THE elevation of Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici to the papacy dispelled all fears lest the splendid projects initiated by his predecessor might be nipped in the bud, and was hailed with delight by artists and men of letters. He had long lived a life of elegant ease in his palace on the Piazza Navona, which, like that of his grandfather Lorenzo the Magnificent at Florence, was the resort of scholars, painters, sculptors, poets, and musicians, who found in their host a man capable of discussing the special subject of each. Splendid in his tastes, lavish in his expenditure, and quick to discern those qualities in others which would render them apt instruments for carrying out his purposes, Leo X. was admirably qualified to make Rome attractive to the wise, the accomplished, and the pleasure-loving, and to be himself the centre of a court where wit, learning, and revelry combined to make life a perpetual feast. Sadoleto and Bembo, distinguished Latin scholars, were his secretaries; Lascaris, renowned for his knowledge of Greek, presided over a college in which young men were taught both Latin and Greek, and directed the printing of many rare classic authors ; while the learned scholars Inghirami and Beraldus the younger had care of the Vatican Library. All looked up to Leo as a leader and an adept, and each could have written like Erasmus, “I must drink the waters of Lethe ere I forget Rome. What agreeable liberty, what rich libraries, what learned savants, what hospitable in-habitants ! Where else are such literary reunions to be met with, where is such a galaxy of eminent men to be found, where are such antique monuments to be seen?”
As a secular prince Leo has had few equals. In his style of living, his tastes, his accomplishments, and his amusements he was a worthy scion of the Medici, but like other rulers of his race he was not troubled with a very tender conscience. His idea of his duty towards his subjects was summed up in the obligation to dazzle them by the splendor of his court, to amuse them with shows and pageants, to make Rome beautiful, and to exercise a munificent patronage of arts and letters. Content with this, the Romans troubled themselves very little about his shortcomings as Head of the Church, and were neither scandalized by the license nor shocked by the extravagance which he not only permitted but encouraged. They did not see the writing on the wall which foretold dire consequences. Julius had aggrandized the temporal power of the Church, while Leo undermined its spiritual power by that wholesale traffic in indulgences throughout Catholic Europe which so weakened her hold upon the minds of men, that the trumpet blasts of the Reformer, like those of Joshua before Jericho, were able to over- . throw her strong defences and detach half the Christian world from its allegiance. Thus he prepared the way for the material humiliation of Rome by Charles V. Burdened with an enormous debt, much of which had been contracted in feasts, shows, and buffooneries, his subjects were left at his death in no condition to resist their enemies, to whom they fell an easy prey. All who would understand the character of Leo X. and the contrasts which it presents to that of his predecessor, should compare his portrait painted by Raphael in 1518 with that which he painted of Julius II. about nine years earlier. The large head, purple-hued complexion, protruding eyes, double chin, and generally amiable though somewhat stolid expression of Leo indicate the refined voluptuary; while the thin features, the sallow complexion, the nervous, excitable expression of Julius, tell of a restless spirit, ever ready for precipitate action. Both are admirable for their truth to character, their technical treatment, and their color ; but that of Leo is the most important, because the picture also contains portraits of his successor, then Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, and of his nephew the Cardinal de’ Rossi. Hanging in the Pitti gallery, this picture holds a foremost place amid masterpieces of its kind of every school. The portraits of Titian and Giorgione may surpass it in color, those of Holbein in minute rendering of detail, and those of Rubens in freedom of touch; but as combining fine color, admirable drawing, truth to character, and high finish, it ranks above them all.
That the court of such a pope as Leo X. could be no fit place for Michelangelo will be evident to those who understand his character. While Raphael led a life of immense activity, and achieved brilliant success during his Pontificate, the stern Florentine lived for the most part at a distance from Rome, engaged in fruitless labor, under skies now bright with hope, now gloomy with despair. By the death of Julius and the accession of Leo, Raphael had exchanged one kind and admiring patron for another; but these events were of far greater con-sequence to Michelangelo, who having lost a friend found no new one to take his place. He had but one hope to console him for a greater grief than any which he had felt since the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici, and this was that he would now be allowed to complete the monument which the late Pope’s superstitious fears had caused him to abandon. This hope was indeed authorized by the provision made in the will of Julius, that it should be finished on a somewhat reduced scale, and confirmed to an apparent certainty by the signing of a new contract with his executors. The payments made by them to Michelangelo during the next two years show that no opposition was made to the prosecution of this work until Leo X. visited Florence in 1514, and, seeing the unfinished condition of the church of San Lorenzo in which the chapel of the Medici was situated, conceived the idea of doing honor to his race by completing it. He accordingly solicited designs for the façade of the church from Baccio d’ Agnolo, Giuliano da Sangallo, Andrea and Jacopo Sansovino, Raphael, and Michelangelo, the most distinguished architects of the day. Why the latter, who was no practical architect, did not decline to compete if he really wished to be left undisturbed, we cannot understand, for lie must have foreseen that if his design was accepted he would be called upon to carry it out. We cannot, therefore, pity him for the embarrassing position in which he found himself when this happened. He had lately signed a second contract with the executors, which bound him not to undertake any work of importance until he had completed that which he had on hand for them, and was at Carrara when the Pope recalled him to Rome, forced him to accept the commission, and then sent him back to the quarries to procure the necessary materials for the facade. In this occupation nearly three years of his life were wasted, years imbittered by pecuniary embarrassment, uncongenial toil, and those ceaseless annoyances which made the Tragedy of the Facade only second to the Tragedy of the Sepulchre.
They were spent in tedious journeys to and from the mountains of Carrara, and in building a road to the quarries of Seravezza, hitherto approachable only by footpaths.4 The ground was both marshy and rocky, and a long time elapsed before it could be made solid and smooth enough to admit of the transportation of marbles to the seashore. Long before this happened the Pope’s ardor had begun to cool, and his supplies of money to decrease in proportion. The weight of tedious labor, the heartsickness of exile, the impatient fretting of a proud and haughty will against a power which it could not resist, would have shaken and unnerved a less resolute spirit and crippled its powers completely. But Michelangelo was strong enough to bide his time. He had long ago learned that his destiny was to struggle and to be temporarily overcome, and though defeated could yet hope for ultimate victory. He believed that he had been sent to Carrara to get him out of the way, and although he was well received when he went to Rome for a few weeks in the autumn of 1517 to present a model of the facade to the Pope, this belief was in no wise shaken.
At the end of February he was again sent back to the mountains, nor was it till another twelvemonth had elapsed that he was liberated by the final abandonment of the enterprise. The fruit of all his toil and anxiety was certainly not sufficient to console him. Only six columns had been extracted from the quarries, four of which were never carried farther than the sea-shore. One still lies at La Vincarella amid a mass of chips and blocks of Seravezza marble, and one may be seen at Florence at the base of the bare brick-wall which it and its fellows were to have rendered beautiful, forming a silent but impressive memento of the wasted years of one of the greatest among men of genius.
“Ah me ! ah me ! when thinking of the years, The wasted years, alas, I do not find Among them all one day that was my own ! Fallacious hopes, desires of the unknown, Lamenting, loving, burning, and in tears (For human passions all have stirred my mind), Have held me, now I feel and know, confined Both from the true and good still far away. I perish day by day ; The sunshine fails, the shadows grow more dreary, And I am near to fall, infirm and weary.”
In the following letter, written from Florence in 1520 to Sebastiano del Piombo,6 Michelangelo gives a complete account of his transactions with the Pope, and of his work at Seravezza : “In 1516, while I was at Carrara occupied in getting marbles to be sent to Rome for the monument of Pope Julius, Pope Leo sent for me to confer about the facade of San Lorenzo, which he wished to erect at Florence. Accordingly, on the 5th of December I left Carrara for Rome, and there made a design for the facade for which Pope Leo directed me to have marbles quarried at Carrara. After my return there from Rome, in the latter part of December, he sent me a thousand ducats by Jacopo Salviati and his servant Bentivoglio. I received this sum of money on the 8th of January, and gave a receipt for it. In the following August, the Pope having requested me to make a model of the facade, I went to Florence for the purpose, constructed it of wood with figures of wax, and sent it to him at Rome. As soon as he had seen it, he sent for me, and I obeyed, and agreed to build the facade after this model, as is proved by the contract drawn up with his Holiness ; and as I was obliged, in order to serve his Holiness, to send the marbles for the monument of Pope Julius to Florence, and after they had been sculptured to send them to Rome, he promised to pay the freight and transport, an expense of about eight hundred ducats, though this is not mentioned in the contract. On the 6th of February, 1517, I returned from Rome to Florence, and having taken upon myself the whole charge of the facade of San Lorenzo, for which, according to the contract, Pope Leo was to pay me four thousand ducats in Florence on account, about the 28th of the month I received eight hundred ducats from Jacopo Salviati, gave a receipt for them, and went to Carrara. As the contracts and stipulations previously made there for marbles for this work were not observed, and the Carrarese persecuted me about them, I went to quarry marbles at Seravezza, a mountain of Pietrasanta, near the Florentine boundaries, and there having caused six columns to be roughed out, together with many other marbles, and having constructed the road to the quarries which still exists, after which nothing more was excavated, I, on the 20th of March, 1518, went to Florence to obtain money to carry on the work, and there, on the 26th of March, 1519, the Cardinal de’ Medici paid me five hundred ducats by the bankers Gaddi at Florence, for which I gave a receipt. At the same time the Cardinal, by order of the Pope, told me not to go on with the work, because he said that they wished to save me from the trouble of trans-porting the marbles by giving them to me at Florence. For this a new contract was to be made ; and there the matter has rested up to the present time.
” At this time, having sent a number of marble-cutters to Pietrasanta, or rather to Seravezza, to occupy the road and take away the marbles quarried for the facade, and for the pavement of the Cathedral of Florence, and the Cardinal de’ Medici having given the commission for the facade marbles to others than to me, and without considering my claims, having authorized those whom he employed to make use of my road, I felt myself very much aggrieved, because neither the Cardinal nor the directors of the Cathedral works had any right to interfere in my affairs without my consent and that of the Pope. If I had previously agreed with him to abandon the facade, after settling all accounts as to expenses and moneys paid to me, the said road and the marbles and the tools would have become his or my property, and we should have had the right to dispose of them as we saw fit. The Cardinal now requires me to give in a statement of my accounts, saying that he wishes to bring the matter to a conclusion, and obtain possession of such marbles as he may wish to take from the above-mentioned road at Seravezza. I have therefore shown that I have received twenty-three hundred ducats as herein specified, and that I have also spent eight hundred, about two hundred and fifty of which I paid for the transportation of marbles to this city for the monument to Pope Julius ; this makes a total expenditure of more than five hundred ducats. I say nothing about the wooden model for the facade which I sent to Rome, nor of the three years which I have lost in this affair; nor of the fact that I have ruined myself by it; nor of the great disgrace which I have incurred by having the commission taken back after it had been given to me, and I know not what else. Nor do I mention the leaving of my house at Rome, which has suffered during my absence, and entailed upon me a loss of more than five hundred ducats for marbles and tools and work prepared. Not counting all these things, there remains to me only five of the twenty-three hundred ducats. Now we have agreed that the Pope shall take the road and the marbles already quarried, and I with my fifty ducats am to be free. I believe that his Holiness will not object to sign a brief to this effect. As you are now put in possession of the facts in the case, I beg you to make a copy of the said brief, to so specify the sums received by me that no further account may ever be asked, and also to make the agreement that the Pope shall take the above-mentioned road, marbles, and tools, as an equivalent for all claims.”
The letter here quoted may be taken as a fair sample of Michelangelo’s letters. Ex uno disce omnes. Records of work, of money details, of personal grievances, are all that they contain. It would be difficult to find a passage in the four hundred and ninety-five letters printed by Milanesi, indicative of that deep and poetic nature which shows itself in his sonnets, his sculptures, and his frescos. Letter-writing with him was absolutely restricted to affairs of business or charity. His genius spent itself in artistic utterance, leaving neither strength nor will to speak to his correspondents upon any other subject than that which immediately concerned them and him. Valuable as they are as sources of information concerning dates, and as giving indications of character and of feelings of a more or less transitory kind, they stand among the letters of great men as showing less of the higher nature of the writer than perhaps any other ever written.
From time to time, during his exile at Carrara, Michelangelo had visited Florence and had employed himself with long intermissions upon the monument to Pope Julius. To this he returned when he was finally freed from his engagement to Leo, nor would he suffer him-self to be enticed back to Rome, although certain inducements were held out to him which seem to show that the reigning pontiff was not as hostile to him as he believed him to be. Thus, after the death of Raphael he was invited, through his friend Sebastiano del Piombo, to paint the Hall of the Pontiffs at the Vatican. As Raphael had left drawings or cartoons for the mural decorations of this hall, his scholars, Giulio Romano and Francesco Penni, laid claim to the commission, and it is just to suppose that Michelangelo’s refusal to interfere was at least partially prompted by a loyal respect for the memory of the great painter, whose wishes, could they have been expressed, would have undoubtedly been that his designs should be carried out by his scholars. Other reasons against the acceptance of the offer are not difficult to conjecture, such as that he wished to complete the monument, and that painting was not an art to which his nature inclined him. At this time he was working upon a statue of Christ which he had long before commenced for his friend Metello Vari. After he had brought the marble to an advanced stage of completion he sent it to Rome under the care of one of his workmen, Pietro Urbano, whom he charged to finish it according to his design. But Pietro had the vanity to suppose that he could improve his master’s work, and after doing much mischief was dismissed in disgrace. ” He has spoiled everything,” writes Sebastiano del Piombo to Michelangelo, “especially the feet and hands, so at least says Federigo Frizzi, a Florentine sculptor of repute, in whose judgment I have greater confidence than in my own, as I do not pretend to understand how to work marble. As for the beard, my studio boy would have known better how to do it ; indeed, it looks as if a blunt knife had been used in the operation. I have put it into Frizzi’s hands, and he will do his best to finish it satisfactorily.” In October of this same year the statue was set up in the church of Sta Maria sopra Minerva, where it still stands. Evidently the sculptor was not himself when he conceived it, for of all his works it is the most insipid. “He was at this time,” says Condivi, “in a despondent frame of mind, unable to apply himself to anything, or, when so doing, working without enthusiasm.” Suddenly a hope dawned in his mind that an object worthy to call forth his best powers would be set before him. A petition was about to be sent by the Florentine Academy to the Pope, urging that the bones of Dante should be brought back to Florence, and among the eminent names appended to it he thus wrote his own : “I, the sculptor Michelangelo, ask the same of your Holiness, offering myself to make a worthy monument for the Divine Poet, and to give it an honorable place in this city.” To this petition and to this offer Leo paid no attention, and the project was left to be carried out in our own day by the sons of a united Italy.
In the autumn of 1519 the Pope determined to build a family chapel in the church of San Lorenzo, where monuments to the most distinguished members of his house should be placed. The Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, then Governor of Florence, and afterwards Pope Clement VII., was instructed to ask Michelangelo to make designs for the chapel. These were sent to Rome in 1520, and are referred to in a letter from the Cardinal with expressions of satisfaction, but preparations to carry them out were hardly begun when they were temporarily suspended on account of the death of Leo X.
The contrast which Michelangelo’s life at Carrara and Florence during the Pontificate thus closed affords to that of Raphael at Rome is most striking. The year after Leo’s accession the latter thus wrote to his uncle Simone Ciarla at Urbino, ” I have three thousand gold ducats’ worth of property at Rome, and a revenue of fifty ducats a year. Be-sides this, his Holiness has made me overseer of the works at St. Peter’s with a salary of three hundred gold ducats for life. But this is not all ; people pay me what I choose to ask for my pictures, and I shall receive twelve hundred gold ducats for the frescos which I am now painting at the Vatican. Thus, dear uncle, I do honor to you as well as to my other relations and my country. I carry you always in my heart, and your name sounds like that of a father in my ears. To quit Rome now that I fill Bramante’s place would be impossible, and what place in the world is nobler than Rome, or what enterprise greater than that of building St. Peter’s Church, which is the first temple in the world and will be the grandest edifice ever seen ? I return to the subject of my marriage in order to tell you that Cardinal Bibbiena has offered me the hand of his niece Maria, and that I have consented to accept it provided you and my uncle the priest give your approval.”
It is clear, from the manner in which Raphael alludes to this pro-posed matrimonial alliance, that his affections were not at all engaged. He could not very well have refused a proposition so honorable, and doubtless hoped to find some timely loophole for escape, when he accepted it ; but the reason given by Vasari, that he was reluctant to marry because he hoped that the Pope would recompense him for his still unpaid work at the Vatican, by making him a Cardinal, is too absurdly out of character to be believed, even if it were not shown by records of the time that Leo X. was not in his debt. So far as we know, artistic genius has never been so acknowledged, nor do we re-member any case in which the elevation of an artist to ecclesiastical rank was proposed, save that of Fra Angelico, who was both a monk and a saint. Although, for the time in which he lived, Raphael was a person of well-conducted life, he made no pretension to exceptional devoutness or austerity. These qualities were not, indeed, de liqueur among church dignitaries at Rome during “the golden age,” and would not have been considered as special titles to preferment; but we imagine that there were other things wanting to Raphael, such as family influence and ecclesiastical ambition, which would have prevented the Pope from even considering his eligibility. That he himself urged it, it is impossible to believe. He had in fact but one ambition, namely, to excel in his art. He was not a person of deep feeling like Michelangelo, liable to be diverted from his work by noble objects of another kind. So little was be affected by the struggles and catastrophes of his time, and so unbroken was his serenity in the midst of the most tragic events, that he has been taxed with insensibility.
“Do his impassive Madonnas know,” writes the eloquent Michelet, “what Caesar Borgia has made their living sisters suffer at Forli and Capua ? Can these philosophers of the School of Athens reason and calculate while Brescia is delivered over to the horrors of war ? Are the ears of Psyche deaf to the frightful cries of the Milanese, tortured by those Spaniards who will be at Rome to-morrow ? ” This is impassioned, but unjust. Raphael was no humanitarian like Michelangelo, though he was the kindliest of human creatures, affectionate to his relatives, full of consideration for his pupils, to whom he endeared himself in no common degree, and ready to aid the poor and suffering who came in his way. Did he not take the poor and aged savant, Fabius Calvius, into his own house, and care for him with a filial tenderness, although the old man’s only claim upon him was that which the destitute have upon all kind hearts ? “He is,” writes his con-temporary, Calcaguini, “a young man of great goodness, and possessed of an admirable intelligence, eminent for his rare gifts, the first of painters in theory and in practice. Nevertheless, he has so little pride that he meets every one as a friend, and shuns no man’s criticism. No person likes better than he to discuss opinions, to be instructed as well as to instruct, considering as he does that the great end of life is to obtain knowledge.”
Appreciating the advantages which he enjoyed at Rome, and straining every nerve to make the most of them, Raphael was able to accomplish an amount of work which in quantity as in quality far surpasses what the most extravagant belief in his capacity would have authorized. Soon after the accession of Leo X. he began to paint the fresco of Attila (Fig. 15) in the chamber of the Vatican where he had already painted the Heliodorus and the Miracle of Bolsena. The subject was doubly pleasing to Leo, as representing the king of the Huns arrested before the walls of Rome by the miraculous intervention of St. Peter and St. Paul, in answer to the prayer of his patron saint, Leo the Great; and as symbolizing the expulsion of the French from Italy, in which he had played his part on the battle-field of Ravenna, when Cardinal Legate.
Wearing the features of Leo X., Leo I. tranquilly advances with his cortége under the protection of the Apostles, to meet the barbarians and their chief, who, struck with terror at the vision which he alone sees, shrinks before it with a gesture of terror. In vain do his followers sound their trumpets, wave their banners, and urge forward their wild steeds, whose advance is checked by a barrier against which they break their strength like waves beating upon a rock-bound coast. Meantime the papal group moves steadily forward, as if it had left the gates of Rome on some holiday errand, and thus forms the most striking opposition to the agitated Huns, who swarm about their awe-stricken monarch like a flock of bees just issuing from the hive. The Attila is perhaps the least pleasing of the Vatican frescos, on account of the multiplicity of local tints, which, not being controlled by the predominance of a general hue, give it a disintegrated effect. Its vivid yellows and reds strike the eye separately, and produce a consequent want of repose. As it is the only one of the four in this chamber which represents a scene in the open air, its brighter scale of color is, however, perfectly in keeping with its subject, and it may be that its present want of harmony is the effect of time.
The Liberation of St. Peter from Prison (Fig. 16), Raphael’s next great work at the Vatican, has suffered even more than the Attila from this cause. The cold shining of the moon, the ruddy flash of the torch, and the soft golden splendor of the aureole are so far quenched that we can form but little idea of its original beauty, and but faintly appreciate the skill with which the painter managed these varied effects of light. The attempt to deal with chiaroscuro upon so monumental a scale was a daring novelty, not again attempted until Rembrandt painted the Night Watch at Amsterdam, where, however, the sources of light are less numerous. As Raphael divided his composition into three parts, each of which he made the scene of an episode, it was much easier for him to separate the effects of light than if he had treated them in one unbroken wall space. In that directly over the window he painted the Apostle sleeping in his cell, behind the iron bars, which stand out darkly against the miraculous light emanating from his angel visitor. To the left the represented the same celestial messenger standing with the liberated Apostle at the top of a flight of steps, upon which lie two soldiers whose slumber is unbroken by the angelic radiance which shines upon their armor with striking effect ; and to the right the guards sleeping upon the stairway outside the prison, who, roused by a soldier with a torch in his hand and informed of their prisoner’s escape, hastily make ready to follow him to Jerusalem, whose walls and towers are seen in the background illuminated by the moon. The solemn and unearthly beauty of the angel, the passive dignity of the Apostle, the varied and expressive attitudes of the soldiers, and the skilful distribution of light proceeding from different sources, are all features of this admirable work which in turn impress those who study it. To make one great picture out of three progressive incidents in the same story would now be regarded as a violation of the law of unity, though it is authorized by Masaccio in the frescos of the Carmine, by Ghiberti in the panels of the second gate of the Baptistery, by Michelangelo at the Sistine, as by Raphael at the Vatican” but the case is one where approval waits upon success. If this be attained, as here, through consummate skill, we may well drop our scruples and enjoy the result. To discuss its legitimacy would be as futile as to revive the time-worn argument against painting as inferior to sculpture because it deceives the eye. But we are not disposed to do this, or to quarrel with those who charm us so deeply, or dispute their right to treat as many episodes as they please in one picture, or to deal with color and form after their own magical fashion. We love them too much for that, and as every-day life gives us enough of things which can be tested by touch, we may well rejoice that the eye can so readily be cheated into accepting the lovely fictions of the painter with no other sense than that of enjoyment.
As Raphael had decorated the ceiling of the first chamber with paintings whose subjects were intended to epitomize those of the large frescos, so did he that of the second which we have just described. In the Burning Bush above the Heliodorus, he alluded to the deliverance of the States of the Church by Julius II., who was appointed to free the Italians, as was Moses the children of Israel, from bondage. In the Sacrifice of Abraham he gave an example of faith leading to unquestioning obedience, and in the Miracle of Bolsena of unbelief subdued by undeniable evidence. In the Noah leaving the Ark, which saved man and beast from perishing in the flood, he symbolized the Church, whose power, wielded by Julius, as in the Attila, repelled the barbarians and saved civilization. Finally, in the Jacob’s Ladder he alluded to the Pope’s hope that as Jacob’s seed inherited the land of Canaan, so should the Medici become masters of a united Italy. We who study these frescos for their beauty care little for such secondary meanings, which the Pope and his court considered of great importance. We see them and admire them as scriptural illustrations of a thoroughly biblical character, and forget the artist in his work. This we can never do in the Sistine Chapel. The frescos of Michelangelo are like Dante’s great poem, which cannot be appreciated without an intimate knowledge of the poet. The key to them is what he did and felt and suffered, so that the better we know the history of his life the better we are able to understand works whose spirit is personal, subjective, or, in other words, essentially modern. As a rule, his frescos, statues, and poems are susceptible of two interpretations, one of which invariably refers to the artist. The Jeremiah, for instance, not only represents the prophet mourning over the future ruin of Jerusalem, but the artist brooding in sadness over the evil destinies of his country and the thwarted purposes of his life, so that, were it carved in marble, it might fitly crown his monument.
The work of Raphael, on the contrary, like that of Shakespeare, was little affected by his personal circumstances, and therefore does not demand for its appreciation so intimate a knowledge of his life and character. Its spirit is impersonal, objective, antique, in short. It is not a record in form and color of his own struggles and hopes and deceptions, but an expression of his idea of the beautiful. Thus his pictures have an independent existence, like bubbles bright with prismatic hues which float into the air when detached from their source. On this account the record of Raphael’s life is vastly less interesting than that of Michelangelo, whose every pen or pencil stroke is connected with himself and his times. Obeying an irresistible impulse, he from time to time took part in public events from which Raphael stood aloof, living solely in and for his art.
While working upon the frescos in the Heliodorus chamber he commenced and completed many other works. Among these is that loveliest of his altar-pieces, the “Madonna del Pesce,” painted for a chapel in the church of St. Dominick at Naples, to which, as being the resort of persons afflicted with ophthalmia, the subject of Tobias was admirably adapted. In his treatment of this touching story, which gained a deeper significance by its association with suffering, the infant Christ, who seems so eager to grant the prayer of the graceful and modest suppliant, the beautiful angel who has been his guide, the noble Ma-donna, and the aged St. Jerome, are each perfect types of life at successive ages. This masterpiece of composition, expression, and color is another proof of Raphael’s inexhaustible resources in dealing with a subject of which he seems never to have grown weary. Although his Madonnas and Holy Families are more in number than the years of his life, each has a peculiar beauty of its own. The Virgin and Child with St. John and attendant saints are to him what the notes in the musical scale are to a musician, materials by whose combination he creates infinitely varied melodies, now grave, now gay, now graceful or sublime. In the ” Seggiola ” and the ” Tenda ” (Plate VI.) the Divine infant nestles in his mother’s arms like a bird in its nest ; in the ” Cardellino ” and the ” Belle Jardiniére ” he plays like a child with the infant John ; in the ” Pesce ” he listens graciously to prayer ; in the “Palma” he accepts the flowers gathered for him by St. Joseph; in the ” Vela ” be sleeps under the watchful eyes of his mother ; in the ” San Sisto ” he is awake and as it were transfigured by a Divine spirit which irradiates his brow, beams from his eyes, and like a light set in a vase of alabaster, shines through his human form. It is by comparing these pictures, identical in subject but differing so widely in individuality and character of charm, that we get the best idea of the richness of Raphael’s fancy. When we tell every bead of the rich chaplet, beginning with the Connestabile Madonna, and ending with the “San Sisto,” which combines in itself all the graces and ideal beauties of the whole series, we find that though every one was fashioned by the same hand and with the same material, there is neither repetition nor sign of exhaustion. Such fertility of invention within a narrow circle is shown in the works of no other painter of any country or time. Beyond it he ,revealed hitherto unsuspected powers which, when awakened through contact with the antique at Rome, first gave signs of life in the Parnassus and the School of Athens under a papal protector. They were now to find a still greater opportunity for their development under a secular patron, noted alike for his munificence, is love of arts and letters, and the protection which he extended to 1 who were distinguished in either. This was Agostino Chigi, a Sienese inkier of immense wealth, the Rothschild of Alexander VI., Julius II., and Leo X., whose name will not pass out of remembrance so long as he frescos of the Farnesina, the Sibyls of Santa Maria della Pace, and the mosaics at Santa Maria del Popolo exist.
The Farnesina15 palace, built by this merchant prince, stands on the right bank of the Tiber, directly opposite the Farnese palace, with which Michelangelo at one time proposed to connect it by throwing a bridge over the river. Beautiful as a piece of architecture, surrounded by spacious gardens, and decorated with frescos by several of the greatest artists of the sixteenth century, it had few rivals even in Rome, when Agostino Chigi made it the scene of banquets whose luxurious splendor recalled those of Lucullus under the Empire. These were doubtless given in the great portico or “loggia” where Baldassar Peruzzi, who built it, and Sebastiano del Piombo, whom Agostino Chigi brought from Venice to decorate it, painted mythological subjects in fresco, and Raphael with his pupils represented the fable of Psyche, the Triumph of Cupid, and the Council of the Gods. Beyond this “loggia” lies a gallery of equal length, whose walls are divided into compartments, in one of which Raphael painted his justly celebrated Triumph of Galatea. As Philostratus described the lovely maiden sailing across the sea in a shell drawn by dolphins, surrounded by nymphs and tritons, holding her purple robe above her head to catch the zephyr and to shield herself from the sun’s rays, so Raphael painted her, with such slight changes as suited his purpose. Standing in an attitude of consummate grace with her mantle fluttering in the wind, she holds the reins loosely in her hands, leaving the guidance of her dolphin steeds to a lovel “amorino ” who lies like a sunbeam upon the water before the shel which bears her. His fellows, with arrows fitted to their bowstrings circle in the air like swallows on the wing, and a crowd of burl: tritons, sounding their conch-shells, and bearing nymphs in th& strong arms, splash through the blue waves in all the pride of exuberant life.
There was a time when those who saw the Galatea could praise it for its coloring as well as for its composition ; but we who know it in its faded state see only that it is as classical in spirit as the frescos of the Loggie are biblical, and admire the versatility of a genius which could enter into and identify itself with thoughts so widely separated.
The following passage from a letter written by Raphael to his friend Count Castiglione shows the modest and self-depreciating spirit with which he received the praises which were his due. ” Could I believe half the fine things which you say to me about my Galatea, I should think myself a great painter. I am forced, however, to recognize that they are chiefly dictated by your friendly sentiments, and I feel obliged to say, that to paint one beautiful woman I must see many models, and have you at my side to point out the special beauties of each. In default of good judges and good models, I follow a certain ideal (una certa idea) which I have in my mind, and though I cannot certify that my work is full of an elevated artistic sentiment, I do my best that it shall be.”
The reader conversant with the Platonic definition of ideal beauty as “an aggregate of selected beauties,” who knows that Apelles, taking no single maiden as a model for his Venus Anadyomene, made up from many virgins an ideal more beautiful than any one, will recognize that Raphael here worked in a spirit consonant with Greek canons of art. Like Philostratus, he felt that Imagination is a greater artist than Imitation, for while Imitation can only represent that which she has seen, Imagination can represent that which she has not seen, by figuring it to herself on the basis of the real.”
The date of the completion of the Galatea is approximatively fixed in Raphael’s letter to Castiglione, by his reference to his late appointment as head architect to the Pope, but although he did not design the other frescos at the Farnesina until four years later, he probably accepted the commission for them at this same time. Pressed with work, he was obliged for the most part to intrust their execution to his pupils, Giulio Romano and Francesco Penni. The hand of the master shows itself, however, in the female figure sitting with her back to the spectator in the compartment where Cupid presents Psyche to the Graces, in the vigorous, noble, and graceful figure of the flying Mercury, and in the masterly group of Jupiter and Ganymede. The two last especially may be pointed out as the most perfect examples of modern work in the antique spirit. They remind us of designs cut upon the surface of ancient gems, being in themselves complete, compact, noble and unexaggerated in style, and grand in feeling. Both were engraved by Marc Antonio Raimondi, to whom the world is indebted for the reproduction of so many of Raphael’s frescos and drawings in the very spirit of the originals, with a purity of style and delicacy of feeling which have never been surpassed.
This celebrated engraver, who identified himself so closely with Raphael after he came to Rome at the solicitation of Giulio Romano, was born at Bologna, in the same year as Michelangelo, and at an early age was apprenticed to the renowned goldsmith, niellist, medallist, and painter, Francesco Raibolini, commonly called Francia. Craving a deeper insight into the art of engraving than he could obtain from the works of his own countrymen, he studied the works of Schongauer, Lucas van Leyden, and Albert Dürer, which, having found their way across the Alps, were highly appreciated in Italy as showing a skill in the use of the graver to which neither Baldini, Robetta, Pollajuolo, nor any other Italian engraver had yet attained. Marc Antonio may possibly have met Albert Dürer during his visit to Italy in 1507, and by personal contact have strengthened his predilection for the manner of the great Nuremberger, but his early engraving of Pyramus and Thisbe shows that he had come under his influence long before he made those copperplate repetitions of Dürer’s woodcuts of the Life of the Virgin, about which he complained to the Signory of Venice as interfering with the sale of the originals. Up to 1510, Marc Antonio’s style was eclectic, Italo-German; but in that year he went to Rome, where be devoted himself exclusively to the task of engraving the works of Raphael, in an original style founded on the excellences of the northern and southern schools. The group from Michelangelo’s cartoon of the Battle of Pisa, which he probably engraved soon after his arrival at Rome, if not before he left Florence, although executed in his Roman manner, gives proof of his acquaintance with German masters, for the background is a repetition of that in Lucas van Leyden’s print of the monk Sergius killed by Mahomet, save that a big tree and a stump are omitted in the Italian engraving, and four Tuscan soldiers are substituted for the four peasants of the German. Admitting that Marc Antonio worked from a drawing made by Raphael from Michelangelo’s cartoon, there can be no reasonable doubt that it was simply a group of figures, and that Marc Antonio, being unable to compose a background for them, utilized Lucas van Leyden’s.21 Such a course naturally suggested itself to one who had by long habits of eclecticism become insensible to the antagonisms of German and Italian art, and who, though deservedly ranked as the first of Italian engravers for his technical skill, had little or no inventive genius. It was precisely because he had few ideas of his own, that he was so excellent an interpreter of those of others. His manner of working was changing and uncertain until he knew Raphael, to whom he gave his allegiance . and henceforward adopted a style wonderfully suited to the reproduction of that master’s works.
Like the earlier Italian engravers, Marc Antonio generally worked from drawings, and was therefore not tempted, like the engravers of the seventeenth century who worked from pictures, to attempt peculiar combinations of lines in order to render effects of color. His method could have so identified himself with Raphael, as to be able to fill in outlines often made up of repeated and ever-varying pen-strokes, crossing and recrossing each other as the artist approached nearer and nearer to his ideal. His unequalled “burin ” has preserved for us many of Raphael’s designs which would otherwise have been lost, such as the Dido, the Dead Christ, and the Lucretia, which, though it was the first of his Roman engravings, was not surpassed in purity of line, in firmness and delicacy of contour, and in subtlety of modelling by Marc Antonio during the ten years which he devoted exclusively to the master service. It was followed by the Judgment of Paris, which astonished everybody, “One stupi tutta Roma,” says Vasari. The engraver’s fame was noised abroad, and his studio was soon filled with troops of scholars, Italian, German, and Flemish. Men like Beham, Binck, and Pencz abandoned Albert Dürer, and crossed the Alps to study under the man who had himself learned so much from their old master. Probably no engraver ever enjoyed a greater measure of success until Raphael’s death, when his fortunes deservedly changed. He was imprisoned in the castle of St. Angelo for having engraved a series of licentious de-signs after Giulio Romano, and eventually liberated through the intervention of the Cardinal de’ Medici, and of his friend Baccio Bandinelli the sculptor. A few years later, when Rome was besieged by the Con-stable Bourbon, he fell into the hands of the Spaniards, who reduced him to a state of poverty by the heavy ransom which they exacted from him. He then returned to Bologna, where he died about 1534.
The influence of Michelangelo upon Raphael is nowhere so perceptible as in the Sibyls and Prophets of the Chigi Chapel at “S Maria della Pace”; but, though they are conceived in a grandiose spirit, which may properly be called Michelangelesque, they are none the less Raphaelesque, for while they are the best examples of the way in which genius develops under all noble influences, they are still individual.
In a conversation between Julius II. and Sebastiano del Piombo, the Pope is reported to have said, ” Look at Raphael, who, when he saw the works of Michelangelo, suddenly abandoned the style of Perugino, and as far as he was able approached them in manner.” This remark has perhaps led many to consider that the influence of Michelangelo upon Raphael was far greater than we think it was. In making it the Pope referred to works executed at Florence and Rome during his Pontificate, but the former, as we have seen, show the effect produced upon him by the works of Lionardo da Vinci and of Fra Bartolomeo, while the latter, with the exception of the Isaiah at San Agostino, which we suppose to have been an intentional imitation, cannot be called Michelangelesque. Raphael’s style continually grew broader and nobler, but it was always strictly controlled by that distinguishing love of purity in line and form which kept him from excess or extravagance. Even the Sibyls at Sta Maria della Pace remind us of Michelangelo only by their peculiar character, but they are not imitations like the works of Marco Venusti, Pontormo, and Montorsoli. The genius of Raphael was nourished by study of nature and of the antique, and by observation of the works of the greatest of his con-temporaries ; and yet he neither imitated nature slavishly like Denner, nor copied the antique elegantly like Canova, nor made himself the slave of any one master like Pinturicchio. He was too original and too great for that, but at the same time he was so receptive and so eager to take advantage of every means of improvement, that he opened his mind to all good influences, and assimilated that part of them which was suited to nourish his spirit. Between the Sibyls of the Chigi Chapel and those of the Sistine there is an affinity proceeding from identity of subject, but in the conception there is this characteristic difference, that although both are busied with the coming of Christ, the first work out the momentous problem in company, while the last seek singly for its solution.27 Again, the feeling is different, for while the first are more strictly beautiful, the last are specially lyric and impassioned, and as the higher nature of these semi-divine beings is expressed by different means, the resemblance between them, where it can be detected, is purely superficial.
Raphael’s individuality as sculptor and architect is no less marked than as painter. We say as sculptor, because we believe that he modelled the Jonah of the Chigi Chapel at Sta Maria del Popolo. It is too Raphaelesque in its grace to have been designed by Lorenzo Lotto, by whom it was put into marble, and though we have but slight proof that Raphael knew how to model in clay, we may believe that he did so on the general ground that in his time all great artists were acquainted not only with their special art, but also with all those with which it might be associated. In their eyes art was a unit. Painters fully appreciated how important a knowledge of modelling would be to them in dealing with shadows, in treating effects of aerial perspective, and in leading them to comprehend the springs of action. They were aware that he who had modelled a figure in the round before representing it upon a flat surface was likely to give it a more natural air, to make it appear to move with greater ease and dignity upon the canvas, than he who had studied only that side of it which was turned towards the spectator. The interdependence of the arts which obliged the painter to know something of architecture, that he might be able to represent buildings in his back-grounds correctly, compelled the architect to study the laws of light and shade which more especially concern the painter, so that when designing a building he might know how to mass its parts in a way to produce effective and picturesque shadows. In the same way the sculptor had to make himself familiar to some extent with architecture, for he was constantly called upon to enrich the plane surfaces of buildings with bas-reliefs, and to design statues to be placed about porticos, in pediments, or above cornices. Lastly, the goldsmith, who made cups and platters adorned with statuettes, bas-reliefs, architectural de-tails, and enamels, needed to understand the three arts of sculpture, architecture, and painting, as he had to practise them on a reduced scale, and this general knowledge of the arts of design fitted him pre-eminently for the position of a teacher. Nine tenths of the artists of the fifteenth and first half of the sixteenth centuries began their education in the goldsmith’s workshop, and what they learned there was of the greatest advantage to them in whatever branch they afterwards adopted as a profession. Raphael was an exception to the rule, but he obtained a deep insight into other arts than his own by being constantly brought into contact with artists of all kinds.
Of architecture he made a special study. Long before he came to Rome he had paid attention to it, at least as a draughtsman, and at the age of twenty his knowledge of it was deeper, and his taste far more refined than that of Perugino, as any one may see by comparing the temple in the background of his Marriage of the Virgin with that from which he copied it, in his master’s picture of the same subject, now at Caen. After his arrival at Rome, three years later, he pursued his architectural studies under Bramante, and by this means, as well as by his measurements and drawings of ancient buildings, acquired a thorough knowledge of the art. The classical character of the buildings which he designed at Rome and Florence prove him to have been a true child of the Renaissance, and their excellence entitles him to an honorable place among Italian architects. Only a small portion of the basement of the palace which he built for himself at Rome in the Borgo Nuovo remains, but we know, through an engraving of the time, that the facade was Doric above a rustic base, and that the basement storey was pierced with five arched doorways, to which as many windows with balconies and triangular pediments corresponded in the first storey. These windows were separated from each other by Doric columns in groups of two, and the whole facade was crowned with a classic entablature in a severe style. Its principal details are distinctive of Raphael’s architecture. In the “Casa” Berti and the “Palazzo” Vidoni at Rome, as in the Pandolfini and the Uguccioni palaces at Florence, we find a like alternation of circular and triangular pediments over the windows, as well as balconies, coupled columns, and bold ornices. Having for the most part studied ancient Roman edifices, it not surprising that Raphael did not scruple to superpose different orders in the same facade; as, for example, in that of the Casa Ugucroni at Florence, which has Ionic columns in the first storey and Conthian in the second, and, had it ever been finished, would have been crowned by a Corinthian entablature.
The architectural manner of Raphael is distinguished from that of Bramante by a greater boldness of projection in the details of doors and windows, and of the entablatures, cornices, and balconies. By these means he aimed at producing picturesque shadows, but although he thus showed his painter’s nature, he never allowed his inclination for the picturesque to interfere with that just feeling for harmonious form and fine proportion which make his buildings worthy to be classed among the most perfect of the sixteenth century.
In the winter of 1515-16, Raphael was summoned to meet the Pope at Florence, in order to compete with other distinguished architects for the façade of San Lorenzo. The Pope’s wish was that those whom he had invited should agree together upon a plan, but Michelangelo, who was among them, would have no yoke-fellows, and his design, still preserved in the “Casa” Buonarroti, was finally accepted, though never executed. The facade is treated as a field for the display of statues and bas-reliefs rather than as a model of fine architectural form and proportions. Instead of using sculpture as a decoration when he coupled it with architecture, Michelangelo always used architecture as a background to sculpture ; witness the Medici Chapel, the tomb of Julius at San Pietro in Vincoli, and other examples which might be mentioned. As he tells us in one of his letters, he was never so truly himself as when he had a chisel in his hand; and this is so true that even when he took up the compasses or the brush he showed how completely he was a sculptor by nature. The use of that most detestable of all architectural details, the broken pediment, is frequent with him ; an error in taste which it is hard to pardon. When he does not offend by such eccentricities, he is generally cold and uninteresting as an architect. Except the dome of St. Peter’s, which has no rival save that of the Cathedral at Florence, none of his architectura works entitle him to rank with his great Florentine predecessors, whit all contain the seeds of that decadence in form and style which marre the works of his successors.
In a late treatise upon him as an architect, written by a profession( brother who has proved his knowledge of the science by work which, though in questionable taste, give evidence of great constructive skill, we read that though he has “the stroke, the force, the breadth, the will, the personality, which make the great composer, Michelangelo is ignorant of the language of architecture, does not know its grammar, and can hardly write. Having conceived the leading lines of his design, it would seem as if he had written upon his drawing, Here place a cornice, there a capital. This being done, the result is more or less satisfactory, according to the capacity of the workman employed to carry it out” We leave the question as to whether M. Garnier’s criticisms are too severe, to be discussed by practical architects, but with the exception of the Dome of St. Peter’s, which his French critic acknowledges to be a coup de génie, “one of the marvels of art,” his architectural works seem to us false in taste and wanting in vital interest. His architectural sketches show us by their inaccuracies that he drew them like any pictorial composition, without any attempt at measurement. He said himself that he was no architect, as he said he was no painter; but in the first case he spoke the truth, while in the second, as the event proved, he had no just estimate of his wonderful power. To be a great draughtsman and a master in composition is to be two thirds a painter; and when, as in Michelangelo’s case, color is also used harmoniously if not with any especial charm, the right to that name is indisputable : but to have a right to be called an architect, though all the knowledge demanded by Vitruvius in his famous definition may not be needed, does at least require an intimate acquaintance with line and rule, a laborious accuracy which no amount of genius can supply, and which early training alone can give. Those who study Michelangelo’s design for the Laurentian Library, for instance, will be satisfied that M. Gamier is right when he says that he who made it was not an “architect, properly speaking. He did indeed do an architect’s work, which is very different, and most frequently in the manner of a painter or a sculptor, which may have color, breadth, and imagination, but which bespeaks insufficient study and an incomplete education. The thought may be great and strong, but the realization of it is always feeble and naïve.” This being admitted for truth’s sake, it does not follow that one of the four crowns which Michelangelo’s contemporaries awarded him is undeserved. ” Gare qui la touche ! ” for it belongs to him by right of genius, as do those of sculpture, painting, and poetry. With special truth, though in a sense not intended by the poet, was it said of him who “rounded Peter’s Dome,”
“He builded better than he knew.”