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or less, be compelled to take at present. While the numerous materials for a fresh, a correct, and an ampler biography, left by Michael Angelo himself, and preserved in the Casa Buonarroti at Florence, are inaccessible to the public, little else than a literary memoir can be put together. These materials contain, we are informed, a correspondence of above three hundred letters on the part of Michael Angelo with Sebastian del Piombo, Vittoria Colonna, Daniel da Volterra, his nephew, his servant, &c., including not less than sixty by his own hand; and judging from those we have been privileged to see, they would serve to place his personal greatness on a still higher pedestal than it has even hitherto assumed, and one which no differences as to the merits of his art could affect. Meanwhile all researches made without access to this treasury are but laborious diggings for water with a full river in sight. This is evident from the scarce, however welcome, gleanings which are presented to the world in Le Monnier's recently published 12th volume of the new edition of Vasari, and which have been collected from every yet published source, from civic records, the archives of ancient ecclesiastical bodies, and other documents. It is therefore the more to be regretted that a promise made by the Signora Buonarroti herself, to investigate the MSS., and answer a few questions on the more uncertain points in Michael Angelo's history, was frustrated by the lamented death of that lady in June, 1856.
The records, therefore, of this great man rest almost entirely upon the Lives of Vasari and Condivi-the one copied very much from the other, and both imbued with modes of thought, as well as inaccuracies of fact, so little in keeping with the dignity of their subject as to render their works valuable for little more than an outline, and that a very defective one, of his career. The circumstance that Michael Angelo was the only living artist whose history is given in Vasari's first edition, accounts for its being, in essential respects, the least satisfactory of all the biographies. Flattery was the order of the day, and the consciousness that the book would reach his hands entailed a stream of adulation without limit or discrimination. That the work did come under the eye of its subject we are assured by Vasari, who further inserts a sonnet received from him in acknowledgment. But it would be doing little justice to our respect for the great man's memory to believe that he really approved of much that Vasari's Life of himself contains, or that his sonnet-a mere complimentary apostrophe, in no way applicable to the work-was anything more than a conventional mode of writing. In reading this Life, therefore, the circumstances which in our times would add materially to its claims to belief must be considered as proportionably detracting from them. Had the master been dead
before before it was written, better discrimination would probably have been exercised than extolling, for example (simply because it was the latest executed), the Last Judgment above the Sistine Ceiling.
But in retracing the lives of the great Italian representatives of art it must be remembered as a rule that we have, in great measure, to set aside those opinions which have been transmitted with them. Sound views as to the real nature and merits of art especially demand a renunciation of the speculative and the fanciful, which (at least on this subject) is rarely found even in our matterof-fact nineteenth century, and seems not to have been possible in the dreamy and pedantic fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. When, therefore, we seek to be enlightened by principles supposed to be imbibed at the very fountain-head, we are met by theories and inquiries so vague and senseless as to show that the very foundations of true connoisseurship were not then laid. Even the sentiments put into the mouth of Michael Angelo himself, in a reported conversation with Vittoria Colonna and others,* transmit to us little more than far-fetched theories and conceits, neither worthy of, nor, we should say, compatible with the common, practical sense of any great artist. Two parallel anecdotes, however, from the Lives of Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Angelo, serve to illustrate more precisely what we mean. Not even their great names, it appears, were any protection against the speculations of idle pedants as to whether Painting or Sculpture were the superior art--a question about as much to the purpose in those days as a dissertation on the comparative merits of fire and water, before a railway committee, would be in ours. The answers of each great painter to what would now be thought the most intolerable intrusion on their time are characteristic. Leonardo bends his philosophic mind meekly to the matter, and comes to the conclusion, that the more
an art induces fatigue of body, the less noble it is.'t Michael Angelo, then in his eighty-first year, had evidently, to his credit, never thought on the matter at all. He therefore flounders for a few lines, in deference to the habits of the day, in speculations as to the difference between the sun and
* Manuscrit de François de Hollande. Dialogue sur la Peinture dans la Ville de Rome.' This MS., found in the Bibliothèque de Jésus’ at Lisbon, was published by Count Raczynski, in his work entitled 'Les Arts en Portugal.' It purports to give the views of Michael Angelo upon Flemish art, and art in general. If genuine in the lowest sense—that is, if such a conversation took place at all-the report of it must be looked upon rather as what the critics of the time fancied he ought to say than as what this great authority can have really uttered. A palpable contradiction, also, regarding a certain well-known picture, proving that even a then recent transaction in the records of art was not safe from misstatement, shows how little the reporter aimed at common accuracy.
† Quanto più un arte porta seco fatica di corpo, tanto più è vile.' - Trattato, lib. ii. cap. 14. 2 G 2
the moon, on the act of removing material, as in sculpture, and that of laying it on, as in painting. And then his strong common sense comes to the rescue, and he bursts out with the dictum, Since, then, the same species of intelligence presides over Painting and Sculpture, why not make peace between them, and close these endless disputes, the time consumed in which would be much better employed in producing works of art? If he who maintains that Painting is more noble than Sculpture writes upon other subjects as he does upon this, my old woman would have written much better.'
But though the artist's soul might be vexed within him by such unprofitable absurdities, yet the evil for a while affected not art. It is one of her glorious uses to continue a reality, even when there is little left that may be called real around her. This it is which often renders her an apparently illogical feature in history. • Ex pede Herculem' is no sure argument when we reason from art to morals ; least of all in the Medicean era, of the glory of which we are apt to read far too flattering a tale by the light of those priceless monuments--its best survivors. The recognition of that divinity which doth hedge art is an indispensable preliminary to the true appreciation of her nature. So long as she was faithful to herself, the most adverse influences had no power to harm her. She flourished through despotism and corruption, and remained holy; vanity and superstition employed her, sophistry and stupidity extolled her, and she was not defiled. She had a charmed, because a separate existence. In point of fact, the high but vague ideas generally entertained of the advantages surrounding art in those great pictorial times which decorated Florence are so much deducted from her real worth. How false those ideas are, in the main, the life of such a man as Michael Angelo will show. But though the impediments and distresses suffered by him in the course he sought to run may shake our faith in the patronage of popes and princes, yet we still nourish delusions as to the atmosphere' which surrounded an old master. Here again, however, art is lowered by a false exaltation of things around her. Poetic, indeed, was the existence of those on whom the sun of Italy shone in the workshops of Italian art. Looking closer, however, we shall see little that would now be thought encouraging to the pride of the artist, or even compatible with the liberty of his calling. The original contract for the picture by Benozzo Gozzoli, now in our National Gallery, which has lately come to light, is an example of the terms under which a great painter worked in the days of Lorenzo de' Medici. It runs thus: • He shall represent on the said tavola the hereinafter mentioned
figures in the mode and form about to be expressed. First, in the centre of the said picture, the figure of Our Lady enthroned, in the mode and form, and with the ornaments of the picture on the high altar of St. Mark in Florence. And on the right side of the said picture, beside Our Lady, the figure of St. John the Baptist, in the proper usual dress; and next to him the figure of St. Zenobio, with his ornamented sacerdotal dress; and then the figure of St. Jerome, kneeling, with his proper and usual accessories. And on the left side the undermentioned saints, that is to say, their figures : first, beside Our Lady, the figure of St. Peter, and next him that of St. Dominick, and then, next St. Dominick, the figure of St. Francis, kneeling, with every ornament, as usual.'
There are few patrons of art nowadays who would not hesitate thus to dictate to a painter even in treating for a family picture, and fewer painters of note who would not stipulate for liberty in the arrangement of his subject as the sine quâ non of his success. We must descend indeed to a low class of society both as regards art and manners to find those who would either give or take a commission in this spirit. That times, therefore, have changed since pictures could be ordered to pattern is, at all events, a thing to rejoice over. At the same time, far from looking on this contract as derogatory to Art, we regard it as a high tribute to the real independence of this godlike vocation. There might be little regard paid to the painter's delicacy and dignity-he might be addressed like an artificer,' as he was then literally denominated; but the art that could afford to be treated like a trade, the art that could not be degraded, was the real thing after all.
Thus far our remarks have tended to show the happy invulnerability of the true æsthetic temperament against evil and unfavourable influences. While, therefore, venerating the sense, morality, and integrity of Michael Angelo, which passed unsullied through a corrupt age, there is no cause for surprise that his genius should have shared the same immunity. But we are called upon now rather to argue against the reversed view, and, by the same rule, to disclaim the benefit an artist is supposed to derive from certain intellectual advantages.
In the belief that Michael Angelo's artistic powers were promoted by the learned society in which the patronage of Lorenzo de' Medici enabled him to spend the impressionable years of his early youth, Mr. Harford again shares the opinions of many cultivated minds. It is natural for those who view art from a literary point of view to suppose that the attainments which contribute to general cultivation should be especially fertilising to the follower of the fine arts : and the supposition sounds so complimentary that it seems strange in us to wish to
disown it. But no mistake as to the nature of the artist's mind can be really complimentary to it. In treating of the respective domains of art and literature, the first thing to be kept in view is the difference and not the analogy between them. This difference is nowhere more positively seen than in the resources whence each is sustained. No two great classes of human intelligence drink really from the same spring. The lamp of learning, however brightly it may burn, can shed no available light in that separate world where the true artist lives. What that world is—the two poles of which consist of the highest and lowest human faculties, those of the hand and those of the spirit --would be difficult to define. But perhaps some clue to the intense happiness which it affords may be traced to the fact that the tree of knowledge has so little growth there. The very homage of an artist to his art must be passionate, and not, in the literary sense, intellectual. Better it is for him to be the doting slave of an impulse than the reasoning and conscious disciple of a principle. Hence a childlike simplicity of aim has always distinguished the great painter and sculptor; he is possessed by a feeling stronger than himself, and is that absorbed, enthusiastic creature we alternately pity and envy-a lover-his life long; and, though the course of his love do not run smooth, yet he is free from the anxieties wbich usually beset the state ; his head may be unstored, his tongue untutored, but he knows that he serves a mistress who, if a man do but give her his whole heart, makes no difference between the scholar and the ignoramus.
Not that the highest skill in art may not be accompanied by scarcely inferior literary attainments. Of this our own English pictorial annals give sufficient testimony. But these instances
. prove nothing: the man may stand doubly high, the artist stands but on his own ground. We doubt whether one ignorant of the facts would read Reynolds' cultivated mind in the technical strength of his works, or guess Stothard's comparatively illiterate life in the air of classic elegance which stamps his style. So small an amount of original research can be expressed even in the most erudite picture that we may fairly ask what advantage is conferred on one whose art is proverbially long, and life short, to store up with slow pains in his bead what half-a-dozen lines would supply from a book, or a few questions extract from the scholar at his side. The cancelled passage in the Felsina Pittrice, which questions the possibility of the learning displayed in the Parnassus, the Heliodorus, School of Athens, &c., having entered the humble mind of an Urbinese potter' might have been more courteously ex