THE Salle des Primitifs, sometimes called Salle des Sept Mètres, and numbered VII. on the plan, contains, as its name denotes, works of the early Renaissance masters. Especially rich is it in pictures by the painters of Florence, one of the first of the Italian cities to feel the awakening power of the spirit that was to rejuvenate all art and all learning.
Cimabue, the man who for so many generations was regarded as the founder of all modern painting, is here, according to the catalogue, represented by one Madonna. In reality, there is as grave doubt about the authorship of the picture as there is about his real right to the title Vasari claimed for him. Today, criticism has proved that not a single work can be absolutely certified as a Cimabue. The most that can be said of the Madonna in the Louvre is that it bears a strong resemblance to the Rucellai Madonna, which has for centuries been attributed to Cimabue, though many critics strenuously insist that even that altar-piece is not by his hand. If not by him, this one here is probably by some early Siennese master, and in spite of its archaistic attributes, its lack of form, its conventional posing, its total absence of what Mr. Berenson calls ” tactile values,” – it does evince a certain improvement over the rigidity of the Greek and the Byzantine schools.
It represents the Virgin on a high architectural throne, clad in a blue mantle that closely confines her head. She holds the infant Christ upon her knee, and he too is wrapped in thick folds of drapery, beneath which his bare feet show. With his right hand he makes the sign of blessing. At each side of the throne are three winged angels, arranged without any regard for perspective, one above the other, so that only the lowest is seen in full length. The background is of gold, as of course are the halos. The draperies also were once sprinkled with the precious metal, but they have been repainted, as indeed have the background and many parts of the picture. In the borders of the old elaborate Gothic frame are twenty-six medallions of the busts of many saints. Most of these, too, have been retouched.
As has been noted, there are certain hard to define but none the less appreciable differences between this panel and others of the same or earlier date, in which the rigidity is much more pronounced. Nevertheless, the long, staring, unseeing eyes, the immobility of the countenance, the regularity of lines all indicate the Greek style of painting that flourished even as late as the beginning of the fourteenth century.
The Giotto in this room has been much repainted, but it is generally regarded as an authentic piece of work.
The old story of Giotto’s youth that Vasari tells, which Leonardo believed and retold to his pupils, is now discredited. Giotto was not a shepherd boy, and Cimabue did not discover him drawing his flock on the rocks or bits of stray board. What he was is rather uncertain, but he probably did begin to study with Cimabue early in life. Modern criticism, however, now seems inclined to insist that he owes more to Pisano and Cavallini than to Cimabue. He is, at any rate, the first Italian painter to display any real appreciation of actual life. For the first time painted figures begin really to stand, to walk, and, most wonderful of all, are so depicted that one feels it possible to walk between them and their background. Individual character, purposeful gestures, and some attempt at anatomical correctness are among the entirely new achievements of this first great modern.
St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, was painted for the altar of San Francesco in Assisi. According to Vasari’s pleasing fiction, the picture was such an object of veneration to the Pisans that it was the cause of Giotto’s being summoned to their city, to paint in the Campo Santo the Trials of Job, these in their turn bringing an invitation from the Pope to go to Rome. The St. Francis here is the one he painted for Pisa, and closely resembles that at Assisi. The saint, clad in a coarse cloth robe, is kneeling at the foot of a mountain that towers behind him, reminding one, it must be acknowledged, something of a toboggan slide. Above in the sky is Christ in the form of a winged seraph. From his head, his feet and his breast come the sharp red lines of the stigmata which reach to the hands, feet and breast of St. Francis. In the predella of the picture are three scenes, the one at the left being the Dream of Innocent III., in which St. Peter commands him to maintain the order founded by St. Francis. The middle panel reveals him presenting the Rules of the Order to St. Francis, who kneels before him. In the third, St. Francis is preaching to the birds. Most of the original colour of this painting has been obscured by dirt, time and restoring. But there is still recognizable something of Giotto’s feeling for form and expression which marks him as a true inventor.
Probably by Taddeo Gaddi are Salome’s Dance, The Crucifixion, and Christ Giving the Soul of Judas to Demons, which are but parts of an old predella. The Gaddi, Agnolo and Taddeo, were helpers of Giotto, and like Giottino, and, in fact, like painters for a generation after, they simply carried on the Giottesque traditions. For it was long before any men of real ability arose to express more clearly than he could express, reality or beauty. Taddeo worked for twenty-four years under Giotto before he became an independent painter. As Crowe and Cavalcaselle observe, he stood in the same relation to Giotto as Giulio Romano stood to Raphael. And Leonardo’s claim that art retrograded under Giotto’s followers applies to no one more forcibly than to him. He copied the faults of his master even more slavishly than the excellences, and really kept art at a standstill in Tuscany.
Gentile da Fabriano, who has ten panels here, though generally reckoned among the painters of the Umbrian school, could as easily be claimed for the Venetian or Florentine, as he spent years working in both those cities. He and Fra Angelico have been likened to brothers with similar tastes and tendencies, except that one became a monk and the other a knight. Fabrino used gold in high relief very often and freely, putting it on architectural forms, folds of garments, head-dresses, trap-pings of horses, and emphasizing and building out with it petals and leaves of flowers. Many of his pictures are extraordinairly amusing, because of their apparently helter-skelter arrangement, combined with a total lack of feeling for appropriateness. His was a joyous nature, and the most solemn of his Biblical scenes often are conucive to laughter by the naïve and unconstrained attitudes of his personages, or by the introduction of frolicking animals that have nothing to do with the scene depicted. But there is an exuberance, a gaiety and brilliancy of colour in Fabriano’s pictures that give them an individuality in its way as marked as Fra Angelico’s. He has, nevertheless, as modern critics agree, been over-rated, and scarcely deserves the encomiums lavished upon him. It is his Adoration of the Kings in Florence, by which he is best known.
In his Virgin and Child in this room the Virgin is seated in an extensive landscape, dressed in brown robes edged with golden embroidery, about her head a heavy nimbus of gold, on the border of which are the words, Ave Mater Regina Mundi. The child stands on her right knee, his right hand lifted in blessing, his left clasping his mother’s forefinger to steady himself. Her right hand is placed against his hip, and she holds a piece of transparent drapery in front of him. At the left of the two kneels Pandolfo Malatesta, arrayed in a gorgeous, embossed and brocaded robe. Back of them stretches a hilly landscape, with fortified castles and walls of towns.
The Madonna shows some indication of knowledge of the figure. Her shoulders are fully felt under her drapery, and the modelling of her face is delicately rendered. The child, too, though far from anatomical correctness, is much better drawn than the babies of the early Dutch school. Both mother and child have a sweet tenderness of expression, in excellent contrast to the strongly marked profile of the donor kneeling beside them.
The Presentation in the Temple is elaborately filled with architectural constructions. The lack of correct perspective between the buildings and the people, though very evident, shows some appreciation of the vanishing-point in the lines of the buildings themselves. There is a real effort, as well, to indicate figures under the draperies, and always a more or less successful attempt to portray individual character and expression.
Not far away is the Coronation of the Virgin, by Fra Angelico, the painter-monk whose works are the veritable prayers of his devout spirit. No one has ever approached Fra Giovanni in his rendering of religious beauty. No angels have ever quite equalled his in their delicacy, their exquisite colour, their tender flow of line, and in their beatific expressions. There is no hint of worldliness, of earth-heaviness about these flower-like beings, who play on their musical instruments, or sing hymns, or lead the blessed within the gates of Paradise. Neither is this piety, like a perfume over all that Angelico painted, his only gift. He had a rare sense of harmony of line and of balance of mass, of purity of colour and of dignity of composition. He had, too, a decided talent for ex-pressing character, as witness his greatest work in the chapel of Nicholas V. in the Vatican. It was only in his later days that he began to understand perspective and correct relations between figures and buildings ; but if his compositions show archaic traces in this respect, they more than make up for it even in their strictly technical beauties of luminosity of colour, grace of line, proportion and balance. To-day this Coronation is regarded as one of the great treasures of the Louvre. It was among the spoils of Napoleon, and when most of his booty was returned to its owners, this was not considered by the Tuscan government of sufficient value to pay for its transportation. For long it was huddled away in the Garde-Robe of the Louvre, and was called roughly ” a coloured drawing.”
On a throne at the top of a flight of wide marble steps sits Christ in full rich robe, holding in his hands the golden crown which he is about to place on the head of his kneeling mother. On each side of these two are grouped the lovely angel choirs that only Beato Angelico could paint. With their trumpets and violins and zithers, or with voice alone, they sing the praises of their King. Below them on the steps and still lower across the front of the picture, are saints, martyrs, apostles, Popes, the ” bienheureux ” of Heaven. Among them are seen St. Dominic, Moses, John the Baptist, Charlemagne, with his crown of fleurs-de-lis, St. Nicholas, St. Catherine with her wheel, and many others. Each has a halo, which Fra Angelico, like all the earliest masters, treated as a very solid substance. When angel or saint is facing the spectator, this solidity of course does not matter, since only the wide rim appears like a frame around the face. It is a different affair when the head is back to. There was nothing to do, since Angelico was not willing to cover their heads entirely from sight, but to place the gold plate-like halo so that each aureoled saint or angel seems to have his face pressed hard and fast against it. Below this scene is a predella of seven compartments showing miracles performed by St. Dominic, the founder of the order to which Fra Giovanni da Fiesole belonged.
It seems as if this brilliant yet soft-toned picture, with its gold, its blues, its pinks, its reds, had been painted by an angel rather than a man. As Gautier says, its colours are taken from the white of the lily, the rose of the dawn, the blue of the sky, the gold of the stars. The charming variety in the delicate angelic faces, each so full of love, of joy, of veneration, the skill with which the painter massed and differentiated the varying colours of their robes, the air of sweet humility that shrouds the Virgin, all show Fra Angelico in one of his most exalted moments.
In the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Herod and four companions, magnificently dressed, are seen behind a long table. In front, at the right, is Salome, dancing, dressed in a rose-coloured gown. At the left a soldier brings in a platter bearing the head of the Baptist. Here there is a total lack of the gruesome and horrible. Were it not for the head, one might guess the occasion was some ordinary occurrence. And Salome’s face is far too sweetly featured to suggest the cold-blooded dancer.
On the walls of the upper landing of the Escalier Daru is his Crucifixion. Against a bluish background the cross is raised with the figure of the Christ nailed upon it. At its foot, grasping it, kneels St. Dominic, his halo making a flat gold background for his profile. At the right stands St. John, his hands clasped, his eyes raised, and at the left is Mary, in full face, dressed in a violet mantle. Fra Angelico could not portray grief, or terror or despair as he could joy, prayer or praise. His lack of knowledge of the nude, too, is apparent in the figure of Christ. Yet true sorrow and the devout spirit of belief are very apparent.
There is a battle-scene in the Louvre by Paolo Uccello, and also a portrait panel. Uccello and linear perspective may almost be said to be synonymous. His whole efforts as a painter were directed toward achieving complete success in every kind of a difficult problem in perspective. As Vasari states, he was much more interested in studying lines of architecture, in getting the exact proportions of curiously foreshortened objects than he was in portraying human nature. The American editors of the Italian biographer say that ” His battle pieces are stiff, ungainly performances ; and we remember him rather for what he strove to attain than for what he actually accomplished.”
The one here is sadly damaged by time and by the unskilful ” restoring” of Brigiardini in the sixteenth century. It is chiefly remarkable, perhaps, for its extraordinary horses, extraordinary in bulk, in construction, and in attitude. Uccello’s evident and laboured attempts to join legs, bodies and heads correctly, result in producing an animal that if somewhere near true anatomically is far from that in appearance.
The oblong panel with the portrait busts of five noted men, is in a sense more interesting. Hard and rigid as it is as portraiture, it has a solid strength and characterization that presage the great days of Florentine supremacy in line and mass. These five men were all celebrated in their own fields, and Uccello, according to Vasari, was a great admirer of each one, and kept this panel in his own rooms. The first on the board is Giotto, the painter, the second, Paolo himself, the great exponent of the principles of perspective, the third Donatello, the sculptor, the fourth Antonio, not Giovanni, Manetti, the mathematician, and the fifth Brunellesco the architect. The name of each is written on the frame below the portrait.
From Uccello’s archaic battle-scene to the Virgin and Child with Saints and Priests of Filippo Lippi, is a far cry, though Uccello was only nine years older than the latter. Art critics are agreed that Fra Filippo Lippi was influenced by both Masaccio and Fra Angelico. His figures have a roundness, a fulness, and a real existence that those of Fra Angelico lack, while his saints and angels have a sweetness and a spirituality beyond Masaccio’s power. If he owes something of the solidity of his figures to Masaccio, and something of his delicacy and purity of line to Angelico, yet he is always and distinctly himself, with a charm that is wholly his own, and before unknown in art. Like all Italians he painted religious pictures almost exclusively. But for the first time in art he made them human. His Madonnas are real mothers, his baby Christs real babies ; even his angels are very natural, and not always beautiful children. Still, he never lost the religious sentiment in spite of thus humanizing his types. He introduced what may be called the genre picture into Italy, painting his Madonnas, Nativities, and Annunciations on small, round surfaces, suitable for home walls as well as for church altars.
After Filippo’s fiftieth year he used only one type of face for his Madonnas. It is a well-known story of his commission to paint a Nativity for the nuns of Sta. Margherita, and of how he chose for his model of the Virgin young Lucrezia Buti who was a boarder in the convent. For generations the end of the story was that he ran away with Lucrezia and then refused to marry her who became the mother of his son Filippino. The truth, as Milanesi found it out from old letters and documents, is not so widely known. Poor Fra Filippo is not the only one that ” Gossip Vasari ” wronged. That garrulous commentator scattered scandal through his accounts with a free hand. Fra Filippo, then, did marry Lucrezia by a special dispensation from the Pope, and for her sake gave up all his priestly revenues, and lived and died a poor man. It is Lucrezia’s face that he paints over and over, ever dwelling on each softly arched brow, on the wide eyes, the broad, ingenuous forehead, the tormentingly pretty nose, the kissable mouth, the little chin, with a veritable lover’s caress,
The Virgin and Child alluded to above was painted when Lippo was only twenty-six years old. It is fuller of architectural forms than some of his later works, but already he was in full possession of the style that was so distinctively and so originally his own. Three ornamented arches divide the upper part of this picture, which represents the interior of a church or some sort of sanctuary. Under the central arch, before a highly decorated throne, stands Mary in full face, holding the child against her right hip. Six angels guard her throne, three on the right, three on the left. A low balustrade which curves behind the angels, partly hides from view two children who look over it at the scene in front. Farther back at the left a monk’s head peers over the railing, and this has been called a portrait of the painter himself. Though executed long before he knew Lucrezia, the Madonna has the wide forehead, short, piquant nose, and small chin, characteristic of both his earlier and later portrayals of the Virgin. She is clad in the conventional red gown and blue mantle, and has the fascinatingly diaphanous head-dress Lippo loved to paint. Her expression is gently serious and contemplative, and if she is not drawn with quite the understanding of a Raphael, at least there is a very solid figure under the heavy drapery. The folds of this drapery are well managed and carefully realistic. A sort of sling made of a long piece of cloth and tied in a knot goes about Mary’s neck, and on this knot the baby has put his right foot, the support helping to keep him in his upright position. In one hand he holds a pomegranate, the other pulls down the drapery at his waist. His tight, curling hair, fat little limbs and chubby shoulders, are expressed with Fra Filippo’s naturalistic freedom of handling. The angels are delightful little beings, with their high, curved wings, their voluminous robes and their easy, unstrained attitudes. Each one bears a single stalk of Ascension lilies, and if their boyish faces suggest earthly rather than heavenly denizens, they are not thereby the less attractive. The two prelates kneeling in front are vigorous, studied portraits, drawn with strength and emphasis. As a whole, the picture is full of charm, of individuality, and of power, as well as of that subtle grace which with Fra Filippo had so much of sweet homeliness about it.
Morelli thinks the Nativity is probably not by Fra Filippo, but by some one of the school of Alesso Baldovinetti. It has, at all events, been pretty generally credited to Filippo, and has many of his characteristics, though there is some archaic drawing that seems at least hardly up to his best work. In front of a ruined barn built of bricks, and apparently even in its first days far too small to hold man and beast, kneel Mary and Joseph, adoring the child who is lying flat on the ground between them. Behind, through one of the numerous breaks in the wall, an ox and a donkey look out, and above them two angels float in the air, their hands met prayer-wise. At the top of the picture is the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, sending golden rays on to the group below. At the left, behind Mary, a very much cut-up landscape of rivers, pastures and castles is seen, with shepherds and their flocks curiously out of proportion.
Mary is by far the best of the figures here represented. The careful drawing of the hands, the youthful face, with its drooped lids, its sweet mouth, its delicate head-dress, all recall the style of Filippo Lippi. Joseph, too, has a certain rough, puzzled expression that is both pathetic and amusing.
Benozzo Gozzoli is represented by only one picture.
This painter of earth’s gaieties was, strangely enough, Fra Angelico’s pupil, and in Rome his assistant, and was greatly beloved by the painter-monk. The American editors of Vasari sum him up well in saying, ” He is a story-teller par excellence, … a lover of nature, a student of fields and flowers and animals. . . . On the vast wall-spaces that he covered so rapidly and easily with a world of story, he revealed himself in turn as landscape-painter, portrait-painter, animal-painter,. costumer, architect, designer of ornament and superlatively a decorator.”
His Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas is in three parts. The upper shows Christ blessing, while slightly below him are St. Paul, Moses and the four Evangelists. In the central division St. Thomas is seated between Aristotle and Plato, Guillaume de St. Amour lying at his feet, vanquished. Below all this is the entire Church of doctors, cardinals and Pope Alexander IV. who are being instructed by St. Thomas. Here the painter had little chance to introduce the birds and beasts and flowers he was so fond of, and by its very subject the picture is so much the less characteristic of him.
Signorelli is represented by a fragment of a composition, and by the Birth of the Virgin, but they are far below the best works of the man who is called ” the immediate successor of Michelangelo.” Signorelli was apprentice to Pietro della Francesca, and it was he who finished the fresco of the Last Judgment which Michelangelo had begun. It is his frescoes at Orvieto that have given him his greatest fame, for in them he shows a grandeur of form, a strength and virility of expression, a concentrated passion of action that were never equalled till the day of Michelangelo. His colour is not always agreeable, his compositions are frequently crowded.
But he is one of the first great moderns in art. He appeals to us, to our times, to our minds, as almost no painter before and as few since.
In the Birth of the Virgin is a certain dignity of line that marks almost all of Signorelli’s works, but it is far below the height of his power. In a bare-walled room, slightly at the left, is Anne in bed. She leans out to reach the new-born Mary to a woman who stoops to take her. At the foot of the bed a man rests against the foot-board, leaning over back to. Standing near the woman taking the child is a young girl whose tall figure with its fine lines is the one bit in the picture most suggestive of Signorelli. At the extreme right Joseph is sitting on the floor writing on his knee, and next to him a serving-woman bends over some dishes.
Of the pictures in the Louvre catalogued as by Botticelli, only the Lemmi frescoes are universally acknowledged to be really by him. These are on the upper landing of the Escalier Daru, near Fra Angelico’s Crucifixion.
Berenson says of Botticelli that he is ” Never pretty, scarcely ever charming or even attractive ; rarely correct in drawing and seldom satisfactory in colour ; in types, ill-favoured ; in feeling, acutely intense and even dolorous.” It is perhaps this intensity of feeling, combined with its dolorous-languidness in expression, that has captured so many modern critics, even more than the wonderful decorative qualities and the grace and movement of line that are as integral parts of this Florentine’s art. The wistful-faced, yearning-eyed Madonnas, the tired, weary-looking baby Christs, the intense, strained expression on so many of his angel faces, all this greatly appeals to the neurotic, anemic, and the mind-at-high-pressure so characteristic of present day humanity. No other painter strikes quite the same chord.
He has as little of the tragic, solemn depth of Michelangelo as he has of the serene poise of Raphael. There is always poetry, always grace, always the wonderful sinuosity of line that seems fairly vibrant with music ; but there are other things as well. If there is subtlety of expression, one suspects disingenuousness in that very subtlety ; if there is rhythmic curve of line, there is an ignoring of solidity of construction ; and if no one has ever better expressed motion in waving hair, falling drapery, or turning head, no one either has so revelled in awkward, ill-formed shapes. The lack of ingenuousness is, however, one of the most salient features of much of Botticelli’s work. There really is some ground for feeling that he was a bit of a poseur. A certain sort of artificiality permeates the majority of his pictures; a fascinating, sensuous, appealing artificiality, doubtless, but the forced, unreal note is, nevertheless, nearly always there.
Botticelli was living and working at the same time as Ghirlandajo, Benozzo Gozzoli, Verocchio, and Perugino, and for awhile, Filippo Lippi, who was his teacher. 14e was considered, at the time of the latter’s death, to be the best master in Florence, though he was then only twenty-two. His circular pictures of the Virgin and Child may be assigned to this period, or immediately after. These tondi are slightly reminiscent of the friar-painter, but they nevertheless are strongly indicative of Botticelli’s own peculiar qualities.
One of these tondi is the round Madonna called ” Le Magnificat,” in Room VII., though it is now considered to be a rather poor copy of the great one in the Uffizi. It is certainly far from that in its technique, showing poor brush-work and inferior treatment of values and colour. In composition it is identical, except that whereas in the one in Paris only one angel holds the crown over Mary’s head, in that of the Uffizi there are two, her head being thus framed by the two uplifted hands. This arrangement fills up the round more harmoniously, and is so much the more characteristic of Botticelli. No one has more beautifully balanced a composition in a circle than has he in the famous Uffizi tondo.
Mary sits at the right in front of a curved opening giving a distant view of a ” winding stream and wooded meadow.” Behind her is the boy angel in profile whose right hand holds over her head the crown made of delicate golden tracery. Standing by her knee on the other side are two more angels, holding an open book and an ink-well, into which she is dipping her pen preparatory to writing on the book’s half-blank pages. Behind these two, also looking at the book, a third bends over them, a hand on each of the others’ shoulder. His position exactly, yet without too much apparent effort, conforms to the curving line of the picture. On Mary’s lap is the baby Christ, his head lifted, his eyes raised. He rests his right hand partly on his mother’s wrist and partly on the open book, his left grasping the cut pomegranate which she holds at his side. The baby is rather uncouth and heavy and is the least attractive of the whole group. The boy angels are remarkably charming, their Medicean type of face infused with a delightful feeling of innocence.
The Virgin, Child and St. John is a much better piece of work from a technical standpoint than the Magnificat. It is supposed, however, not to be by Botticelli but by some painter who was greatly inspired by him. The Virgin sits at the right, in a garden, her face in profile, looking down under deep, full lids at the child who is standing on her lap. At the left is the little St. John, his hands crossed on his breast, his great eyes gazing straight out of the picture. Mary has much of the ruminative melancholy of Botticelli’s Madonnas, but the type of head is somewhat unlike his usual choice, her hands are squarer and better articulated, and the fingers far less long and serpentine. The baby is an exquisite bit of childhood. The tender loveliness of his chubby face, as he looks up adoringly at his mother, the little love pressure of his hand at her throat, are beautifully rendered. Scarcely less appealing is John, with the dreamy wistfulness of his expression and his humble, self-effacing attitude.
The two so-called Lemmi frescoes are parts of a decoration that Botticelli executed for Giovanni Tornabuoni when his son Lorenzo married Giovanna degli Albizzi. The Tornabuoni were related to the Medici and much interested in art. For years these frescoes had apparently disappeared. In 1541 the villa had gone from the family, and later the rooms were whitewashed and the frescoes wholly covered up. In 1873, when Doctor Lemmi was owner of the house, some cracks gave signs of colour beneath, and the whitewash being removed, Botticelli’s paintings appeared. Only two were really preserved, a third falling to pieces when uncovered. In 1882 they were somehow purchased and ever since have been in the Louvre. Both of them are more or less damaged, one of them being in a much worse state than the other. Unfortunately the better preserved, Lorenzo Tornabuoni Led into the Company of the Liberal Arts, is the poorer painting. Indeed, it is so much less successful than the other that critics have thought it could not have been wholly Botticelli’s work. The balance of opinion, however, seems how to ascribe it as well as the other to him.
At the edge of a wood on a high seat at the right sits Philosophy surrounded by her handmaidens, the ” Liberal Arts.” From the left comes Lorenzo led by Dialectics. A small Cupid was apparently beside him, but only his head has escaped destruction. Lorenzo, with his long, blond hair, and serious, thoughtful profile, is evidently a portrait of the young man who was so highly esteemed by his contemporaries for his learning and character. He has a round red cap on his head, and is dressed in a blue and red striped gown, with a red cloak falling from his right shoulder. The pensive, graceful girl figure of Dialectics, who leads him up to the distinguished company, is clad in white. Philosophy, in profile, is in the centre of the six ” Arts,” these latter making a semicircle about her. She is dignified, heavily draped with fur-trimmed robes, and is much older than the others. On her right are Arithmetic, Grammar and Rhetoric, on her left Geometry, Astronomy and Music. They are all young maidens and sit or kneel in graceful attitudes.
Giovanni Tornabuoni Receiving the Gifts of the Graces, is the other and more valuable fresco. It represents the interior of a room in which the hostess stands at the right holding out her apron to receive the gifts of the Graces, or, as some have said, the four cardinal Virtues. She is the best preserved bit in the panel, and is supposed to be a very faithful likeness of the young wife who was so noted for all the virtues and charms of womanhood. Her face is in three-quarters view, turned to the left. Clad in a brownish red gown that falls in straight, unbroken folds to her ankles, with a white veil over her hair, and a necklace of pearls, she presents a sober, quiet appearance, far different from that of most of the women of Italy of her day. Coming toward her from the left are the four maidens, marching two by two, dressed in soft-coloured robes that are billowed about them in tortuous folds, caught up by bands and falling over under-draperies equally turbulent, in a style that was all Botticelli’s own. The girl who seems to lead the four is supposed to represent Venus, both from her more prominent position and because she alone wears sandals and has golden-edged draperies. She has been a good deal obliterated, the whole back of her head and part of her shoulder and right leg being lost. Her profile is not over pretty, but is still intact, as well as the faces of her three companions, who, while all are of a marked Botticelli type, are more than usually regular in outline and charming in expression. Their flowing locks of hair are painted with all his love for these waving, living, caressing strands.
As pure decoration, this panel shows Botticelli’s genius at its height. His command of line, his rhythmic curves were never more beautifully displayed, and one feels with Berenson that here is ” the greatest artist of lineal design that Europe has ever had.”
Ghirlandajo, whose Visitation and Portrait of an Old Man and Little Boy are in this room, was one of the three great Florentine painters of the last quarter of the fifteenth century, the other two being Botticelli and Filippino. Messrs. Blashfield and Hopkins consider him less tender than Filippino, less original than Botticelli, but more powerful and more direct than either. ” The note which he strikes is less thrilling, but deeper ; the types he presents are less fascinating, but more human.” His most distinctive attribute, perhaps, is his ability as a portrait-painter. In his pictures of the Nativity, the Annunciation, and other religious subjects, the best part of the scenes are not the Madonnas and saints that give the name of the picture, but the onlookers, the ” donors,” or the attendant citizens. In these figures he painted simply and directly the actual Florentines of his day, and painted them with a truth, a reality and an incisiveness that proclaim him a rare portrait-painter for his own or any time. In colour he is often far from pleasing, indulging as he does in an overabundance of bricky red, but in drawing he is superior to all the painters who had pre-ceded him. He had, too, a keen sense of the general effect in his compositions, and did not hesitate to sacrifice details and accessories to this, which, for the time, was an unusual and veritable painter’s attribute.
The Visitation was one of Napoleon’s spoils, and was left in Paris after most of the pillaged treasures were returned. It was painted by Ghirlandajo late in life for the church of Castello, to-day Santa Maria Maddalena de Pazzi, in Florence. Though it is claimed that he did not wholly finish it, and that Mainardi’s hand can be seen in its completion, it is, nevertheless, full of Ghirlandajo’s characteristic dignity of pose, vigour of line, and intensity of action.
In a portico before an arched opening that gives a glimpse of a fortified town on the sea, with boats and a bridge, Mary and Elizabeth have met. Elizabeth, in yellow robe with white head-dress, kneels in front of Mary who leans over her, her hands on the elder woman’s shoulders. Mary is in blue, the long, full mantle caught at her breast with an enormous brooch set with precious stones. A soft piece of gauze drawn about her neck and a ruffled head-dress of muslin nearly covers her hair which is drawn over her ears on each side. At the left Mary Cleophas stands, looking away from the group ; at the right Salome advances rapidly toward them, her hands met prayer-wise in front of her.
Her figure is spirited, and full of movement, emphasized by the flying draperies. This waving of folds and ends of draperies is one of Ghirlandajo’s idiosyncrasies, and he sometimes employs it when there is no evidence that wind or motion caused the commotion. In this case, however, it is telling and effective. Mary Cleophas is a tall, stately figure, well posed and of much individuality. She has something of the Lippo cast of countenance, with a slightly longer chin and somewhat less breadth across the eyes. Her attitude, as she greets the other woman, is touchingly tender and reverent. Elizabeth’s profile is strong and fine and full of character.
The Portrait of an Old Man and Little Boy is a remarkable example of Ghirlandajo’s skill at portraiture. Beside an open window sits the old man, his head nearly in profile, looking down at the child’s lifted face, which is in strict profile. The picture ends at the line of the boy’s shoulder, so that the old man’s hands are not shown nor the child’s right one. His left rests affectionately on his guardian’s chest. Absolute realism was here Ghirlandajo’s evident aim. He has made no attempt to soften or beautify the old man’s visage, dwelling almost with gusto on the huge bottle-nose, with its painful excrescences, and on the big wart on his forehead. In spite of these physical deformities his expression, as he gazes at the little one, is full of a longing love and a ten-der joy that yet verges upon sorrow. It is a remarkable bit of character-painting. The child, with its golden curls so carefully drawn, almost every hair outlined, has a beautiful face, its questioning little profile as full of adoring veneration as is the old man’s face of protecting love.
The Louvre owns two of Credi’s works, but neither the Madonna Enthroned between Two Saints in this room, nor the Christ and Mary Magdalene in the Grande Galerie are really worthy of the man whom Verrocchio recommended to finish the Colleoni monument.
In the former of these two pictures, under the central one of three archways, the Madonna is represented seated on a throne. The niche behind her is closed, the other two arches each spanning an opening that shows the sky beyond. The arcades and pilasters are richly and minutely ornamented. Mary holds the child Jesus on her right knee, her head bent toward her right shoulder, looking down at him with a sorrowful tenderness in her gaze. The transparent veil of her head-dress is exquisitely rendered as well as the soft curls that fall over her shoulder. The child has twisted around till his face is turned to the left, while he blesses St. Julian who stands before the open arch, his face nearly in profile, his hands joined in prayer. At the right, in his pontifical robes, is St. Nicholas, reading a book. Though too hard, and lacking the feeling of malleable flesh, his head is finely drawn and modelled and has decided character. The whole picture is more affected than much of Credi’s earlier work, and has a hard, brilliant polish almost like porcelain, along with slight and rather unmeaning chiaroscuro. There are, however, a certain grace in the treatment of the head of Mary, and a tender movement of her hands that recall Credi at his happiest.