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respondence have been, in their time, received with applause in her own country,-Helen Maria Williams. Since those days many and eventful years have passed, but nothing has occurred to change my sentiments; and at a time when even the most renowned and the less tolerant among Roman Catholic statesmen in France deeply testify their enthusiasm for British freedom of speech, thought and conscience, it is only natural for a Minister of the Gospel to nourish the same feelings."-Pp. v, vi.
We must also let him explain in his own words the theme which he has undertaken to maintain, as a Protestant lover of the Fine Arts, in opposition to the ever-repeated claims of Roman Catholicism to be regarded as their especial or only fostermother:
“Even in England, where there is no lack of anti-Roman controversy, and where the Fine Arts, especially of late, have attracted more and more the enlightened notice of all classes,-even in England the question I venture to touch upon has never, to my knowledge, been thoroughly attended to. We let Roman Catholicism boast and brag unceasingly about its alliance with Art, and preach, and write, and print every day that the Papal Church is the foster-mother of the Fine Arts, and their only efficient support on earth. Now, if this be true, Protestantism is decidedly inferior to Romanism, and decidedly in the wrong as to one of the noblest realms of mental activity, as to the use of one of the Almighty's most precious gifts. This I pretend to disprove. And the whole of my arguments, as may be seen in the following Letters, are facts,-facts observed and studied on the spot, in Rome and through Italy.”—Pp. vi, vii.
We heartily thank Mons. Coquerel, alike in the name of Protestantism and in the love of Art, for thus taking up the gauntlet so vauntingly thrown down. It has lain too long unnoticed at our feet. He is right, we believe, in saying that even in Protestant England, where the Fine Arts have, especially of late, attracted increasing notice, this insolent challenge has been idly neglected. We are not aware, any more than he, of any English writer who has “pretended," or undertaken, to disprove the “unceasing brag." We have also to say that, in our opinion, Mons. Coquerel has made out his point most decisively. He has not dissembled any of the true claims of Catholic art. He has not shewn himself insensible, but quite the reverse, to high merit any where. He has dealt out his praise to high art, whether Catholic, Pagan or simply Christian, with no niggard hand. But he has found the true strength of his position in distinguishing between the Pagan and Christian monuments of art in Italy, and again between what is simply Christian and what is specifically Roman Catholic. And he has brought proof upon proof that in these last instances, the artistic inspiration which exists is not that of Catholicism quasi Catholicism; and that the distinctive office of the Church in Italy has been, to destroy or debase the remains of ancient Greek and Roman art, or strangely to mix up even the indecencies of its heathenism with the places and offices of Christian worship; and, in the production of works of her own, to reduce genius to the level of conventionalism, to prescribe theologically or ecclesiastically what the painter or sculptor ought to be left to conceive for himself, and to require the execution of impossible or absurd subjects which are not artistic, but are Catholic. The very fact that the Catholic demand for works of art is entirely religious and strictly subject to ecclesiastical conditions, precludes the artist from every subject beyond the Bible and Church tradition. Nature and human life at large are non-Catholic. The fact, too, that Catholic paintings are chiefly used as Church decorations, is fatal to the true claims of art, since the demands of worship and those of art are not identical, sometimes they are inconsistent. All this our author shews by instance upon instance.
He has thus summed up his conclusions :
“We by no means dispute that, in the infancy of modern Art, Catholicism (or rather the Christian element contained in Catholicism) more than once gave happy inspiration to artists. But we affirm that this same Catholicism held them under the yoke and restrained their progress. The authority of the clergy and the reign of tradition pressed upon them with fatal weight. From the moment when art, stimulated by the Renaissance and emancipated by study, was again put in possession of nature and of the ancient ideal, it felt itself free and produced masterpieces that were no longer Catholic, but were human. Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michel Angelo, with their schools and rival schools, were born of this movement. As painters, sculptors and architects, these great men were pre-eminently men of creative genius, thinkers.
"I do not call them men of free thought, because I never understood that phrase. Thought is free, or else it does not exist; a thinker in bonds, a thinker whose meditations recognize as the supreme law the obligation of arriving at a foregone conclusion, does not think at all; at the very most, he argues, which is a very different thing. To find the shortest road, or even the most beautiful, from a fixed starting-point to an equally fixed goal, is, no doubt, a problem that may be proposed to writer or artist, and possesses the interest of a gymnastic exercise, that kind of attraction which certain minds seem to feel for feats of skill. Neither genius nor the feeling of art has any concern in this operation; which may be ingenious, but is mechanical. And this is all that Catholicism can command.
“Here, and in all that precedes, we are in opposition to the Ultramontane party. The theory which stops short at Perugino and admires no art but what is anterior to the Renaissance, may be logical; but it has against it the sole decisive proof in such a matter as this, the proof before which one can only bow in silence—the evidence of the Beautiful. It is absolutely false to say that art degenerated from the time of Raphael's master; though it is true that the religious sentiment, that fruitful source of art and poetry, ceases to assert itself from that moment.
“But why is this? Because the Catholic hierarchy had given to religious art an ecclesiastical and sacerdotal character, from which it had to work out its freedom.
« To sum up what we have said : In spite of what seems to us the too great prominence given by Catholicism to the arts in its worship, it would be stopping short of the truth to say that the Roman Church has never for a moment been able to sustain them at their true elevation. She has precipitated their fall by a thrice fatal influence; by materializing religion continually more and more, which is the mortal sore of Catholicism; by running after the colossal and enormous instead of the beautiful, which is the disease of Roman taste; and by sacrificing art to costly display, which is the scheme of the Jesuits,
“ The work of future masters must be, to separate the thought and feeling of the Beautiful from this false and dangerous traditionalism which has paralyzed or dried them up. Then only, when independent and spontaneous, will they develope themselves widely and live their own native life."--Pp. 218–220.
And in looking hopefully to a better future (in connection immediately with French art), he thus vindicates the healthy and natural connection of Protestantism with the love and pursuit of art. How just is his allusion to Milton, and to the Puritan love of Beauty as seeking to indemnify itself in poetry!
“Will national art, or Christian art, spring up again among us and assert its freedom? For this end it will not suffice to borrow coldly from the ancients, well or ill understood, outline, form and design; nor to recover the lost palette of Giorgione or Titian, and dash its most brilliant colours impetuously on the canvas; besides this, it will be necessary to study the works of God with love and faith, like Palissy ; to render their beauties with ingenuous freshness and grace, like Jean Goujon; and to think with as much elevation of mind and feel with as much soul as Ary Scheffer.
“Are not these great names enough to prove the radical fallacy of that prejudice, often allowed without reply by Protestants themselves, to the effect that Protestantism is essentially hostile to the fine arts? If such were the fact, that fact would condemn our church and our faith; for the artistic sense is a high gift of the Creator; it is one of the talents which we are ordered to improve; and any religion which should repudiate the Beautiful or forbid the love and study of it, would mutilate and abase man instead of regenerating all his powers. It is quite true that the Puritans, with mistaken severity, proscribed most of the forms of Beauty. They were wrong; but let us be just even towards them, and not forget that the Imagination, when banished by them from all the domains of art, save one, when strictly confined to the range of poetry, sought the Beautiful under this, which is the least material form of any, and found what the genius of France will for ever miss, an epic. Milton is the Homer of Protestantism; nor has Italian Catholicism, in spite of Tasso and Ariosto, anything comparable to the gigantesca sublimitd Miltoniana. All the grandeur of Michel Angelo is found in Milton, with more love, more faith, more purity; nor can his faults for which he has been so much reproached, militate against the bold elevation and incomparable power of his genius. The twofold poetry of Protestantism, that of the Bible and that of personal faith, is found in his works, in all its energy and grandeur, its religious depth, and its richness of colour and imagery.
“Like Milton in England, and like Luther in Germany (Luther, endowed by nature with such vigorous poetical and artistic powers!) the illustrious French Protestants whom I have named, prove by the evidence of fact that the glories of the Imagination are not forbidden us.
“But there is more to be said on this point. We think it clear that the time is past, never to return, when religious art was mere matter of pomp. Painters, sculptors, architects! would you create? Would you attain what is, after all, the supreme end of art, a high originality ? Would you be your true selves, fruitful and powerful ? Be well assured that you can only express greatly what you have thought or felt freely. Be assured that there is no moral force equal to inward force, no life and freshness of imagination comparable to that of a soul at once independent and believing. The individual spirituality, the free faith, the frank spontaneous piety of the Protestant, can alono open to you this glorious career. There alone is the sacred fire kindled. There alone breathes the breath of life. There alone is the conquest of the Future assured to you.
“It is indeed full time that a new order of art should arise in France; art free and individual, and therein national, and moreover deeply and ardently Christian. This is one of our most fervent desires ; and if these fugitive letters should have been the means of raising to the height of this hope the ambition of some artist, unknown perhaps but deeply believing and highly gifted, we should thank God with lively joy.”— Pp. 224—227.
But we must indicate more particularly the varied contents of this charming book.
The first two letters are from Naples, the most Catholic town in the world, and where the monuments of Greek, Roman and Gothic art have been tastelessly and unrelentingly destroyed or deformed. The history of St. Philomena, who sits in splendid attire on the altar of the principal church of the Jesuits in this city, is given in the author's liveliest style:
“I may be allowed here to tell, in a few words, who St. Philomena was. She was born of a philological conjecture in 1802. There was found, in the catacomb of Priscilla, in Rome, a skeleton under a broken stone, on which were distinguishable the olive-branch and the anchor, emblems common to Christian tombs, and also two arrows and a javelin, which seemed to indicate the tomb of some martyr. These insignia were accompanied by an inscription, the beginning and end of which were wanting: - lumena pax tecum fi. - No sense could be made of it; lumena is the end of an unknown name or word, fi the beginning of another word. A cunning fellow relieved the embarrassment of the Romish clergy. He wrote the undecipherable inscription in a circle, and thus joined the syllable fi to the maimed word tumena ; and thenceforth the whole thing meant, 'Peace to thee, Philomena!' This name, which signifies beloved, seemed charming; and thus the saint was constructed whole and intire out of the end of one word and the beginning of another.
“On the return of Pius VII. to Rome, a Neapolitan prelate, who was sent to congratulate the holy father, received from him the body of this unknown saint. Immediately, a priest who desired that his name should
not be mentioned (80 great was his humility), saw an apparition of the saint ;-she informed him that she had suffered martyrdom, because, having taken the vow of celibacy, she had refused to marry the emperor. These historical details seemed full of interest, but insufficient. An artist had, in turn, a vision, in which this amorous but cruel emperor was pointed out to him under the name of Diocletian. Yet there is a disposition to relieve his memory from this posthumous charge; so it is supposed that the artist may have misunderstood, and that the person concerned was Diocletian's colleague, Maximilian, who, as is well known, was less delicate than he, and was quite capable of punishing with death a refusal which mortified him.
“Thanks to the Jesuits, this Saint Philomena succeeded rapidly; already she has chapels in many churches in Paris; and in this way, in the 19th century, out of some unidentified bones and a few incoherent syllables, has been created a Name, a Personage, a whole Legend and a new Worship.”—Pp. 8–10.
Another saint, “whose history is only too real,” that of the Inquisitor Peter the Martyr, contrasts horribly with that of Philomena, “whose only fault is her never having existed.” We must pass him by, and also St. Januarius (better known to Protestants), to quote M. Coquerel on the subject of Black Virgins:
“An odd Italian fancy much cherished by the Neapolitans is the worship of Black Virgins.
“This very ancient superstition is, to confess the truth, only an exaggeration of a correct idea. The European complexion of Raphael's beautiful Virgins, is more agreeable, no doubt, but historically less probable, it being natural to suppose that Mary was rather dark, as is the case with the women of Palestine in general. Accordingly, this colour has always been given, as a stamp of authenticity, to the innumerable Madonnas ascribed to Saint Luke: even if one of these strange and often very ancient paintings is become darker through the effect of time, this fault is religiously imitated as an excellence of the original picture and a proof of its fidelity. Tradition and legend have, as usual, aided this popular prepossession. In the 14th century, the monk Nicephorus Callistus gave, in his Ecclesiastical History, a description of Mary's person, and guaranteed its correctness on the authority of Epiphanius. There we read that the Virgin's complexion was wheat-coloured ; a comparison which is found also in reference to Jesus Christ, in a forged letter to the Senate in the name of an imaginary Publius Lentulus, Procurator of Judea. Finally, it has been discovered in the Old Testament, that the mother of the Saviour was brown; and this by a very simple procos; namely, by applying to Mary the words of the Bride in Solomon's Song: 'I am black, but comely, ye daughters of Jerusalem; as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon ;' which expression suggests the very deep colour of that camel-hair cloth of which tents are made in the East, and for which, in later times, Cilicia gained a proverbial celebrity. Whether the Italian people are acquainted or not with these good reasons, professedly historical, they hold fair Virgins in little estimation, and doubt their being true likenesses. But at Naples they do not stop there: the blacker a Madonna is, the more she is venerated : 60 you often see images as black as negresses, on those frail erections of