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crimson tunics trimmed with fur, their small caps barely
clinging to their shocks of golden curls, strut up and
down the panels, but barely conscious of the Saint
and all his patient care of them. No 3, represents

1 In Matarazzo's chronicles of the sixteenth century we find
an accurate account of the different costumes worn by the
nobles of Perugia (see p. 99). It has been suggested to us by
a learned gentleman of Perugia, tliat Fiorenzo was simply
copying the costumes of his period, and that in his group of
young men in the miracles of S. Bernardino he did but portray
the most important actors of the day, whose armorial bear-
ings were shown in their apparel, namely, the '• most magni-
ficent gentlemen, Oddi and Baglioni."

The Story of Perugia

the miracle of a girl who has fallen into a well, and
whom the Saint has saved from drowning ; we see a
lovely and impassive creature sitting upon the marble floor,
her yellow hair has not been wetted, the small red fillet
binds it gracefully ; her relations and her lovers pray
and pose all round her, but little ruffled by the memory
of the late catastrophe. Just the same is the accident
of the mason, treated in No. 7. His comrades stand
about the wounded man, exquisite and undisturbed.
" Ah," they seem to say, " thus and thus it happened,
thus, maybe, he fell " ; but all the time they are
thinking of their well-set tunics and of their long and
lovely legs ; and who can be surprised at this, seeing
that their toilette is carried to perfection ? No. 5 shows
the capture and escape of a prisoner. It has a pleasant
landscape in the background, a sort of park, with a lake
and trees about it. In No. 6 the Saint appears in a
cloud under a beautiful marble palace and heals the
blindness of a fellow friar. The doctors do seem
somewhat interested, but everything is too beautiful
and finished for much pity or, anyhow, for pain ; and
as for the hair of the young men in this panel, it is
more excellently curled than in any of the series. The
remaining miracles are by another hand. Some pupil
or imitator of Fiorenzo tried to finish them, but the
treatment is coarser, the charm of the first is gone.

Room V.

Sala deir Angel'ico.

Before passing on to the work of Perugino and his
school, which one must confess, with the exception of
Sala XL, is but a disappointing show of canvasses and
panels, one passes through the little room of Fra

The Pinacoteca

In Taine's slight but exquisite sketch ot Perugia
and its pictures we read the following words about the
work of Fra Angelico at Perugia : " He was happier
here than in his pagan Florence, and it is he who first
attracts us (in the gallery). Looking at his work
there, one seems to be reading in the ' Imitatio Christi,'
for on the golden background the pure sweet faces
breathe a quiet stillness, like the immaculate roses in
the gardens of Paradise." Taine is right ; everyone
is at once attracted to the work of the Florentine
monk when they come to the gallery of Perugia. We
have searched for some record of the friar's visit to
Perugia, but have not been successful. It is certain
that the Florentine painter came to stay in Umbria,
leaving behind him as a legacy to later painters
the influence of his pious gentle art. He became a
monk in 1408 at Fiesole, but his convent got mixed
up in painful religious disputes, and the monks had
to fly and wander into other lands, hoping to return
when times should be more peaceful. Fra Angelico
came to Cortona, and there did some of his very earliest
work. Thence, very probably, he travelled to Foligno,
staying on his way to rest at Perugia, and leaving there,
in the church of 8. Domenico, that wonderful picture,
all the parts of which now hang together in the Pina-
coteca. They are jewels, these small panels — jewels
fresh as dewdrops on the first May wreaths of girls.
Angelico never lost this bloom of utter purity, and
here we find it at its very dawn. The Madonna and
Child are in the centre ; round them stand four angels,
their baskets full of roses. " Two angels in long
dresses," says Taine, ♦' bring their roses to the feet of
the small Christ with the dreaming eyes. They are so
young, and yet so earnest." Again, of the Annun-
ciation, he says : " The Virgin is candour and sweet-
ness itself; her character is almost German, and her
R 257

The Story of Perugia

two hands are clasped with deep religious fervour.
The angel with the curly hair who kneels before her
seems almost like some young and happy girl — a little
raw perhaps — and coming straight from the house
of her mother These indeed, are the deli-
cate touches that painters of a later date will never
find again. A sentiment is an infinite and incom-
municable thing ; no learning and no effort will ever
reproduce it absolutely. In real piety there is a certain
reserve ; a certain modesty is shown in the arrangement
of the draperies and in the choice of little details, such
as even the best masters, only a century later, will not
understand at all." It is difficult to choose any
particular point for description in the twelve narrow
panels of saints. Angelico carefully studied to show
the individual character of each. He gave to his
Magdalen a new and lovely attitude — a sort of ascetic
repose. Of her physical beauty he only left the yellow
hair ; it falls to her ankles gold as the maize in
autumn, but her body is wasted beneath it. St Cathe-
rine of Siena is said to be a really authentic portrait of
the Saint. The Bishop of Toulouse is unlike that of Bon-
figli, younger and gentler in expression. The whole set
make an ineffably sweet impression on our mind, and
it is difficult to turn to the other pictures in the room.
Of these the best and the most interesting is by Piero
della Francesca.

Piero was one of Perugino's first masters. He
was born early in the fifteenth century at Borgo
San Sepolcro. He had a passion for perspective,
and was one of the first men who made a real
study of this branch of art. We hear that he
wrote books on geometry, and grappled with Euclid
and the laws of measurement. He also studied the
proportion of light and shade, and all these points are
admirably proved by his picture at Perugia (No. 21).

The Pinacoteca

Vasari gives a full account of it in his life of Pieio.
He describes the lower part, then adds : " Above
them is a most beautiful Annunciation with an angel,
which seems, in truth, to have descended from heaven ;
and what is more, a range of columns in perspective,
which is indeed most beautiful." St Elizabeth of
Hungary is a fine point in the lower composition.
She wears a green gown, and in its skirt she carries
the loaves wliich, by grace of heaven, and to defend
her from the anger of her husband, were turned, as we
know, to roses.

Room X.

Sala del Perugino.

An irresistible sense of sadness creeps over us as we
pass through the room which bears the name of Pietro
Perugino. Looking at the collection one feels much
in the same frame of mind as one does in searching the
wearisome domestic letters of a genius. Only one or
two of the pictures attributed to Vannucci in the Pina-
coteca of Perugia have the touch of the spirit in them.
No. 25, which IS double-sided like most of the altar-
pieces of convents, where the one side faced the con-
gregation and the other the monks or nuns, is a beautiful
bit of Perugino's work, fine both in colour and in senti-
ment. No. 10, too, is a small gem from one of Pietro's
really beautiful altar-pieces.^ Nos. 20 and 4 are frag-
ments of one enormous altar-piece (see p. 19c), which
used to hang in the church of S. Agostino and which
like many others of Pietro's finest works was torn to
pieces, and carried a(fross the Alps to swell the galleries

1 The hole it filled may still be seen in No. 16, Room XIII.,
but the big picture is torn from its frame and its place filled up
with a good bit of Eusebio's work.


The Story of Perugia

of Napoleon. One hurries shuddering past pictures like
Nos. I, 5, and 26. It seems so impossible that what
the Germans call a " Schone Seele " should have
allowed such things to be.

Room XI.

Sala di Bernardino di Betto detto il Pinturtcchio.

In the little room which leads out of Room X. we
make an interesting study of Perugino's pictures, for it
contains some of his earliest and also some of his most
decadent work. Had the municipality of Perugia just
a touch of humour or malice when they hung No. 25
side by side with No. 1 6 ? Whatever they had in
their heads they have given to us a curious study.
Here are two works by the same man, the latter
probably a pot-boiler of his school but still burdened
with his name. Both represent precisely the same
subject, the same set of saints is in each of them ; but
the early work is full of thought, of reverence and
feeling ; the early Sebastian, calm and grave, has the
arrow in his very flesh, and the later Sebastian, simper-
ing and affected, toys with his arrow and turns with
painful affectation to the Saviour. There is a lovely
little set of sketches on the predella under No. 6 ;
the Nativity, a mere hurried impression, seems full of
the breeze of early spring in Umbria.

We have a splendid bit of Pinturicchio's work in
this room which bears his name, and also one of the
rare paintings of Lo Spagna ; one or two pictures
which bear at least the name of Raphael, and the
much disputed " Adoration " which has been ascribed
to more than one distinguished person.

Bernardino di Betto, usually known as Pinturicchio


The Pinacoteca

and sometimes as il Sordicchio because he was deaf, and
small and of a mean appearance, studied in the school
of Perugia, and indeed was one of its most distinguished
painters ; but having left that earliest studio he carried
his talents to other parts, and painted as we know for
popes and princes, painted above all things those two
wonderful series of frescoes in the Duomo at Siena and
in the Borgia rooms at the Vatican. He has been called
sometimes the Umbrian Gozzoli ; certainly he was
the historical painter of the great school which grew in
the times of Perugino. Vasari with a certain prejudice
and ill nature insists that Pinturicchio's success was
one ratiier of opportunity than of talent ; but it is much
more probable that the painter was beloved because he
was faithful to his promises and carried out his orders
with care and with precision. We know, too, that after
all the sums he got, and all his heavy labours, he died
of hunger and neglect on a winter's night at Siena, his
wife having deserted him and eloped with a new lover.

Pinturicchio had a grant of land given to him in the
neighbourhood of Perugia in 1 495, by Alexander VI.,
and he determined to return to his native city and live
there ; but some years later, when in money difficulties,
he was forced to sell it to a gentleman of Perugia.

The splendid altar-piece (No. 10), which" alone
remains to Perugia of this distinguished pupil of Peru-
gino, is ill lighted and rather difficult to judge from
top to bottom, but is interesting as well as beautiful ;
for the picture remains just as the painter painted it with
all its panels in their proper order, unlike the panels of
so many of Perugino's finest altar-pieces. The Pieta,
the angel of the Annunciation, both the figures of the
Virgin and the detail of their dresses, fruit and books,
are exquisitely finished.

There is in the same room an excellent specimen of


'The Story of Perugia

the work of another of Perugino's scholars — Lo Spagna
(No. 7). Giovanni di Pietro was one of the most dis-
tinguished of Vanucci's school, and Kugler indeed pro-
nounces him to be the most distinguished after Raphael.
It is probable that he studied with Fiorenzo di Lorenzo
before going to Vannucci's studio, but it is difficult to
discover any details about his private life. His whole
career is shrouded in some mystery. His name would
make one think he was Spanish by birth. We know
that he left Perugia and went to live at Spoleto.
Vasari declares that this was because the painters
of Perugia were jealous of him and made lite in
their midst impossible ; this fact is however severely
denied by our gossip Mariotti, who declares that Lo
Spagna was excessively well off in Spoleto, where he
not only received the rights of citizenship but also
secured a charming wife. Be all this as it may, of this
really good artist, who combmed in his work the influ-
ence of Raphael and of Perugino, only one piece is
left in the place where he learned his art.. The
Madonna and Saints (No. 7) is a fine specimen of his
work. The mother and the child are fresh and beauti-
ful in colour and expression, and all the details of the
dresses and the landscape infinitely careful. Note St
Jerome, his gloves, his book, his hat and splendid
gown. One other picture is ascribed to Giovanni in
the same room, but it is greatly inferior in treatment.

We now come to the Adoration of the Magi, which
after much dispute was some time ago ascribed to
Perugino's scholar Eusebio di San Giorgio, but which
is still the subject of endless discussions, as, owing to
further and more minute investigations it is at length
declared by excellent judges to be the work of
Raphael. One reason given for this is that tlie young
man to the right of the Virgin has on his trousers a

The Pinacoteca

strange design, the arms of RaphacJ. Poor Eusebio
must turn in his grave. His former biographers,
anxious to seize on any gem of painting which should
save the artist from a rather mediocre position in the
history of art, always stayed to shout exultant praises
when they came to this picture, and now the critic would
tear even this glory from his brows and crown another
man whose is already heavy with their laurels. ^

No 20 — a Madonna and Child — is ascribed to
Raphael. The picture certainly has something of the
master in it and it may be the work of the mere boy,
when first he came from Uibino to paint with Peruuino,
and in the Umbrian city dreamed his great Madonna
of the future. Raphael Sanzio passes like a dream
through Perugia, leaving no certain relic of his mighty
fame save one faint faded fresco on the church wall of
S. Severo, and these poor relics in the gallery.^

Room XII.

Sola di Glannicola e di Berto di Giovanni.

From this point forwards the interest of the gallery
begins to wane. We have tracked the dawn and seen
the sunrise; now we feel the dull warmth of midday,

1 Eusebio was a favourite pupil of Perugino. There is some-
thing pathetic in his life Men seemed better friends to him
than fortune. Pinturicchio loved him and took him with him
to Siena to hel]5 him with his work there. He was a great
friend of IVlanni, too, and a passionate admirer of Raphael,
whose work he imitated. When very young he married a
beautiful girl of Perugia whom he loved deeply. By her he had
many children and his life became a struggle to support them,
so that he was often hampered and distracted in his work and
died early and in misery.

" That Perugia had great Raphaels not very long ago every-
one knows. '1 he excpiisite Madonna del Libro is now in S.
Petersburg, and the British nation paid a memorable sum for
the Ansidei Madonna which used to hang in S. Fiorenzo.


The Story of Perugia

and passing through the weary hours of the afternoon,
most fully and amply represented in the work of the two
Alfanis, we pass to night through the fevered rooms
of the Decadence. Sala XII. is devoted to the work,
of Perugino's scholars, but most of it is weak. Still
there is a touch of the old sweetness here and there
among the figures. Note No. i 5 by Giannicola Manni.
It has a charm though it is very imitative. The rest
of Giannicola's work in this room is rather dreary.
But there is charm, too, in the purely imitative, nay
copied work of Berto di Giovanni. Berto was another
of Perugino's scholars. He lived probably towards
the end of the fifteenth century and it is evident that
he felt a passionate admiration for his fellow student,
Raphael. All we can gather of facts about Berto
comes to us through his connection with Raphael.
In 1 5 16 he contracted to paint, in combination with
his hero, a picture for the nuns of Monteluce. Bits
of the predella are now in the Pinacoteca. In the flat
and almost womanish sketches of Berto one traces his
persistent admiration for the greater artist. It is as
though an intelligent child had torn the leaves from
its mother's sketch-book and filled in the lines with
faithful and laborious colouring. (See Nos. 19 to 26.)
But Berto's charm, such as it is, went all wrong when
he tried to paint big subjects. Nos. 1 6 and 1 4 are

little more than failures.

* * * * *

To anyone who admires the work of the two Al-
fani, Domenico and Orazio, a happy hunting-ground
exists in the last big rooms of the Pinacoteca. How
it came about that one of Perugino's really lovely
frescoes got hung in this part, we cannot tell, but it is
certain that the Nativity (No. 31, Room XIII.) is one
of the loveliest things that remain of Pietro in the town
of Perugia. It is very like our own Nativity in the

I he Pinacoteca

National Gallery, faint and f;iir in colour, calm and
true in composition, with a peculiar lilac colour of crushed
grapes throughout the dresses and the landscape.

It would be impossible to close any account of the
school of Perugino without a slight sketcli ot the two
Alfanis whose intense admiration for the genius of
painting became a fault, and who, through their very
earnestness preserved the corpse from which the life
long since had fled. The Alfanis, Domenico the
father, and Orazio the son, had money and long life.
These two happy gifts they employed in the paths of
art ; with these two gifts they at length degraded what
they really attempted to exalt. Domenico was such a
passionate admirer of Raphael that one of his his-
torians declared him to have died in the same year as
Sanzio. Mariotti denies this. " However passionate
a friend and inseparable a companion," he urges,
" Domenico had not for certain such a crazy folly as
to accompany him to the other world." Domenico
far outlived Raphael. In his long life he absorbed
the teaching of many schools, and utterly obliterated
his ovv'n personality in the work of other people. His
son Orazio did the same. They went into partnership,
started a large school or studio, and there created the
innumerable, rather middle-class pictures, which cover
the walls of the Pinacoteca. Orazio survived his
father about thirty years, and was the first president of

the Academy of Perugia founded in 1573'

* * * * *

One word to close these notes about the painters of
the Umbrian school.

Seek out the painters in the places where they
painted. Go to Spoleto for the works of Lo Spagna, to
Gubbio for the masterpiece of Nelli, to Spello for
Pinturicchio, to Foligno for the early men who have
not even names. Go in May to Montefalco, when


The Story of Perugia

all the green of Umbrian angels' wings is in the lanes
which lead to these. Learn by heart the Umbrian
landscape if you wish to really love and understand
the spirit of Umbrian art. The Pinacoteca of Perugia
serves only as a backbone for the genuine study. ^

^ It will perhaps be objected by some readers that the above
pages contain too few facts and dates about the painttrs of
the Umbrian school and the manner in which they were
influenced by the Florentines. For these, we add the follow-
ing list of authorities whose works contain full store of infor-
mation on the subject :

Crowe & Cavdlcaselle — History of Painting in Italy, vol. iii.

Alinda Brunamonti — Pidro Pcru^ino e fAtte Umbra.

Angelo Lupatelli — Storia delta Pittura in Perugia.


The Museum^ atid T^omb of the Voliimiii'i

Having traced the first Etruscan walls and seen the
tomb of the Volumnii, a note of sombre and half melan-
choly interest will inevitably have been struck upon our
mind whilst trying to realise the lives of those mysterious
people who created these things and left these dumb
indications — dumb, because the language is so dead —
upon the country where they lived and died. This
note is of course by no means confined to the mind of
the passing traveller. It is the people of the place
itself who feel it most, and in Perugia, thanks to their
efforts, we have, in the museum at the University, a
very complete, if only a small collection of the relics
of Etruscan civilization as found in the immediate
neighbourhood. In a small book written by Signor
Lupatelli upon the growth of the museum, we read
that the noble families of the place have always loved
to trace their earliest ancestors by carefully collecting
any sarcophagi or other relics which they found upon
tlieir lands. In this way the Museum has been
formed, and a crowd of tombs, laid open by the plough
or winter rains, have been preserved with all their
treasures in them.^

1 The Museum is kept in the upper story of the University
at Perugia, and a delightful street, or rather aqueduct, called
the Via Appia, leads down to it from the back of the

- At first these collections were kept in their owners' private
palaces, later on they sold or gave them to their native town.


The Story of Perugia

The study of the Etruscans is, after all, the study of
the dead, and an Etruscan Museum has about it all the
mysterious atmosphere of the tomb. What barrier
greater, what ocean more profound, than that between
ourselves and this dead people ! Their tombs, their
busts, their playthings and inscriptions seem to chill the
very air around them. Ordinary people, not students
of archaeology, must face this fact quite boldly and
come prepared to plunge head foremost into a very
chilly atmosphere if they wish to learn about the ancient
Etruscans. The present writers are bound to confess,
that, on glad spring mornings, they have turned from
the sarcophagi and the bronzes and terra-cotta vases in
the cases to look with undisguised delight through the
windows of the museum and up beyond to the brown
roofs of the wicked old mediaeval city opposite. The
Duomo with all the blood upon its steps, the Piazza
with all its passionate and burning history, seemed to
them more real, more sympathetic, than the uneventful
countenances, the harmless funereal urns, of this quiet
race of men, who lived and died over one thousand
years before our era.

'• Les Tyrenes,"says M. Andre Lelevre, " durant leur longue
domination soiit restes dcs etrangers, c'est cc qui expliqtie pourquoi
hur langue d leurs dieux out d'nparu avec Icur puissance, et pourquoi
nous sommes reduits a fouiller leurs tombeaux pour connaitre
leur vie. C'est de leurs demeures funeraires que nous exhumons
aujourd'hui leurs industries, leurs arts, leurs festins, leurs
danses, leurs jeux, leurs pompeuses ceremonies triomphales, et
leurs nuptiales, et aussi leur couite philosophie faite de fatalisme
et d' insouciance."

Early in this century the objects thus collected were moved from
their original home in the Palazzo Pubblico, and placed in the
corridors and upper storey of the university. Thanks to the
indefatigable care and energy of such men as Vermiglioli and
Conestabile, who devoted their lives to the study, explanation,
and history of these relics, we now have a splendid answer to
many of our questions, both in the carefully arranged collection
of the University and in the books concerning them.



"The Museum

It is probable that when the Rasenae first arrived in
central Italy, they were still an almost barbarous
nation, and that their arts and civilization were de-
veloped later in their northern settlements, in Tuscany
and Umbria. They seem to have adopted little from
the races who preceded them in Italy, though some
say that they learned the art of statuary from these
still more mysterious people ; but, being, as we know,
themselves a sea-faring nation they may have taken
their first conceptions of art from the Carthaginians
and Phoenicians, and in this way they might easily have
come in contact with the art of Egypt and of Carthage.
But by far the strongest influence was that of Greece.
This they perhaps felt first in Greece itself, and later
through their contact with Greek settlers in Italy.

The Etruscans were a receptive people ; they easily
grasped a new idea, and carried it out with careful pre-

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Online LibraryMargaret SymondsThe story of Perugia → online text (page 18 of 23)