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THE CONVENT OF SAINT MARK
EXTRACT FROM MANUSCRIPT JOURNAL.
TO-DAY I went again to the Dominican Con
vent and church of San Marco. In the church is the celebrated crucifix painted by Giotto; and in the Chapter Hall, the cloisters of the Convent, and the corridors upstairs adjoining the dormitories, are many exquisite and unique specimens in fresco of the paintings of the Fra Beato Angelico da Fiesoli, a brother of the order, born in 1387, died in 1455. Nothing can equal the peculiar calm sublimity of the works of this heavenly minded artist, perhaps the most interesting of all the great Fathers of painting. I would particularly instance the large fresco of the Crucifixion; that of the Annunciation of the Virgin ; that of the Virgin and Child attended by Saints; that of the Coronation of the Virgin; and that of Christ visiting the spirits in prison. In the convent I paid a visit to Fra Serafino, one of the brethren. He received me with great civi
lity, and showed me his own paintings; and, in truth, he is no mean artist. He also showed me, adjoining his own, the cell that was occupied by the ill-fated Savonarola. In his own cell he had several singing birds in cages, and others hopping about the room quite tame. On one of the walls, in a bad light, and in a state which shows it has recently suffered by external violence, is a fresco of the Virgin and Child by the grand old painter Fra Bartolommeo, who also was a brother of the order about the year 1480. The design of this fresco is very grand. The child is of almost gigantic proportions, such as we can conceive that a Heathen artist would have adopted in order to express his idea of an infant Hercules or Jupiter. The Christian artist seems to have aimed at the embodying of a prophecy; at the representation of a child that should grow to all that was noble and princely: born to us in order to take the government upon his shoulder.
Fra Serafino is in the prime of life ; intelligent, and apparently happy in his profession of holiness, and in his own quiet pursuits. I met upon the stairs another of the Brethren, who was very old and asthmatic; and as he stopped for breath upon the landing place, I saw him turn to the wall, unobserved as he thought, and kiss a small picture of the Virgin with the sincerest and most touching air of devotion: then, as I passed him, he saluted me in the most paternal and affectionate manner. A third I saw for some distance coming along the corridor, keeping close to the wall, with a slow uncertain step, and a fixed sidelong look. As he approached, he took no notice whatever of me; but I could see that his eye was fixed intently upon some object near me, which I could not make out; but in a few moments, with a key which he held under his gown, I saw him make a dart at the key-hole of the door of his cell, close by me, which he entered, and locked himself in. “ Ha mezza mente, Signore !" said
my attendant to mem" povero Padre Leone !"
...... Mary Mother, Shield and sain the Idiot Brother !"
Florence, January, 1844.
ON THE DEVOTIONAL PAINTINGS OF THE EARLY
GREAT Patriarchs of the pencilt I have learned
the power of angelic art
Florence, December, 1843.
ON THE PORTRAIT OF LEOPOLD DE' MEDICI WHEN
AN INFANT, AND ON THE BUST OF THE
SAME WHEN CARDINAL.
OOK on this image, and on this ; behold
The pencilled work, wherein the child doth lie, With innocence depicted in his eye, Cradled in purple and embroidered gold : Then in the bust's uncompromising mould, Mark the expression of the man, with lust And violence deformed-revenge-distrustWorse than the historic page would dare unfold! Whilst these thy later traits amazed we scan, Proud Medici ! we reck not on the shrine Of Art what gems were laid by gift of thine. This change, for which degeneracy is no name, Astounds ; nor may the boldest tongue proclaim Aloud, “ The Child is Father of the Man.”
Florence, January, 1844.