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Germany. Now, this species of allegorical adulation appears to me flat and out of date. I well remember that long ago the famous picture of Voltaire, introduced into the Elysian fields by Henri Quatre, and making his best bow to Racine and Molière, threw me into a convulsion of laughter: and the cartoon of this royal apotheosis provoked the same irrepressible feeling of the ridiculous. I wish somebody would hint to King Louis that it is not in good taste, and that there are many, many ways in which the compliment (which he truly merits) might be better managed.
On the whole, however, it may truly be said that the luxuriant and appropriate decorations of this gallery, the variety of colour and ornament lavished on it, agreeably prepare the eye and the imagination for that glorious feast of beauty within, to which we are immediately introduced: and thus the overture to the Zauberflöte, (which we heard last night,) with its rich involved harmonies, its brilliant and exciting movements, attuned the ear and the fancy to enjoy the grand, thrilling, bewitching, love-breathing melodies, of the opera which followed.
I omitted to mention that there are also on the upper floor of the Pinakothek two rooms, each about forty feet square; one called the Reserve Saal, is intended for the reception of those pictures which are temporarily removed from their places, new acquisitions, &c. The other room is fitted up with every convenience for students and copyists.
The whole of this immense edifice is warmed throughout by heated air; the stoves being detached from the body of the building, and so managed, as to preclude the possibility of danger from fire.
It does not appear to be yet decided, whether the floors will be of the Venetian stucco, or of parquet.
Such, then, is the general plan of the Pinakothek, the national gallery of Bavaria. I make no comment, except that I felt and recognised in every part, the presence of a directing mind, and the absence of all narrow views, all truckling to the interests, or tastes, or prejudices, or convenience, of any particular class of persons. It is very possible that when finished, it will be found by scientific critics not absolutely perfect, which, as we know, all human works are at least intended and expected to be; but it is equally clear that an honest anxiety for the glory of art, and the benefit of the public-not the caprices of the king, nor the individual vanity of the architect-has been the moving principle throughout.
Fresco painting, or, as the Italians call it, buon fresco, had been entirely discontinued since the time of Raphael Mengs. It was revived at Rome in 1809-10, when the late M. Bartholdy, the Prussian consul-general, caused a saloon in his house to be painted in fresco, by Peter Cornelius, Overbeck, and Philip Veit, all German artists, then resident at Rome. The subjects are taken from the Scriptures, and one of the admirable cartoons of Overbeck, (Joseph sold by his brethren,) I saw at Frankfort. These first essays are yet to be seen in Bartholdy's house, in the Via Sistina at Rome. They are rather hard, but in a grand style of composition. The success which attended this spirited undertaking, excited much attention and enthusiasm, and induced the Marchese Massimi to have his villa near the Lateran adorned in the same style. Accordingly, he had three grand halls or saloons, painted with subjects from Dante, Ariosto, and Tasso. The first was given to Philip Veit, the second to Julius Schnorr, and the third to Overbeck. Veit did not finish his work, which was afterwards terminated by Koch; the two other painters completed their task, much to the satisfaction of the Marchese, and to the admiration of all Rome.
But these were mere experiments-mere attempts, compared to what has since been executed in the same style at Munich. It is true that the art of fresco-painting had never been entirely lost. The theory of the process was well known, and also the colours formerly used; only practice, and the opportunity of practice, were wanting. This has been afforded; and there is now at Munich a school of frescopainting, under the direction of Cornelius, Julius Schnorr, and Zimmermann, in which the mechanical process has been brought to such perfection, that the neatness of the execution may vie with oils, and they can even cut out a feature, and replace it if necessary. The palette has also been augmented by the recent
improvements in chemistry, which have enabled the fresco painter to apply some most precious colours, unknown to the ancient masters: only earths and metallic colours are used. I believe it is universally known that the colours are applied while the plaster is wet, and that the preparation of this plaster is a matter of much care and nicety. A good deal of experience and manual dexterity is necessary to enable the painter to execute with rapidity, and calculate the exact degree of humidity in the plaster, requisite for the effect he wishes to produce.
It has been said that fresco painting is unfitted for our climate, damp and sea-coal fires being equally injurious; but the new method of warming all large buildings, either by steam or heated air, obviates, at least, this objection.
26th.—The morning was spent in the ateliers of two Bavarian sculptors, Mayer and Bandel. To Mayer, the king has confided the decoration of the interior of the Pinakothek, of which he showed me the drawings and designs. He has also executed the colossal statue of Albert Durer, in stone, for the interior of that building.