Imágenes de página

taste and liberality of the metropolis does not make him amends for the neglect which he has hitherto experienced, as soon as his admirable models of the Elgin marbles are known.

We cannot help regretting, that an acute and ingenious person like Mr Sass, —one, too, so enthusiastic in his love of the arts,-has been so very sparing of his remarks upon their finest productions. His account of Rome hardly contains an observation upon the pictures and marbles that fill the Eternal city, It seems as if, by prefixing a chapter of general dissertation upon art, he thought that he had discharged his duty toward the subject in the mass, and was not called upon to say any thing respecting it in detail ; whereas the reader desiderates from such a traveller, the result of his observations on the spot, where his immediate impressions must be of far more value than his fancies or reflexions upon painting and painters in the closet. The following passage, in which he dismisses the Stanzas Portico, and Capella Sistina, will justify our complaint of meagerness':- But it deserves to be read for the melancholy facts which it relates.

Adjoining to St Peter's is the Vatican. In the exterior of this building there is nothing remarkable :--but who can describe the won, ders it contains! The Sistine chapel, adorned by the Sibyls, the Prophets, and the Last Judgment, of Michael Angelo, I entered for the first time early one morning and night surprised me before I had half examined its treasures. The chambers of Raffaelle next occupied my attention ; and days, weeks, and years, might be advantageously employed in their contemplation and study. But what a lamentable account am I to give of their present state! The most culpable negligence, the blindest indifference, seem to pervade the Papal government. While an outcry has been raised at the statues being removed to France, where they were better seen, and while, with much affected feeling, they have been calling for their restitution, they are permitting such injuries to those fine works, which could not be removed, as nothing will repair. The paintings of Raffaelle from the Bible in the Corridor, are almost destroyed by the damp; those in the chambers, from the same cause, are bulged, and project from the walls ; (they who know what fresco-painting is, will tremble at this relation); and a machine of wood to exhibit some mummery has been raised and fixed to the wall in the Sistine chapel, hiding a portion of the Last Judgment, which contains one of the fineșt groupes in existence. The care of such works is not merely a national conçern ; but the whole world and posterity are interested in the preser-. vation of these divine performances,' p. 119, 120.

It is natural, in mentioning these truly divine works, to reflect upon the pains which Mr Sass takes in his preliminary remarks, to depreciate the Venetian School, especially as compared with the Roman. He accuses it of being deficient in • expresşion vol. XXX. NO. 60,

M m

and proper conception of character,' as well as in correctness of drawing; he contrasts it, in these respects, with the prince of painters, ' in all whose works he finds the rays of intellect, ! and sentiment, and expression.'-And, after a severe criticism on Paul Veronese, and others of the same school, as devoid of sentiment, character, and correctness of costume, and on their subjects as being “ generally monkish legends, which • we neither know nor care to know,' he concludes, that, excelling in composition, colour, perspective and execution' alone, they are little better than merely pieces of furniture.' He goes still further in his demand of high qualities in a picture.- Who is the better, he asks, for viewing those efforts of . the decorative style, which excite no other sensation than what

a nosegay might produce, or any other gaudy assemblage of • colours! What instructive lesson is conveyed by countenances ' void of expression, drunken bacchanals, sleeping nymphs, or • flying cupids ?'- In short, he insists on having a story told, and a moral sentiment enforced in each piece; and he condemns the setting before the student mere beautiful forms, fine colours, and collections of gay figures in groupes, as in the famous Marriage of Cana, unless something else is added to direct their gaze, and elevate their reflexions, because he thinks it will only : allure them to the gaieties of the world, by which their taste • becomes vitiated.'--Now, agreeing as we do as to the general superiority of the Roman school, and, above all, of its immortal chief, we must say that Mr Sass's admiration appears in some points to have affected his judgment. When he condemns the uninstructive subjects of the Venetian masters, does he mean to say that all those chosen by Raphael enforce a lesson of morality, or any thing else? The Dispute of the Sacrament, for instance, teaches only the same kind of lesson with the Miracle of Cana, except indeed that the Veronese has chosen a scripture miracle, and the Roman a monkish one. Besides, we deny wholly that a subject is deficient, unless it preaches to the beholder. The expression of feeling and action, and the representation generally of nature, is quite sufficient; it is the object of the art. The general chaste character of Raphael's composition, or rather invention, we admit; but that it is always so severe as our author imagines, we wonder how any one who has stood for days and weeks' in the Vatican itself, could suppose.----Are there not in the Corridor attempts to represent what the pencil cannot cope with, or does not their failure produce an effect at once clumsy and ludicrous ? For example, Pharaoh's Dream, where Joseph stands pointing to a sun and moon, actually painted, and interprets what the king

had only told him, and what never existed as an object of actual perception. So the creation of animals, where we see a horse's head rising out of the ground, half a cow, &c. by way of showing the act of creation, which, after all, can scarcely be conceived to have been performed in this gradual and progressive way-which gives us much more the idea of natural growth or development, than of the instant fiat of Omnipotence.

From Rome Mr Sass went to Naples, and seems to think himself lucky in escaping near Velletri from a terrible robber called Barbone, who makes that neighbourhood his residence. We suspect this robber is very generally to be met with in Italy as well as at Velletri; for we take him to be none other than the common Italian name for raggamuffin, which our traveller hearing used in one instance mistook for the proper name of an individual. His alarms, however, were not without foundation; for,

on his way to Naples, he saw lying on the road a man only just · murdered by robbers who had taken post behind a mound on

the side of the road, and fired from that ambush on the unhappy traveller. On his return, too, he was himself in some jeopardy, though not quite so much probably as he apprehended. The following narrative is sufficiently lively and picturesque.

• Sleep had again nearly overpowered me, when suddenly I heard violent exclamations from the guards, with a confusion of other voices ; fire-arms were discharged, and the carriage stopped. Immediately looking out, I saw several strange men standing about, while the soldiers, who had dismounted, with their pistols in their hands, had seized and were searching some of them. Suspecting the cause of this uproar, I took a pistol and instantly leaped out; thinking it better to stand there on my defence, than to remain and be murdered in the carriage. As I approached the scene of contest, I learned that these men, with some others who had escaped into the marshes, and on whom the guards had fired, were discovered lying in ambush by the side of a large stone hovel. A woman, who accompanied them, was at this moment dragged from a ditch, where it was supposed she had hidden some of their weapons. While the guards were thus employed, an elderly gentleman called from one of the carriages, begging of me to return, as he apprehended danger, these being a part of the brigands. Wishing to be doubly armed, I went back for another pistol, when I informed my fellow travellers of what was going forward.

* By the time I regained the crowd, the guards ,were knocking loudly at the door of the hovel. No one answering, we set our shoulders to it, and burst it open. Our surprise may be conceived, when, on entering, we found a large fire, and men sleeping around it. Those nearest the fire instantly started up, making some show of resistance ; but perceiving we were well armed, they hesitated, and sulkj. ly answered our interrogatories as to the persons found on the outside, and of whom they disclaimed all knowledge.

• The hovel, into which we had thus forcibly entered, appeared to be about twenty yards long and eight broad. The light emanating from one spot, the more distant parts were involved in a deep gloom. The scowling features of these men, with their style of dress, gave them a ferocity to which their beards and mustachios did not a little contribute; the light from the blazing hearth striking on the lower parts of their countenances, their lengthened shadows being lost in the distance, added to their demon-like appearance; while the lumber scattered about, and the recesses seen around, completed the picture of a den of thieves.

• Leaning against a projection, and ruminating on this scene, a heavy sigh was breathed into my ear. On turning round, I discovered a man close to me, apparently asleep. The gentleman who had so kindly cautioned me before, now joined me, and we indulged our euriosity in exploring this cavern. În going round, we counted nine men lying in different parts, who could hardly be distinguished in the gloom. Notwithstanding all the noise caused by the violence of our entrance and loud conversation, and although we pulled and pressed them to discover whether they were really human beings or lumps of wood, not one of these stirred, but lay with every appearance of a desire for concealment.' p. 226-229.

The French cleared Italy of robbers entirely, almost of assassins : The restored Government of Naples treats with the former, and allows the latter to pursue their trade of blood. The king allows two hundred pounds a year to the chief of one band of robbers, for keeping one road in Calabria clear; and Mr Sass gives us an extract from a Naples gazette, published while he was there, which shows that this unworthy system of connivance, fit only for the middle ages, or for the feeblest governments of the East, is openly and shamelessly avowed. "We are happy to find,' (says the legitimate organ of the restored dynasty), " that the brigand chiefs are coming to the terms of government, 6 and beginning to clear the roads of their companions.'

The admiration of Buonaparte which prevails in many parts of Europe, and which is quite natural and reasonable in Italy, seems to have smitten Mr Sass much too strongly; it is founded indeed on such a contrast as the above mentioned anecdotes furnish to his reign; but it is excessive, especially for an Englishman. Thus, speaking of the French picture of Austerlitz, he exclaims, that, to be sure, in the hero of that event, there is a subject to inspire any one;' and he inveighs against Blucher as a semi-barbarian. This love of the Ex-emperor extends to his family; for we find Murat designated as “a lover of science and of the fine arts.' Surely a man with a corporal's stock of knowledge, can hardly have merited this proud description; Buonaparte knew him better, when he called him a " magnifique Lazzarone.' Similar fault have we to find, both in point of principle and of fact, with the wild unfounded assertion so confidently delivered in the following passage. If ( we examine the history of the most celebrated nations and

states, we shall uniformly find, that, from the moment they ' have become subject to any particular family, their decline ' has commenced. I suppose it is because they have then an unnatural existence.' (p. 252.)

In closing this account of Mr Sass's volume, we must be permitted to remark, that after describing, in the introduction, the extraordinary variety of accomplishments which constitute the painter, we are disappointed to find him betraying so frequently a deficiency in very ordinary ones. He hardly gives a single Italian, or even French expression right. We find him beset at the customs by douanieres; travelling in the Compagna di Roma; calling the inhabitants of a place tout is voleurs; ' praising Annibal Carrachi ; passing through Pessary, Boccano, and various other non-existing places. With ancient names he is quite as unlucky.-Not to mention Volcinium and the Volcians, we are introduced to a great man of antiquity by the name of Munatius Plancus ; and the next time he appears, in case we should think the former spelling a slip of the printer, the right surname being given in the text, an unhappy erratum bids us be sure to read Plaucus for Plancus in p. 237. Indeed, Mr Sass is not to be trusted with writing his own Errata ; for another of those luckless corrections desires us to change, in p. 335,

c'est finis' into “ c'est finit.' With this quotation, as applicable to conclusions, spell it which way you will, we take leave of Mr Sass—whose next tour we may reasonably expect more from. He seems to be an amiable man, with that fondness for his profession, which alone can ever lead to great exertions or signal success.

NOTE. *** In our Review of Mr BROUGHAM's Speech on the Education

Bill, we have omitted several things of much interest and importance, with a view to resume the subject in our next Number,—when we propose to give an account of the same Gentleman's admirable Letter to Sir S. ROMILLY, on the Abuse of Charitable Funds.

« AnteriorContinuar »