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Title: Tuscan Sculpture of the Fifteenth Century

A Collection of Sixteen Pictures Reproducing Works by Donatello, the Della Robia, Mino da Fiesole, and Others, with Introduction

Author: Estelle M. Hurll

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Tuscan Sculpture by Estelle M. Hurll

 

 

 

 

 

[Prf]
The Riverside Art Series
  1. RAPHAEL
  2. REMBRANDT
  3. MICHELANGELO
  4. MILLET
  5. REYNOLDS
  6. MURILLO
  7. GREEK SCULPTURE
  8. TITIAN
  9. LANDSEER
  10. CORREGGIO
  11. TUSCAN SCULPTURE
  12. VAN DYCK

Representative pictures by famous Artists, with interpretative text and portrait of the painter. Edited by Estelle M. Hurll.

Each volume, crown 8vo, 75 cents, net; School Edition, linen, 50 cents, net; paper, 35 cents, net.


HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.

Boston and New York

 

 

 

[Frontispiece]

 

IL MARZOCCO (DONATELLO)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
IL MARZOCCO (DONATELLO)
National Museum, Florence

 

 

 

[i]

 

 

 

The Riverside Art Series

TUSCAN SCULPTURE

OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY

A COLLECTION OF SIXTEEN PICTURES

REPRODUCING WORKS BY DONATELLO, THE
DELLA ROBBIA, MINO DA FIESOLE, AND
OTHERS, WITH INTRODUCTION
AND INTERPRETATION


BY


ESTELLE M. HURLL




Printer Logo


BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
1902
[ii]



COPYRIGHT, 1902, BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Published March, 1902.




[iii]



PREFACE

This little collection is intended as a companion volume to "Greek Sculpture," a previous issue of the Riverside Art Series. The two sets of pictures, studied side by side, illustrate clearly the difference in the spirit animating the two art periods represented.

The Tuscan sculpture of the Renaissance was developed under a variety of forms, of which as many as possible are included in the limits of our book: the equestrian statue, the sepulchral monument, the ideal statue of saint and hero, as well as various forms of decorative art applied to the beautifying of churches and public buildings both without and within.

ESTELLE M. HURLL.

New Bedford, Mass.
February, 1902.

 [iv]

 

 

[v]

CONTENTS AND LIST OF PICTURES

 PAGE
Il Marzocco (The Heraldic Lion of Florence). By Donatello (Frontispiece) 
Introduction
 
  I. On some Characteristics of Tuscan Sculpture Of the Fifteenth Century vii
 II. On Books of Reference xi
III. Historical Directory of the Works in this Collection xiii
IV. Table of Biographical Data xvi
I.Musical Angels. By Donatello1
II.St. Philip. By Nanni di Banco7
III.St. John the Baptist. By Donatello13
IV.The Infant Jesus and St. John. By Mino da Fiesole19
V.Boys With Cymbals. By Luca della Robbia25
VI.Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto (Detail). By Jacopo della Quercia31
VII.Madonna and Child (Detail of lunette). By Luca della Robbia37
VIII.The Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominick. By Andrea della Robbia43
IX.St. George. By Donatello49
X.Bambino. By Andrea della Robbia55
XI.The Annunciation. By Andrea della Robbia61
XII.The Ascension. By Luca della Robbia67
XIII.Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal. By Antonio Rossellino73
XIV.Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata. By Donatello79
XV.Shrine. By Mino da Fiesole86
XVI.Il Marzocco (The Heraldic Lion of Florence). By Donatello (See Frontispiece)91
 Pronouncing Vocabulary of Proper Names and Foreign Words95
   Note: With one exception the pictures were made from photographs
by Alinari; the "Musical Angels" was made from a photograph
by Naya.

 

 

[vi] 

 

 

[vi]

INTRODUCTION


[^TOC]

I. ON SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF TUSCAN SCULPTURE
IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.



"The Italian sculptors of the earlier half of the fifteenth century are more than mere forerunners of the great masters of its close, and often reach perfection within the narrow limits which they chose to impose on their work. Their sculpture shares with the paintings of Botticelli and the churches of Brunelleschi that profound expressiveness, that intimate impress of an indwelling soul, which is the peculiar fascination of the art of Italy in that century."

These words of Walter Pater define admirably the quality which, in varying degree, runs through the work of men of such differing methods as Donatello, the della Robbia, Mino da Fiesole, and Rossellino. It is the quality of expressiveness as distinguished from that abstract or generalized character which belongs to Greek sculpture. Greek sculpture, it is true, taught some of these artists how to study nature, but it did not satisfy Christian ideals. The subjects demanded of the Tuscans were entirely foreign to Greek experience. The saints and martyrs of the Christian era were at the opposite pole from the gods and heroes of antiquity. Hence the aim of the new sculpture was the manifestation of the soul, as that of the classic art had been the glorification of the body.

Jacopo della Quercia was one of the oldest of the sculptors whose work extended into the fifteenth century, being [viii] already twenty-five years of age when that century began. Standing thus in the period of transition between the old and the new, his work unites the influence of medival tradition with a distinctly new element. His bas-reliefs on the portal of S. Petronio at Bologna are probably his most characteristic work. The tomb of Ilaria del Carretto is in a class by itself: "In composition, the gravest and most tranquil of his works, and in conception, full of beauty and feeling."[1]

Donatello is undoubtedly the greatest name in Italian sculpture previous to Michelangelo. The kinship between these two men was felicitously expressed in Vasari's quotation from "the most learned and very reverend" Don Vicenzo Borghini: "Either the spirit of Donato worked in Buonarroti, or that of Buonarroti first acted in Donato." Vitality, force, action, suggestiveness, character, such are the words which spring to the lips in the presence of both masters.

The range of Donatello's art was phenomenal, from works of such magnitude as the equestrian statue of Gattamelata, to the decorative panels for the altar of S. Antonio at Padua. At times he was an uncompromising realist, as in his statue of the bald old man, the Zuccone, who figured as King David. Again he showed himself capable of lofty idealism, as in the beautiful and heroic St. George. Which way his own tastes leaned we may judge from his favorite asseveration, "By my Zuccone." The point is that it mattered nothing to him whether his model was beautiful or ugly, whether he wrought out an ideal of his imagination or studied the character of an actual individual; his first care was to make the figure live. In consequence his art has what a critic has called "a robustness and a sanity" which have made it "a wellspring of inspiration to lesser men."

[ix] The only subject practically left out of Donatello's work was woman. Children afforded him all the material he needed for the more decorative forms of his art. For the rest the problems which interested him most were perhaps best worked out in the study of the male figure.

A recent biographer of Donatello, Hope Rea, points out some interesting characteristics of his technical workmanship. In every work subsequent to his St. Mark, "the hair," she says, "is conspicuous by its appearance of living growth." And again, explaining the excellence of his drapery, she shows how he went beyond the ordinary consideration of the general flow and line of the stuffs, to a study of the sections of the folds. Hence drapery with him "is not only an arrangement of lines for decorative effect, or a covering for the figure, but it is a beauty in itself, filled with the living air."

Nanni di Banco is a name naturally associated with that of Donatello, not only on account of the friendship between the two, but from the fact that both worked on the church of Or San Michele. Nanni was one of the smaller men whose work is overshadowed by the fame of a great contemporary. His art has not sufficient distinction to give it a prominent place; yet it is not without good qualities. Marcel Reymond insists that the public has not yet appreciated the just merits of this neglected sculptor. In his opinion the St. Philip was the inspiration of Donatello's St. Mark, while Nanni's St. Eloi had an influence upon St. George.

With Luca della Robbia began the "reign of the bas-relief," as Marcel Reymond characterizes the period of fifty years between Donatello and Michelangelo. Women and children were the special subjects of this sculptor's art, and it is perhaps in the Madonna and Child that we see his most characteristic touch. How well he could represent spirited action, we see in some of the panels of [x] the organ gallery. How dignified was his sense of repose, is seen in the lunette of the Ascension.

Much as he cared for expression,--"expression carried to its highest intensity of degree," as Walter Pater put it,--he never found it necessary to secure this expression at the cost of beauty. That he studied nature at first hand his works are clear evidence, but that did not preclude the choice of attractive subjects. His style is "so sober and contained," writes a recent critic, "so delicate and yet so healthy, so lovely and yet so free from prettiness, so full of sentiment, and devoid of sentimentality, that it is hard to find words for any critical characterization."[2] "Simplicity and nobility," the words of Cavalucci and Molinier, is perhaps the best phrase in which to sum up the art of Luca della Robbia.

In his nephew, Andrea della Robbia, the founder of the school had a successor whose best work is worthy of the master's teaching. If he lacked the simplicity and severity of the older man, he surpassed him in depth of Christian sentiment. Sometimes, it is true, his tenderness verges on weakness, his devoutness on pietism. If we are tempted to charge him with monotony we must remember what pressure was brought upon a man whose works attained such immense popularity. The bambini of the Foundling Hospital and the Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominick show the high level to which his art could rise.

Antonio Rossellino and Mino da Fiesole may be classed together as sculptors to whom decorative effect was of first importance; they loved line and form for their intrinsic beauty. They delighted in elaborate and well ordered compositions. Elegance of design, delicacy and refinement in handling, are invariable qualities of their work. Such qualities were especially to be desired in the making of those sepulchral monuments which were so numerous in their period. Of the many fine works of this class in Tuscany each of these two sculptors contributed at least one of the best examples.

[xi] It is superfluous to point out that the sweetness of these sculptors is perilously near the insipid, their grace too often formal. We are brought to realize the true greatness of the men when we behold the grave and tranquil beauty of the effigy of the Cardinal of Portugal, or the vigorous characterization of the bust of Bishop Salutati.

It is John Addington Symonds who says the final word when he declares that the charm of the works of such men as Mino and Rossellino "can scarcely be defined except by similes." And these are the images which this master of similes calls up to our mind as we contemplate their works: "The innocence of childhood, the melody of a lute or a song bird as distinguished from the music of an orchestra, the rathe tints of early dawn, cheerful light on shallow streams, the serenity of a simple and untainted nature that has never known the world."

[1] Sidney Colvin.

[2] Notes on Vasari's Lives, edited by E. H. and E. W. Blashfield and A. A. Hopkins.

[^TOC]

II. ON BOOKS OF REFERENCE.

There are but few works devoted exclusively to the subject of Italian Renaissance sculpture. For many years American students seeking information in this direction have relied chiefly upon the works of C. C. Perkins: "Tuscan Sculptors" (2 vols.), London, 1864; "Italian Sculptors" (in Northern, Southern and Eastern Italy), London, 1868; and finally the volume which unites and revises the material of both earlier works, "Historical Handbook of Italian Sculpture," New York, 1883.

[xii] The recent work of Marcel Reymond, "La Sculpture Florentine," Florence, 1898, has been heartily welcomed by students of all nationalities. It consists of four volumes, all well illustrated, devoted respectively to: (1) Les Prédécesseurs de l'Ecole Florentine et la Sculpture Florentine au XIVe siècle [The Precursors of the Florentine School and Florentine Sculpture of the 14th Century]. (2) Première moitié du XVe siècle [First half of the 15th century]. (3) Seconde moitié du XVe siècle [Second half of the 15th century]. (4) Le XVIe siècle et les Successeurs de l'Ecole Florentine [The 16th Century and the Successors of the Florentine School]. As it has not been translated into English this work is not so widely read by the general public as it should be, but it is probably to be found in most large libraries.

A newly published book, "Italian Sculpture of the Renaissance," by L. J. Freeman, M. A., appears just as this volume goes to press. It is a brief survey, critical and interpretative, of the principal works of the most prominent Florentine sculptors of the period, with some account of the characteristics of the early and later Renaissance work. Some forty fine illustrations elucidate the study.

Of the general works on the history of art from which material on our subject may be drawn, the most important is of course Vasari's "Lives." In the recently revised English version, edited by E. H. and E. W. Blashfield and A. A. Hopkins (New York, 1897), are some valuable footnotes summing up the characteristics of the individual sculptors.

Of inestimable value for purposes of serious study are the volumes by Eugène Müntz, "Histoire de l'Art pendant la Renaissance." The material bearing on the sculptors illustrated in this present collection is found in his volume devoted to "Les Primitifs" (Paris, 1889). Those to whom the French text presents no difficulty will derive much benefit from the study of this book, which may be consulted in the large public libraries.

[xiii] A book available to all, and of a delightfully popular nature, is the volume on "The Fine Arts" in John Addington Symonds's series of The Renaissance in Italy. This writer had a remarkable gift for putting much suggestive comment into a compact and readable form.

General histories of sculpture allotting a proportionate space to the consideration of the Italian sculptors of the Renaissance are, by Lucy Baxter, "Sculpture, Renaissance and Modern" (New York, 1891); Lübke, "History of Sculpture," translated from the German by F. E. Bunnett (London, 1878); Allan Marquand and A. L. Frothingham, "Textbook of the History of Sculpture" (New York, 1896).

A special study of the work of Donatello is made by Hope Rea in a volume of the series of Handbooks of the Great Masters in Painting and Sculpture. A complete list of the sculptor's works is given. Luca della Robbia is the subject of two important French works: by Cavalucci and Molinier, "Les Della Robbia" (Paris, 1884); by Marcel Reymond, "Les Della Robbia" (Florence, 1897). There is a chapter on Luca della Robbia in Walter Pater's "Studies in the History of the Renaissance" (1890), and another in Mrs. Van Rensselaer's "Six Portraits" (Boston, 1889).

Mrs. Oliphant has written pleasantly both of Donatello and of Luca della Robbia in "The Makers of Florence."

[^TOC]

III. HISTORICAL DIRECTORY OF THE WORKS IN
THIS COLLECTION.

Frontispiece. Il Marzocco (the heraldic lion of Florence). (Donatello.) Made of pietra serena and originally placed on the ringhiera of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Now in the National Museum (Bargello) of that city, while a bronze copy occupies its place in front of the palace.

[xiv] 1. Musical Angels. (Donatello.) Bronze bas-reliefs from the high altar of S. Antonio, Padua. Ordered in 1448. Completed in 1450. Marcel Reymond holds that the execution of these reliefs was committed to assistants. In 1576 a new altar was ordered, and Donatello's bronzes were dispersed. In 1895 a reconstruction of Donatello's altar was made, setting the parts in place according to what is supposed to have been the original design.

2. St. Philip. (Nanni di Banco.) Marble statue in niche on outside of Or San Michele, Florence. The date is uncertain; Marcel Reymond considers it one of Nanni's oldest works, placing it before 1408.

3. St. John the Baptist. (Donatello.) Bas-relief in pietra serena in the National Museum (Bargello), Florence. No date is assigned.

4. The Infant Jesus and St. John. (Mino da Fiesole.) Detail of marble altarpiece in alto relievo in cathedral of Fiesole, being a part of the monument of Bishop Salutati. Ordered in 1462.

5. Boys with Cymbals. (Lucca della Robbia.) One of the marble bas-reliefs ornamenting the organ gallery for the Florence cathedral. Organ gallery begun in 1431, finished 1440. Removed from cathedral in 1688. Reliefs put in Uffizi Gallery 1882, and then in the Bargello. Thence taken to the museum of the Duomo, where they are now to be seen, set up in place on the reconstructed gallery.

6. Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto (Detail). (Jacopo della Quercia.) Marble tomb in the cathedral of Lucca. Milanese dates it 1413, but Ridolfi's description of the Lucca cathedral places Jacopo's work there in 1406 or 1407, and Müntz thinks this date conclusive.

7. Madonna and Child (Detail). (Luca della Robbia.) Glazed terra cotta lunette over the door of a building [xv] (now a shop) in the Via dell' Agnolo, Florence. Considered by Marcel Reymond the most difficult of Luca's work to date. According to Dr. Bode, executed before 1431; according to Allan Marquand, between 1430 and 1440; according to Marcel Reymond, towards 1450.

8. Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominick. (Andrea della Robbia.) Glazed terra cotta lunette in the Loggia of San Paolo, Florence. Classified by Marcel Reymond under Andrea's third manner, because distinguished by perfect knowledge of artistic principles.

9. St. George. (Donatello.) Marble statue originally designed for a niche on the church of Or San Michele, Florence. Executed in 1416 at the order of the Guild of Armorers. In 1887 it was removed to the National Museum, Florence, to preserve it from injury by exposure to the weather. A bronze copy was substituted for it on the church.

10. Bambino. (Andrea della Robbia.) One of a series of glazed terra cotta medallions on the façade of the Foundling Hospital, Florence. Judged by its relation to the art of Luca della Robbia, this is among the early works of Andrea. From certain data in the history of the hospital, Cavalucci reckons that it was executed about the year 1463.

11. The Annunciation. (Andrea della Robbia.) Altarpiece at La Verna. Marcel Reymond says that from the beauty of style and the advanced knowledge of technique exhibited here, this work must belong to Andrea's maturity, that is, in the neighborhood of his fortieth year. It is classified by Reymond in Andrea's "first manner."

12. The Ascension. (Luca della Robbia.) Enamelled terra cotta lunette, decorating tympanum of door of sacristy in the cathedral at Florence. The first work in this material by Luca of which we have the date, 1446.

[xvi] 13. Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal (Detail). (Antonio Rossellino.) Tomb in colored marble in the church of San Miniato, Florence. Ordered in 1461.

14. Equestrian statue of Gattamelata. (Donatello.) In the Piazza del Santo, Padua. Commission given 1444. Work begun 1446. Statue set up, 1453. Erected at the expense of Gattamelata's son, Gio. Antonio.

15. Shrine. (Mino da Fiesole.) A marble tabernacle, decorated in mezzo-relievo and originally made for the nuns of the convent of the Murate. Removed in 1815 to S. Croce, Florence. No date is assigned to it.

IV. TABLE OF BIOGRAPHICAL DATA.

Jacopo di Pietro d'Angelo, of La Quercia Gossa, a castello once near Siena and since destroyed. Born 1371; died 1438. Variously stated to have been a scholar of Maestro Goro and of Luca di Giovanni. Milanese believes that these claims are groundless, and that Jacopo was a pupil of his own father, who was a goldsmith. Best known for his marble reliefs ornamenting the portal of S. Petronio, Bologna.

Nanni di Banco. Son of Antonio di Banco, who was at work in the Florence Cathedral in 1406. He is known to have been considerably older than Donatello, and Marcel Reymond suggests the date 1374 as the probable year of his birth. Died 1421.

Donatello. The familiar name applied to Donato di Niccolò di Betti Bardi. Born in Florence, 1386; died in Florence, 1466. His visit to Rome in company with Brunelleschi has been called the most important of the initial steps in the revival of antiquity in art. The friendship and patronage of Cosmo de' Medici brought the artist many commissions.

Luca di Simone di Marco della Robbia. Born in Florence, 1399 or 1400; died 1482.

[xvii] Andrea della Robbia, nephew of Luca. Born 1435; died 1525.

Antonio Rossellino. One of the five sons of Matteo di Domenico Gambarelli, all being artists. Born in Settignano in 1427; died about 1499.

Mino di Giovanni di Mino, usually called Mino da Fiesole. Born in 1431 in Poppi, in the Casentino, a district between the sources of the Arno and Tiber, north of Arezzo. Died in 1484. He was a friend of Desiderio da Settignano, but probably not one of his pupils.

[xviii]

 

 

[^TOC]
[01]

I

MUSICAL ANGELS

BY DONATELLO

In the western part of Italy, lying a little north of the centre, is the district known as Tuscany. Here, in the valley of the Arno, is the city of Florence, glorious with her storied palaces and churches. Around her are clustered Pistoja and Lucca, Pisa and Leghorn, Siena and Arezzo, all notable towns in Italian history. Here, too, is Carrara, with its stores of beautiful marble.

It was from this little district of Tuscany that the sculptors came forth who have helped to make Italy famous as the birthplace of modern art. The development of Tuscan sculpture covered a period of some three centuries, beginning with the Pisan Niccolò, who worked between the years 1220 and 1270, and culminating with the great Florentine Michelangelo, who died in 1564. We shall study in this little collection a few works of the fifteenth century.

It was the time called by historians the Renaissance, which means literally "the new birth." The world was awakening from the long sleep of the Middle Ages, and Italy was the first to be aroused. Certain adventurous spirits began to ponder the [02] possibility of a new continent beyond the sea. There was a great revival of learning, accompanied by a passionate love of the beautiful. Schools of art were established throughout the length of Italy.

In other volumes of this series we have learned how the churches, palaces, and public buildings were filled with paintings. [3] We shall now see that sculpture also contributed much to the adornment of the cities. Statues, busts, and bas-reliefs, in marble, bronze, and terra-cotta, ornamented many buildings both without and within.

Our illustration shows two panels from the series of twelve bronze reliefs on the front of a church altar. Two little boy angels are making music with their pipes. The companion panels are also filled with musical angels, some singing and others playing on various instruments.

The New Testament begins and ends with the music of angels. The birth of Jesus is heralded by a multitude of the heavenly host singing "Glory to God in the highest." The golden city of St. John's vision is filled with "the voice of harpers, harping with their harps," in the new song before the throne of God. Thence has arisen the beautiful custom of artists to represent angels as musicians.

The child angels of our picture have tiny pointed wings as a sign of their heavenly origin. Certainly we cannot imagine such buoyant little creatures treading the earth like mortals. One stands on tip-toe like a bird poised for flight. The other skips through the air with joyous motion. The head of one is encircled by a halo, the emblem of purity. The other wears a fillet of flowers over his curls. Each carries two little pipes, the simplest of musical instruments.

[03]

Musical Angels (Donatello)
Naya, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
MUSICAL ANGELS (DONATELLO)
Church of San Antonio, Padua

[04]

 

 

[05]

It was long ago in the childhood of the race that some shepherd, plucking a reed from the bank of a stream, first found that the hollow stem had a voice of its own. The pipe thereafter became a favorite instrument among primitive people. We read in the Old Testament Scriptures that the ancient Hebrews used it in the celebration of their festivities. At the Greek festivals also the pipers had a place in the procession of musicians.

Our angel pipers are blowing lustily with puffing cheeks--

"Such sweet Soft notes as yet musician's cunning Never gave the enraptured air."

They are genuine musicians, not children playing with the pipes as with toys. They move to the rhythm of their piping, their lifted faces expressing their delight. Their thin garments cling to their figures, and the loose ends flutter about them.

Every line of the modelling is beautiful, the poise of the figures full of rhythmic grace. The angel at the left stands in profile, with face slightly turned away from the spectator. The right hand figure skips directly out of his panel, swinging lithely about towards the left, as he moves. The outlines of both figures describe long fine curves, with which [06] the edges of the drapery run parallel. In the drawing of the right hand angel we may trace delicate patterns of interlacing ovals.

Some portions of the work seem to be modelled in very high relief. The limbs, we are told, are in low relief, supported on a metal back, an inch or so thick, by which they are thrown out to a proper distance from the background.

The altar to which our panels belong is in the church of S. Antonio, Padua, and was executed by the Florentine sculptor, Donatello, in 1450. The entire scheme of decoration is very elaborate. On the front is a row of musical angels, in which the panels here reproduced occupy opposite ends. Above these are five reliefs of larger size; and still higher are seven life-size statues of saints. The whole is surmounted by a crucifix. Even the back of the altar is ornamented with reliefs, and the work is an example of the spirit of the age, which thought nothing too rich or beautiful for the purposes of worship.

[3] See Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, and Correggio.

 

 

[^TOC]
[07]

II

ST. PHILIP

BY NANNI DI BANCO

St. Philip was one of the first group of disciples whom Jesus called to his service. He was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, but we do not know what occupation he pursued there. There is a tradition that he was a chariot driver, and in any case he was certainly a laboring man like all of the twelve. Having attached himself to Jesus he began at once to work in his cause. He persuaded Nathanael to come and see the Master, and thereby won a new adherent.[4]

Philip was not spiritually minded, like John, nor impetuous, like Peter, but in his own way he wanted to know the truth. Perhaps he was a little slower than others to grasp religious teaching. It may be that he was franker than many in confessing that he did not understand.

He and Thomas were somewhat alike in this respect, and once, when Jesus was talking of departing to the Heavenly Father, both interrupted him with questions. Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us." "Have I been so long time [08] with you and yet hast thou not known me?" replied Jesus. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."[5]

Apparently Philip learned his lesson well, for we read in traditional history of his faithful missionary services in later life. He was twenty years in Scythia preaching the gospel. Then he went to Hieropolis in Phrygia, where the people worshipped a serpent. The apostle drove the serpent away, but the pagan priests sought his life in revenge. He was bound to a cross and stoned to death, praying even in his agony for his enemies.[6]

The statue of St. Philip in our illustration shows him as a somewhat commonplace-looking man with heavy features. It accords with the usual account of him that his face should not be particularly intellectual. His attitude is full of dignity, and denotes a well-balanced character. The large well-knit hands are those of an artisan. He is of about middle age, as the artists usually represent him. A plain man of good common sense and sterling worth--this was Philip both in fact and in the statue.

In pictures and statues the apostles nearly always carry the symbols of their identity. St. Philip's emblem is the cross, but it is here dispensed with, and we have only the Latin inscription to show us who he is.

 

 

[09]

St. Philip (Nanni Di Banco)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
ST. PHILIP (NANNI DI BANCO)
Church of Or San Michele, Florence

[10] 

 

 

[11] The statue stands in a niche, and is one of a series ornamenting the outside of the church of Or San Michele in Florence. In building this church all the merchants and artisans of the city contributed to support the work. Each trade was at that time represented by a guild or association whose members united to advance their common business interests.[7] These various guilds furnished the statues for the niches, each supplying the figure of its own patron saint. St. Philip was the gift of the Guild of Hosiers, and was executed by the sculptor Nanni di Banco.

Donatello had at first been approached by the guild, but considering his price exorbitant they gave the order to Nanni, who promised to accept any terms they decided upon. When the statue was done, however, the sculptor demanded a sum larger than the price of Donatello. The latter was now called upon to act as referee, and he set a still higher price upon the work. The Hosiers were indignant. "Why," they asked, "had Donatello rated Nanni's work at a higher price than his own, which would have undoubtedly been better?" "Because," replied the great sculptor, laughing, "being less skilful than I, he has worked harder, and therefore deserves more pay." A compromise was effected, and the statue set in place.

That Donatello could indeed have made a better [12] statue we shall presently see when we study his St. George, designed for the same church. St. Philip lacks distinction, and it has not the animation which the greater sculptor knew how to impart to his work. Nevertheless it has certain artistic qualities which make it worthy of Donatello's championship.

The lines of the drapery are well studied. Apparently Nanni had learned something in this respect from the Greek sculpture. Where draperies are simple and hang in long unbroken lines, the effect is impressive and dignified. When they are voluminous and broken, they lose in dignity. Good art is always simple and has no meaningless lines.

We are interested in examining the niche in which the statue is set. It is Gothic in design, and with its pointed top and side pinnacles recalls the cathedral windows in northern Europe. An architectural frame of this sort is often called a tabernacle, being in fact a miniature church in form. In the triangular space at the top is a bas-relief figure in half length which seems to represent Christ. The base is ornamented with an arabesque or scroll design, flanked at each end by the arms of the Hosiers' Guild. The side pillars have rich Corinthian capitals. Just inside are twisted pillars of curious workmanship.

Our illustration also shows a portion of the wall against which the niche is placed. We see that the church is built of stone, set in square blocks. On each side of the niche is a metal ring through which torches were thrust.

[4] St. John, chapter i., verses 43-51.

[5] St. John, chapter xiv., verses 1-11.

[6] Mrs. Jameson's Sacred and Legendary Art, p. 235.

[7] The Florentine guilds of this period may be compared with those of the seventeenth century in Holland. See the chapter on the "Syndics of the Cloth Guild" in the volume on Rembrandt in the Riverside Art Series.

 

 

[^TOC]
[13]

III

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST

BY DONATELLO

In the hill country of Judæa lived the priest Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth, who were the parents of St. John the Baptist. They were pious people, "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless." One day, as Zacharias was ministering in his office in the temple, an angel brought him the glad tidings that he was to have a son. "Thou shalt call his name John," said the vision, "and thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth."

A great career was promised for the coming child. He was to be a preacher filled with spiritual power. Like the old prophet Elias, he was to turn the hearts of the people to God, and to prepare the way for the Christ. As a sign that the angel's words were true, Zacharias was stricken dumb until his son was born. Then "his tongue was loosed, and he spake and praised God."

The neighbors marvelled at the mystery of John's birth, and they saw that "the hand of the Lord was with him." "And the child grew and waxed strong [14] in spirit," until he came to manhood.[8] Then was fulfilled the angel's prophecy concerning him. He became a great preacher, and multitudes flocked to hear him.

John's manner of life was like that of a hermit. He dwelt in the wilderness about the river Jordan, wearing a garment of camel's hair bound about his loins with a leathern girdle. His food was locusts and wild honey. He gathered his audiences in the open air and baptised his disciples in the river.

Though stern in his teachings he became for a time very popular. Yet he always spoke of his own work with great humility. "There cometh one mightier than I after me," he said.[9] This was Jesus, who, on presenting himself for baptism, was greeted by John as the "Lamb of God." The prophet's mission was now accomplished. He was soon after thrown into prison and beheaded, at the order of King Herod, whose sins he had openly rebuked.

The story of the Baptist's life brings readily before the imagination the strange figure of the man.[10] It is not so easy to fancy how he might have looked as a boy. The bas-relief of our illustration shows us what form the idea took in the mind of the sculptor Donatello.

[15]

 

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST (DONATELLO)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST (DONATELLO)
National Museum, Florence

[16] 

 

 

[17] The little fellow seems tall and slender for his years, as if he had stretched his limbs by running much in the open air. The face is somewhat serious, but perfectly childish. The lips are parted in a half smile. He has a good forehead, and is an independent thinker. He impresses us as a straightforward character, a boy to like and trust.

It would be too much to say that he shows the making of a great man. It is enough that he is an honest, healthy boy with a mind of his own. He is hardly pretty, but he is very interesting. The hair is his most charming feature, waving in little tendrils over the head. He is not plump enough for his figure to show fine curves. On the contrary, the modelling is on rather severe lines, as if in keeping with the character.

Certain well understood signs show who he is. The circle about his head is the halo, the symbol of a sacred character. The skin garment fastened at the shoulder reminds us of the strange clothing John wore in the desert. The tall cross is the emblem of the prophet, as a forerunner of the crucified one.

Donatello's art covered a wide range of subjects, but in none was he more at home than in representing children. He has been called "the poet of child-life." There are interesting points of comparison between the example before us and the Musical Angels of the altar at Padua. St. John the Baptist is evidently a real little boy, transferred to the stone just as he was. The piping angels, on the other hand, are child ideals, without counterpart [18] in real life. St. John's large ear, with its irregularly bent rim, and his straight upper lip, are features such as an artist must certainly have copied, not invented. The angel faces, on the other hand, are moulded in the perfect curves which originate in the imagination of the artist. Donatello was, above all things else, a close student of human nature. Sometimes, indeed, he chose very unattractive models, and reproduced them so faithfully that the realism is almost painful. His artistic eye was always open to new impressions. Perhaps, one day as he walked through the streets of Florence, he noticed among the children playing there this little fellow of the long neck and pensive face. "Ecco," said he, to himself, "il Giovannino."[11] The child's face and bearing had a quaint seriousness precisely suited to the character.

It is wonderful how the sculptor's art has made the little boy seem actually alive in the bas-relief. The hair is executed with the skill peculiar to Donatello, and seems to grow from the head. Such studies from real life--genre studies, as they are called--were lessons which prepared the artist for higher works of idealism. The little St. John may have been the original material for some of the angel figures.

[8] The circumstances of John's birth are related in the first chapter of St. Luke, from which the quotations are drawn.

[9] St. Mark, chapter i., verse 7.

[10] See the pictures of St. John the Baptist in the volumes on Titian and Correggio in the Riverside Art Series.

[11] "There is the little John."

 

 

[^TOC]
[19]

IV

THE INFANT JESUS AND ST. JOHN

BY MINO DA FIESOLE

Jesus and St. John the Baptist were of nearly the same age, and there was a peculiar tie between them. Their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, were cousins, and before the boys were born the two women had confided in each other their hopes for the future of their children. Angelic messengers had predicted a remarkable destiny for both boys. Jesus was to rule over an everlasting kingdom, and John was to be his prophet preparing the way for him. These were secrets which the outside world could not have understood, and Mary paid a visit to her kinswoman that they might talk of them together.

As John's home was in the hill country and Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, we do not know how soon the boys met. It might be supposed that Mary and Elizabeth would be eager to bring them together. While the mothers took council on the training of their sons, the children would be at play.

The little ones were, we believe, brought up quite simply, with no sense that they were different from other children. Jesus was a natural leader. We remember how he surprised his mother at the age [20] of twelve by asserting his own judgment.[12] Among his playfellows he must have shown much earlier that he was the one to take the first place. John was doubtless taught by his mother to defer to his little cousin. He was not lacking in spirit himself, but he could sometimes be very humble. In his manhood he spoke of Jesus as one whose shoe's latchet he was not worthy to unloose.[13]

It is pleasant to picture the two children together in our fancy, and we do not wonder that artists have liked the subject.[14] Our illustration shows us the theme wrought in marble. The child Jesus sits on the steps, and the little St. John approaching kneels in adoration. We see at once the religious meaning of the artist: the relation between the two in after life is foreshadowed in this imaginary incident. Each child carries the symbol of his character. A halo behind the head of Jesus signifies his divine origin. He holds on his knee a globe surmounted by a cross, in token that he who was crucified shall be the ruler of the world. In the symbol of the globe the old artists anticipated the later discoveries of science as to the form of the earth. Some of the ancient philosophers had taught that the earth is a sphere, and through the writings of Aristotle the belief was spread among the scholars of the Middle Ages.[15] That the idea made its way into art is perhaps because the sphere is the most perfect and beautiful form, and hence the fitting symbol of God's created work.[16]

[21]

The Infant Jesus And St. John (Mino Da Fiesole)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
THE INFANT JESUS AND ST. JOHN (MINO DA FIESOLE)
Cathedral, Fiesole

[22]

 

 

[23] St. John carries the cross, which is his usual emblem as a prophet of Christ. It is tall and slender because it was supposed to be made of reeds. The reference is to Jesus's words concerning John when asking the people if they had sought the prophet merely as "a reed shaken by the wind."

The infant Jesus is a vigorous child, straight and perfectly formed. The little St. John is an older and taller boy, wearing a tunic. The younger child is delighted to have a playfellow. There is an eager smile on his face, and he puts out his right hand as if he longed to take the curious plaything St. John carries. Both children are plump, with well-shaped heads, but there is nothing precocious-looking about either. They are indeed uncommonly pretty, but for the rest are like other children, eying each other somewhat shyly in the early stages of acquaintance. It will not be long before they are the best of friends.

The figures in our illustration form a part of a marble altar-piece by Mino da Fiesole. The whole composition consists of three niches approached by [24] steps. In the central compartment kneels the mother Mary, adoring with folded hands the child, who sits below her. We see in our picture only the lower part of her dress behind the Christ child. In the side niches are figures of saints, the little St. John kneeling in front of the one on the Madonna's right.

Mino da Fiesole has been called "The Raphael of sculpture," and his work in this altar-piece illustrates the fitness of comparing him with the great painter. Especially do the figures of the two children here remind us of the child ideals of Raphael. At the time when this work was executed (1462) painters and sculptors had just begun to represent the Christ child undraped. The earlier artists had always shown the little figure clad in a tunic. We shall presently see how this old custom was still followed in bas-reliefs of the Madonna and Child by Luca della Robbia and Rossellino. The more progressive artists were unwilling to conceal the beauty of the child's figure by any sort of dress. By the beginning of the sixteenth century the old way had entirely given place to the new.[17]

In our picture we see that a Latin inscription on the base of the lowest step contains the name of Leonardo Salutati, bishop of Fiesole.[18] It was by the order of this bishop that the altar was executed, as was also the tomb opposite it in the cathedral of Fiesole.

[12] St. Luke, chapter ii., verse 49.

[13] St. Luke, chapter iii., verse 16.

[14] See Chapter IX., on the "Children of the Shell," in the volume on Murillo in the Riverside Art Series.

[15] This is on the authority of a French writer, A. Jourdain, quoted by William H. Tillinghast in an essay on the "Geographical Knowledge of the Ancients," in the Narrative and Critical History of America. In the same essay an anonymous poem of the thirteenth century is quoted to show the prevalent belief in the sphericity of the earth.

[16] In Didron's Christian Iconography, several interesting illustrations from old miniatures, etc., show the globe in the hand of the Creator. It is curious that this supposedly exhaustive authority on church symbolism gives no account of the origin and history of this emblem.

[17] See Madonna pictures by Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and Michelangelo in other volumes of the Riverside Art Series.

[18] Eps, with the curious mark above, stands for episcopus.

 

 

[^TOC]
[25]

V

BOYS WITH CYMBALS

BY LUCA DELLA ROBBIA

The bas-relief of our illustration is one of a series of marble panels designed to ornament the singing-gallery of a church. The children moving forward with song and cymbal remind us of the bands of singers and musicians who took part in religious processions of ancient times. We read of such processions among both the Greeks[19] and the Hebrews.[20]

The custom of singing was adopted by the Christian church from its foundation,[21] and gradually the musical part of the service was developed into a fine art. There was a famous system of choral chanting under Pope Gregory I.,[22] and in the eleventh century part singing was introduced. At length the organ came into use, and by the fifteenth century it had become an important part of the church furnishings.

It was early in this century when the wardens of the cathedral at Florence had an organ constructed on what the old writer Vasari called "a very grand [26] scale." In connection with this an organ loft, such as the Italians call a cantoria, was needed to accommodate the singers. The Florentine sculptor, Luca della Robbia, received the order for this work, and was occupied with it some nine years (1431-1440).

The cantoria is entirely of marble, built like a balcony, with the upper part or balustrade supported on five consoles or brackets. Four square bas-reliefs, separated by pilasters, ornament the front of the balustrade, and four more fill the corresponding spaces below, separated by the consoles. The artist took as the motive of his decorative scheme the one hundred and fiftieth psalm. This hymn of praise furnished his imagination with a series of pictures illustrating many kinds of music. The entire psalm is quoted in the Latin version on the gallery, the inscriptions running in narrow bands across the top and bottom and between the two rows of panels. These are the verses in the familiar English version of King James, grouped in the three sections into which they are divided:--

"Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.  

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel  

and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord."

 

 

[27]
Boys With Cymbals (Luca Della Robbia)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
BOYS WITH CYMBALS (LUCA DELLA ROBBIA)
The Duomo, Florence

[28]

 

 

[29] The eight illustrations of the gallery omit nothing mentioned by the psalmist. Here are the trumpets, the harp, the psaltery, and the timbrel. Here is the choric dance, followed by players on organs and stringed instruments; after these come the loud cymbals or tambourines, and finally the "high sounding cymbals" of our illustration.

The players are a half dozen children, some dressed in tunics, and others wearing scarf-like garments which leave their limbs free. Two are crowned with flowers in the Greek fashion, and others have a fillet or band bound about the hair. The leader walks with his head thrown back, his mouth wide open, singing with all his might, oblivious of everything but his music. He holds the cymbals high, striking them together in the rhythm of his song. His companion is a jolly little fellow, not at all concerned in the music, but laughing at something which attracts his attention in the distance.

There is another rogue just behind the leader. Without losing step he throws his weight forward on bending knee, putting his ear to the upper cymbal. He is evidently amusing himself with the lingering vibrations of the metal. The flower-crowned boy bringing up the rear smiles at us cheerily, as he steps along, clashing his cymbals with right good-will. The children in the background seem to take their task more seriously, as if sharing the spirit of the leader.

[30] It is clear that our artist found the models for his figures in the streets of Florence. These round-faced children with their large mouths are not pretty enough for imaginary types. They are perfectly natural, and that is why we like them.

The grouping is skilfully planned to give unity to the composition without any stiffness. There are no awkward gaps between the figures, but the lines flow from one to another, binding them together. The half kneeling posture of the child in the middle makes diagonal lines to unite the leader with the boy in the rear. We notice in the drawing the same sweep of line which we have admired in Donatello's bronze reliefs of angels. The three figures in front are modelled in high relief, and in beautiful curves; the children in the rear are in low relief.

The work of Luca della Robbia was not confined to marble. Soon after completing the organ gallery he made a bronze door for the interior of the cathedral. He is best known for his work in enamelled terra-cotta, of which we shall hear more in later chapters.

[19] See Chapter III. in the volume on Greek Sculpture in the Riverside Art Series.

[20] Psalm lxviii., verse 25, and 1 Chronicles, chapter xiii., verse 8.

[21] St. Matthew, chapter xxvi., verse 30.

[22] The pontificate of Gregory I. was from 590 to 604.

 

 

[^TOC]
[31]

VI

TOMB OF ILARIA DEL CARRETTO

(Detail)

BY JACOPO DELLA QUERCIA

A certain marquis of Carretto, living in Lucca at the close of the fourteenth century, had a daughter named Ilaria. Ilaria was like Helen of Troy, "a daughter of the gods, divinely tall and most divinely fair."[23] Her face was delicately cut in a patrician mould, and she carried her head with the air of a princess. The marquis must have been proud of his beautiful daughter, and as she grew into womanhood he looked about for a suitable match for her. There was little romance about marriages in those days, and when a rich widower sought Ilaria's hand, she was doubtless thought by all a very fortunate maiden.

Her husband, Paolo Guinigi, was the signor or lord of the city of Lucca, and though somewhat despotic in temper was at least without vices. He was besides the richest man in Italy. In his treasury, says the historian, "diamonds and rubies, emeralds and pearls, were counted by hundreds." The palace awaiting the bride was magnificently [32] furnished. There was linen from Paris and other French cities, exquisite in quality and in stores so abundant as to delight the heart of a housewife. The walls were hung with tapestries of many colors woven in Arras. Priceless vessels of gold and silver adorned the table. Nor were signs of learning lacking. There was a library, well stocked with the works of classical authors, written in manuscript in the manner of the times.

So far as surroundings make for happiness Ilaria may well have been a happy woman. We like to fancy her queenly figure moving through the stately apartments of the palace or on the green terraces of the garden. But she did not long enjoy the splendors of her surroundings, for two years after her marriage she died. Her husband then ordered of the sculptor Jacopo della Quercia a marble tomb to be placed in the cathedral. On the sarcophagus lay the portrait figure of the lady herself; the sides were richly carved with cherubs holding festoons of flowers, and above was a canopy.

Ilaria lies with hands crossed just where they would naturally fall in her sleep.[24] Her feet rest against a little dog, which, according to the old writer, Vasari, was an emblem of conjugal fidelity. It is surely no harm to fancy that the little creature was the lady's pet. The gown is girdled high, and falling in long, straight folds, is wrapped about the feet. Over this is worn a mantle made with large, loose sleeves, and a high flaring collar, which comes well up under the chin.[25]

[33]

 

Tomb of Ilaria Del Carretto (Jacopo Della Quercia)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
DETAIL OF TOMB OF ILARIA DEL CARRETTO (JACOPO DELLA QUERCIA)
Cathedral, Lucca

 [34]

 

 

[35] Our illustration shows only the head and shoulders of the figure. The head rests on a pillow in a hollow shaped to receive it, and the shoulders are supported by a second and larger cushion underneath. Ilaria's waving hair is parted over the high brow, and brought down on each side the face, completely concealing the ears. A few short tendrils have escaped, and curl daintily over the forehead. She wears a large flower-wound wreath or crown, set aslant over the shapely head. It may be that this is a sort of head-dress worn in her time. No one can look at the face without thinking of a flower, and most of all of the lily. The mouth is moulded in exquisite curves; Ilaria was, indeed, a bewitching woman.

Had the fair marchioness lived to middle age her fortunes would have been sadly altered. In 1430 there was a political upheaval in Lucca, and Guinigi was driven from the city.[26] His palace was pillaged, and the mob even laid desecrating hands upon Ilaria's tomb. An attempt to remove it seems to have been frustrated, and it was dropped on the floor of the transept, where it now stands. It lost, [36] however, the canopy and one ornamented side of the base.

As a work of art, Ilaria's tomb has been greatly admired by critics. Even in our little picture we can, with no great training, see how well the sculptor has rendered the texture of the hair and the softness of the plump chin. Even the tassels on the cushion are carved with clever imitative skill. We must be careful to look at the face just as the sculptor intended it to be seen, not upright, but lying horizontally. It is only thus that we get the significance of the beautiful continuous line across forehead and nose. The line of the head-dress exactly follows that of the hair, and is drawn at the same angle as the edge of the collar, which it meets. In the triangular space thus formed is fitted the lovely profile of the face. Ruskin has written with much enthusiasm of the merits of Ilaria's tomb. From it, he declared, one may receive "unerring canon of what is evermore lovely and right in the dealing of the art of man with his fate and his passions." Still more helpful is his interpretation of the feeling which the sculptor has conveyed. After first explaining that "every work of the great Christian schools expresses primarily conquest over death," he shows that this particular tomb has "all the peace of the Christian eternity." We may see, he says, "that the damsel is not dead but sleepeth; yet as visibly a sleep that shall know no ending until the last day break and the last shadows flee away."[27]

[23] Tennyson's "A Dream of Fair Women."

[24] Not "folded below her bosom," nor "laid on her breast," as in two familiar descriptions.

[25] That this mantle was a prevailing style of the period among the aristocracy, we judge from an old Spanish painting, in which King Ferdinand of Aragon and his queen both wear it. The picture is reproduced in Carderara's Iconografia Española, and copied in Planché's Cyclopedia of Costumes.

[26] The exact date is here given because of the vagueness of some writers who refer to the event as "not many years" and "within twenty years" after Ilaria's death in 1405.

[27] Quoted by Sydney Colvin in an article on Jacopo della Quercia, in the Portfolio, 1883. See also Modern Painters, Part III.

 

 

[^TOC]
[37]

VII

MADONNA AND CHILD

(Detail of lunette)

BY LUCA DELLA ROBBIA

In reading the gospel narrative of the life of Jesus we are glad to learn something of his mother Mary. Her life had some peculiar hardships to test the strength of her character. It was a strange lot for a mother to have to tend her babe in the manger of an inn, but such was Mary's experience. At the time of Jesus's birth she and Joseph were in Bethlehem, whither they had come to pay their taxes. There were many other people there on the same errand, and the inn was so crowded that the young mother had to find quarters in the stable.

While the child was still very young a terrible danger threatened his life. An order went forth from King Herod to slay all the young children of Bethlehem. Still the mother's courage did not fail. She arose by night, and, taking her babe, fled with her husband into Egypt. Returning at length to their home in Nazareth, she watched her boy's growth, and kept all his sayings in her heart.

When Jesus entered upon his ministry Mary was [38] the first to show perfect confidence in her son.[28] She seems to have followed him whenever she could.[29] Her courage sustained her even in the hour of his agony, and we read how she stood with his disciples at the foot of the cross.[30]

It is this woman of quiet fortitude whom we see in Luca della Robbia's bas-relief of the Madonna and Child. We are impressed at once with a sense of her strength and poise of character. It is precisely such as fits the story of her life. Steadying her little boy with both hands, she turns her face in the direction in which he is looking. The Child seems to stand on a sort of balustrade in front of his mother. With feet wide apart he holds himself erect in a firm posture. His right hand is raised in a gesture of benediction. With his left he grasps firmly a long scroll bearing the Latin inscription, "Ego sum Lux Mundi" (I am the Light of the World).

Both mother and child seem to belong to the happy, every-day working world. Mary has the straight figure, full throat, and square shoulders of a Tuscan peasant girl. Her only aristocratic feature is the shapely hand. She holds her chin level, like a country maiden used to carrying burdens on the head. It may be that the artist had seen her like in some market-place in Florence. The boy too has the square shoulders and sturdy frame of a child of the people.

[39]
Madonna And Child (Luca Della Robbia)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
MADONNA AND CHILD (LUCA DELLA ROBBIA)
Shop in the Via dell' Agnolo, Florence

 

 

[40]

 

 

[41] Some artists have tried to give a supernatural and ethereal beauty to the mother and child. Others have represented them enthroned in splendor like a queen and prince receiving their court. Luca della Robbia went to no such extremes. There is nothing morbid or sentimental in his art: nor does he care for any worldly pomp and ceremonial. His religious ideals were very simple, suited to the needs of common life. The Christ child here is a dear little human baby, and the Madonna is the poet's ideal of "a creature not too bright or good for human nature's daily food."[31]

The bas-relief is one of the famous works in enamelled terra-cotta, known as "Della Robbia ware." The idea of overlaying clay with a glazing was not original with Luca della Robbia, but he seems to have been the first to apply it to sculpture. In his own day he was looked upon as a great inventor, and his works were very popular. The material was inexpensive, and lent itself readily to all sorts of decorative purposes. Its beauty, moreover, was of a lasting quality. While paintings fade, the Della Robbia ware, "gem like, shall as very gems endure."[32] The only injury to which it is liable is the breaking off of some projecting portions. In our picture we see that a fragment is broken out of the child's wrist. Fortunately, however, there are no defects in the important parts of the work.

[42] The figures are in the centre of a lunette or semi-circular composition, with an adoring angel on each side holding a jar of lilies. The piece is set up over a doorway on the outside of a building in a narrow street in Florence. The location explains the attitude of the mother and child. If they looked directly out of the picture as in an altar-piece, there would be but one place, on the opposite side of the street, where the passer-by could meet their eyes. As it is, they turn their faces toward the vista of the street as if to welcome the approaching wayfarer. While still a long way off one feels the cheerful influence of their gaze. Even when coming from the opposite direction it is pleasant, after passing the door, to know that the friendly eyes follow us on our way.

The workmanship of Luca is seen in the artistic qualities of the sculpture. There was a severe simplicity in his drawing of the outline and draperies which contrasted with the more elaborate work of his followers. Luca was also a close student of nature, and drew his materials from the world about him.

[28] At the Marriage of Cana, St. John, chapter ii., verses 3-5.

[29] St. John ii., verse 12, and St. Matthew, chapter xii., verse 46.

[30] St. John, chapter xix., verse 25.

[31] Wordsworth's "She was a Phantom of Delight."

[32] From some verses by Edith M. Thomas, "A Della Robbia Garland," printed in The Critic, December, 1901.

 

 

[^TOC]
[43]

VIII

THE MEETING OF ST. FRANCIS AND ST. DOMINICK

BY ANDREA DELLA ROBBIA

In the beginning of the thirteenth century two men living in different countries of Europe were struck simultaneously with the same idea. They were St. Dominick, the Spaniard, and St. Francis, the Italian, and each determined to found a new religious order.[33] Hitherto the members of religious orders had shut themselves up in the solitude of monasteries and convents. In the new plan they were to mingle freely with the people, calling themselves brothers, or friars.

The first object of the Dominicans was to be preachers, and they were called Frati Predicatori. The Franciscans took the humbler name of the Frati Minori, or lesser brothers. The members of both orders were bound by a vow of poverty to possess nothing of their own. Like the disciples whom [44] Jesus sent out, they were to carry neither purse nor scrip, but beg their food and raiment on their way. It is for this that they are called mendicant orders.

The affairs of their orders brought both St. Dominick and St. Francis to Rome at the same time. The two men met and embraced, each seeing in the other a kindred spirit. It was proposed to unite the two bodies in one, and St. Dominick favored this plan. He had won but a few followers, and St. Francis already had many. The Brother Minor however was sure that such union would be impossible. The two men were indeed of widely contrasting characters. St. Dominick was a scholar, a man of fiery and energetic temperament. St. Francis was unlettered, but his mind was poetic and imaginative, his nature gentle and humble. St. Dominick was known as the "Hammer of the Heretics," St. Francis as the "Father of the Poor."

A bas-relief by Andrea della Robbia represents the meeting of St. Dominick with St. Francis.[34] It is apparently the artist's intention to emphasize the kinship rather than the contrast between the two men. Both have the thin faces and sharp features of the ascetic. Their shaven faces and tonsured heads heighten the resemblance between them. Both have the same type of hand, with the long fingers which are characteristic of a sensitive nature.[35] A disc over the head of each symbolizes his saintliness.

 

 

[45]

Meeting Of St. Francis And St. Dominick (Andrea Della Robbia)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
MEETING OF ST. FRANCIS AND ST. DOMINICK (ANDREA DELLA ROBBIA)
Loggia of San Paolo, Florence

 

 

[46]

 

 

[47] Naturally the characters of the founders were impressed upon their respective orders. The Dominicans were more aggressive in their methods and zealous in persecuting all forms of heresy. The Franciscans, on the other hand, strove for the higher life of sanctity. The members of each order wore a distinctive dress, such as we see in our picture. The Franciscan habit was at first gray, and afterwards dark brown; it is gray in the bas-relief. It consisted of a plain tunic with long loose sleeves and a scanty cape to which a hood was attached. A knotted cord fastened the garment around the waist, to remind the wearer that the body is a beast which should be subdued by a halter. The Dominican habit was a white woollen gown fastened about the waist with a girdle. A white scapular was worn over this, and over all, a black cloak with a hood.

We see at once in our picture that St. Dominick is the elder of the two men. There was really a difference of twenty years in their ages, but the artist has made it less. It is as if each, upon seeing the other approach, had hastened forward with outstretched hands. They stand now face to face with interlocked arms in mutual contemplation. It is a moment of perfect understanding. With widely different ideas of ways and means, they have at heart [48] a single common aim. Both are called to the same great work, and each feels strengthened by the contact.

The profile of St. Francis shows the sensitive lines of his face. Tradition tells us that he was a man of more than average height, with black eyes, and soft sonorous voice. His expression here is serene, as one would expect of the gentle friar who called all the beasts his brethren, and talked with the birds as familiar companions. St. Dominick has a more strenuous countenance, and is perhaps more deeply moved than the other. He leans forward and peers into St. Francis's face with an expression of great tenderness. One is reminded of a beautiful verse in one of the Hebrew psalms (the eighty-fifth), "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other."

The artistic qualities of this relief place it among the best works by Andrea della Robbia. Only a skilful artist could have rendered the draperies with such grace and simplicity. They have been compared with the draperies of the painters Raphael and Bartolommeo. It is said that the faces were left unglazed in order that all the lines of the modelling might be preserved.

[33] The lives of both saints are related in The Golden Legend. In Caxton's translation (Temple Classics) see volume iv., p. 172, for St. Dominick, and volume v., p. 215, for St. Francis. Mrs. Jameson's Legends of the Monastic Orders contains an admirable account of the character and work of the two men. The Little Flowers of St. Francis is a series of legends collected about two hundred years after his death. There is an English translation by Abby Langdon Alger. Sabatier's Life of St. Francis is an exhaustive biography.

[34] A tradition that St. Francis and St. Dominick met in Florence, on the site of the present Loggia of S. Paolo, accounts for the placing of this bas-relief there. See the Misses Horner's Walks in Florence, vol. i., p. 448.

[35] The reader who is familiar with the typical figure of St. Francis in sacred art may miss the sign of the wound print (the stigmata) in his hand. Here Andrea is historically accurate, as the vision of St. Francis occurred four years after the confirmation of the Order.

 

 

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[49]

IX

ST. GEORGE

BY DONATELLO

In the third century of the present era lived the Christian knight George of Cappadocia. Going forth after the usual knightly fashion in search of adventures, he came to the province of Libya. The country was at that time ravaged by a dragon whose lair was a great pond near the royal city of Silene. When the monster came forth the air was filled with the poisonous vapor of his breath. To insure the safety of the city two sheep were daily given to feed him.

At length the supply failed, and now the people had to give their own children. The victims were chosen by lot, and after many had perished the lot fell upon the beautiful princess Cleodolinda. The king besought the people to spare his daughter, offering gold and silver for her ransom. They would have none of it, but declared that the princess must meet her fate. Arrayed as for her bridal, she was led out to the place where the dragon was wont to come for his prey.

While she stood here weeping, St. George chanced to ride by and inquired the cause of her distress. [50] Hearing her pitiable story he assured her she had nothing to fear. Just then the dragon came in sight, and the knight, charging full upon him, wounded him with his sword. Then taking the girdle of the princess, he tied it about the neck of the beast and led him into the city. The people all came out to see the wonder, and in the presence of a great company St. George smote off the dragon's head.

The further adventures of the knight were in behalf of the Christians, who were persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian. Selling all that he had, he gave it to the poor and boldly denounced the pagans. All sorts of tortures were devised to force him to renounce his faith, but in every persecution he was miraculously preserved from harm. At length the provost caused him to be beheaded, and offering his last prayers St. George went to his death.

In our statue St. George is represented as a warrior standing at rest while he surveys the enemy. His young figure is as straight as an arrow. The litheness of his body is apparent even through his armor. He holds his head erect in conscious power, yet with no arrogance. Evidently he measures the difficulty carefully, for he seems to knit his brows as he looks abroad. He has a gentle face, but it is thoroughly masculine.

 

 

[51]

St. George (Donatello)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
ST. GEORGE (DONATELLO)
National Museum, Florence

 

 

[52]

 

 

[53]

The hands are beautiful, and full of character, large and flexible. The left one rests on a shield which bears the sign of the cross. The armor, we see, has a more than literal significance. This is the "shield of faith" wherewith the Christian shall be able "to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." St. George is the impersonation of the soldier who wars "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."[36]

The figure naturally suggests comparison with antique sculpture. We are reminded of Apollo or Hermes as the Greeks loved to represent them.[37] The beautiful head with its curling hair is indeed that of a god. In the graceful attitude also, the sculptor, Donatello, has perfectly expressed the sense of repose which was characteristic of Greek sculpture. We note, however, that while a Greek statue would have been nude St. George is clad in armor. The expression of the countenance is, moreover, quite foreign to the Greek temper. Those knitted brows show a strenuousness of character incompatible with the serenity of the gods.

The statue of St. George, like that of St. Philip, was originally made to fill one of the niches on the outside of Or San Michele. Below it was a bas-relief representing the slaying of the dragon. The work was the gift of the Guild of Sword Makers and Armorers, whose patron saint was the Knight of Cappadocia. In an exposed position on the church the precious marble was injured by the weather. [54] Accordingly it was removed to a museum, and a bronze copy was set up in its place.

The popularity of St. George is by no means confined to Italy. In England too his memory is held in great respect. "For England and St. George" was an old battle-cry which linked the name of the patron saint with that of the native land. His character is our ideal of the Christian hero, chivalrous towards the weak, courageous in danger, and devoted above all things to the service of God.

Donatello's statue embodies this ideal, and is his highest imaginative work. Being chiefly interested in the study of expression, he often seemed to care very little whether his subjects were beautiful or not. Here beauty and expressiveness are united.

There is an old tradition that Michelangelo, passing one day the church of Or San Michele, paused before the St. George and exclaimed "Cammina!" that is, "Forward, march!" The story is doubtless purely fictitious, but it shows how lifelike the statue appears. As an old writer (Vasari) put it, "Life seems to move within that stone."

[36] Ephesians, chapter vi., verses 16 and 12.

[37] See chapters VI. and XI. in the volume on Greek Sculpture, in the Riverside Art Series.

 

 

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[55]

X

BAMBINO

BY ANDREA DELLA ROBBIA

The visitor in Florence threading his way through the narrow streets comes out with delight into the spacious squares scattered over the city. One such is the Piazza of SS. Annunziata, in front of the church of that name. Two sides of the square are ornamented with arcaded buildings in the style characteristic of Italian architecture. That at the left attracts us at once by its unique decorations. In the spandrils, or triangular spaces between the arches, are medallion bas-reliefs of glazed terra cotta showing white figures relieved against a background of bright blue. It is one of these which is reproduced in our illustration. Seen against the sombre wall they are like "fragments of the milky sky itself fallen into the cool street," as a poetic critic has described them.[38]

From each medallion a baby looks down upon us, stretching out both little arms as if appealing to our pity. The delicate beauty of these little ones is so like that of the flowers that a traveller asks, "Really, are they lilies, or children, or the embodied strophes [56] of a psalter?"[39] When we inquire what it all means we learn that this arcade is the entrance to a Foundling Hospital. Passing through the central door we are in a cortile or courtyard, around which are more baby figures. The design is a sort of key to the character of the institution: the babies represent the little waifs received into its care. We may fancy that the orphan inmates are peeping out of the medallions as from windows.

The Hospital of the Innocents (Spedale degli Innocenti, in Italian) is one of the oldest establishments of its kind. It was founded in the fifteenth century, and still carries on its good work. Several thousand children are annually supported by its resources.[40] To multiply the figures by four hundred and fifty makes a magnificent showing for the total number of beneficiaries in four and a half centuries. It was probably on the occasion of some improvements in the original building (1463) that Andrea della Robbia furnished the famous medallions of the bambini, or baby boys.

Among so many babies we yet find no two alike. Each visitor chooses for himself some special favorite. The medallion of our illustration is one of the most attractive of the number. Unfortunately the fingers of the right hand are broken off, but otherwise the figure is quite perfect.

 

 

[57]
Bambino (Andrea Della Robbia)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
BAMBINO (ANDREA DELLA ROBBIA)
Foundling Hospital, Florence

[58]

 

 

[59] The child is a healthy-looking little fellow, and the creases in neck and wrists show how plump he is. Yet there is a pathetic expression on the face which touches the heart. It is as if orphanage had laid its sorrowful impress upon him. A lonely look has crept into the eyes, and the mouth droops in a sad little curve. The boy is certainly no common child. His finely formed head promises a superior character. We are reminded of the Christ child, as many of the old masters have represented him. The body and legs are completely encased in swaddling bands, from which the head and arms emerge, like a blossom from its calyx.

The custom of swathing babies with bandages is very ancient. We read in the gospel of St. Luke how the mother of Jesus wrapped her son in swaddling clothes as she laid him in the manger. The object was to prevent every possible injury or deformity to the growing limbs, and keep them straight. A child in swaddling clothes is naturally much more easily carried by the mother, and can more safely be left alone. This is doubtless the reason why the custom still prevails in many countries, and especially among the poorer people. There are still many nations which the progressive ideas of physical culture have not reached.

The method of swaddling as now practised in Italy begins by folding the babe in a large square linen cloth. A second piece of linen is rolled around the body, which is then ready for the bandage. This bandage is about ten inches wide and over three yards long, and is rolled about the entire [60] length of the child's figure, pinning the arms to the sides. The lower part of the linen cloth is turned up over the feet and tied with the ends of the bandage.[41]

Judging from our picture, the process seems to have been about the same in the fifteenth century, except that the arms of our bambino are free. Certainly this fact makes the figure much more attractive as well as more decorative. The cloth about the child's body is brown and the bandage white.

The sculptor of the bambini, Andrea della Robbia, was the nephew of Luca della Robbia, of whom we have learned something in previous chapters. He was trained in the workshop of his uncle, and in turn passed on his art to his three sons. While Luca's work is considered superior to that of any of his pupils, the nephew Andrea had some fine artistic qualities. The decorations of the Foundling Hospital illustrate both the delicacy and the fertility of his imagination. Only a genuine artist could invent so many variations upon the simple theme of a single baby figure. The entire series is like a musical composition based upon some simple but exquisite melody.

[38] Walter Pater.

[39] Maurice Hewlett in Earthwork out of Tuscany.

[40] Between 7000 and 8000, according to the Misses Horner's Walks in Florence, published in 1885.

[41] Described in a little book called Italian Child-Life, by Marietta Ambrosi.

 

 

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[61]

XI

THE ANNUNCIATION

BY ANDREA DELLA ROBBIA

The life of Mary the mother of Jesus was full of strange experiences. She had many sorrows to bear, but withal a joy beyond any ever given to woman. In the purity of her character she was set apart for a high and holy service.

The turning-point in her life was on a great day when the angel Gabriel was sent by God to visit her. It was in her quiet home in Nazareth that the celestial messenger "came in unto her." "Hail, thou that art highly favoured," he said, "the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." "And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be."

The angel spoke again, and his words reassured her: "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God." Then he told her that she was to be the mother of a wonderful son. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus," he said. "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of [62] Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."[42]

When at last Mary understood the meaning of the angel's message she humbly accepted her great destiny. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord," she replied; "be it unto me according to thy word." From this day until the birth of Jesus her thoughts were full of her coming motherhood. Once she broke forth into a song of praise:--

"My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour, For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden, For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is his name."[43]

The bas-relief by Andrea della Robbia tells the story of the angel's visit to Mary, the subject usually called the Annunciation. At one side sits the Virgin with an open book on her lap, as if she had been reading. She has a girl's slender figure, and her head is modestly draped with a mantle. The angel kneels opposite, with folded hands. He has long pointed wings covered with feathers as "a bird of God," in Dante's phrase.

From above a fatherly face looks down upon them out of a surrounding circle of winged cherub heads. Beside the Virgin stands a jar of lilies, the flowers which symbolize the purity of her maidenhood. Over these soars a white dove, the same symbol of the Divine Spirit which descended upon Jesus at his baptism.[44]

 

 

[63]
The Annunciation (Andrea Della Robbia)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
THE ANNUNCIATION (ANDREA DELLA ROBBIA)
Altar Piece at La Verna

[64]

 

 

[65] Already the angel has delivered his message, and now awaits the answer. His face is round and innocent like a child's, and his long hair is carefully curled. The Virgin has listened with drooping head, and with her hand pressed to her breast as if to still the beating of her heart. She seems too timid to lift her eyes to meet her radiant guest. Yet her whole attitude expresses submission to the divine will.

The artist has expressed with rare delicacy of imagination the religious sentiment of the incident. The interpretation is in a similar vein to that of the poet painter Rossetti in the lines on the Annunciation in the poem "Ave:"--

"Then suddenly the awe grew deep
As of a day to which all days
Were footsteps in God's secret ways;
Until a folding sense, like prayer,
Which is, as God is, everywhere,
Gathered about thee; and a voice
Spake to thee without any noise,
Being of the silence:--'Hail,' it said,
'Thou that art highly favouréd;
The Lord is with thee, here and now;
Blessed among all women thou.'"

Rossetti, it will be remembered, belonged to that circle of English artists who some fifty years ago attempted to revive the simple reverence of the Italian art previous to Raphael. Thus the "Pre-Raphaelite" poet and the sculptor, though separated by so many centuries, had the common aim of expressing "the sense of prayer" which gathered about the Virgin in this moment. Rossetti also treated the [66] Annunciation in a picture which has interesting points of comparison with our illustration.

The relief is made in the Della Robbia enamelled terra cotta ware. The sculptor has here followed his uncle's example in the simplicity of the draperies. The modelling of the hands also recalls the touch of Luca. In choice of types, however, Andrea shows his individual taste. The fragile figure of the Virgin is as different as possible from the robust beauty of Luca's Madonna which we have studied. The angel too is of a softer and less vigorous character than the older artist would have designed.

The relief is surrounded by an elaborate frame of the same material. At the sides decorated pillars with Ionic capitals support an entablature, every section of which has its own distinctive design. The patterns ornamenting frieze and pillars seem to be variations on the lotus motive, and are very graceful. On the dado, or piece running across the bottom of the frame, is printed the Latin inscription: "Ecce Ancilla Domini. Fiat Mihi secundum verbum tuum" (Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word). It is interesting to notice that at this period the letters n and m were written above the line or united with the vowels which they followed.

[42] St. Luke, chapter i., verses 30-33.

[43] From the Magnificat in the Prayer Book version.

[44] St. Matthew, chapter iii., verse 16.

 

 

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[67]

XII

THE ASCENSION

BY LUCA DELLA ROBBIA

For forty days after the resurrection of Jesus the disciples enjoyed the companionship of their Master. They were now ready to understand many things that before had been obscure to them, and Jesus spoke to them much of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.[45] Sometimes, as they sat together, he suddenly appeared among them.[46] Once when a few of them had been out fishing over night they found him standing on the shore in the morning.[47]

Still later he appointed a meeting on a mountain in Galilee at which over five hundred of the faithful were gathered. It was then that he commanded them to go forth to teach all nations, and he gave them the promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."[48]

Finally he led the chosen band to the Mount of Olives at Bethany, "and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." "And a cloud received him out of [68] their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."[49]

In Luca della Robbia's bas-relief of the Ascension the moment has come when, in the very act of blessing his disciples, Jesus is parted from them. He had already, in some measure, prepared them for this event. On the day of his resurrection he told them that he was about to ascend to his father.[50] To-day his words and manner may have shown them that the time was at hand. Certainly there are no startled or grief-stricken faces among them; no gestures of surprise. It is as if in response to some sign from the master, they had all knelt to receive his benediction, and while they were still on their knees, he rose from their midst. Already his feet have left the solid earth, as he vanishes out of their sight.

The company form a circle just as they had clustered about him. So orderly is their arrangement, so quietly is the great act accomplished, that they seem to be taking part in some religious service. All eyes are fixed upon the Saviour, with love, joy, and adoration expressed in every countenance.

 

 

[69]

St. Philip (Nanni Di Banco)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
THE ASCENSION (LUCA DELLA ROBBIA)
Cathedral, Florence

 

 

[70]

 

 

[71]

The treachery of Judas had reduced the number of disciples to eleven, and the vacant place was not filled until later. We see, however, twelve figures in this circle, and notice that one is a woman. This is Mary, the mother of Jesus, who had lived with John since the day of the Crucifixion. It was the express wish of Jesus that the beloved disciple should regard her as a mother. Thus it is not unnatural to suppose that the two would come together to Bethany at this time, and kneel side by side, as we see them here. Mary looks as young as when she held her babe in her arms, and she has the same happy expression. It is not possible to make out who the others are. We fancy that the two beardless young men at the right are Thomas and Philip, because they are thought to have been younger than the other disciples.

The figure of the Saviour is noble and dignified, the attitude full of buoyancy. The face is such as from long association we have come to identify with the person of Christ, benignant and refined. He looks not up into the glory towards which he is ascending, but his glance still lingers upon the disciples with an expression of tender solicitude. An oval frame of radiating lines surrounds his entire figure. It is the mandorla, or almond-shaped nimbus, which was the old artistic symbol of divine glory.

We have already noticed some of the characteristics of Luca della Robbia's art, which are again illustrated in this work. The draperies are arranged [72] with a simplicity of line which is almost severe. The folds are scanty, clinging to the figure and following the fine outlines of the pose. The figures are white, set off against the blue of the sky, and green, brown, and yellow are introduced in the landscape surroundings.

The bas-relief is one of two lunettes placed over opposite doors in the cathedral of Florence. The companion subject is the Resurrection, and in both pieces the sculptor went beyond his usual limit in the number of figures making up the composition. The leading quality of his work is decorative, and he seldom applied his art to the illustration of story. We are the more interested in his remarkable success in these instances.

A painter would naturally have brought out the more dramatic features of the Ascension, showing the excitement and confusion of the moment. Luca knew well that sculpture was unsuited for violent action, and he sought rather to convey a sense of repose in his work. Moreover he infused a devotional spirit into the scene which he seldom attained. Marcel-Reymond says that only in Fra Angelico's work can one find figures expressing such an ecstasy of love and devotion.

[45] Acts, chapter i., verse 3.

[46] St. Mark, chapter xvi., verse 14; St. John, chapter xx., verse 26.

[47] St. John, chapter xxi., verse 4.

[48] St. Matthew, chapter xxviii., verses 19, 20.

[49] St. Luke, chapter xxiv., verses 50, 51; Acts, chapter i., verses 9-11.

[50] St. John, chapter xx., verse 17.

 

 

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[73]

XIII

TOMB OF THE CARDINAL OF PORTUGAL

BY ANTONIO ROSSELLINO

In the church of San Miniato, on a hill overlooking Florence, is a memorial chapel built in honor of a Portuguese cardinal who is buried here. Architecture, painting, and sculpture are here united to make a perfect artistic whole. The room was designed by the architect Antonio Manetti; the altar and walls are adorned with paintings by Pollaiuolo and Baldovinetti, the roof is decorated with medallions of Delia Robbia ware, and at one side is the cardinal's tomb.

This prelate, Jacopo di Portogallo, died in Florence while visiting the city on a diplomatic mission. He was a young man under thirty years of age, a cousin of the reigning king of Portugal, and was besides the cardinal archbishop of Lisbon. Naturally he was received as a guest of unusual distinction, and his amiable qualities won him warm friends among the Florentines. Though dying in a foreign land, he was buried with such honors as his own countrymen could hardly have surpassed. This was in 1459, at a time when Antonio Rossellino was a prominent sculptor of Tuscany. He was the artist [74] chosen by the Bishop of Florence to construct the Portuguese cardinal's tomb.

On a richly carved base stands the sarcophagus or marble coffin in an arched niche. Just over this, on a bier, lies the portrait figure of the cardinal in his ecclesiastical robes. All this is surrounded by a square framework, not unlike a mantelpiece in style, on the two upper corners of which are kneeling angels. The wall space above is ornamented by angels holding over a simulated window a medallion containing a Madonna and child.

Our illustration shows this portion of the wall, and includes a part of the angel figures kneeling at the upper corners of the tomb. The angel on the left side holds the crown, which is the reward of a faithful life. It is the "crown of righteousness," the "crown of life," or the "crown of glory which fadeth not away."[51] His companion must once have carried a palm branch, according to an old description, but this has disappeared. The angels bearing the medallion fly forward as if swimming through the air, alternately bending the knee and thrusting out the leg. Their draperies flutter about them in the swiftness of their motion. Such vigorous action is an unusual motive in decorative art, and perhaps not altogether appropriate. All four of the angels have delicate features and sweet expressions.

 

 

[75]

Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal (Antonio Rossellino)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
TOMB OF THE CARDINAL OF PORTUGAL (ANTONIO ROSSELLINO)
Church of San Miniato, Florence

 

 

[76]

 

 

[77] The medallion is, artistically considered, the loveliest portion of the whole work. The face of the Madonna is of that perfect oval which artists choose for their ideal of beauty. We admire too the delicately cut features, the waving hair, and the shapely hands. Both she and the child look down from their high frame, smiling upon those who may stand on the pavement below. The child raises his hand in a gesture of benediction, the three fingers extended as a sign of the trinity.

It is not an easy problem to fit the compositional lines of a group into a circular frame. Rossellino solved it very prettily by outlining the figures in a diamond-shaped diagram. You may easily trace the four sides, drawing one line from the Madonna's head along her right shoulder, another from her elbow to the finger tip, a third from the child's toes to his left elbow, a fourth from his elbow to the top of the mother's veil.

It will be noticed that in the whole decorative scheme of the monument there is nothing to suggest the idea of mourning. There is here no sense of gloom in the presence of death. The rejoicing of the angels, the smile of the mother and child, and the peaceful sleep of the cardinal, all express the Christian hope of immortality beyond the grave.

The sentiment is particularly appropriate to the character of the man whose memory is honored here. The Florentine writer Vespasiano Bisticci described him as being "of a most amiable nature, a pattern of humanity, and an abundant fountain of good, through God, to the poor.... He lived in the [78] flesh as if he were free from it, rather the life of an angel than a man, and his death was holy as his life."[52]

Allowing something for the extravagance of speech which was the fashion of that time, we may still believe that the Cardinal of Portugal was a man whose character was singularly pure in an age when good men were none too common. Of the sculptor Rossellino also fair words are spoken. Vasari declared that he "was venerated almost as a saint for the admirable virtues which he added to his knowledge of art."

The custom of erecting elaborate marble tombs was an interesting feature of the Renaissance art in Italy. Such monuments formed an important part of the interior decoration of churches. Church dignitaries took great pride in the thought that their names would be immortalized in these works of art. Some had their tombs made while still living, that they might make sure of a satisfactory design. [53] Others gave directions on the subject with their dying breath, as in Browning's poem, "The Bishop Orders his Tomb at St. Praxed's." Of the many fine tombs in the churches of Tuscany, this monument of the Cardinal of Portugal is counted one of the three best.[54]

[51] 2 Timothy, chapter iv., verse 8; St. James, chapter i., verse 12; 1 Peter, chapter v., verse 4. The symbolism of the crown is explained in Mrs. Jameson's Sacred and Legendary Art, page 28.

[52] In Vite di Uomini Illustri del Secolo XV.

[53} As Bishop Salutati, whose tomb is mentioned in Chapter IV.

[54] By C. C. Perkins in Tuscan Sculptors.

 

 

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[79]

XIV

EQUESTRIAN STATUE OF GATTAMELATA

BY DONATELLO

In the fifteenth century Italy was divided into numerous independent states, among which there was more or less rivalry. The two great powers of the north were Venice and Milan, both striving for the possession of Lombardy. To the Venetian republic already belonged an extensive territory on the mainland, and she was determined on conquest at any cost. To this end condottieri were employed to carry on the several campaigns.

These condottieri were military leaders who made war a business. It mattered nothing to them on what side they fought or against what enemy, so long as they were well paid for their services. As a rule they were men of unscrupulous character, many of whom betrayed the cause entrusted to them. To this rule a notable exception was Gattamelata,[55] the subject of the equestrian statue in our illustration.

[80] The man's real name was Erasmo da Narni. It was as first lieutenant in the Venetian army that he came into notice, serving under Gonzaga. When later this Gonzaga went over to the cause of the Milanese enemy, the lieutenant was promoted to the command. He threw into the work before him, says the historian, "an honest heart and splendid faculties."

The Milanese army was much larger than the Venetian, and was commanded by the famous strategist Niccolò Piccinino. Gattamelata could make little headway against such odds, but all that was possible to do he accomplished "with equal courage, fidelity, and zeal." At length, in attempting to bring relief to the besieged city of Brescia, he found himself shut in between the Lake of Garda and the Alps.

It was in the month of September, 1438. Snow already lay on the mountains, and the rivers were swollen with the autumn rains. The roads were out of repair, bridges were washed away, and even the fords were impassable. To make matters worse, the army was short of provisions. Such conditions would have forced any other general to lay down his arms, but not Gattamelata. With admirable coolness, he led his men in a retreat across the mountains and around the lake. Three thousand horsemen and two thousand infantry made up their number, and all were devoted to their leader. Torrents were bridged, old roads repaired, new ones opened, and at the end of a month the army emerged upon the Lombard plain.

 

 

[81]

Equestrian Statue Of Gattamelata (Donatello)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
EQUESTRIAN STATUE OF GATTAMELATA (DONATELLO)
Piazza del Santo, Padua

 

 

[82]

 

 

[83] Thus were the Venetian arms saved, and at the same time the Milanese were baffled in a design to come between Venice and her army. Gattamelata's retreat was a victory of peace, less showy, perhaps, than a victory of war, but requiring the finest qualities of generalship. In recognition of his services the Venetian Signory conferred the title of nobility upon him, with a palace and a pension.

In the following year, the Venetian cause was strengthened by alliance with Florence, and Gattamelata yielded the first place in command to Sforza, the general of the Florentine forces. In 1440 the united armies succeeded in relieving Brescia, but in the same year a calamity befell Gattamelata. Exposure to cold brought on paralysis, and after a lingering illness of two years he died. The honor of a great funeral was accorded him at the public expense, and he was buried in the church of S. Antonio at Padua. The next year the sculptor, Donatello, was commissioned to make an equestrian statue of the great condottiere to be set up in the square in front of the church.[56]

With quiet dignity Gattamelata rides forward on his horse as if reviewing his army. There is nothing pompous in his attitude or manner. He seems a plain man intent upon his task, with no thought of display. He has the strong face of one born for leadership, and we can believe the stories of his troops' devotion to him. With his right hand he [84] lifts his wand in a gesture of command, letting it rest across the horse's neck.

He is dressed in the picturesque war costume of the period, and wears metal plates upon his arms. A long sword swings at his side, and spurs are attached to his heels. Yet apparently he is not actually equipped for the battle, for his head is uncovered. He has a high receding forehead and thick curls. The peculiar shape of the head, looking almost conical from some points of view, indicates a forcible character. It is evident that this is a man of action rather than of words. His appearance fits admirably the facts of his life as one whose energy and courage could overcome any obstacle. Gattamelata was not a patriot, as we understand patriotism, being but a mercenary captain. But he showed a rare loyalty to the cause he espoused. It is not as a fighting man that we admire him to-day, but as a man of remarkable resources.

Obedient to the master's hand, the horse ambles at a moderate pace. Except the bridle, he has no trappings, and we thus see to the best advantage the fine proportions of his figure. Before undertaking this work Donatello had had no experience in modelling the horse, and his success is the more remarkable. It is, however, the man rather than the horse which shows the full power of the sculptor's art. The subject was one exactly suited to his taste, which preferred vigorous masculine qualities to all others.

[85] In ancient sculpture equestrian subjects were very important. On the Parthenon at Athens a frieze of bas-relief contained rows of horsemen riding in the Panathenaic procession.[57] In a public square in Rome was a famous statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback. Donatello was the first sculptor of the Christian era to revive this noble form of art. The statue of Gattamelata is therefore the parent of the long line of modern equestrian statues.

[55] The literal meaning of this sobriquet is Honeyed cat.

[56] W. C. Hazlitt's Venetian Republic furnishes the quotations and information for this account of Gattamelata. Other sources of material on the subject are Fabretti, Biog. dei Capitani dell' Umbria, Hoefer's Biog. universelle, and Michaud's Biog. générale. Symonds gives a general account of the condottieri in the Age of Despots.

[57] See Chapter III. of the volume on Greek Sculpture, in the Riverside Art Series.

 

 

[^TOC]
[86]

XV

SHRINE

BY MINO DA FIESOLE

We have seen from the examples in our collection that the art of sculpture may be applied in many forms to the decoration of churches, without and within. Statues like those in the niches on the church of Or San Michele, sculptured altars like that by Donatello in the church at Padua, organ galleries like that by Luca della Robbia in the Florence cathedral, monumental tombs like those of Ilaria del Carretto and the Cardinal of Portugal, medallions and lunettes on walls and ceilings, are among the treasures enriching the churches of Italy.

Sculpture may also be used to ornament almost every article of church furnishing: pulpits, fonts, and basins for holy water, wardrobes and cabinets, chests and chairs, as well as a multitude of those smaller objects wrought in metal which belong to the goldsmith's art. Upon all such things as these the Italian artists of the fifteenth century spent much careful and loving labor.

 

 

[87]

Shrine (Mino Da Fiesole)
Alinari, photo. John Andrew & Son, Sc.
SHRINE (MINO DA FIESOLE)
Church of Or Santa Croce, Florence

 

 

[88]

 

 

[89] Our illustration shows a kind of church furniture common in this period. It is a sculptured cabinet to contain articles used in the altar services, such as the sacramental wafers or the holy oil. A receptacle for objects so sacred is called a shrine. The architectural framework is in the form styled a tabernacle, such as we have seen in the niches on the outside of Or San Michele.[58]

The artist was Mino da Fiesole, whose decorative works were very popular, both for the delicacy of their finish and the quality of sentiment they expressed. His idea here was to make the design suggest a sacred story, the story of Christ's resurrection. The opening into the cabinet is the entrance of the tomb, and without, the angels await the coming of the risen Lord.

Our thoughts turn to the Sunday morning in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, when the faithful women came to the rock-hewn tomb. The stone had been rolled away, and angels greeted them with the glad tidings, "He is risen."[59] The angels of our picture press forward eagerly to peer into the shadowy depths of the interior. There are two who are close to the door, while two more, with long torches, stand on the step below. Above the door hovers a dove, the emblem of the Holy Spirit.

Various features of the tabernacle illustrate characteristic qualities of the Italian art of this period. The arched top is to be noticed as much more common in Italy than the Gothic or pointed roof. The winged cherub heads were a favorite decorative design. We have seen one example of their use in [90] the frame of the medallion on the Portuguese cardinal's tomb. The decorated side pillars with Ionic capitals we have seen in the altarpiece of the Annunciation by Andrea della Robbia.

The shrine of our illustration was originally made for the nuns of the convent of the Murate. It is mentioned by Vasari as a work which the artist "conducted to perfection with all the diligence of which he was capable." That its first purpose was to hold the sacramental wafers we may be sure from the Latin inscription, "This is the living bread which came down from heaven." The words are those used by our Lord himself in one of the discourses recorded by St. John.[60]

In 1815 the shrine was removed to its present place in the church of S. Croce, Florence, where it is in the chapel of the Medici, also called the chapel of the Novitiate.

[58] Chapter II.

[59] St. Mark, chapter xvi., verses 4-6.

[60] St. John, chapter vi., verse 51.

 

 

[^TOC]
[91]

XVI

IL MARZOCCO (THE HERALDIC LION OF FLORENCE)

BY DONATELLO

In the history of the several cities of Italy every town has chosen some design to be inscribed upon a shield as a coat of arms. Florence has the lily, as a reminder of the far-away days when the valley of the Arno was filled with the red blossoms of the amaryllis. It was for this that the name Firenze was given to the city, the "City of Flowers." The lily is drawn in three petals somewhat like those of the fleur-de-lis of France; but the Florentine flower is broader than its French counterpart, and has besides two slender flower-stalks separating the larger petals. When represented in color it is always red.

The tutelary genius of Florence is the lion. He stands for the noble and heroic qualities in the Florentine citizen. Courage and patriotism have many a time been magnificently illustrated in the history of the city's struggles against tyranny. Like the king of beasts, the loyal Florentine prefers death to the loss of liberty.

The choice of the lion as a civic emblem explains the fact that a preserve of lions was once kept in Florence at the public expense. This was given up [92] centuries ago, but the Via de' Leoni, or street of the lions, remains to remind us of the old custom. There was still another way in which Florence kept the emblem continually before the minds of her people. This was in the stone lion called the Marzocco, set up in the piazza, or square, of the Signoria.

For many years the civic life of Florence centred in the Piazza della Signoria, where stands the old gray stone palace called the Palazzo Vecchio. Of some of the important events which took place here in the fifteenth century we may read in George Eliot's "Romola." It was here the Florentines gathered on all occasions of public interest, whether connected with the political or the religious affairs of their city.

In front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a stone platform called the ringhiera, and it was on this that the Marzocco was set up as a stimulus to patriotism. The lion sits on his haunches in an attitude of grave dignity. In this position he is much more alert than a crouching lion, and less aggressive than the rampant lion. His duty is to guard the honor of the city, and his pose is much like that of the watchdog. With his right paw he supports a shield on which the Florentine lily is engraved. We are reminded of our own national eagle holding the shield of the stars and stripes.

In such a figure we do not look for a close resemblance to nature. The subjects of heraldic art are treated in a decorative way with a certain stiffness [93] of form. The device of the lily is not an actual picture of the flower, but a kind of floral diagram, or what we call a conventionalized form. So, too, the lion is of a formal or emblematic type. Yet there is a certain expressiveness in the face of the old fellow which makes us like him. Like the winged lion of St. Mark's in Venice, he has made many friends.

Il Marzocco is carved out of soft gray stone which the Italians call pietra serena. It is believed to have been made by Donatello, and it stands on a beautiful carved pedestal. Like the same sculptor's statue of St. George it was deemed too precious to leave exposed in the open air, and was therefore removed to a museum. A bronze copy now stands in its place on the platform of the old palace.

[94]

 

 

[95]

 

 

[^TOC]

PRONOUNCING VOCABULARY OF PROPER NAMES
AND FOREIGN WORDS

The Diacritical Marks given are those found in the latest edition of Webster's International Dictionary.

EXPLANATION OF DIACRITICAL MARKS.

 

A Dash ( ) above the vowel denotes the long sound, as in fāte, ēve, tīme, nōte, ūse.
A Dash and a Dot ( s_line ) above the vowel denote the same sound, less prolonged.
A Curve ( curve ) above the vowel denotes the short sound, as in ădd, ĕnd, ĭll, ŏdd, ŭp.
A Dot ( dot ) above the vowel a denotes the obscure sound of a in pa_dotst, a_dotbāte, Amĕrica_dot.
A Double Dot ( ) above the vowel a denotes the broad sound of a in fäther, älms.
A Double Dot ( .. ) below the vowel a denotes the sound of a in ba_under2dotll.
A Wave ( ~ ) above the vowel e denotes the sound of e in hẽr.
A Circumflex Accent ( ^ ) above the vowel o denotes the sound of o in bôrn.
A dot ( . ) below the vowel u denotes the sound of u in the French language.
n indicates that the preceding vowel has the French nasal tone.
g and k denote the guttural sound of ch in the German language.
th denotes the sound of th in the, this.
ç sounds like s.
sounds like k.
ṣ̱ sounds like z.
is hard as in ḡet.
is soft as in ġem.

 

Alger (ăljẽr).
Ambrosi, Marietta (mä-rē-ĕttä äm-
  brōzē).
Andrea (än-drāä).
Angelico, Fra (frä än-jĕlē-kō).
Annunziata (än-noo_linen-tsē-ätä).
Antonio (än-tōnē-ō).
Apollo (a_dot-pŏllō).
Arezzo (ä-rĕtsō).
Arimathea (ăr-ĭ-ma_dot-thēa_dot).
Aristotle (ărĭs-tŏtl).
Arras (är-räs).

Baldovinetti (bäl-dō-vē-nĕttē).
Bambino (bäm-bēnō).
Bartolommeo (bär-tō-lŏm-māō).
Bĕtha_dotny.
Bĕthlēhĕm.
Bethsaida (bĕth-sāĭ-da_dot).
Bisticci, Vespasiano (vĕs-pä-zē-änō
  bēs-tētchē).
Bologna (bō-lōnya_dot).
Borghini, Vicenzo (vē-chĕndsō bôr-
  gēnē).
Botticelli (bŏt-tē-chĕllē).
Brescia (brāshē-ä).
Brunelleschi (broo_line-nĕl-lĕskē).
Buonarroti (boo_line-ō-när-rōtē).

Cammina (kämmē-nä).
cantoria (kän-tō-rēä).
Cappadocia (kăp-a_dot-dōshĭ-ä).
Carderara (kär-dā-rärä).
Carrara (kär-rärä).
Carretto (kär-rĕttō).
Cavalucci (kä-vä-laa_linetchē).
Cleodolinda (klē-ŏd-ō-lĭnda_dot).
Colvin, Sidney (sĭdnĭ kŏlvĭn).

 

PRONOUNCING VOCABULARY[96]

 

Correggio (kôr-rĕdjō).
Cortile (kōr-tēla_dot).
Croce (krōchā).

Della Robbia (dĕllä rŏbbē-ä).
Didron (dē-drôN).
Diocletian (dī-ō-klēshĭ-a_dotn).
Dōmĭnĭca_dotn.
Dŏmĭnĭck.
Dōnätĕllō.
Dōnätō.

Ecce ancilla Domini fiat mihi secundum
  verbum tuum (ĕkkĕ änkēllä
  dōmē-nē fēät me_line_dothe_line_dot sākoo_linendoo_linem
  wārboo_linem too_lineoo_linem).
Ecco il Giovannino (ĕkkō ēl jō-vän-
  nēnō).
Ego sum Lux Mundi (ĕgō soo_curve2m loo_linex
moo_linendē).
Elias (ē-līa_dots).
Elisabeth (ē-lĭza_dot-bĕth).
Eloi (ā-lwä).
episcopus (ā-pēskō-poo_curve2s).
Erasmo da Narni (ā-räsmō dä när
  nē).

Fabretti (fä-brĕttē).
Firenze (fē-rĕndsa_line_dot).
Florentine (flôrĕn-tēn).
Franciscan (frăn-sĭska_dotn).
Frati Minori (frätē mē-nōrē).
Frati Predicatori (frätē prā-dē-kä-
  tōrē).

Galilee (gălĭ-lē).
Garda (gärdä).
Gattamelata (gät-tä-mā-lätä).
genre (zhäNr).
Gonzaga (gŏnd-sägä).
Grĕgōry_curve.
Guinigi, Paolo (päō-lō gwē-nēgē).

Hăzlĭtt.
Hẽrmēs.
Hĕrŏd.
Hewlett, Maurice (ma_under2dotrĭs hŏlĕt).
Hieropolis (hī-ē-rŏpō-lĭs).
Hoefer (hẽfẽr).
Iconografia Española (ē-kō-nō-grä-fēä
  ĕs-pän-yōlä).
Iconography (ī-kō-nŏgra_dot-fĭ).
Ilaria (ē-lärē-ä).

Jacopo della Quercia (yäkō-pō dĕllä
  kwĕrchä).
Jôrda_dotn.
Jourdain (zhoo_liner-dăN).
Judæa (jŏ-dēa_dot).

Lĕghôrn.
Lĭby_curvea_dot.
Lisbon (lĭzbŭn).
Loggia (lŏdjä).
Lŏmba_dotrdy_curve.
Luca della Robbia (loo_linekä dĕllä rŏb-
  bē-ä).
Lucca (loo_linekkä).

Magnificat (măg-nĭfĭ-kăt).
Mandorla (mändôr-lä).
Manetti, Antonio (än-tōnē-ō mä-nĕt-
  tē).
Marcel-Reymond (mär-sĕl rā-môN).
Marzocco, Il (ēl märd-sŏkkō).
Medici (mādē-chē).
Michaud (mē-shō).
Michelangelo (mē-kĕl-änja_line_dot-lō).
Milan (mĭla_dotn or mĭ-lăn).
Mino da Fiesole (mēnō dä fē-āsō-
  la_line_dot).
Molinier (mō-lē-nē-ā).
Murate (maa_line-räta_line_dot).
Murillo (maa_line-rēlyō).

Nanni di Banco (nännē dē bänkō).
Nāthăna_line_dotĕl.
Năza_dotrĕth.
Niccolò (nē-kō-lō).

Or San Michele (ôr sän mē-kălaline__dot).

Pădŏa_dot.
Palazzo Vecchio (pä-lätsō vĕkkē-ō).
Pātẽr.
Petronio (pā-trōnē-ō).
Phrygia (frĭjĭa_dot).

 

PRONOUNCING VOCABULARY[97]

 

Piazza (pē-ätsä).
Piccinino, Niccolò (nē-kō-lō pēt-chē-
  nēnō).
pietra serena (pē-āträ sā-rānä).
Pisa (pēzä).
Pistoja (pēs-tōyä).
Planché (pläN-shā).
Pollaiuolo (pōl-lä-yoo_line-ōlō).
Portogallo, Jacopo di (yäkō-pō dē
  pōr-tō-gällō).
Pōrtŏga_dotl.
Prăxĕd.
Pre-Raphaelite (prē-räfā-ĕl-īt).

Raphael (räfā-ĕl).
Rea (rā).
Rembrandt (rĕmbrănt).
Renaissance (rẽ-nās-säNs).
ringhiera (rēn-gē-ārä).
Romola (rŏmō-la_dot).
Rossellino (rŏs-sĕl-lēnō).
Rossetti (rŏs-sĕttē).

Sabatier (sä-bä-tē-ā).
Salutati, Leonardo (lā-ō-närdō sä-
  loo_line-tätē).
San Miniato (sän mē-nē-ätō).
Scythia (sĭthĭ-a_dot).
Sforza (sfōrdsä).
Siena (sē-ānä).
Signor (sēnyōr).
Signory (sēnyō-rĭ).
Sīlēnē.
Spedale degli Innocenti (spă-dälā
  dālyē ēn-nō-chāntē).
Stĭgma_dottä.
Symonds (sĭmŭndz).
Syndics (sĭndĭx).

Tĭllĭng-hăst.
Titian (tĭsha_dotn).
Tŭsca_dotny_curve.

Vasari (vä-särē).
Via de' Leoni (vēä dā lā-ōnē).

Zacharias (zăk-a_dot-rīa_dots).
Zuccone (dsoo_linek-kōna_line_dot).

 

 


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