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many of these paintings, which are entirely exposed to the air, and are only defended from the rain and snow by the projecting roofs and the narrowness of the streets, are of great antiquity. They are frequently of a fresh appearance, and are interesting, if it be only to preserve old manners and customs; to show us what was formerly supposed in that region to constitute all the glory of Solomon, and the magnificence of the Queen of Sheba ; how Joshua armed himself and all his host, and how the prodigal sons were used to feast. Before the Reformation, England, if we except perhaps Spain, was the most dutiful of the countries of Europe to the Holy See; the Church had larger possessions, both real and personal, than in any other land; a constant communication was kept up with Rome; and many Italian ecclesiastics were able, fortunately for themselves, to find their way here. There was much fertile land, the people were comparatively well off, and the country bore the proud title of merry, to distinguish it from other and less happy, because more serious, nations. The people of England, we fear, have at last forfeited that appellation ; for now they sadden at amusement, and sicken and turn pale at a jest; so entirely have they forfeited it, that an ingenious critic cannot believe they ever possessed it; and has set himself accordingly to prove, that, in the old English, merrie does not mean merry, but sorrowful, or heart-broken, or some such thing!
It is not pretended, however, that it ever signified poor. There was always a certain amount of wealth in the country; and of that the Church had an ample share. We see in almost every county, either entire or in ruins, magnificent abbeys; and history informs us that their furniture was in all respects complete and equal throughout to the noble edifices. There were jewels and plate, sculpture and marbles ; nor can we suppose (it is not, however, a case of supposition, for direct testimony of the fact might be produced, if it were needed) that pictures were wanting. It was easy to carry off jewels, to melt plate, to break statues and shrines, to tear the canvass of pictures; and it was equally easy to cause a fresco to vanish : a coat or two of white wash, of ochre, or smalt, or perhaps a new surface of plaster, buried in a few minutes the labour of months. The rude hand of a bricklayer's labourer, or apprentice, persons whom every village supplies every day in too great abundance, as philosophers say, for their own comforts, suppressed the master-piece of a genius, that nature scarcely furnishes to the world once in
Well-turned arches, fine marbles, and sculptures, have been found under the whitewash and plaster in some of our cathe
VOL. XLVIII. NO. 95.
drals; and, in a few instances, they have been judiciously restored. It has been said that manifest traces of paintings on the walls have been sometimes observed, especially in the side chapels; whether by washing off the lime, or scraping it away, such paintings might be restored to light, is a question for experts. To persons who have witnessed the delicate operations of the chisel, and of other tools, in the band of a sculptor, and who have watched the dexterity with which frescos themselves are frequently cut from their native walls, nothing seems impossible. These remains, however, are chiefly valuable because they encourage us to believe, that, since what has been may be again, if there were sufficient encouragement, our artists might successfully restore fresco painting in Great Britain. Men who view the Reformation only as lovers of art, and abstract all other considerations, are often disposed, on account of the indiscriminate destruction of all the precious monuments of art, as catholic or universal dilettanti, and not as Protestants, to regret it; however, if the walls of our cathedrals are once more covered with frescos, there will be less cause to moderate our Protestant joy, and to lament that the reform of religion was carried into effect so rudely.
It should seem that the inhabitants of London are more gregarious than other people, for they have assembled together in a larger body than in any other city. Yet they derive fewer advantages from living together than could well be imagined, or, without actual experience and observation, be believed. In truth, it does not deserve to be called a city; hardly a mass of congregated villages. Public institutions are almost entirely wanting; and some institutions so common in other countries, that there is more dishonour in wanting, than credit in possessing them. Where nearly every public institution for the mere necessary convenience of the people is absent, we cannot wonder that there is no provision for improving the mind, still less that no opportunities are supplied for forming the taste.
« Pascere gli occhi' is a forcible and just expression ; but we have no such common of pasture in England; all our commons of
every kind have been enclosed and appropriated long ago.
That strong but vain desire, therefore, can rarely be gratified here. Even when the materials exist, where the food abounds, it is withheld. Even the lover of architecture is denied this gratification ; for our public buildings, and particularly our cathedrals, which are the best of them, are always shut up. We say to feast the eyes—thus admitting that the pleasure is great, but implying also, that it is rare.
· Carolus de Rubeis, Civis Romanus,
Pietatis et amicitiæ memor,
Privatis ab umbris,
A.D. 1677.' This inscription in a church in Italy breathes a fine liberal spirit. Would that it were a little more diffused among our collectors ! But unlike the generous Carlo de' Rossi, they love darkness better than light; the umbre private' are preferred to the lux publica.' A few instances, however, of liberality, which have lately occurred, encourage the hope of better days, and that the worst is past. When the spirit of generosity is once awakened, it will probably be shown by wealthy individuals in painting at their expense a portion of the walls or roof of some of our public buildings. Mediocrity, in poetry, is intolerable to gods and to booksellers, and to all intermediate beings; but, in painting, so that a certain good taste presides, it is less displeasing. In these days of travelling, it is easy to visit Italy, and to obtain a notion of the epithet painted; it would, notwithstanding, be agreeable for all classes to have near at hand the means of refreshing it occasionally. For the many (and strange to say, in this age we have actually begun to consider the many) it would be no inconsiderable advantage to be supplied with the means of gratifying a harmless taste and a natural curiosity.
Painting, were the use of it universal, would be a powerful means of instruction to children and the lower orders; and were all the fine surfaces, which are now plain, and absolutely wasted, enriched with the labours of the art, if they once began to appear, they would accumulate rapidly; and were the ornamented edifices open to all, as freely as they ought to be, a wide field of new and agreeable study would offer itself. A person, who thoroughly understood the well-chosen subjects, and was qualified to explain them to a stranger, could not be devoid of knowledge, nor could his mind want food for constant contemplation. The sense of beauty has hitherto been little cultivated in Great Britain ; but it certainly exists, and shows itself principally in laying out gardens and pleasure-grounds with unrivalled skill. That we may fully appreciate • The History of Painting in
Italy, it is necessary to consider some of the other works of Lanzi, the principal of which is his learned Essay on the Etrus
can and other ancient languages of Italy. It is entitled, “Sag'gio di Lingua Etrusca, e di altre antiche d'Italia, per servire alla • storia de' popoli, delle lingue, e delle belle arti;' it occupies three volumes. He brings together all the Etruscan inscriptions which have been found on gems and medals, and whatever characters were met with on the pateræ, urns, vases, and marbles, that are scattered in different and distant collections. The placing them in one point of view was alone a great step towards explaining them. But he afterwards proceeds, with great learning and ingenuity, and not less modesty and caution, to expound and interpret the language, and to illustrate the obscure history of an ancient people, who deserve the notice of the antiquary, because, within the historical ages, they approached nearer to the Greeks in the cultivation of the fine arts than any other nation, and in more remote times, perhaps even preceded them. His remarks on the • Tuscanica,' as the Roman writers term the Etruscan works of art, are not without interest; but the essay is for the most part grammatical, critical, and etymological, and therefore little adapted to the taste of readers in general, although it is interspersed with notes of a less severe character. The Treatise, entitled Notizie preliminari circa la Scoltura degli antiche, e i varii suoi
stili,' is written in a more easy and popular manner; and might with advantage be extracted from the abstruse work, in which it is embedded. He divides ancient sculpture into four styles,—the Egyptian, the Etruscan, the Greek, and the Roman; discoursing, however, more fully of the Etruscan style, as being more intimately connected with the subject of his work. If his remarks on that style savour somewhat of his peculiar prepossessions and theories, he makes ample amends by his admirable observations on that sculpture, in which even the most fastidious can find nothing to blame but its beauty, the Grecian. It is obvious, without referring to his other productions, that an author, who is at once so learned and highly accomplished, so enthusiastic and industrious, as this essay proves him to be, is well qualified to do justice to any subject, which has the good fortune to be the object of his choice.
The History of Painting is by no means large in size; the volumes are small; and the last of the six consists entirely of useful indexes. When we have perused the work, and consider the number of painters, the great quantity of historical matter, the numerous anecdotes, the solid and sensible criticism, and the vast mass of valuable information, and especially the astonishing variety of original and striking ideas, that are expressed in a brief terse style, in five volumes, we are surprised at the comprehensive shortness of this highly estimable work. We
are delighted to find much of the ancient simplicity in the elegant and classical style of these golden pages, from which, more than from any other book, and perhaps as much as it can be derived from books, we are able to attain an idea of the wonderful genius of the Italians for the fine arts. It is well adapted to form the taste correctly; and is a faithful guide to travellers, many of whom, having examined the works upon which Lanzi delivers his opinion with his review in their hands, have bestowed upon him this expressive, strong, and hearty panegyric, that he is a fine fellow.'
The Abate shuns the common error of excessive citation, which, he justly says, is tiresome, and condemns the Germans for their addiction to this vice. The division of painters into schools, as unequal in the space they occupy in history, as the respective masters are in merit, is very imperfect, like all arbitrary divisions; if it be adopted, however, not as an article of faith, but as a matter of convenience, it is not without its use. The division is sometimes perhaps painful, and the distinctions are often ill ascertained; but it is necessary to bear with the defects of artificial systems, because they are convenient for the purposes of memory and of reference. The student will derive these benefits from the system, and if, in discourse or writing, he should chance to make a mistake, if such a name can be applied to differing from others in a case that is not well settled, although he may afford a triumph to pedants, who claim an indispensable right to rule uncontrolled over matters of no concernment, let him console himself by the reflection, that the mistake is perfectly unimportant. In composing such a history, it is difficult to make a judicious selection; to leave out well is no small art.
It has been urged, that Lanzi claims too many painters as belonging to the Florentine school; if this censure be well founded, the offence was at least a natural one, and we can pardon his patriotism: others, as Baldinucci, have been still more patriotic. He says, and perhaps not untruly, that the fine arts were revived by Cimabue and his pupil Giotto, and were spread by their means through Italy and the world. The only parts of the Lives of the Painters which do not interest the general reader, are precisely those which were the most interesting to the different authors; their squabbles with one another. The Abate occasionally exhibits a little sparring, that can only attract the attention of Florentines. His Index rerum, di alcune cose no• tabili,' is too short; it would be more useful were it more full. The work of Lanzi, of course, will seem greatest and most wonderful, to those who do not know how books are made, or that