint. In the side pierced by the
arch of the entrance, above the lowest course in which nine out of
twelve standing apostles are still visible,^ S. Mary Magdalen stands in
prayer to the left ; and 8. John the Baptist, to the right, points to a
figure of the Saviour in a niche in the lunette. At his sides S. Francis
holds by the hand a kneeling cardinal in episcopal dress, beneatii
whom the arms of the Orsini are depicted, and 8. Nicholas holds by
the hand a monk in white dress upon which the arms of the Orsini are
embroidered. Beneath the first of these groups is the word "Car-
dinalis " and below the second, " Dfis JohSs Qaetanus frater ejus." •

Vasari declares' that Agnolo of Siena erected a chapel and a
tomb of marble at Assisi to the brother of Cardinal Napoleon Orsini,
who, being a cardinal also and a Franciscan, died there.^ The
latest record which has been preserved of Agnolo of Siena is dated
1349.^ Napolecm Orsini was one of Boniface VIU.'s cardinals,
and died in 1347 at Avignon. His brother Giovanni Orsini
received the hat in 1321 from John XXI., and died at Avignon in
1339.* The Chapel del Sacramento was buiH for the mortal remains
of members of the Orsini family ; and it is obvious that the paint-
ings which now adorn it were painted for, or in commemc^ration of,

* Three on the wall to the left are obliterated.
' All that remains of two long inscriptions.

' Vasari, voL li., p. 9.

* [According to ¥^ttini, op. eiL, pp. 92, 94, the two Cardinals Orsini,
Gian Giordano and Napoleone built each a chapel in the Lower Church one at
the head of the north, and the other at the heiad of the south transept, eirca
1310. Certainly the authors are wrong when they say that Napoleone was
one of Boniface VIII. *s cardinals, and that he died in Avignon in 1347.
Napoleone received the hat from his uncle Nicholas IV., and he died in 1342.
He was in Italy, however (Mubatori, an ann.) in 1308, and it might seem
that it was then he buiH this chi^l of 8. Nicoo)^ ; and may well have had it
decorated too. Ciacohoni savs, and Savio (Le Tre FamigHe Oreini, in
BoUeUino per VUmbria, vol. li., Perugia, 1896), pp. 89, 90, agrees* that
Giovanni Gaetano Orsini was created cardinal-deacon of S. Teodoro in 1316.
He is represented in this chapel without the hat ; therefore it might seem
that the frescoes must have been painted before that date. No credence
need be given to Vasari when he asserts that " Giottino " was bom in 1324 ;
but if he is right it would seem that he cannot have painted the frescoes here.
We shall probably never know who did paint them, but on all accounts it
seems that the authors are ri^t when they say that they belong to the
" first half " of the fourteenth century.]

* DacumenH dtW Arte Sanese, by Gaetako Milakesi, ubi aup,^ vol. i.,
p. 206.

* See Eoos, Purpura Docia, vol. i, pp. 248, 317. Eggs corrects Ciacohoni,
who affirmed that Gaetano Orsini died at Avignon in 1355. Richa relates
of the latter, that he caused the steeple of the Badia of the Benedictines of
Florence to be rebuilt in 1330 (voL i. of Ckiese Fior,, p. 195).

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GioTTXNO. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

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? GioTTiNo. S. Croce. Florence.



GtorriMO. Lower Church, S. Francesco. AssisL

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Napoleon and Gaetano, whose remains were no doubt transferred,
as was usual, from Avignon to Italy. There is no certainty as to
the date of the paintings of the chapel, but the style points to the
first half of the century as the period of their execution. One
may say generally of them that they are fine, well (»dered, and
aninmted compositions, and that they exhibit considerable power
in the rendering of movement and action. Artists of the earlier
part of the fourteenth century seldom imparted more life to their
incidfflits than may be observed in the groups formed by the saint
presenting to the delisted parents the child who had been drowned.
Paternal affection overflows in the figure and face of the father,
who, as he sits at the table, embraces his son. A longing to grasp
him to her bosom appears in that of the mother with outstretched
arms ; trust in that of the perscm who points with a finger to heaven.
The dog barks and capers with joy at sight of the lost regained, and
the saint himself is admiraUe in repose as he presents the boy.
Ease of movement may be found in the figure of S. Nicholas, flying
down to rescue the young captive, great energy in his action where
he stops the arm of the executioner. Variety of expression, noble
forms and features, mark the faces of the youUis interceding for
the consul. The apostles of the lower course are, after those of
Giotto in the altarpiece of Borne, the most admirable that were
produced in the early times of the revival, exhibiting that gravity,
repose, and individuality of character which are essential to effect
in such representations. In the vaulting of the arches are figures
of male and female saints with fresh and attractive faces, noble in
shape and stature, finely and broadly draped, and executed with
great intelligence of form. Great feeling, too, is shown for the
rotundity resulting from the proper juxtaposition of light and
shade. Hands, feet, carefully drawn, though not more minutely
detailed than was usual at this time, reveal a pupil of Giotto ; but
there is a tendency to display the human features in comparatively
small proportions, and to lavish minute care on embroideries. The
colour is light and clear, rosy and well fused, and transparent in
shadow.^ No painter ever showed himself at once a better or a
closer imitator of Giotto. Not even Taddeo Gaddi exhibited so
completely his great laws of composition, nor did any pupil of
Giotto so thoroughly preserve his great qualities ; yet, at the same

* One may point to the figure of the Saviour before S. John as grand in
the re^arity of ita forms. The hghta of some draperies are touched in gold,
as for instance in the figure of S. Peter.

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time, display symptoms of progress within the bounds of the tnitii
and of nature as they were defined by the great Florentine. The
frescoes of the Cappella del Sacramento, at Assisi, do more honour
to the school of Qiotto than any that were produced at the same
period — ^that is, in the first half of the fourteenth century. But
the frescoes inside the chapel are not more remarkable than those
which decorate the outer face of the wall in which the entrance arch
is pierced. These frescoes are, indeed, close to those of Giotto and
differ slightly from them ; but they also differ slightly from those
illustrating tiie life of S. Nicholas so that it is difficult to say whether
they are by the same hand. They are, however, of a later date
than the frescoes by Giotto, and are executed in a style not dis-
similar from those inside the Chapel del Sacramento. They repre-
sent, on one side of the arch, the death of a child by the fall of a
house, and his resurrection at the intercession of S. Francis.^ On
the opposite side of the arch is the resurrection of the child,* a very
fine composition, in part damaged and discoloured, but very
animated. The medallion prophets in the painted ornament are
different from those of the other frescoes in the transept. Above
these two scenes is a splendid Annunciation, with a majestic figure
of Gabriel, and a Virgin erect and shrinking back in surprise, but
matronly and well folded in her blue mantle. The draperies have
the breadth of those in the apostles of the chapel. Hie head of the
announcing angel is round and pleasant. Puccio Capanna is,
according to some writers, the painter of the Annunciation ; but
who can pretend to affirm this \i4th any certainty ? A Madonna
amongst saints,' in style much resembling these frescoes, perhaps
feebler, adorns the Medici Chapel in S. Croce at Florence. Of the
saints, Bartholomew is especially fine. In S. Chiara of Assisi, an

> In the first of these scenes, the ruins of a house may be seen in the
distance to the left, and on the foreground a man, ahnost turning his back
to the spectator, holds the corpse of the child, which the mother in an agony
of grief stoops to kiss. Behmd her, a female wrings her hands, imother
tears her hair, a third lacerates her cheeks with her nails, and more to the
right are other female spectators. On the extreme left, a man stands in
profile, to whom tradition gives the name of Giotto, Vasari having stated in
a general way, that in the sides of this portion of the church a portrait of
Qiotto existed. Vasari, vol. i., p. 317.

' S. Francis in flight appears in the upper story of a house where he
lay, and mav be observed to rise in bed. A youth runs down a flight of outer
steps to meke the miracle known, whilst in front of the house, a treesel lies
readv for the body. The clergy has arrived and a crowd waits to follow
the nmeral.

' SS. Louis, John the Baptist, Bartholomew, Peter, and other saints. In
the medallions of the niches are prophets.

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edifioe which owed much of its internal decoration to Giottino,^
some vestiges of the art of the fourteentii century are preserved.
The figures in the ceiling of the transept ' seem, however, to have
been painted there by an artist of the fourteenth century, but of
much lower powers than he who executed the Chapel del Sacra-
mento. Vasari only affirms that Giottino painted scenes from the
life of 8. Chiara in the church of that name. Traces of such subjects
have lately been recovered from whitewash in the sides of the right
transept, as well as remains of incidents from the life of the Saviour ; '
but the remnant so recovered seems to have been originally of very
small value. Besides these frescoes or fragments of frescoes in
S. Chiara, a Crucifixion (altarpiece) of the fourteenth century is
also preserved, which, though some resemblance may be traced
in it to other third-rate paintings at Pistoia, one may still hesitate
to ascribe, as has been done, to Puccio Capanna. Even in the
private church ot the convent of S. Chiara, whose frescoes have that
species ot renown which generally attaches to carefully guarded
treasures, the scenes of the Passion, painted on the walls, are of a
low order, the least defective of which, a Deposition from the Cross,*
is painted in a soft method of colour.^ A diligent search throughout
the convents of Assisi produces no further result ; their waUs being
in every instance carefully whitewashed.* That the works of two
or more painters are concealed under the name of Giottino has been
shown ; but, with the knowledge at present attainable, all that
can be done is to classify the frescoes and paintings according to

* Vasari, vol. ii., p. 143.

■ SS. Agnee, Monica, Catherine, Mary, Chiara, Cecilia, Lucy guarded by
angels* in the space diagonally divided.

* The Flight into Egypt and Maflsacre of the Innocents, for instance,
which had not been whitewashed when Rumohr wrote at the beginning of
this century. He notices them for the purpose of showing that in the
fourteenth oentunr no one objected to sooing the acts of S. Chiara compared
to those of the Virgin. This is truer than the artistic opinion that these
frescoes are like others assigned to Giottino. Fortchimgen, vol. ii., note to p. 2 1 3.

* Above which are S. Chiara, a monk, the Virgin and Child, S. Francis,
and another saint.

' In the same chapel a miraculous Crucifix is preserved, which certainly
dates as far back as the tenth century.

* The following is a list of works mentioned by Vasari, which have since
parished — at S. Stefano al Ponte Vecchio, at the Frate Ermini, SS. Spirito,
Pancrazio, Gallo, Loreiirx> da Qinocchi, in S. Maria Novella, Ognissanti,
Convent alle Campore, Ponte a Romiti in Valdamo, all in and about Florence ;
at Rome in the Lateran, in Casa Orsini (? which of them) at Aracoli, at AsBisi,
above the gate leading to the Duomo. Vasari also assigns to Giottino a
marble statue on the campanile of S. Maria del Fiore, which still exists and
has the Giotteeque character of a follower of Andrea Pisano. Vide Va.sart»
vol ii., pp. 140 to 144

I. a

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style and technical execution. Time may Ining some records to
light and facilitate the studies of later historians. The due which
might be given by the works of Giottino's pupils is wanting ; of
Giovanni dal Ponte and lappo, whose lives are written by Vasari,
not a single picture or fresco remains. Of Giovanni Tossicani
d'Arezzo no works have been preserved ; but it is charaoteristio
of Vasari that he makes that artist, a pupil of Giottino, bcmi in
1324, the author of an Annunciation executed at Arezzo for the
Countess Giovanna Tarlati about the year 1335.^ If, however,
Giovanni Tossicani mentioned by Vasari be the same who appears
in the register of Florentine painters undear the name of Giovanni
di Francesco Toschani, Vasari erred to the amount of a century
in his dates. The painter of that name was registered in the
corporation in 1424, and in 1427-30 made the usual returns of his
income to the Catasto of Florence. He died May 2, 1430, and was
buried in S. Maria del Fiore.* As for Michelino it is not possible
to say which of the painters of that name Vasari specially alludes to.

* Vasari, vol. ii., p. 145.

' QiomaU Siorico degli Archivi Toscani, ubi sup., 1800, p. 15; and
GuALANDi, iibi 8up.^ Ser. vi., p. 182.

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Not the least important or numerous class of artists in the four-
teenth century were the goldsmiths, whose costly and beautiful
works adorned alike the altars of churches, the treasure chambers
of princes, and the plate chests of wealthy citizens. It is unfor-
tunately in the nature of things that gold and silver carving or
chasing should be difficult to preserve. An extensive system of
credit made the Florentines bankers to the majority of European
princes ; but at Florence, as in every other part of the Continent,
the quantity of the precious metals in circulation was frequently
out of proportion with the demand. It is characteristic, indeed,
of all great enterprises in the fourteenth, as in later centuries, that
they were undertaken with totaUy inadequate means ; and the
pawning of jewellery and plate was one of the commonest resources
of princes. An unsuccessful campaign, a battle lost, or an expedi-
tion in prospect, were frequently decisive as to the existence of
valuable gold and silver work ; and whilst the knight, when inclined
or forced to pay, exchanged the commodity which he required for
a link wrenched from a costly chain, the sovereign or duke, the
chiefs of a republic, melted cups and candelabra, statues and images,
to satisfy their wants. Thus it is that so few specimens of the gold-
smith's art have been preserved, and that nothing more remains to
represent the genius of the Florentine goldsmith Cione than the
silver altar-table of the Baptistery of S. Giovanni.* Commenced,
as is proved by the inscription, in 1366, it was finished at divers
times by men of various talent and renown.^ Cione, who had a
share in it, was the father of a numerous family, whose members
distinguished themselves as architects, sculptors, and painters,
being the progenitor of Bernardo, Andrea, Ristoro, Jacopo, and

* Vasabi, vol. ii., p. 11. [Cione the goldBmith seems never to have
existed. Bernardo should be Nardo or Leonardo.]

* Cione is not, as Vasari affirms (vol. ii., p. 11), the author of the silver
head of S. Zenobio in the cathedral of Florence. The artist was Andrea


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Matteo, the majority of whom have a claim to the admiration of
posterity. Bernardo, of the Grocers' Corporation in 1358 and
registered in the Guild of Florentine Painters in 1364, is said by
Vasari to have been the oldest member of the family, and to have
contributed in a great measure to the fame of his brother Andrea.^
Ristoro is known as caput magisier in the Uffizio del Fuoco at
Florence during the great plague,' as of the " Signori " in 1364,
70-76, and 88,' and as one of the Uffiziali della Guerra in 1369.^
Jaoopo was a sculptor who worked from the models of his brother
Andrea ; and all that has been preserved regarding him is, that
he erected the tower and gate of S. Piero Gattolini and executed a
model of a horse which, after being gilt, was placed in 8. Maria del
Fiore above the gate leading to the Company of 8. Zanobi.^ Jacopo
took the freedom of the Guild of Florentine Painters in 1387.*
Matteo, often companion to Andrea, as at Orvieto, was professionally
an architect.^

The most eminent of the sons of Cione was, however, Andrea,
known in his lifetime as I'Arcagnolo, and celebrated later under
the corrupted name of Orcagna.^

Andrea had neither seen nor known Giotto, yet carried out his
maxims better than any of the immediate followers of Uie great
Florentine. At once a painter, a sculptor, and an architect, he
was endowed with a genius of power and fibre similar to that which
marked Giotto and Michael Angelo. His was a mind of wonderful
scantling, of that tough and durable material which is rarely found
more than once in a century-~one which, by the very nature of its
being, exercises a striking influence on its contemporaries, and gives
a bias to all that comes in contact with it. Orcagna not only
understood and grasped the great maxims and laws of Giotto, but
he combined, like that great master, aU the ess^itials which unite
to make an art progress. He Uved at a time when the Gaddi and
others had debased the standard which their master had raised.

I Vasabi, vol. ii., p. 123. He is registered as Nardo Cioiii in the Guild
of Painters at Florence in 1364. Qualakdi. vibi mtp.f Ser. vi, p. 186.

* In 1350. See Gate, ubi sup., vol. L» p. 500.

* Note to Vasaki, vol ii., p. 122.

^ Gaye, ubi Bup,, vol. L, p. 523. In 1366 (Gays, ubi sup,, vol. i., p. 517)
he values certain buildings purchased to erect the barbican of the gate of
S. Frediano at Florence.

* This horse is in a magazine of the cathedral. Annot to Vasari, vol. ii.»
p. 136.

* Oualandi, ubi sup., Ser. vi., p. 184.
^ See postea.

" [Andrea was bom about 1308.]

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Placing himself on tilie vMitage ground whioh Qiotto had occupied,
and keeping within those Umits of truth and of nature whioh were
necessary, Orcagna restored the art to its simplicity and grandeur,
and cc^rected the errors into which so many of his contemporaries
had fallen. Giovanni da Milemo and Giottino had remained in so
far behind their time, that they sacrificed the laws of composition
and design to the elaboration of parts. Details were by them
frequently better carried out than the mass. Expression was
sought out to the detriment of the general balance of the whole ;
or lively colour, in itself pleasing, seemed to crush the composition.
Whilst these artists sacrificed the unity which alone produces a
perfect picture, Orcagna, like Giotto, gathered into his grasp the
scattered reins loosely held by his contemporaries, gave an impulse
to art in all its branches, and placed it on a grand level of general

Nature had evidently marked out Orcagna for an universal
genius ; ^ and, had he hved at the time when perspective became a
science he might have been numbered amongst the greatest aftists
whom his country produced. Intuitively, he accomjdished almost
as mu(^ as was in the power of man without the aid of science.
Vasari pretends, but does not convince us, that Stefano Fiorentino
and Giottino surpassed Giotto in the production of perspective
effect and in the foreshortening of figures. Orcagna was better
deserving of this praise ; and the student ot his works will admit
that, in so far as one accustomed to scrutinise nature can fathom
tiie difficulties of imitation, so far he penetrated with success.
Figures may be found in his frescoes, foreshortened with a certain
daring and success ; and his wall paintings generally are more
strongly stamped with the characteristic features of his genius than
his easel pictures. This was not the opinion of Vasari ; * but
Orcagna was in this the true child of his country. His greatest
works were frescoes, as were the greatest works of Giotto, of Ghir-
landaio, and of Raphael. His easel pictures were second to them
and clearly entrusted, in a great measure, to pupils. It is to be
deplored, however, that the frescoes of Orcagna should have shared
the common fate of all artistic works of the fourteenth century.
The greatest productions of that period in Italy are irretrievably
damaged by time or by restoring ; and it is not possible to recall

1 RuMOHR feels and endeavours to explain why Orcagna, who developed
the qualities of Giotto and improved art in many respects, should hiUierto
have received less attention than ho deserves. Forgchttngerif voL ii., p. 215.

* Vasabi, voL ii., p. 123. • Vasari, voL iL, p. 131.

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a single instance of a fresco in which the merit of the author can

be truly recognised. Sadly veiled is the beauty of the design and

colour, except in small spaces which have escaped the general

wreck. But, whilst enough remains for the satisfaction of a

searching critic, too little is left to charm less determined observers ;

and it might be difficult to convince the superficial that, ^ere,

owing to the effects of time, harmony and colour are wanUng, tiiose

qualities were once conspicuous. Colour is the language of art,

appeals to our sense, and leads us to tiie analysis of the other

beauties of a picture. It blinds us indeed to otherwise obvious

defects. Its absence may deter us from the admission of beauties

which really exist, repels us when we are forced to reconstruct,

m^itally, the whole of that which is in a great measure altered by

the effect of time. Yet in the case of Orcagna, such reconstruction

is necessary. Then, however, it becomes possible to compiue him

with Giotto, the only painter that can stand comparison with him ;

and the results of the process are equally important and interesting.

Giotto is a dramatist, a thinker : he studies and reflects the expres-

sicm of human passions. He is to the iu*t what Dante was to the

poesy of his country. In severe and simple, yet elegant metre, he

inculcates great and durable lessons. Orcagna introduces a more

yielding and senmtive religious feeling into art — the mild, soft

mysticism which finds its culminating point in Angelico. He is a

Online LibraryJ. A. (Joseph Archer) CroweA new history of painting in Italy, from the II to the XVI century; → online text (page 42 of 54)