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The Ducal Palace expresses the Gothic spirit
to perfection. It was the great work of Venice at
this period. The best architects, the best labourers,
and the best painters were employed in beautifying
it. At one time the palace fell into decay, and it
was obvious to everyone that it should be rebuilt



66 VENICE

and enlarged. But the alteration would be ex-
tremely expensive. Therefore a law was passed
preventing anyone suggesting such alterations
unless he had previously paid one thousand ducats
to the State. At last a man arose who cared not
for the thousand ducats, and suggested the necessary
alterations. The palace was then rebuilt. It was
palace, prison, senate-house, and office of public
business, all in one. There were thirty-six great
pillars supporting the lower stories alone, all
decorated in the richest possible manner. There
was no end to the fantasies of the sculptors at that
period exquisite curves, studied outlines, graceful
but complex, solid and strong and beautifully pro-
portioned braided work ; lilies and flowers of all
kinds intertwined. Much of the sculpture is snow-
white, with gold as a background ; some of it has
glass mosaic let into the hollows. The cross is
used a good deal ; also the peacock, the vine, the
dove.

The palace of Semitecolo has some beautiful
early- Gothic windows, having false cusps in the
arches, so as to make the head a trefoil. One sees
here the gradual growth of the arch until it cul-
minates in the Doge's Palace type. There are
beautiful balustrades to the balconies, original and



THE DOGANA AND SALUTE



ARCHITECTURE 67

belonging to the period. In the early -Gothic
palaces one notices a certain softening of the angles
that is to say, in the fine fourteenth -century
Gothic buildings. The early Gothic architecture
has no cusps to the arches ; it shows a transitional
form between Venetian Romanesque and Venetian
Gothic. There are first-floor arcades early-Gothic,
with a somewhat Oriental curve in the arch derived
by the early Venetian Gothics from Alexandria or
Cairo. The capitals of the columns are character-
istic of the period : there are dainty balconies with
graceful, slender columns, and cusps to the arches.

These Gothic palaces were built by a people who
were laborious, brave, practical, and prudent ; yet
they had great ideas of the refinement of domestic
life, and the Gothic palaces remain to-day much
the same as when they were newly built marble
balconies, great strong sweeps of delicate-looking
tracery, clustered arches. It is the Gothic window
that is so perfect, so strong, built, too, with
material that was by no means good.

There is so much rivalry, vanity, dishonesty, in
the present day, that houses are badly and cheaply
built; even in the best of them, bad iron and
inferior plaster are used. How many of them, I
should like to know, will be standing fifty years



68 VENICE

hence? Mr. Ruskin is much against our modern
windows and the manner in which they are quickly
constructed out of bad materials, and the bricks
all placed one on top of the other slanting anyhow.
The doors of Gothic palaces are all semicircular
above. At one time the name of the family was
placed over the entrance, and a prayer inserted for
their safety and prosperity, also a blessing for the
stranger who should pass the threshold. Inside
the houses there is always a large court round
which all the various rooms circle, with a beautiful
outside staircase supported on pointed arches with
coned parapets and projecting landing-places. In
the court there is always a well of marble superbly
sculptured.

The centres of the early Renaissance architecture
were Florence, Milan, and Venice. Venice is the
only city in which important examples of all three
periods of the Renaissance are to be found the
early period, the culminating period, and the
period of decay. The Renaissance found better
expression hi Venice than elsewhere in Italy. In
fact, when Florence and Rome had entered upon
quite another period, Venice continued it for fully
twenty -five years longer. The Venetians were
ambitious, exceedingly so ; and this ambition was



PALAZZO CONTAHINI DEGLI SCRIGNI



ARCHITECTURE 69

a source of great trouble to the rest of Italy. The
balance of power seemed, in their opinion, to be
weighing too heavily in the direction of the Queen
of the Adriatic ; and the peace of the peninsula,
they felt, was not by any means assured. The
greatest period for Venice was at the end of the
fifteenth century, when she had conquered all the
land about her from Padua nearly to Milan, and
seawards to Dalmatia and Crete. In the market-
places of Padua, Vicenza, Verona, and Brescia, the
Lion of St. Mark was set up as a sign of the sub-
jugation. Even now one can trace the influence of
Venice upon the art of these various places. But
the Venetians certainly learnt a great deal from the
people whom they conquered. Other influences
were brought to bear upon Venetian architecture
as, for example, the Lombardi family, who pro-
bably belonged to some part of Lombardy.
Venice seems at this time to have gathered unto
herself many fine suggestions from the rest of
Italy. In fact, Venice absorbed talent from the
rest of the world. In quite early days she adopted
Byzantine and Arabic architecture ; then, in the
sixteenth century, she took unto herself the art of
the Milanese, who enriched the city with their work.
A truly Renaissance building did not appear in



70 VENICE

Venice until sixty years after the first was erected
in Florence, and then, strangely, it had little of the
Florentine character. This, after all. is not extra-
ordinary when one comes to think of the bitter
war between Florence and Venice in 1467. She
took her style of architecture from the countries
which she had conquered and naturalised, such
as the district of Lombardy ; and in her turn
she influenced them. The adoption of the Greek
forms of Roman architecture which originated in
Florence gradually spread and reached Venice ;
but the Venetians did not struggle, as did the
Florentines, to revive and purify Roman archi-
tecture. Simply the tendency of the general taste
inclined in that direction, and gave to their own
Venetian forms of architecture a certain classic air.
In the general form of the work of this period one
cannot detect the classical influence ; but, if you
examine into it carefully, you will notice in small
details, such as a capital, that some classical subject
has been introduced in place of the usual sym-
bolical one. You will also detect in purely Gothic
composition signs of the new art influence. For
example, in the mouldings there is an introduction
of cupids among the foliage, and all the strange
fables and gods of the heathen are represented



ARCHITECTURE 71

there. This was the period when people were
becoming more learned. Later, buildings were
erected on purely classical lines ; yet they still kept
to the Gothic arch. Bartolomeo Buono of Bergamo
was one of the greatest architects of his time. In
1520 the work of another architect was noticeable
that of Guglielmo Bergamasco.

The question of the church exterior was one of
the most difficult problems of the early-Renaissance
architect, and he never solved it quite. The
churches of Venice nearly all belong to the
Renaissance; there were many of them rebuilt
under the influence of either Palladian or Jesuit
style. Palladio was a great architect ; but he had
nothing of the Catholic feeling. He was really
more suited to build a pagan temple than to build
a Christian church. The Jesuit style, moreover, is
horrible, with its stumpy columns, bloated cherubs,
unhealthy affectations, and fiery ornaments. It
is a display without beauty or grace, merely over-
loaded and heavy. The church of the Scalzi is of
extravagant richness. The walls are encrusted
with coloured marble ; there are frescoed ceilings
by Tiepolo and Sansovino ; bright tones prevail
more appropriate to a ballroom than to a house
of prayer. One can quite imagine a minuet under



72 VENICE

such a ceiling. Many of the churches in Italy are
built in this style, and are compensated only by the
number and interest of the valuable objects which
they contain. Almost every church has a museum
such as would honour the palace of a king. There
one sees Titians, Paul Veroneses, Tintorettos, Pal-
mas, Giovanni Bellinis, Bonifazios. The church of
the Scalzi has a broad staircase in red brocatelle of
Verona, with truncated columns in marble, gigantic
prophets, stone balustrades, and doors of mosaic.
The Romanesque churches are really beautiful,
with their pillars of porphyry, antique capitals,
images standing out upon a glitter of gold,
Byzantine mosaics, slender columns, and carved
trefoils. The church of Santa Maria della Salute
has been made famous by the picture of her by
Canaletto in the Louvre. One of the most beauti-
ful things within is a ceiling by Titian. Venetian
arabesque ornament of the Quattri cento is tenderly
sculptured, and the friezes are undercut in a
reverent and delicate manner.

One of the most beautiful palaces of the Grand
Canal is the Palazzo Corner- Spinelli. It is
especially noticeable because of the number of
windows in the basement, there is no observable
order hi the placing of them. Then, again, there



SANTA MARIA BELLA SALUTE



ARCHITECTURE 73

are contrasts in the shape of balconies. Some are
small and curved inwards ; others are long and
straight. In 1481 the palaces became of a more
advanced character. The central windows were
grouped together ; but this last feature is character-
istic of Venetian architecture of all periods. One
of Sammichele's finest works is the Palazzo Grimani,
on the Grand Canal. It was carried out by others
after Sammichele's death ; nevertheless, it is very
fine. It has great dignity and majesty, and is a
composition such as will be found in Venice alone.
Venice is, architecturally, the most interesting
city in Italy. It contains works of all periods,
from the early Christian foundation to the
eighteenth century ; and perhaps the best examples
of each are there. First there was the school
of the Lombardi ; next, that of Sammichele and
Sansovino, quite distinct, an influence direct from
Rome. Then came, closely following, the schools
of Palladio and Scamozzi ; and a fourth is that of the
seventeenth-century artists, who did good work in
Venice, but on different lines. The best example
of this late period in Venice is Santa Maria della
Salute, erected hi token of the cessation of the
plague. It is situated at the sea gate to the
presence-chamber of the Queen of the Adriatic.



74 VENICE

Few churches of any age can rival it architecturally.
The composition is mainly pyramidal.

The barocco style is nowhere so appalling as in
Venice. It is most untruthful and unprincipled in
character. There is a great deal of ostentation and
bombastic pomp about it. A terrible example of
this can be seen in Doge Valiero's tomb, where the
marble is made to imitate silk and cloth wherever
possible.

The Palazzo Pesaro was built, rich and gross,
typical of the domestic Renaissance, when archi-
tecture tended to decay. Technically it is a most
inferior building. The figures in the sculpture are
spasmodic in action, and restless ; there is a pro-
jecting, diamond-like rustication, far too bold in
treatment. The angles are an exaggeration of the
style of Sansovino.

There are three great causes of the decadence of
Venetian architecture. First of all, it was started
by purists who were bound too firmly to ancient
usages, too much regulated by precedent, coldness,
and formality. Secondly, a more disastrous in-
fluence was brought to bear that of Michael
Angelo, the example of freedom to the verge of
licence. This revolution was brought about partly
by the revolt of the public feeling against the



PALAZZO MENGALDO



ARCHITECTURE 75

restrictions of the purists, partly by real want of
knowledge and failure to understand traditional
weaknesses and systems of design with regard to
construction. The purpose and use of features
was misunderstood ; uncontrolled freedom was
allowed; ornament was added for its own sake,
instead of being bound up in architectural lines.
By such freaks and caprices almost every building
at this time, though not ignoble in composition,
was completely disfigured. Thirdly, the architects
made the fatal mistake of using the excrescences of
a weakness of the great masters and endeavouring
to raise them to the dignity of features of design.
Thus Venetian architecture withered and decayed,
fading out into a pale shadow of what it had once
been. That glorious art, which had once been so
superb in the hands of the masters, sank into the
execution of feigned architecture, false perspective,
and fictitious grand facades, with bad statues in
unreal relief.



OSPEDALE CIVILE



ST. MARK'S



8T. MARK 8



;





ST. MARK'S

WHEN you arrive before the Church of St. Mark's
you realise that at last, after all your travels
throughout the length and breadth of the globe,
you have before you a building in which colour
and design unite in forming perfection. Here
stands without a shadow of doubt the finest
building in the world, flawless. It is impossible
to imagine that St. Mark's has been built stone
by stone, that the brains of mere men have
designed it, and that the hands of mere men have
set it up. It must, you think, have been there
from all time just as it is, formed as the bubble
is formed, and the opal. It is a revelation to look
upon such perfect symmetry, such glorious colour-
ing. Like an opal, St. Mark's shows no sign of
age. It glitters like a new jewel, and might have
been built but yesterday. Unlike most churches,
it has no sombre, frowning air. Its spires do not

79



80 VENICE

launch themselves into the sky. It does not bristle
with towers and arched buttresses. Rather the
building seems to stoop and crouch. It is sur-
mounted by domes, as is a Mohammedan mosque,
and is a strange mixture of Oriental ornamentation
and Christian symbolism. Horses take the place
of angels ; grace and splendour, the place of
austerity and mystery. Who ever heard of gold,
alabaster, amber, ivory, enamel, and mosaic being
used in the construction of a Christian church ?
Who ever heard of dolphins, tridents, marine shells,
trefoils, cupolas, marble plaques, backgrounds of
vividly coloured mosaics and of gold ? It is more
like a fairy palace, or an Alcazar, or a mosque,
than a Catholic church ; more like an altar to
Neptune than one to the Christian God.

The ultimate result of this apparent incoherence
is a harmonious whole. Reverence and Chris-
tianity are here an absolute and living faith.
Even the most devout Catholic has no cause for
complaint. With all its pagan art, St. Mark's
preserves the character of primitive Christianity.
The exterior is extremely complicated. There are
many porticoes, each with columns of marble,
jasper, and other precious materials ; many mosaics
on grounds of gold over each doorway ; many



PALAZZO DANIEL1



ST. MARK'S 81

historic stories and legends that these mosaics
represent ; many fantastic forms of angelic beasts,
saints, Byzantine and Middle - Ages has - reliefs,
magnificent bronze doors, arcades, lamps, peacocks
so many that it is impossible to attempt to
describe them in detail. Even to tell of the
delicate structure and the subtle, ever-changing,
iridescent colour is beyond me. It is almost
bewildering when one thinks that at the time St.
Mark's was built every house in every side street
had much of the same extravagant richness, beauty
of colouring, and superb architecture. As Mr.
Ruskin says, it is absurd to imagine that churches
were designed in a style particularly different from
that of other buildings. There is nothing specially
sacred in what we call ecclesiastical architecture.
All the houses were built much in the same way.
Only, while the houses have fallen into decay, the
church has been preserved by a devoted populace.
It is not often that one sees a coloured building,
a building teeming with colour; but St. Mark's
vibrates with colour. There are no blank spaces
of grey stone. Every square inch is beautiful.

When one enters from the bright sun, St.
Mark's appears dim and dark ; but you must not
judge by that. To appreciate its beauties, the



82 VENICE

student should visit the church day after day.
Gradually they will unfold themselves. That is
what constitutes one of the charms of St. Mark's.
It is as though one were in a carved-out cave of
gold and purple, on a voyage of discovery all by
oneself. At first you can see nothing ; but as your
eyes become accustomed to the darkness, colours
begin to grow upon you out of the gloom. Some
minutes must elapse before you realise that the
floor, which at first you took to be of a deep-toned
grey stone, is a mosaic composed of thousands of
differently coloured marbles that you are walking
on precious marbles of peacock hues. Golden
gleams above your head attract you to the domed
ceiling, and, to your delight and amazement, you
discover that it is formed entirely of gold mosaic.
You are passing a dim recess, and you see a
blurred mass of rich colour ; after a time you
realise that you are looking at a famous master-
piece by one of the great Italian painters. You
sit there as in a dream ; and one by one the
pictures and the mosaics, the Gothic images, the
cupolas, the arches, the marbles, the alabaster,
the porphyry, and the jasper appear to you until
what was darkness and gloom appears to be teeming
and vibrating with colour.



FRANCESCA



ST. MARK'S 83

St. Mark's carries one away from the everyday
world. On the ignorant and the uninitiated it has
a marvellous effect. Men and women and children
flock to it by the thousands daily. Many and
fervent are the worshippers one sees praying before
some special saint or beloved Madonna. Some are
weeping, and others kneel for hours on the cold
stones. The unhappy people of Venice have
many sins and sorrows, and there is much that is
comforting to them in this rich, majestic church.
The fainting spirit is revived and the most desperate
person stimulated as he looks about him at the
sparkling mosaic roof, the rich walls, and the
dimly burning lamps. There is much in precious
stones, music, sculptured figures, in pictures of
heaven and hell, that appeals to these people. An
infinite and pitiful God somewhere about them,
these peasants of poor imaginations cannot under-
stand. They want a faith that they can cling to
almost something that they can finger and touch.
St. Mark's is to the poor of Venice like a beauti-
fully illustrated Bible. There, in the cupolas, the
story of the Old Testament is presented in mosaic,
plainly for every eye to see, for the youngest and
least educated to understand. It touches them,
and appeals to them, and keeps their faith burning



84 VENICE

bright and clear. There they have the seven days
of creation represented, mysterious, weird, and
primitive, discs of gold and silver representing
the sun and the moon. There are the Tree of
Knowledge, the Temptation, the Fall, and the
Expulsion from Paradise. Then comes the slaying
of Abel by Cain, Adam and Eve tilling the ground.
There is a strange mosaic of the Ark, with the
animals going in two by two on a background of
gold ; there are the stories of Abraham, of Joseph,
and of Moses, all quaintly executed, full of detail
and without regard to anatomy. There is no
struggle to imitate Nature, and the colouring is
good.

In the time when St. Mark's was built there were
no cheap Bibles, and, if there had been any, the
poorer classes could not have read them. Thus
the great Church was an endless boon to them, one
which could never be quite exhausted. Many and
splendid are the lessons these mosaics and pictures
taught and continue to teach. The mysteries and
beauties of the Bible are impressed upon the mind
in a manner that cannot be effaced. All the
virtues are there Temperance quenching fire with
water; Charity, mother of the virtues, and the
last attained in human life ; Patience ; Modesty ;



ST. MARK'S 85

Chastity ; Prudence ; Lowliness of Thought,
Kindness, and Compassion ; and Love which is
Stronger than Death. These lessons the Venetians
have continually before them, to help them to bear
the troubles of this world, and giving them hope
for the peace of another. Most of the pictures in
mosaic are typically Byzantine, mainly symbolical
and of the first school of design in Venice. Upon
these pictures the people of Venice live and thrive
spiritually : the pleasure is real and pure. Colour
has a great influence upon the emotions, just as
music has ; and colour was used in the earliest
times to stimulate devotion and repentance.
There are pictures in which the most profound
emotion is expressed. When one sees the pictures
of Christ's life and passion, one cannot but be
touched.

By the medium of paintings in the churches,
people began to understand and appreciate art, and
to feel the need of it in their homes. Not only
is St. Mark's an education to the poor and the
ignorant: it is also an education to the student
and to the artist. Here you have pictures of the
nation of fishermen at their greatest period ; also
you find legends splendidly told, such as the story
of the two merchants who brought the bones of



86 VENICE

St. Mark from Alexandria under cover of pork,
crying " Swine ! swine 1 " You see the priests,
the Doge, and the people of Venice as they were
in the days of her power.

In one of the dim corners of St. Mark's is a
statue of an old man on crutches with a finger on
his lip. This is a Byzantine architect who was
sent to Pietro Orseolo from Constantinople, as the
cleverest Eastern builder of his time, to construct
St. Mark's Church. He was a bow-legged dwarf,
and undertook to build this marvellous edifice,
unequalled in its beauty, on condition that a statue
of himself should be placed in a conspicuous posi-
tion in the Church. This was arranged. One day
the Doge overheard the architect say that he could
not execute the work in the way he had intended.
" Then," said Orseolo, " I am absolved from my
promise " ; and he merely erected a small statue of
the architect in a corner of the Church.

Think of the makers of St. Mark's the great
men who worked together with brains and hands to
make her what she is 1 The army of artists, paint-
ing, designing, sculpturing, one after the other from
generation to generation in this great cathedral !
Titian, Tintoretto, Palma, Pilotto, Salviati, and
Sebastian were among the painters whose designs



ST. MARK S PIAZZA



ST. MARK'S 87

were used for the mosaics ; Bozza, Vincenzo,
Bianchini, and Passerini, among the master
mosaicists ; Pietro Lombardo, Alberghetti, and
Massegna, among the sculptors. Then, the other
thousands, all men of extraordinary talent, of
whom astonishingly little is known, fervent
workers 1 Throughout eight centuries they
worked, and with what care and skill and
patience! At what a cost, too, these master-
pieces must have been achieved ! Think of the
temples and the quarries that have been robbed of
their gold, and of the marbles, the alabaster, and
the porphyry. All the saints and prophets and
martyrs are there ; the stories of the Virgin, of the
Passion, and of Calvary ; all the scenes from the
Old and New Testaments.

The early Venetians seem to have reveUed in
colour and in rich materials. The builders laid on
the richest colour and the most brilliant jewels they
could find. They were exiles from ancient and
beautiful cities, and when they succeeded in war
their first thought was to bring home shiploads of
precious materials. Just as the Egyptians, the
Greeks, and the Arabs had an intense love of colour,
so had the early Venetians, who used precious
stones in great abundance, even in their own



88 VENICE

private houses. A most extraordinary thing is
that there is nothing vulgar about the costliness of
St. Mark's. Although both inside and out it is
rich beyond words, rich in precious stones, rich in
every way, the building is full of reserve. There
is no ostentation, no vulgarity. The jewels used
in its construction do not for one moment inter-
fere with one's sense of the beautiful, or with
reverence and religion. They simply give a rare
luxurious feeling to the place, and in the ignorant
inspire respect for a Church thus encased and
honoured with the richest in the land.

Then, again, the jewels do not form a principal


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