Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

1

he painted his celebrated Nativity, now in the Dresden gallery, and universally known under the name of the Notté. Of this noble composition we shall insert the description.

• This picture is doubtless the most singular, if not the most beautiful work of this great master. Adopting an idea hitherto unknown to painters, he has created a new principle of light and shade; and in the limited space of nine feet by six, has expanded a breadth and depth of perspective which defies description. The time he has chosen, is the adoration of the shepherds, who, after hearing the glad tidings of joy and salvation, proclaimed by the heavenly host, hastened to hail the new-born King and Saviour. On so unpromising a subject as the birth of a child, in so mean a place as a stable, the painter has, however, thrown the air of divinity itself. The principal light emanates from the body of the infant, and illuminates the surrounding objects ; but a secondary light is borrowed from a groupe of angels above, which, while it aids the general effect, is yet itself irradiated by the glory breaking from the child, and allegorising the expression of Scripture, that Christ was the true light of the world. Nor is the art with which the figures are represented, less admirable than the management of the light. The face of the child is skilfully hidden by its oblique position, from the conviction, that the features of a newborn infant are ill adapted to please the eye; but that of the Virgin is warmly irradiated, and yet so disposed, that in bending with maternal fondness over her offspring, it exhibits exquisite beauty, without the harshness of deep shadows. The light strikes boldly on the lower part of her face, and is lost in a fainter glow on the eyes,

while the forehead is thrown into shade. The figures of Joseph and the shepherds are traced with the same skilful pencil; and the glow which illuminates the piece, is heightened to the imagination, by the attitude of a shepherdess, bringing an offering of doves, who shades her eyes with her hand, as if unable to sustain the brightness of incarnate Divinity. The glimmering of the rising dawn, which shews the figures in the back ground, contributes to augment the splendor of the principal glory. The beauty, grace, and finish of the piece,"

“ says Mengs, “ are admirable, and every part is executed in a peculiar and appropriate style.”' pp. 81--85.

It was at nearly the same time that he produced the St. Jerome, so warmly eulogized by Annibal Caracci, and the St. Sebastian, formerly in the collection of the Dukes of Modena, and now at Dresden. In November 1522, he contracted with the chapter to paint the cupola and other parts of the cathedral at Parma. This great and arduous work he executed with transcendent skill and beauty. The central figures are foreshortened with a science and boldness which drew from Mengs the strongest expressions of astonishment. The peculiar shape and angles of the dome presented difficulties which nothing but the most consummate ability could have overcome; and so

a

a

anxious was Correggio to effect his object with perfect accuracy, that he is said to have had many of his designed figures modelled in chalk, before they were painted on the compartments of the cupola. This engagement was not conducted quite so pleasantly as the former transaction with the good monks of St. John. The canons of the cathedral were displeased at the slow progress of the work, and he was disgusted at their ignorant interference. For the sake of variety, he had painted some of his groupes on a smaller scale than usual, and one of his enlightened employers complained that he had given them a fricassee of frogs. So far, indeed, did these profound cognoscenti carry their critical disapprobation, that, when Titian visited Parma, they are said to have consulted him on the expediency of cancelling the whole, and to have been diverted from their intention only by his assurance, • that it was the finest composition he had ever seen.' Correggio did not, however, live long enough to conduct this noble work to a close, for he was prematurely carried off by a malig. nant fever. He died on the 5th of March 1534, in the 41st year of his age.

In design, it has been usual to place Correggio below the great masters of the Roman and Florentine schools, and we shall not entangle ourselves in the discussions which an inquiry into the grounds of this opinion would necessarily involve. It is, however, obvious to remark, that Correggio's peculiar talent lay in a track untried by Sanzio and Buonaroti." That he was profoundly skilled in the human figure, he has proved in numberless instances, and that he was a master of expression, is not less evident; but his magic colouring, his luminous medium, his harmony and grace, demanded the partial sacrifice, or at least the subserviency, of those severer exhibitions of character and form which mark the style of those distinguished men.

Correggio appears to have delighted in the expression of the milder passions; and in those of love, affection, and tenderness, he is almost without a rival. He has discriminated, with equal felicity, the different shades of grief; and has beautifully contrasted them in the dead Christ, painted for the church of St. John. It is profound in the Virgin, tender in the Magdalen, and chastened in the third female figure. He has also manifested his power of indicating manly dignity in the St. George ; and though he seldom embodies the fiercer passions, he has shewn his ability in that class of expression, by the figure of the executioner, in the Martyrdom of St. Placido, which was copied in the St. Agnes of Domenichino.

• But perhaps the passion which he has represented with the most striking effect, is that of dignified resignation. In the celebrated Ecce Homo, or Christ shewn to the Multitude, the divine air of meekness and patient suffering, which he has given to the Redeemer of

a

6

mankind, awakens the sublimest emotions, and embodies the animated descriptions of Holy Writ. The same remark applies with equal truth to the Agony of Christ in the Garden.

• We cannot close our observations on his powers of expression, 1' without adverting to a beauty which he possessed exclusively; or, at | least, shared only with Leonardo da Vinci; namely, the lovely and ex

quisite smile, which plays on his female countenances, and which has been distinguished by the epithet of the Corrigesque, or the grace of Correggio. This trait, as difficult to describe as lo imitate, has been happily indicated by Dante, the father of Italian Poetry, in his

6“ Della bocca il disiato riso.”Inferno. In this rare and fascinating expression, Correggio alone was capable of discriminating the precise boundary between grace and affectation, and his delicate pencil was fully competent to execute the conception of his mind. His best copyists, even the Carracci themselves, generally failed in preserving this original feature ; and in many modern copies and engravings, it often degenerates into mere grimace.'

pp. 158-161. Correggio was remarkable for the attention he paid to the quality of his colours; his lakes are peculiarly rich, his white brilliant and permanent, and he was profuse in the employment of ultra-marine.

The life of Parmegiano is a brief but interesting sketch, of which the materials have been chiefly derived from the biographical work of Father Affo, whose researches have detected innumerable errors in all previous accounts. Valuable in its statements of dates and circumstances, this memoir is less substantial in its critical qualities than the history of Correggio. It errs on the side of eulogy: we find ample justice done to the bigh excellencies of the Parmesan, but very little intimation of his conspicuous faults. His grace, and ease, and fine colouring are duly lauded, but his affectation and theatric air pass with little animadversion. We shall cite, in preference to any of the comments in the present volume, Fuseli's masterly and discriminating, though somewhat severe criticism of this artist.

• The principle of Correggio vanished with its author, though it found numerous imitators of its parts. Since him, no eye has conceived that expanse of harmony with which the voluptuous sensibility of his mind arranged and enchanted all visible nature. His

grace, so much vaunted, and so little understood, was adopted and improved to elegance by Francesco Mazzuoli, called Parmegiano; but, instead of making her the measure of propriety, he degraded her to affectation. In Parmegiano's figures, action is the adjective of the posture; the accident of attitude ; they make themselves air, into which they vanish.' That disengaged play of elegant forms, the Sueltezea' of the

[ocr errors]

Italians, is the prerogative of Parmegiano, though nearly always obtained at the expense of proportion. His grandeur, as conscious as his grace, sacrifices the motive to the mode, simplicity to contrast : his St. John loses the fervour of the Apostle in the orator ; his Moses the dignity of the lawgiver in the savage. With incredible force of chiaroscuro, he united bland effects and fascinating hues, but their frequent ruins teach the import ant lesson, that the mixtures which anticipate the beauties of time, are big with the seeds of premature decay.'

His family and baptismal names were Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola ; the epithets Parmegiano or Parmegianino are merely indicative of his birth-place. He was born in 1503, of respectable parents, received a liberal education, and displayed an early propensity to the study of painting. He was singularly attractive both in person and manners; his habits were profuse and improvident, and there seems to have been some degree of unsteadiness in his pursuits. He died in August 1540.

An interesting portrait of Correggio is given ; it is, indeed, imperfectly authenticated, but the physiognomy is so entirely expressive of the peculiar qualities of the individual, that it must be the vera effigies of Antonio de' Allegri.

a

Art. III. Thoughts chiefly designed as preparative or persuasive to pri

rate Devotion. By Jobu Sheppard, Author of a Tour in 1816, with incidental Reflections on Religion ; and of an Inquiry on the Duty of Christians respecting War. 8vo, pp. xis. 276. Price is. London.

1824. IT is well observed by Bishop Wilkins, that the true happi,

' ness of every Christian does properly consist in his spiritual • communion with Gsd.' He, therefore, who endeavours to prepare our hearts for devotion, and to excite us to greater earnestness, fervency, and frequency in prayer, aims at the promotion of our highest enjoyment. Criticism might be disarmed of its severity by so benevolent an intention, were it to originate in an uncultivated mind, and to be developed in unpolished language, ordinary ideas, and feeble arguments. But when executed by one who evidently possesses a refined understanding and an elegant taste, combined with genuine religious feeling, we cannot refrain from expressing our cordial wish that the success of the undertaking may be commensurate with the excellence of the design, and exerting all our influence in its favour. In order to satisfy our readers that we do not overrate the qualifications of the Author and the

[ocr errors]

on the

merits of his performance, we shall give a few specimens of the manner in which Mr. S. thinks and writes. - The volume consists of twenty-four chapters or Essays, under the following heads. 1. On a right sense of the Divine greatness. II. On the omnipresence of Deity. III. On th: efficacy of prayer. IV. On apathy respecting revealed truth. V. On imperfection of human thought and language. Vi. On the greatness of the blessings sought in prayer. VII. On thi importance of Divine influence on the thoughts. VIII. (: exemption from disease. IX. On intercession for relatives and friends. X. On the moral perfections of the Deity. X 7. Praise should be excited. XII. Private worship should be specific. XIII. On the prevalence of good. XIV. On torpor as to spiritual objects. XV. On the intercession of Chris. XVI. On the influence of slothful and sensual inclination. XVII. On pre-ocupation of the mind. XVIII. On recent sin. XIX. On prayer for fellow-Christians. XX. On dejection.

. XXI. On the power of God to correct. XXII. Want of jix should not discourage prayer. XXIII. Anniversaries should peculiarly prompt us to serious devotion. XXIV. On the capacities for worship in heaven.

Our first extract is selected from the second Essay,
omnipresence of Deity.

• We are apt to attribute to the signs of thought an importance which is not at all essential to them, but which arises (great as it is to us) merely out of our own imperfection. Thought, when unrecorded, still more when unuttered, is, to us, an evanescent thing; which, from its fugitive unfixed character, seems hardly to have a real subsistence. And hence proceeds much illusion, both with regard to the extent of our moral responsibility, and the nature of prayer. It is not only our imperfection which needs these signs, but they are likewise, although to us most precious, exceedingly imper. fect in themselves. Language dies in the very utterance. Inscrip. tions, even on brass and marble, perish. Writings and books, the most valuable repositories of thought, are more perishing still, and can only be perpetuated by renewal. Thus none of those symbols of thought, on which all our present knowledge, even the knowledge of a Saviour, and of eternal life depends, (and which, therefore,

be regarded as the best gifts of God's providence,) are permanent, or indelible. They, on the contrary, are the truly evanescent things. When “ the earth and the works that are therein shall be burnt up,” those works in which the thoughts of human genius ani erudition have been for ages treasured, and, as it were embalmei, will become fuel for that awful pile, as many like them have already perished in lesser conflagrations, and by other modes of destruction. We know not that even the records of revelation will be excepte. VOL. XXI. N.S.

S

may

« AnteriorContinuar »