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the melancholy fate of the gifted Torrigiano tortured and dying in the cells of the Inquisition, because, in just indignation, he had shivered a beautiful statue of the Virgin and Child upon receiving from the Duke of Arcos, who had commissioned it, the paltry sum of thirty ducats in maravedis.
We might instance Alonso Cano, the Michael Angelo of Spain, narrowly escaping a similar fate for a similar offence. We might point to the whole history of Spanish Art, where the Roman Catholic Church, though a munificent patron, was also a rigid and intolerant censor; laying down the most minute rules for the guidance of the painter, prescribing the colour and disposition of draperies, the arrangement of hair, the position of the bands and feet, and innumerable other minute particulars, any departure from which was punished as a crime by the Inquisition, who had a censor for the purpose of enforcing these regulations, — an office which was once held by the learned Pachecho, the father-in-law of the great Velasquez. Passing from Spain to Italy, we might refer to the spoliation of the bronzes of the Pantheon by Pope Urban VIII. ; to the churches of Naples adorned from the spoils of Greek and Roman Art; and to eight years of the glorious life of Michael Angelo, wasted in quarrying marble and excavating a road by the command of Pope Leo X. But we prefer coming to more modern days, and showing that the infallible Church still continues to dictate to Art, and to prescribe rules for genius just as stringent and particular as in the days of the quaint and learned Pachecho. În 1854, Cardinal Sterckx, Archbishop of Malines, published a volume bearing the title, “A short dissertation upon the manner of representing by painting the mystery of the Immaculate Conception of the very holy Virgin Mary." In 1856, the Bishop of Bruges published, at Brussels, a work entitled, “ Iconography of the Immaculate Conception of the very holy Virgin Mary, or concerning the best manner of representing that mystery.” And lastly, a Jesuit, Father Cahier, published, in the journal called La Voix de la Vérité a third work upon the same subject. Of these three productions, that of the bishop is the most elaborate. It prescribes the attitude and treatment of every part of the subject,—the feet, the hands, the face, the eyes, the hair, the number, form, and colour of the garments. But this is not all. In September, 1856, the “ Association for the Promotion of Christian Art," formed under the auspices and sanction of Pius IX., held its first meeting at Cologne. His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne and two bishops directed the deliberations. The inaugural discourse was pronounced by Mgr. Baudri. He enlarged upon the necessity of re-uniting
the bonds between the Fine Arts and Religion, of which they ought to be the expression, and of resisting the deleterious influences of classical Paganism, and concluded in the following significant terms :
“ The unity necessary in the Arts is, that the form may be worthy of the sacred object which it ought to express. Always confining, itself within the impassable limits of the direction of the Church, and of sound tradition. Liberty then, for all which, within these limits, constitutes the individuality of the artist, and honour to the tendencies which the Church inspires and directs.”
A liberty this, somewhat like that of the prisoner of Chillon who was perfectly free to march in all directions round the pillar to which he was fastened, as far as the length of his chain would permit. But what shall we say of a Church that arrogates to herself the exclusive patronage of Art, and yet presumes to enslave genius, to enchain imagination, and shut up inspiration within the narrow limits of ecclesiastical tradition ? No wonder that in the Italy of to-day, we find servile copyists instead of great masters ; that the two best sculptors in Rome are foreigners and Protestants; and that the general decadence of Art in the Eternal City is brilliantly contrasted by its wonderful progress in Great Britain ; where in tableaux de genre, portrait, and landscape, the achievements of that heretical school, are equal to any that have graced the palmiest days of Roman Catholic Art. But, it may be said, it has been admitted for ages that the Church of Rome has been a zealous and enlightened patron of the Fine Arts, and that Protestantisın cannot support and develope them in an equal degree. To this, we shall content ourselves with replying in the words of St. Cyprian, “ Consuetudo sine veritate vetustas est erroris ; " and we shall now proceed to examine the learned and elegant volume of M. Coquerel, which will clearly show how much error really exists in the prevalent and fashionable opinion with regard to the exclusively favourable influence of the Roman Catholic Church upon the progress and development of the Fine Arts, and also that Protestantism may yet give them a nobler impulse, and a higher development than they have ever yet received.
M. Coquerel considers Italian Art as exhibited at Naples, Rome, and Paris; takes a general view of Italian architecture, and concludes by a very interesting appendix on the iconography of the Immaculate Conception. On two occasions he spent a considerable time in Italy, and is familiar with her language, history, and art. His volume opens at Naples, that " fedelissima città” where Popery is more triumphant than in
Rome herself; where the royal family and the ministers of state figure in the ceremonies of religion, and where even the officers and Protestant soldiers of the Swiss guard are compelled to carry tapers in processions, and to adore the Host on their knees. Here, therefore, if anywhere, in this city so especially Catholic, the Fine Arts ought to have flourished with unrivalled splendour; and yet, what is really the case? The Roman Catholics of Naples have despoiled the remains of Greek and Roman Art to embellish their churches, and one may behold in a Christian temple such Pagan ornaments as the Rape of Proserpine, and a Bacchanal; and, in the Crypt of St. Januarius, the sacred and sombre chapel where repose the ashes of the patron saint of Naples, may still be seen, among the Pagan bas-reliefs which decorate the walls, the Triumph of Venus, drawn by her votaries harnessed to her car. Thus the inspiration of Romanism has led the Neapolitans to pillage the beautiful but obscene remains of ancient Art, and to desecrate with their spoils the interior of Christian temples. It has also led them to destroy the beautiful Gothic churches built by the Normans, who conquered Naples in the twelfth century, and by the Angevin dynasty in the thirteenth, by transforming them into modern Italian.
“ In truth,” says Mr. Coquerel, “ it is luxury, the love of display, the passion for brilliant colours and colossal proportions, which have destroyed Catholic Art.
The taste which reigns here is Jesuitical. Look at their principal church, the Giesu Nuovo. It is not very large, but the pilasters which sustain the roof are enormous; the paintings and statues are more gigantic and more extravagant than anywhere else, and a Saint Philomena in wood and wax, magnificently dressed, and adorned with splendid jewels, is placed upon the altar in a glass tomb. All this appears extremely beautiful and in the most delicate taste to the greater number of the Neapolitans.”
The origin of this saint, as related by M. Coquerel, is very curious. She was born of a philological conjecture, in 1802. A skeleton was found in one of the Roman catacombs under a broken stone, on which were distinguishable the olive branch and the anchor, ordinary emblems on Christian tombs, and, besides, two arrows and a javelin, which appeared to indicate the burial place of some martyr. These symbols were accompanied by an inscription, the beginning and end of which were wanting, “.. : . lumena pax tecum fi... It was impossible to make it out; lumena was either the end of some word, or an unknown word, fi the commencement of another word. At last, a clever fellow extricated the Romish clergy from their difficulty. He wrote the inscrutable inscription in a circle, and
then joined the syllable fi to the truncated word lumena. The whole, thus arranged, signified, “ Peace to thee, Philomena !"a charming name for a saint, meaning " beloved.”. In this way the saint was compounded of several pieces ; of the end of one word and the beginning of another. Pius VII. presented the skeleton of this new saint to a Neapolitan prelate who was sent to compliment him. Soon afterwards a priest was favoured with a vision, in which the saint appeared to him, and informed him that she had suffered martyrdom because, having made a vow of celibacy, she refused to marry the emperor; and these interesting historical details were further supplemented by an artist, who also had a vision, in which it was revealed to him that the name of the emperor was Diocletian. Thanks to the Jesuits, Saint Philomena has had a rapid success; she has churches in Naples and several in Paris; and thus, in this enlightened nineteenth century, with some unknown bones, and some fragmentary syllables, they have created a name, a saint, a complete legend, and a new worship. In his second letter, M. Coquerel most truly points out that, in painting as well as in architecture, Naples has most signally failed. The greatest masters that have ever wrought within her walls have been foreigners, and her school presents but a deplorable and disgraceful history, rich in acts of perfidy and revenge, poor in genius, but fertile in presumptuous and successful mediocrity. The national religion has covered two or three hundred churches with pictures without creating a single chef-d'oeuvre. The little that Naples possesses she owes to strangers. M. Coquerel thus eloquently sums up his views of Neapolitan Art:
" That with which I reproach Neapolitan Catholicism, is to have made itself on all occasions subservient to the grossest credulity, in making itself the eager accomplice of that false, puerile, and corrupted taste. These imaginations so easily impressed, that impatient and unreflecting levity, that vulgar passion for display, have been adopted and favoured by the clergy with all their might. In this way, Art has died under the false glare of luxury,-a just and natural punishment; but a punishment hard to bear for a Church which calls herself the mother and the fountain of the Fine Arts, and which has succeeded in making the world believe that she has merited these noble titles.”
Several eloquent letters are devoted to Rome; the most important of which treat of “Modern Art,” the “Exigencies of Art and of Worship,” “Christian Antiquity at Rome,” and “Protestantism at Rome.” It must not for a moment be imagined that M. Coquerel is animated by any feeling of fanatical hatred towards the Church of Rome; the whole spirit
and treatment of his work contradicts such a supposition. It is throughout calm and moderate in tone, and remarkable for fairness and candour.
“Huguenot as I am,” he says," at heart and from conviction, I would be ashamed of myself, and would bring disgrace upon my Church if I hesitated for a single instant to recognise the good that there is in the Church of Rome; it is with this feeling that I have traversed the city of the Cæsars and of the Popes, filled with the monuments of her double reign over the world.”
The distant view of the dome of St. Peter's aspiring heavenward, like a symbol of prayer, fascinated the imagination of M. Coquerel; but, on entering Rome the illusion vanished :
“ The false taste which harassed me at Naples, and which I had simply hoped to leave there behind me, reigns here in full sovereignty, with less frivolity, but in a still more painful fashion, because the artist has often the appearance of having sought what he has most signally failed to find. Rome is filled with statues which date from Bernini and his school. The hair and draperies are twisted and distorted in every possible way, as if the person represented had been on the open sea during a hurricane, and had sustained the shock of the raging winds. As to the attitudes, it seems as if the sculptor had chosen for his models actors in a melodrama, or bad singers supplying by extravagant gesticulation their musical incompetence; and this is all the more painful as the proportions of these abominable statues are colossal. What a series of awkward, fat, stuck-up angels decorate the Bridge of St. Angelo! What would the Emperor Adrian, the builder of that bridge, think of them, though he witnessed but the decline of the Arts? In the church of St. John Lateran, mother and chief of all the churches of the city and of the world, a long range of colossal statues represents the apostles, and these are scarcely in better taste than those upon the bridge. At St. Peter's it is still worse; there are a number of statues of this kind, which are sixteen feet in height. Do we, therefore, assert that there are no good modern statues in Rome? They exist, it is true, but one perhaps in 500, and among the 500 we may reckon 400 at least which are not merely indifferent, but absolutely detestable."
As a specimen of the way in which the Popes have sometimes patronized art, our author alludes to Urban VIII., who despoiled the Pantheon of 456,250 pounds weight of metal, and had afterwards the effrontery to vaunt this piece of Vandalism in an inscription engraved upon marble and placed under the portico of the plundered temple, thus giving occasion to the celebrated satire of Pasquin, “Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecêre Barberini.” In the second letter from Rome there is a glowing and brilliant eulogy upon Raphael's masterpiece—" The Transfiguration":