« AnteriorContinuar »
must not hope for a new pair of breeches till next spring; so shall think myself happy if I escape the chin-cough, which is generally very rife in moulting season. I am, dear Sir, &c. &c.
MADGE. · P.S. I hear my character as first minister is a good deal censured ; but “ Let them censure ; what care I ?”
Art. II. Sketches of the Lives of Correggio and Parmegiano. Small
8vo. pp. 286. London, 1823. MUCH remains to be done
before we can be said to have even collected materials for the history of Art. There is indeed a large amount of outstanding anecdote, and date, and criticism, which might readily be called in; but, before it could be made available, it would require a very rigid process of comparison and authentication. The extensive currency of details and opinions which is afloat among dilettanti writers and talkers, must be subjected to the severest tests before it can be received as genuine mintage; and these discriminating processes would reduce the circulating medium to a very scanty supply. It was but the other day that we met with a revival of the old falsehood which charges Michael Angelo with stabbing a man, whom he had bound to a cross, that he might minutely trace the various gradations of ebbing life; and a formidable wood-cut was prefixed to make the legend more attractive. And, in connexion with the subject of the memoir before us, scarcely any circumstance in the annals of painting is more unhesitatingly repeated and believed, than the tradition which ascribes to Correggio extreme poverty, and which even attributes his death to the excessive fatigue consequent upon carrying from Parma to his own home, a distance of several miles, a payment, made in copper coin, amounting to sixty crowns. This absurd invention is sufficiently disproved by the suggestion, that the load which he is thus represented to have conveyed, 'must have considerably erceeded
two hundred weight ;'-a burden under which it is quite impossible that he could have borne up through a twentieth part of the assigned interval. Were the case otherwise in this respect, the Writer of this memoir has effectually disproved the si dice which originated the idle tales about the exigent circumstances of Correggio. We have, indeed, been altogether exceedingly pleased with this little volume. Notwithstanding its unpretending character, it is the result, not merely of competent reading, but of accurate comparison; and while it furnishes much satisfactory information respecting the admirable artist whose life and labours it commemorates, it gives, incidentally, important illustrations of collateral points connected with the records of Art. It is to be wished that the Author may feel encouraged to continue his investigations, and to proceed in clearing away the rubbish of misconception and misrepresentation which still chokes up so many of the avenues to this division of the temple of history.
We think, too, that he has been judicious in his selection of a subject. Amateurs (and perhaps artists themselves are not wholly clear of the imputation) are too much in the habit of identifying Art itself with the efforts of three or four distin, guished individuals ; and when they have traced the progress of Michael Angelo, Raffaelle, Leonardo, and perhaps Titian, cast a transient and negligent glance on the contemporaries and successors of those illustrious men.
We shall not betray such debility of judgement as to question the supremacy of those great leaders of their respective schools ; but we will affirm, unhesitatingly, that not less infirmity is exhibited by those who place a wide interval in the gradation by which we descend - we have in vain tried to recollect some intermediate word—to such men as Correggio. With less of pathos and less of high intellectual character in his style, than the mas, ter of the Roman school, -inferior in energy and powerful con
, ception to the mighty Florentine,-Correggio might yet exclaim in the language ascribed to him by the well-known tradition, Anch'io sun pittore. The comparative elevation or beauty of his style, we shall not here discuss, but that it was perfectly origi, nal, cannot be doubted. Few painters have so completely worked from their own resources, and none have displayed more profound conversance with the learning of their árt; none have, in a greater degree, possessed the rare faculty of invention. His was the almost exclusive secret of placing his figures in the midst of light, and of making shade a privation, rather than a positive existence. His skill in anatomy was not inferior to that of Buonaroti, and he employed it with unrivalled dexterity and success in the adjustment and foreshortening of bis figures. But we are at once wandering from our immediate point, and anticipating observations which will find a more appropriate place at the close of the present article. We repeat it, then, that we think the present Author has, in his choice and treatment of a subject, entitled himself to the gratitude of all the lovers of art; he has thrown light upon circumstances which were previously involved in uncertainty and obscurity, and he has communicated important information, mingled with sound criticism, on a section of the history of painting that much required elucidation. It is
very probable, that Italian literature may supply this, buth on the
general subject and on its particular branches, to an extent with which we have not had an opportunity of making our selves acquainted; but, in our own language, we are by no means rich in able illustration of the progress and vicissitudes of the arts of design. Mr. Duppa's Memoirs of Michael Angelo are inadequately written, and his sketches of the life of Raffaelle are altogether unsatisfactory. The most interesting illustrations of pictorial biography which have recently attracted our attention, are, in our own language, the present volume, and, in French, the Histoire de la Peinture en Italie, by the Count de Stendahl (M. Beyle). The latter, however, has a large alloy of Alippancy and affectation, from which the former is entirely free.
Antonio de' Allegri was born in 1493 or 1494, at Correggio,
small independent principality in the dutchy of Parma. His father, Pellegrino, was a respectable tradesman; and his uncle, Lorenzo, was an artist of no very brilliant reputation, if the sarcastic intimation of Rinaldo Corsi be correct :- One of
our painters at Correggio, named Master Lorenzo, wishing to • delineate a lion, drew a goat, and affixed to it the title of a • lion. If this illustrious son of art ever gave lessons to his nephew, his claims to be considered as the master of Correggio will be easily adjusted. Nothing, in fact, is known respecting the early studies of Antonio. It is not improbable that he received instruction from Tonino Bartolotto : it is possible that he might, at the age of 12, have come in contact with the celebrated Andrea Mantegna, or that he might
have studied under his sons Ludovico and Francesco, who succeeded to the school established by their father, and might have profited by the rich collection of models and copies, which it contained. This opinion would be strongly corroborated, could we give full credit to the statement of the Abate Lanzi, that several of Correggio's juvenile productions are still preserved at Mantua, and display the germ of future excellence, blended with the stiff and rigid style of the old school. The pictures, however, which he mentions, as attributed to Correggio, are authenticated by evidence too slight, to form a valid foundation for argument.
• The other painter under whom Correggio is said to have studied, was Francesco Bianchi, who was distinguished for his fine colouring, and graceful airs, two perfections which eminently mark the works of our painter. From the vicinity of Correggio both to Mantua and Modena, and the reputation which Mantegna and Bianchi enjoyed at the time, we are inclined to assent to the opinion, which has been delivered down by tradition, that, either directly or indirectly, he owed the first improvement of his great talents to these two masters. Cor. reggio did not, however, content himself with a mere mechanical practice of his art; for his pictures display an intimate acquaintance
with the principles of perspective, sculpture, and architecture, as well as with the philosophy of colours ; and, above all, his knowledge of anatomy is generally recognized, in his accurate delineation of the human form. From whom he drew his acquaintance with the former sciences is unknown; but his recent biographer, Pungileoni, has enabled us to ascertain his instructor in anatomy: this was Doctor Giambattista Lombardi, a native of Correggio, who had been professor at Bologna, and afterwards at Ferrara. He finally settled in his native town, as physician to Nicolo, a prince of the reigning family, towards the beginning of the 16th century, and was held by him in high consideration. pp. 19–22.
Amid all this uncertainty, the early distinction of Allegri is placed beyond all doubt, by the fact, that before he had completed his twenty-first year, he was employed to paint the altar-piece of the Franciscan convent at Correggio, for the liberal remuneration, considering his youth, of one hundred ducats, clear of all expenses. This picture represented the Virgin and the infant Saviour, with St. Joseph and St. Francis on either side ; its dimensions were about five feet by four. In 1638, the governor, Annibale Molza, permitted a Spanish painter to study from the painting, and the knave took the opportunity of substituting his own copy, and making off with the original. When the theft was discovered, the town was in a complete uproar; a general council was convoked ; a large assemblage demanded from the governor vengeance on the spoliators, and a deputation of nobles was sent to the duke of Modena and the bishop of Reggio, requesting permission to prosecute the friars who were charged with conniving at the robbery. The pope, the cardinals, the general and provincial of the Franciscans, were all memorialized ; but nothing was done, and the original has never yet been discovered. It seems to us extremely probable, from all the circumstances of the case, that the robber was a mere instrument in the hand of some higher power, and that the only method for recovering the stolen goods would have been, a search warrant for the governor's palace, or an action of trover against the proprietor of the Escurial. It seems, in transactions of a different kind, to have been frequently a part of the bargain for the transfer of a picture, that a good copy should be substituted at the expense of the purchaser. Another altar-piece, painted about the same period, is either destroyed or lost sight of; and the abeyance of these works deprives us of all certain means of ascertaining the early manner of Correggio. The finest remaining specimen of his intermediate style, is the picture, now in the Dresden gallery, formerly distinguished as the St. Pietro Martire, but at present better known by the name of its most striking figure, the St. George. This noble production was executed for the Modenese monks of St. Peter the Martyr, and contains a number of figures, in various positions, paying homage to the infant Jesus in his mother's arms. St. George stands on one side, in armour, but bareheaded, and looking out of the picture; his bearing is at once graceful and dignified, and so vigorous is the relief of the painting, that he seems to stand out from the canvas.
In July 1520, Antonio married Girolama Merlini, an exquisite beauty of seventeen, whose portrait is supposed to be extant in her husband's delightful picture of the Madonna Zingarella. It was, probably, at no very distant period, that he painted the admirable • Marriage of St. Catherine,' which has been so often copied by eminent masters, and, among them, by Annibal Caracci. Small in size, about eleven inches by nine, it is fraught with unrivalled excellencies. The Virgin, sitting, and the saint, kneeling, are in profile, and the Saviour, represented as a boy of eight or nine years, rests on his mother's lap, with one foot reaching the ground, and the other leg foreshortened. The expression and effect of this gem of art are inimitably beautiful, and the artist has displayed singular skill in the graceful arrangement of the six hands meeting in the centre of the painting. But this season of his life was chiefly remarkable as the period at which he may be considered as fixing the peculiar character of his style, and standing forward as the originator of a new and brilliant school of art. He was engaged by the monks of St. John, at Parma, to ornament the cupola and other parts of their church ; the date of the agreement appears to have been in 1519.
• The subject is the Ascension of Christ in glory, surrounded by the twelve Apostles, seated on the clouds; and in the lunettes the four Evangelists, and four Doctors of the church. The situation of the painting presented difficulties which none but so great an artist could have overcome ; for the cupola has neither skylight nor windows, and consequently the whole effect of the piece must depend on the light reflected from below. The figures of the Apostles are chiefly naked, gigantic, and in a style of peculiar grandeur. p. 75.
The monks were so much gratified by the labours of Antonio, that, long before he had completed his task, they conferred on him a patent of confraternity ; a privilege then much in request and rarely conferred, entitling him to a share in the spiritual blessings resulting from the masses and good works of the brotherhood, and to the post mortem benefit of the same offices for the repose of his soul as were performed for the brethren themselves. It was while engaged in this undertaking, that