Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

The progress towards the more grave reality of Christ's figure was slow but sure. . Still reverence stayed the artist's • hand.' And so the figure was fully draped. The exception of a rude caricature in the palace of the Cæsars at Rome is easily accounted for by the fact that 'the scene of a cruci' fixion was common at Rome at that time, and furnished " the caricaturist with all he needed to throw scorn on those who were Christians of Cæsar's household.'

Among the earliest representations of the crucifixion with which Mr. Gambier Parry is acquainted is one of the date 586. 'It is on the first page of a manuscript of the Gospels ' in the Laurentian Library at Florence. Here the figure • of Christ is entirely draped, hanging upon a cross soine

what higher than those on each side, where hang the two • thieves. The next in date is A.D. 642, among the treasures of the cathedral at Monza, where is a small cross, sent by Gregory the Great to the Queen Theodolinda on the birth of her son Adulowald. The figure of Christ is here designed

as standing on a suppedaneum, and nailed to an inlaid piece * of the true cross, His body being draped from the neck to ‘ the feet, the arms and feet being left bare.' These are both Greek.

Reverence was shown in the famous crucifix at Lucca by the figure of Christ as the Lord of Life, standing before the

cross crowned. The date of this is probably not later than the sixth century. It was brought to Lucca in A.D. 782. A similar instance is found in painting in a manuscript of the Gospels belonging to the nunnery of Niedermünster, at Regensburg, which represents Christ standing, draped, before the cross, with a nimbus. The date of this is early in the eleventh century.

An early painting of the crucifixion, on a wall in the Cathedral of Narbonne, is mentioned by St. Gregory of Tours, about A.D. 600. In this the body of the Saviour was nude, which so distressed the bishop that he ordered a curtain to be hung before it. On the other hand, a wall-painting in the Julian catacomb at Rome represented the Saviour, clothed from the neck to the feet in a long white robe, standing before the cross on a suppedaneum.

The general conclusion drawn from these instances is that, with very few exceptions, down to A.D. 1000 the figure of Christ was represented alive, and that types of suffering and death date from the eleventh century. In that age the ideal of suffering had mastered the idea of art. Henceforth for a

6

a

season Christ is no longer exhibited as the spotless Lamb, or as the Lord of Life, but as suffering and dead.

By gradual stages the artists who treated this subject advanced from dignified reverence’ to a morbid attempt to represent the load of suffering which the Saviour bore for man's redemption :

Whether from the roughness of the times or the false ideal of terror as the only element of power to affect the rudeness of the public mind, the true idea of the crucifixion was missed or ignored. A finer sense could alone conceive and portray the beauty of self-devotion, in a sacrifice self-imposed, a death accepted as the only mode of sacrifice, irrespective of its terror or its pain.'

The young Giotto brought a bealthier feeling to bear on art when he painted the subject of the crucifixion on the sacred walls of Assisi. Though his art was still imperfect, he brought the spirit of life and freedom into Southern Europe. Two pictures are selected by Mr. Gambier Parry as showing the influence of Giotto on two men of different natures and times, Beato da Fiesole and Tintoretto. The devotional character of the one and the dramatic character of the other are well described. Nicholas of Pisa represented on a panel, in the thirteenth century, the figure of the Crucified in a calm and dignified attitude without sign of pain. As a fine example of concentration of interest in a single figure, the crucifixion by Guido at Modena is mentioned ; and, lastly, a drawing of Michel Angelo, now in the British Museum, is referred to as being 'evidently a design ' for a great altar-piece in basso-relievo.' The figure of our Lord in this drawing is beautiful. “Stretched with its arms raised upward on a Y-shaped cross, painless, motionless, exquisitely patient.' It is the picture of a tragedy indeed, for what else could it be? but composed with such reverence, and expressed with such intensity of mingled tender‘ness and power, as to engage the deepest sympathy, and

arouse ideas that will not be forgotten. Thus in all stages of art, from the rude workmen of the slab at Wirkworth to the design of Michel Angelo, the same principle may be traced--that beyond and above all power of realistic expression is the idea of reverence, aiming especially at expressing the central thought of the artist. It is in this sense that we can heartily echo the words with which Mr. Gambier Parry concludes this part of the eighth essays

' Sacred imagery is precious to those who can respond to it; an aid to the weak, a delight to the strong, a store unfailing for art to use, to adorn not walls alone but minds, with thought of what is highest,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

noblest, loveliest, that the blessed God had spread along the path of life, to lead them upward to Himself.'

The second part of this essay deals with emblematic figures, style, and motive. The author says, especially with regard to architecture, that the true motive of religious art is “Sursum corda.' As art became exclusively realistic, it lost its spiritual influence, till at last it became absolutely vulgar, as may be seen in some of the monuments in our metropolitan churches. It was otherwise in paganism, so long as the spirit of poetry prevailed, and in early Christianity, which suggested by such symbols as the palm, the dove with the olive branch, &c., spiritual realities.

The emblematic figure which was represented longest in Christian art was the Church-Ecclesia, under the figure of an Orante in the Catacombs. The same figure represented a female martyr, or a saint, afterwards the Virgin Mary. Sometimes the Christian Church is contrasted with the Jewish Church-the one as the accepted bride of Christ, the other as the faithless bride. References illustrative of this are given to the churches of Chartres, Mans, Bruges, and St. Denis. Sometimes, as in the Sacramentary of Metz, now in the National Library at Paris, “the Church is represented • standing close to the cross, and reaching up with her chalice 'to receive the blood from Christ's wounded side, while the • Virgin and St. John stand at a distance to the right and • left.'

The refinement of taste and labour bestowed upon such works as these shows, as the author says, 'how deeply pene• trated Christendom was with the beauty of idea which

pervaded the history and doctrines of the faith ;' and the enthusiasm of artistic life which characterised the 'great architectural

age

of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries resembles the sudden burst of joy and beauty to which the world awakes when, in April, Nature breaks the bonds • of winter with the rush of her irrestrainable life.' This is followed by a passage which happily describes the spirit of the age when sculpture and painting worked in entire sympathy with architecture, and produced “a grand and reposeful unity of effect.'

Mr. Gambier Parry raises the question, “how far we, at ' the present day, should resort to old styles in applying de

corative arts to sacred buildings.' And he justly remarks that the question is not to be settled off hand.

Those styles represent intelligent principles,' and 'grew naturally in the atmosphere of national life.' He shows how and

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

under what circumstances the noblest works of art were created, and how the various styles and characters of arts mark the stages of national culture, and are the turns and

idioms of its phraseology. He points out the futility of condemning ornament on the ground of its being conventional. Conventionality is not to be confounded with the blemishes of an undeveloped art. Modern art has erred on the side of naturalism. Ancient art was conventional; but it was as complete as it was simple.' "Whatever it may • be called, the “Monumental,” or the “ Sculpturesque," or • the “Heroic” style, its genius must be awakened, if ever 'the great art of painting is to rise again to its level of full honour, and to be again what once it was : : . a power

of « abstract and ideal expression, in harmony with that greatest • creation of man's genius-architecture.'

Mr. Gambier Parry passes in review the early decorative works abroad, in the South and East and North of Europe, and then comes to England, where the Lombard Archbishop Lanfranc gave the first important impulse to art. • Now those arts have been long at rest.'

After an eloquent passage, deploring the “sad scenes of desolation, • where passion and neglect have wrought an equal ruin,' Mr. Gambier Parry asks: What is the good of all these • arts ? Could such work supply the deficiencies of Christian • souls, or compensate for the poverty of worship?' And he answers it as follows: ‘In the privacy of communion be*tween the spirit of man and the spirit of his Maker, No; .but as “a tribute of reasonable service from humanity to

God,” Yes.' Lastly, he raises the inquiry, "What is * wanted in religious art ?' and in the course of his answer, which is continued to the end of the essay, he states that

only in the quietude of a contemplative spirit can a work of really religious art be conceived. In our crowded cities or unquiet homes it is to those sacred fanes that architecture has raised among them that men owe the precious opportunities of spiritual rest. A nation's temples have ever been the centre of the nation's arts. The history, the poetry, the religion of the world have been written in them. The power and devotion of human genius have been lavished

upon

them, the most pure and favourite handmaids of a nation's faith. Former generations have come and have passed away. It is now our day. The unceasing stream flows by us now, and for our short life we direct its current. The arts are in our hands, to use or to misuse them. Our honour in them will depend upon our motive; and whatever our works

may

be, we shall live in tl:em to all time—for contempt or for gratitude

This is the view taken by the author of the province of

6

[ocr errors]

art, of its duties and responsibilities, and of its relation to the spiritual life of man. No one can find fault with the essays for lack of enthusiasm, or for the absence of a high sense of responsibility for artistic gifts. Their merits far outweigh their deficiencies, some of which we have pointed out-consisting mainly in the careless construction of sentences and misspelling of words. There are few men living who can bring to the work of art-teaching so much knowledge, so sound a judgement, so much practical acquaintance with methods of painting, and with the proper relation of decorative art to architecture, and, above all, so high and religious a sense of the relation of Art to Christianity, as Mr. Gambier Parry.

We had hoped to notice in this place the congenial work which we have placed at the head of this article, Sir Henry Layard's most valuable and novel edition of Kugler's 'His'tory of Painting,' full of original matter and criticism, but our limits forbid, and we must content ourselves with bearing our testimony to its great value and interest as a fresh contribution to the history of Art.

:

ART. VI.--1. Paris Newspapers of 1789-94. 2. Anacharsis Clootz. Par G. AVENEL. Paris : 1876. 3. Etat des dons patriotiques. Paris : 1790. 4. Letter by J. H. Stone to Dr. Priestley. Paris : 1796. 5. Maine Historical Society's Collections. 1859. 6. History of Alnwick. By GEORGE TATE. 7. Histoire de Madame du Barry. Par Ch. VATEL. Paris :

1884. T-E

first French Revolution, it is well known, attracted to THE

Paris men from all parts of the world, and of all classes-enthusiasts, adventurers, sensation-hunters ; some of the best specimens of humanity and some of the worst; some of the most generous, minds and some of the most selfish; some of the busiest: brains and some of the idlest. Not a few of these moths perished in the flame which they lad imprudently approached; others escaped with a singeing of their wings; others, again, were fortunate enough to pass unscathed. Some died in their beds just before the Terror ended, but without any assurance of its ending; others only just saw the end. The foreigners, like the natives, who

« AnteriorContinuar »