STYLE, or rather a style, designates the general character of expression peculiar to an individual or a period, and comprises therefore all hat makes special the form in which thought of any kind is cast. The characteristic peculiarities which mark the styles of Raphael and Michelangelo distinguish them from each other, and furnish points of comparison between them. Formed in all cases by natural tendencies and dominating influences, a style always expresses the character of the mind from which it emanated, and therefore may be excellent or the reverse. No work can, however, have style unless it is both original and elevated in its character. Noble style is in a work of art what high breeding is in an individual, – it is the sangre azul which permeates it and gives it dignity. Adrien Brauwer had a style, that is to say, he painted pictures which we know to be his when we see them, as his friends knew him to be Adrien Brauwer by his face and person; but his works are wanting in style, in other words, they are vulgar and ignoble. Great artists like Raphael and Michelangelo have styles of their own, and give style to their works, which are therefore both original and noble.
Raphael had three distinct styles, or manners, each one of which corresponds to a period during which he was brought under influences of a totally different character from those which shaped the other two. His first or Peruginesque style (1500 to 1507) is stamped with the impress of Perugino ; his second or Florentine (1506 to 1508) shows individual development under the influence of Lionardo da Vinci and Fra Bartolomeo ; his third or Roman, though not unaffected by Michelangelo, is that in which his fully matured powers were nourished by constant study of nature and the antique, and his work was completely Raphaelesque.
The first of his three styles is the one whose limits it is most difficult to determine, and within which, when these are approximatively fixed, it is most difficult to ascertain the order in which the works belonging to it succeed each other. Vasari mentions certain pictures as painted by Raphael during his apprenticeship ; but as he gives no dates, unless they can be fixed by collateral evidence, our only guide to the correct classification of these and other early works is their greater or less resemblance to Perugino. The shades of difference between master and pupil are at first mere gossamer films, so thinly spread between them that we almost doubt whether we are not self-deceived in finding a greater tenderness of feeling and a more positive grace of line in those works which we know to be by Raphael. Gradually, however, the shades become more and more pronounced, until we at last know that we are in the presence of a greater artist than Perugino, who is just enough under his master’s influence to show who that master was. Could we see Raphael’s first pictures hanging side by side with some of Perugino’s works, we should be struck with the close resemblance between them, and feel the very gradual development of the pupil’s individuality. The Coronation of the Virgin at the Vatican,1 for instance, and more especially the Crucifixion in Lord Dudley’s gallery, are Peruginesque in composition, in type of face, in the arrangement of drapery, and in the pose of the figures, nor can we see that the heads are a whit more spiritual in expression.
Perugino had left Perugia in 1502, when Raphael painted the Coro-nation of the Virgin, so that it may be looked upon as a wonderful evidence of the rapidity with which he had learned to paint like his master, who was then established with his beautiful wife, Clara Fancelli, and his assistants, at Florence, where, with short intermissions, he continued to reside for several years, keeping his studio there and writing ” penctore in Firenza ” after his name. If Raphael followed him much earlier than is generally supposed, he did not remain with him, but went wherever work was to be done, as to Citta di Castello to paint the Crucifixion for the Church of St. Domenick, and another picture (now lost) for that of San Agostino ; to Siena, in 1503, to assist Pinturicchio ; and to Perugia to commence a fresco at San Severo which he never returned to finish.
The comparison of these early works of Raphael with others in which, though still under his master’s influence, he shows individuality of feeling, is interesting, as marking his progress. The Crucifixion, the Coronation of the Virgin, and the Adoration of the Shepherds at Berlin (if indeed this latter be the work of Raphael, and not, as seems probable, of his fellow-pupil, Lo Spagna), are all works of a school ; but the Staffa Madonna, lately purchased from Count Connestabile at Perugia by the Grand Duchess of Russia, is the bud. of a new fruit grafted on the parent stem, in which the germs of the many Madonnas which Raphael was to paint lie hidden ; for, though in a less degree, it contains that combination of the motherly and the virginal element in woman, which is, perhaps, their distinguishing characteristic. In Perugino’s hands the Madonna would have been less sweet, less tender, less human, less divine.
Besides this picture in which Raphael shows us something of him-self, there are others, such as the Tobias and the Angel of the National Gallery, in which he has quickened and warmed the somewhat cold and monotonous conception of his master.
Perugino’s drawing at the British Museum proves that he designed the whole composition ; but one can hardly fail to detect Raphael’s work in the glance of trustful reliance with which the young Tobias looks up to the guardian angel from under the shelter of his broad wing, in the firm and yet gentle grasp with which the divine messenger takes hold of the young hand as it rises to meet his steadying touch, and in the sympathetic look with which he meets the upraised eye of the youth, whose attitude is one of absolute reliance and unquestioning obedience.
There is, perhaps, no better way of illustrating the difference between the Florentine and the Umbrian schools than by comparing this lovely example of the placid and earnest spirit which animated the latter, with a picture of the same subject, in the same gallery, painted by Antonio Pollajuolo, one of the most renowned masters of the latter half of the fifteenth century. In it all is mannered and theatrical ; the angel is affected even to her finger-tips ; she hurries onward with her young protégé at a rapid pace, and yet seems to be thinking more about displaying her elegantly disposed draperies than about helping him on his journey. Now Pollajuolo was a consummate artist; he painted with all the firmness and delicacy of one who had been bred as a goldsmith, and had complete technical mastery over the many arts which he practised ; but in common with other masters of his time he aimed at effect, was always self-conscious, and showed it in the figures which he modelled, engraved, or painted. Art in his hands was running into a mannerism, which was happily counteracted by the Umbrian spirit, and raised to an antique standard by Raphael. Like the turbid waters of the Rhone, which flow out of the Alpine valley and are poured forth at Geneva pure from stain, so the river of art passed through the Umbrian lake, and issued forth at Rome in a clear and pellucid current.
If it be interesting to trace the growing Raphael in the Staffa Madonna and the Tobias, it is even more so to mark his advance in the Sposalizio and the Knight’s Dream. The Sposalizio, which he painted for the Franciscan monks at Citta di Castello (1504), should be compared with the picture of the same subject painted by Perugino for the Brotherhood of St. Joseph at Perugia (1500).6 The general arrangement of the figures in the two pictures is identical, but that of Raphael has more grace of line, and shows far greater skill in grouping. In treating this new subject, Perugino, as was his wont, adapted a cartoon, which he had prepared for the fresco of Christ’s Charge to Peter, to his present wants, putting the same Bramantesque temple in the background, a number of small figures in the middle distance, and a formally arranged row in the foreground. Raphael, at bis instance or that of the monks, his employers, followed this triple division, but he gave the temple a nobler and more imposing aspect ; disposed the groups in the middle distance with greater variety and a truer feeling for balance and effect ; and grouped the figures in the foreground with a certain happy accidence, which shows an intuitive knowledge of the true principles of composition not to be found in the formal picture of his master. While Perugino’s High Priest is planted sturdily and stiffly upon his two feet, Raphael’s turns his head a little to the left, towards which the whole upper part of his figure sways, and throws his weight upon his left foot. The group formed by the modest and graceful Virgin, the manly and dignified Joseph, and the noble High Priest, is one of surpassing charm, but it is perhaps in the figure of the disappointed young suitor breaking bis bow across his bent knee, that the young Umbrian painter shows his exceptional genius. In the lovely allegory at the National Gallery called the Knight’s Dream it reveals itself plainly. Apart from its real beauties, this picture has a special interest, as it typifies a moment in the young painter’s life when he was called upon to choose between good and evil. Admitting the world to his confidence, he here reveals the secret struggles of his young heart, and tells us how pare that young heart was. The subject is that choice between a life of effort and a life of pleasure which every one is called upon to make when he passes from child-hood into manhood. A young knight, sleeping at the foot of a laurel-tree, sees in his dreams two women standing beside him, the elder and graver of whom holds in one hand a drawn sword and in the other a book, and speaks to him of duty, honor, and effort as the price of fame. The other, who is more gayly dressed, and neither nun-like nor pensive like her sister, offers him a rose and smiles upon him, promising ease and pleasure if he will .follow her guidance.
Like the two figures, the landscape background is symbolic. Behind Duty rises a steep, rocky path ; behind Pleasure stretches a smiling valley through which a river winds. In the young knight we recognize Raphael, who is about to choose between two roads, the one leading upwards over the steep rocks of toil and self-denial to fame and glory, the other down into the bright valley where pleasure dwells, which as here typified, and therefore to be taken as his idea of pleasure, is no Rubens-like Bacchante, but a modest maiden, who, while she offers a rose, seems to warn the young knight by her semi-serious expression that it will soon fade in his hands.
Whether Raphael had ever been at Florence when he painted this charming little picture, which like the Connestabile Madonna, the St. George, the Three Graces, and other pictures in his first or Peruginesque style, is finished with a care befitting a work so full of meaning, is a point upon which critics differ. If he followed his master to that centre of art life as early as 1502, could he have retained his Umbrian manner intact until 1504, the period generally assigned as that of his first visit ? It is possible that he kept up his connection with Perugino as late as 1506. Meanwhile he had been working at Siena.
No one who has ever visited that picturesque city can have forgotten the fountain in the great square, from which Jacopo della Quercia took his surname of “della Fonte.” A hundred years before he sheltered its sparkling waters under a sculptured parapet (1419), they had been brought to the Piazza, and an antique statue, said to be the work of Lysippus, had been set up over them. In the civil commotions which subsequently disturbed their city the devout, who were ignorant of the dictum of St. Augustine that “a pagan statue when converted to Christian uses merits protection like a human convert,” saw signs of the anger of Heaven against a people who, in lieu of the Madonna, had placed Fonte Gaja under the guardianship of a heathen goddess. “Remove it,” said a member of the Council of Ten, “and our intestine troubles will come to an end ; and that we may transfer them to our enemies, let us bury its broken fragments within the Florentine terri-tory.” That the descendants of these same Sienese iconoclasts could, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, look complacently upon an antique marble group of the Three Graces (Fig. 7), which Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini had placed in his family chapel in the Cathedral, shows how great a change the Renaissance had wrought in Italy. The people had become so familiar with the sight of pagan decorations in and about Christian churches, that no one thought of being shocked at an act which in the days of Giotto would have been regarded as impious. The ceiling of the chapel, called the library of the Cathedral, was decorated with mythological subjects relating to Venus, Proserpine, and Antiope; and in accordance with the habit of a time which saw no incongruity in mixing Christian with pagan subjects, the walls were covered with frescos relating to the life of the Cardinal’s ancestor, the renowned Aneas Sylvius (Pope Pius IL), by Pinturicchio, the assistant and lifelong scholar of Perugino. A highly finished little picture in Lord Dudley’s gallery at London of three nude female figures grouped like those of the antique marble, but differing in proportion, expression, and sentiment, and a drawing of two of the Three Graces on a page of one of Raphael’s sketch-books at Venice, prove that he visited Siena, and there is no doubt that while there he rendered very valuable aid to Pinturicchio in the preparation of his cartoons. The antique group was, perhaps, the first example of its kind which he had ever seen, and if so, it laid the foundation of that love for works of ancient art which was afterwards to contribute so powerfully to the formation of his third manner. Its effect upon one hitherto exclusively occupied with religious art must have been to give new food for thought, to strengthen the longing to see other classic works, and to awaken a desire to come in contact with artists who had formed themselves upon the study of ancient masterpieces of art as well as of nature. Umbria no longer satisfied his requirements, the studio of Perugino was too narrow a field for his capacities, and this conviction brought him, within a year from the date of his Sienese visit, to the gates of Florence.
The letter of introduction which he brought from Joanna della Rovere, Duchess of Sora, the sister of, the Duke of Urbino, to Pietro Soderini, its chief magistrate, spoke of him as a highly talented, discreet, and gentle youth, anxious to take advantage of the great opportunities for improvement open to him at Florence. There can be no doubt that it secured him a kind reception from Soderini, and as little that their first conversation turned upon the two artists and the three works of art, which were of the greatest interest to the new-comer. The two artists were Lionardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, and the three works of art were their cartoons for the proposed frescos in the great hall of the Palazzo Vecchio and the statue of David, which had been lately set up upon the platform in front of that time-honored building. While Raphael felt but little desire to approach Michelangelo, who disliked his master, had no sympathy with the tenets of the Umbrian school to which he belonged, and represented the very opposite of all that he had been taught to admire in art, we know that one of his strongest desires was to see Lionardo and study his works. He had not only been taught by his father to venerate him as the first of living artists, but he had in all probability met him when, as Cesar Borgia’s military engineer, Lionardo went to Perugia while inspecting the fortresses of the Romagna. After ten years’ absence at Milan in the service of Duke Ludovico Sforza, he had taken up his abode at Florence, and for the past eight months had been working upon his cartoon of the Battle of the Standard, in the hall of the Popes at Sta Maria Novella. We cannot doubt Raphael’s impatience to see this master-work, then far advanced, and we can imagine the delight and astonishment with which he recognized in it the result of a science such as he had never imagined, and a strength and energy- of expression exceeding anything which he could have believed possible.
Descriptions of the cartoon leave no doubt that it was one of the most masterly works ever produced, and as it was the one example of the painter’s manner of handling a subject which demanded the utmost vigor of treatment, its loss is even more to be regretted than that of the cartoon by Michelangelo, who has left the record of his utmost strength upon the walls of the Sistine Chapel. As it was commenced in the very month of Raphael’s arrival. at Florence, and certainly not finished until the autumn of the following year, he had no immediate opportunity of comparing the two cartoons ; but we may well believe that when he did so he was puzzled. how to award the palm. Each master had selected a theme calculated to display his peculiar powers. Lionardo, who was an accomplished horseman and thoroughly conversant with equine anatomy, had taken a moment of struggle in the midst of battle; while Michelangelo, knowing that his greatest strength lay in the treatment of the nude, had represented a number of soldiers suddenly summoned to the fight by the sound of the trumpet whilst bathing in the Arno. Some were in the act of climbing the steep bank of the river ; others who had already gained it were endeavoring to clothe their dripping limbs.18 Beyond them, either outlined upon the canvas or finished in black and white, were groups of men in every variety of attitude, standing, kneeling, lying, struggling. As no subject could have been more perfectly suited to the genius of the master, we may well believe that he treated it most powerfully. That. Raphael, like all the young artists of the time, studied this cartoon, we know by Marc Antonio’s engraving from his drawing of one of its groups, but it had apparently no influence upon his Florentine works. We cannot wonder that he was so little affected by Michelangelo, if we remember that he arrived at Florence only a short time before Michelangelo was called to Rome by Pope Julius II., and that he was working in a circle of ideas and aspirations with which the sombre Florentine had no sympathy. The high finish, the tranquil perfection and deeply subjective expression of the Mona Lisa made him ready to kiss the hand which had painted that piece of mystic perfection; but the Holy Family of the Tribune 19 was too much wanting in religious feeling, and the David too devoid of grace to please one trained in Umbrian precepts. He must, however, have felt the one supreme merit of the statue, namely, its all-pervading life. This gives so wonderful a vitality to the eyes, that a cast of one of them hung on the wall of a studio is instantly recognizable. In this respect it corresponds to our ideas of Myron’s art, but otherwise it has little affinity with the works of any ancient or modern sculptor. It must be judged from its own point of view, and with reference to the conditions under which it was made, out of a piece of marble which had been so much cut away by Agostino di Antonio di Duccio, an incompetent sculptor of the fifteenth century, that no one less confident in his own powers than Michelangelo would have consented to try his hand upon it. To other artists the long thin block lying in the Office of Works of the cathedral was meaningless ; to him it suggested the form of a shepherd boy who, like one of the younglings of his flock, was at that awkward age when the limbs are not symmetrically developed. So he made a small wax model, still preserved in the Casa Buonarroti, and then, shutting himself out from curious eyes, rained sturdy blows upon the mutilated marble until it took the shape with which all who have been at Florence are so familiar. Admiration of the feat performed combined with the real merit of the statue to rouse popular enthusiasm. The artists and connoisseurs who were called upon to say where it should be placed decided, probably by Michelangelo’s own advice, to remove Donatello’s bronze group of Judith and Holofernes from the terrace of the Palazzo Vecchio to the Loggia de’ Lanzi in order to make room for it. In placing this image of one who had courageously saved a people whom he afterwards wisely governed, at the door of the palace of the Signory, the Florentines wished perpetually to remind the city magistrates of their duty to the people.
Although the distance from the Duomo to the Palace, over which the David had to be conveyed, was only about a quarter of a mile, five days (14th to 18th of May) were consumed in the operation of moving it upon a ponderous machine dragged by forty men. Stones were thrown at it by riotous people, and the guards were attacked ; but their animosity ceased after it reached its destination. In 1527 the arm was accidentally broken, but from that time up to 1873, when it was removed to the Academy of Fine Arts, this tutelary genius of Florence kept its place unharmed, save by wind and weather, until it had become as much identified with the Square over which it pre-sided as the Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia de’ Lanzi.
The incomplete condition of many of the works which Michelangelo executed at Florence, before he bent his neck to the papal yoke, shows us both the impetuosity of his spirit and his unlimited belief in his own possibilities of work. Not recognizing limitations of time, strength, or material, he accepted more commissions than a dozen sculptors could have executed, and, working with a conviction that he could accomplish whatever his will led him to undertake, he commenced with the St. Matthew at the Academy that long series of unfinished works which stand like milestones along his path from the year 1500 until his death in 1567. When we look at these marbles, whose grandeur is that of such semi-defined shapes as are formed by clouds and vapors, and whose impressiveness, like that of the ancient oracles, is in some degree owing to their vagueness of meaning and consequently multiple possibilities of interpretation, we are tempted to believe that Michelangelo made use of the undefined with deliberate purpose, laying down his chisel after he had blocked out a figure, because he knew that every new stroke would diminish its effect. But even without attributing their unfinished state to press of other work, or to sudden weariness of one idea under the charm of a new inspiration, or to intention, it is evident in many cases, that he had committed irretrievable mistakes through the impetuosity of his attack upon the marble block, which left him no choice in the matter. Cut away until it could no longer hold his thought, he threw it aside like a manuscript, which through manifold corrections and erasures had become illegible.
“Disdaining the ordinary methods of the sculptor, he made no plaster model ; nor did he fix the three points of length, width, and depth, according to the system of execution practised in his day, of which he took no heed. When his sketch was finished he placed it before him, side by side with the block of marble and the living model; he then sought the extreme points of his composition, and having found them, fixed his attention upon the marble which concealed his statue from him. Then, after tracing the principal outlines upon it in charcoal, he attacked the block with violence, dealing blow after blow so as to strike away the superfluous matter. The fragments flew in showers with the sound of hail driven by the wind ; the point struck sparks from the stone ; blow succeeded blow It seemed as if the hot and rapid breathing of the artist infused the first breath of life into the hard material. As by degrees the marble grew in the likeness of his thought, his ardor increased, and his idea shone with a brighter light …. the marble seemed to feel the power of its master.” Often, alas ! we may add, did Michelangelo, like Saturn, devour his own children, leaving them, like his group of the Deposition at the Palazzo Fevoli, but shapeless wrecks.
The above vivid description does not apply to his method of working at that earlier time when he sculptured the Pietà at Rome and the Madonna and Child in the church of Notre Dame at Bruges. These show that he at first proceeded with much greater caution. They are equal in finish, but of the two the first is so superior in composition, in treatment, in mastery over detail, and in correctness of pro-portion that we incline to believe it to be the later work. The con-strained pose of the Madonna, the disproportionate length of her neck, and the shortness of her figure from the waist downwards betray a less practised eye and hand than that of the sculptor of the Pietà ; but these defects are condoned by the fine arrangement of the drapery, which is thoroughly Michelangelesque, the modelling and finish of the hands, the sweet and virginal expression of the face, and the natural and pleasing attitude of the infant Saviour who leans against the Ma-donna’s knee.
The Madonna at Bruges may be compared with two unfinished circular bas-reliefs of the Holy Family, one of which, now at the Uffizi, was sculptured for Bartolomeo Pitti ; the other, now in the Royal Academy, for Taddeo Taddei, one of the most generous patrons of art and literature at Florence. Excellent in composition, and remarkable for its combined strength and sweetness of feeling, the Taddei bas-relief is one of Michelangelo’s most pleasing works. The Madonna is gracefully sympathetic, and at the same time grand in style. By her side the Madonna of the Tribune is hard and uninteresting, the Ma-donna at Bruges a little cold and wanting in feeling, the Madonna of the National Gallery grandiose but unmotherly, and the Madonna of the Pieta somewhat impassive. Michelangelo was called to Rome by Pope Julius II. while working upon the two bas-reliefs, the statues of the Apostles ordered for the Cathedral at Florence, and those of Saints for the Cardinal Piccolomini’s family chapel at Siena. He obeyed the summons without delay, leaving them all unfinished.
Before Raphael followed him to Rome, three years later, he had painted the pictures in his second or Florentine manner, which bear the same relation to those in his third or Roman style that Ghiberti’s first Baptistery Gate does to his second, or Milton’s Allegro and Penseroso to his Paradise Lost. Their chronological order, like that of the Umbrian pictures, is not certain, but internal evidence leads us to conjecture that the Peruginesque ” Madonna di Terranuova ” at Berlin, and the fresco of the Last Supper at San Onofrio, were painted before the Lionardesque portraits of Angelo and Madalena Doni at the Pitti, and these before the Madonna “del Gran Duca ” at the Pitti,30 the ” Cardellino ” at the Uffizi, or the “Belle Jardinière” at the Louvre (Plate Ill.).31 The first, called the Madonna of the Grand Duke be-cause it was a special favorite with Ferdinand III., was the first of that long series of Madonnas in which Raphael expressed the tenderness, dignity, and purity of woman in the loveliest of forms. As the great English poet who so long dwelt at Casa Guidi described the creative action of the true artist, Raphael, “holding firmly by the natural, reached in them the ideal type beyond it”; and through the flower growing ou the earth plucked the flower on the spiritual side,
“Substantial, archetypal, all aglow With blossoming causes.”
Owing to their common feeling and character, we can turn from one to the other of these charming creations, as from the ” Cardellino ” to the ” Belle Jardiniere,” without any shock of transition, for we feel ourselves to be still in the same pure sphere.
To praise ” Raphael’s mild Madonna of the Bird ” were as unnecessary as to praise a lily of the valley for its modest loveliness, or a rose for its odor and color. With no straining after the sublime in form or attitude, it represents a child standing between its mother’s knees, to whom another little one offers a bird. The forms are human, and yet so different from those which move around us that we recognize them as beings of a superior order. In the Madonna, the infant Christ, and his playmate the little St. John, the beautiful is attained by the simplest means. A critic disposed to find a blemish even in a work so perfect might perhaps object that the group is too obviously geometric in form. He would compare it and other early works by Raphael with the ” San Sisto ” Madonna, and the Dispute of the Sacrament with the Heliodorus, in order to show the difference between compositions in which the geometrical figure formed by the bounding lines of the group, whether it be that of the triangle, as in this picture, or of a more complex character, as in the “Disputa,” is so evident that we cannot help seeing it, instead of being obliged to seek for it, as in the “San Sisto ” Madonna, and the Heliodorus, where the element of symmetry pervades the whole like a spiritual essence.
What we have said of the ” Cardellino,” both on this point and on its other characteristics, is equally true of the ” Belle Jardiniere ” (Plate III.), with which it has the closest affinity. Here also the Madonna sits in the midst of a charming landscape which, though in itself important, is not obtrusive, like the landscape backgrounds of Flemish pictures, nor like those of Lionardo da Vinci, misty and undetermined in form, however incomparably harmonious and strictly subordinate. Raphael’s landscape backgrounds serve the end of carrying off the delicate outlines of the figures into space, but do not disturb them. Valleys, mountains, and rivers are clearly defined, and so managed as to enrich space without cutting it up, and to give value to the bounding lines of the figures without interfering with them. The trees are trees of the spring-time just putting forth tender leaves, so small and delicate that while they enrich they do not hide the structure of the tree, whose every branch and twig is visible under a thin veil of strengthening green. It is in the hollows of the Campagna, by the banks of the small streams which flow down to meet the Arno or the Tiber, that we see trees like those in the early pictures of Raphael. Fresh and young and unsullied, with all the charm and promise of opening beauty, they are in perfect accord with the spirit of his Madonna groups, as is their tender, delicate, and sober system of coloring. This has neither the richness, splendor, nor depth of that of the Venetian painters, nor does it depend for its effect upon strongly contrasted hues of flat tint, such as were favored by the early painters of the school of Urbino, but it is low and subdued in tone, and therefore in perfect keeping with the quiet though deep sentiment of the subjects depicted.
Raphael’s years at Florence seem crowded with work to an almost incredible degree. The lovely Orleans Madonna, the Little Madonna of Lord Cowper (Plate IV.), the Canigiani Madonna, the Virgin of the Palms in the Ellesmere gallery, the Virgin of the Baldacchino at the Pitti, and many others, belong to this period of his life, as does the admirable Entombment in the Borghese gallery at Rome. “In composing this work,” says Vasari, “Raphael pictured to himself the grief of near and tenderly attached relatives when committing to the tomb the body of some very dear person upon whom depended the prosperity, honor, and influence of a whole family.”
It is clear to those who know the sad story of Madonna Atalanta Baglione, by whom Raphael was commissioned to paint this picture as an altar-piece for the Baglione Chapel, in the church of the Franciscans at Perugia, that Vasari believed her to have selected the subject of Christ’s burial because it was specially in harmony with her own sorrows.
At the age of twenty, and within a year after her marriage, her husband, Grisone Baglione, was murdered by a follower of the Duke of Sassoferrato, leaving her a widow with an infant son, named Grisonetto, upon whom all her strong affections were thenceforward concentrated.
One of a family whose authority was established at Perugia de facto if not de jure, ” beautiful as Ganymede,” says Matarazzo, a contemporary chronicler, and happily married, at the age of seventeen, to Zenobia Sforza, of the Ducal house of Milan, Grisonetto’s life was exceptionally prosperous, until, in an evil hour, he listened to a villain, who, in order to induce him to join a band of conspirators, then plotting the massacre of the Baglioni, falsely accused his wife Zenobia of an intrigue with Grisonetto’s cousin, Gian Paolo Baglione. Moved by jealousy, he consented to become an actor in a tragedy whose horrors have few parallels in history.
On the night of July 14, in the year 1500, the houses of the Baglioni were entered by the assassins, and four of the intended victims were murdered in cold blood. Gian Paolo, who was to have been slain by Grisonetto, escaped as by a miracle, and, having mustered a band of adherents to his cause, returned within twenty-four hours to take dire vengeance upon his enemies. Meanwhile Grisonetto had in vain sought to obtain his mother’s forgiveness. Horror-struck at his crime, Atalanta refused to admit him to her presence, and let him ride away to death with these tragic words upon his lips : “Inhuman mother, nevermore will I return. The hour is at hand when thou wouldst speak to thy unhappy son, and canst not.”
Wandering through the city, the wretched youth crossed the path of the man whom he had sworn to murder, and in an instant the sword of Gian Paolo was at his throat, but it dropped, for he who held it was not base enough to stain his hand with the blood of a kinsman. Less scrupulous than their master, the soldiers struck Grisonetto down, but before he breathed his last his mother knelt beside him, and as she vainly strove to stanch his wounds, murmured in his dying ears : ” 0 my son ! thy miserable mother, as thou didst foretell, has come to speak to thee, and thou answerest her not.” When he was dead, the soldiers, at whose hands she vainly sought death, raised the corpse, and placing it upon the very bier on which that of Astorre Baglione had lain but a few hours before, left it for many hours exposed to the public gaze ” as a warning and a terror to the enemies of Gian Paolo, and as a sign of eternal justice.”
As but six years had elapsed since these events, when Madonna Atalanta commissioned Raphael to paint the Entombment, they were well known to him as to all, and it cannot be doubted that they influenced his work. He made no less than ten different drawings of the composition and a cartoon before he returned to Perugia to paint the picture. The cartoon is lost, but the drawings at Oxford, the British Museum, the Louvre, and in the Malcolm Collection,35 show us by their successive changes and ameliorations that men of the greatest genius do not always reach their great conclusions by a sudden flash of inspiration.36 In the finished picture the composition is greatly enriched by the addition of an admirable group of the Virgin fainting in the arms of her attendant women. The action of the figures in the principal group is also much more harmonious than in the drawing at the British Museum, because, as the head of the Magdalen is turned towards the Saviour, the outline of her figure contrasts happily with that of Nicodemus. In the drawing the bearers do not seem to feel the weight of the corpse, but in the picture it appears to tax their utmost strength, for the head of him who sustains the head and shoulders of Jesus upon his breast is thrown back, the muscles of his back, shoulders, and arms are swollen with the strain put upon them, as are those of his right leg, upon which the weight of his body is thrown while he lifts the left so that he may plant his foot firmly upon the lower step of the platform, and thus balance the action of the stalwart youth who carries the lower limbs of the Saviour’s body. It would be difficult, even in the works of Raphael, to point out a group more symmetrical, more truthful in action, more harmoniously balanced, than this.
Throughout Raphael’s career he was always alive to the importance of availing himself of every means which could enrich and perfect his compositions. If other artists had treated the same subject, he studied their work, and did he find in it elements congenial to his nature, he adopted them without fear of being called a plagiarist, because he felt able to give them a higher development than they had yet received. His St. Paul Preaching at Athens, which he borrowed from Filippino Lippi ; the arabesques and stucco ornaments which he adapted from those in the Baths of Titus, are instances in point ; but there is, perhaps, no single work which so strikingly illustrates his power of trans-muting the ideas of others into his own fine gold as this picture which we have under consideration. The general resemblance of the composition to Andrea Mantegna’s well-known engraving of the same, subject might at first sight appear accidental, for all treatments of such a subject must coincide to some extent, like the living repetitions of such a scene ; but we have studies by Raphael of Mantegna’s Entombment which prove that he knew it, and there can be but little doubt that it suggested to him the group of women sustaining the fainting Virgin, which does not appear in his first designs. Any one, how-ever, who compares the two, will see that Raphael made the episode his own by a treatment which differs as widely from that of Mantegna as the Roman school differs from the Paduan. The similarity of the attitude of Raphael’s dead Christ to that of the Christ in Michelangelo’s Pietà, which lies in the turn of the head and the droop of the right arm, is so slight that it may very well be set down as one of those accidental coincidences of conception in the treatment of an identical subject, which are often met with in the works of different artists.
Painted at Perugia in 1507, the Entombment remained for a hundred years over the altar in the Baglione Chapel, and then, to the great indignation of the Perugians, was sold by the Franciscan monks to the Borghese Pope, Paul V. The Tympanum representing God the Father with angels was left at Perugia, but the picture and the Predella were sent to Rome, where the first hangs in the Borghese gallery, the other in the Vatican.
It seems in its proper place at Rome, for it may be regarded as a prelude to those great compositions at the Vatican which Raphael commenced within a year after he had finished it. ” The Belle Jardinière ” and the ” Madonna del Baldacchino,” which close the series of his Florentine pictures, are full of sweetness, repose, and dignity, but the Entombment shows a dramatic power which afterwards reached its climax in the Heliodorus.
Title. Date. owner.
1. The Crucifixion 1502 Lord Dudley, London.
2. Coronation of the Virgin 1502-1503
3. The Staffa Madonna 1503-1504 St. Petersburgh.
4. Virgin between SS. Jerome and Francis 1503 ? Berlin Museum.
5. The Marriage of the Virgin 1504 Brera, Milan.
6. Fresco at San Severo 1505 Perugia.
7. The Adoration of the Shepherds, Ancajani 1503 -1504 Berlin.
8. Madonna Ausidei 1505 Blenheim.
9. Madonna of the Monastery of St. Anthony of Padua 1504 1505 National Gallery.
1. Garden of Olives Burdett Coutts.
2. Bearing the Cross Leigh Court near Bristol.
3. SS. Francis and Anthony of Padua. Dulwich Gallery. 4. Pieta Mr. H. Dawson.
10. Madonna of the Solly Collection ? 1504 -1505 ? Berlin.
11. Tobias and the Angel in Perugino’s Triptych ? 1504 -1505 National Gallery.
12. The Dream of the Knight 1505 -1506 National Gallery.
13. Christ in the Garden 1504 -1505 Mr. Fuller Maitland, England.
14. The Three Graces 1506 ? Lord Dudley, London.
15. The St. George 1506 National Gallery.
16. Madonna di Terranuova 1505 ?Berlin.
17. Madonna del Gran Duca 1505 -Pitti Palace.
18. Madonna Alfani
19. Portraits of Angelo and Maddalena Doni 1506 -1507
20. Madonna del Cardellino 1506 -1507
21. Madonna Aldobrandini 1507
22. Madonna with the Pink 1507
23. The Belle Jardinière 1507 -1508
24. Madonna in the Garden 1506
25. Madonna of the Casa Tempi 1506 ?
26. Madonna Taddeo Taddei 1506
27. Orleans Madonna 1505-1506
28. The Entombment 1507
29. Madonna Canigiani 1506
30. Madonna Colonna 1506 -1507
31. The Little Madonna of Lord Cowper 1506
32. The Large Madonna of Lord Cowper(Niccoliní) 1508
33. Madonna del Baldacchino 1507 – 1508
34. Portrait of Raphael 1506
35. Holy Family with the Lamb 1505 ?
36. St. Catherine of Alexandria 1506
1. Holy Family. Oil Painting? Before 1504
2. Cartoon. Battle of Pisa 1504 -1506
3. Statue of David 1501-1504
4. Bronze Statue of David 1503 -1504
5. Madonna and Child. Marble group Date uncertain.
6. Holy Family. Bas-relief 1503 -1504
7. Holy Family. Bas-relief 1503 -1504
8. St. Matthew 1503 -1504