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work. There is not a single figure which centuries of art-debility, power of expresdoes not show the prostration and paralysis sion and execution were wanting, at least of art.
But let it not for one moment be we find the influx of new motives, the supposed that we should censure any ef struggling of new ideas, the wondrous fort to preserve or restore this great rem- thoughts of the new revelation, seeking nant and record of a dark and barbarous for outward and visible manifestation. age. Nevertheless, the value of such a We find in these works taken from the record, let us once again repeat, is merely Book of Revelation, the gates of the heaas a historic link in the great chain of venly Jerusalem, with four angels standprogressive development. Its very im- ing by, inviting the faithful to enter. port is to show us how low it was possible The saints advancing, as best they can, for art to sink, to teach us with what diffi- hold forth their palm-branches, or present culty the beauty, the truth, and the eleva- their crowns to Christ, standing in the tion of the Christian religion obtained a midst. Upon the arch of triumph the worthy expression, and thus the more to Lamb is placed upon a jeweled altar, with make us love and honor those great names the cross above and the seven candleand glorious works which once again in sticks around; four angels stand by; the the arts restored dignity to human nature, four symbols of the Evangelists--the lion, and gave even to revelation an acession of the angel, the eagle, and the bull—each poetry and of lustre.
holding the book of the Gospels in hand During this tedious disquisition on Ro- -look on in solemn mystery; while the man-Christian art, the traveler is suppos- four-and-twenty elders, with advancing ed to have been patiently standing in the step and upraised arm, present their nave of Sta Maria Maggiore, where for- crowned wreaths to the Lamb, worthy tunately, however, he can not well stand “ to receive glory, and honor, and powtoo long, of so much beauty are the pro- er.” But let it not for a moment be supportions of the interior, so many objects posed that the poetry of this eastern imin the history of art, or for splendor of agery involves in the remotest degree, decoration, merit his examination. On a corresponding perfection in art. Yet leaving Sta Maria Maggiore it is scarcely these degraded works may well be studineedful that he should enter his carriage, ed, and in some sort admired, for their so near at hand is the small church of S. childlike simplicity, for their unconscious Prassede, built and decorated with mosa- grotesqueness, and for the direct and litics in the ninth century. Should the tra- eral manner in which they seek to express veler now desire a digression from his high thoughts beyond their power of utmore severe art-studies, and a taste of terance. those religions sensations which, in Italy, We now enter, though still within the the Church provides for the enjoyment of gates and wall, upon the outskirts of mothe believer, the custode will unlock a dern Rome, upon those districts given up small and dark chapel, where, with the to gardens and malaria, in which, at inaid of a lighted taper, may be seen “a tervals, stands a deserted villa, a forlorn portion of a column of oriental jasper, church, a broken aqueduct, or the ruined brought from Jerusalem by Cardinal Co- Baths of Titus or Caracalla. A drive of lonna in 1223, and said by the Church- a few minutes along a dreary and monotradition to be the column to which the tonously-straight road brings us to the Saviour was fastened at the flagellation !" Piazza and Church of S. John Lateran, That the imagination may be still further just within the city gate which leads to stimulated by an accumulation of the re- Naples. We enter, and are indeed overligious horrors in which the morbid minds powered by the richness of one of the most of a degraded people take a diseased de- gorgeous of church interiors to be found light, the Church has placed in the sacris- even in Rome. Walking up the lavishly dety the Flagellation at this column, in a corated nave, we find in the Tribune a somewhat coarse picture by Giulio Ro-grand Byzantine mosaic of the thirteenth mano. We fear, however, that this di- century. It in no material degree differs gression may scarcely the better prepare in subject or character from those already our traveler for the dry study of the visited; but these works tell so well when severe mosaics in the Tribune. But he thrown into words, that we can not deny can, even in such works as these find ourselves the pleasure of quoting the fol. some mental excitement. If in these lowing ardent description from Lord
Lindsay's Christian Art. After having | in Rome, and in mercy to the reader of spoken of the mosaics in the Tribune of these pages, it were well to bring our S. Maria Maggiore as “ singularly august itinerary in search of mosaics to a speedy and grand,” he writes with eloquent en- termination. The temptation to extend thusiasm as follows:
it still further is, however, great. From
S. John Lateran it were easy to drive to “But the mosaic of S. Giovanni is still more the Basilica of S. Lorenzo, a mile beyond so, and in conception is at once original and the walls, on the road to Tivoli, or to sublime. Its subject is the union of heaven strike off to the newly rebuilt Basilica of and earth by baptism. The head of Christ, St. Paul without the walls, and examine majestic and benignant, looks down from heaven, indicated by a grand semicircular orb of the restored mosaic already described. intense blue—the little clouds scattered over Then again, entering Rome by the tomb its surface, assuming every color of the rain- of Caius Cestus and the Protestant Burialbow, (as in the setting sun,) while they float ground, passing between the church of S. across his glory. Above the Saviour the Fa. Balbina and the Baths of Caracalla, we ther is represented, not as usually by a hand again come upon other important mosaics from heaven, but by a face vailed with wings, in the churches of S. Stefano Rotondo and on either side of which a company of angels are symmetrically ranged. Below these two of Sta Maria in Dominica. From hence persons of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost, de- we reach once more the piazza of S. John scending like a dove, sheds the trinal influence, Lateran, and return homewards by the in the similitude of a stream of water, upon the Church of S. Clemente, the Coliseum, and cross, elevated on the summit of the mystic the Forum. Few churches can compare Calvary, the Mount of Paradise, and decorated with S. Clemente in interest to the artist with ten precious gems, artificially jointed into
or to the Christian antiquary. In front is each other, in the center of which is inserted a medallion, representing the baptism of our Sav- the atrium, or outer and open court, suriour. The spiritual waters, falling from the rounded by columned arcades appropriatangels of the cross, are ultimately collected at ed in the early church to the catechuits base, forming a deep well of life,' at which mens. The interior of the church itself stags are drinking, symbolical of the faithful. is, in its arrangement, equally a deparFrom this well four streams descend the moun- ture from modern usage. In front of tain—the four rivers of Paradise or of the Gos: the altar, inclosed by four-sided marble pels—to water the earth. They sink into it and are lost, but reappear in the foreground, screens, decorated by geometric mosaic poured out of the urns of river-gods, one of patterns, is the Presbytery; on each side which is designated by the inscription Jor- of which are the ambones, or marble puldanes’-the united streams forming the river pits from which the epistle and the gosof the waters of life.' The river forms several pel were read. Behind, at the apsis or cataracts, and is in one place confined by a dam; tribune, is the episcopal seat raised on a boats filled with passengers are seen floating platform, and divided from the rest of the down the stream; souls in the shape of child church by two gates. Above, in the ren, are bathing in it, or sporting with swans and other water-fowl; others, like little winged semi-arched vault over the altar, is a reCupids, amuse themselves on shore, among pea- markably ornate Byzantine mosaic of the cocks, cocks, the hen and chickens, and other eleventh century, specially rich in elaboChristian symbols ; while towering over them, rate arabesques, and, like other works allike trees of righteousness planted by the wa. ready described, mystic in symbols, and ters,' stand a company of saints and apostles, grotesque when intending to be most soheaded by the Virgin and S. John the Baptist; lemn. Lastly, in this small church, so and lastly, in the center, though, very small; abounding in riches, are important fresand immediately at the foot of the cross, and between the four mystic streams, appears the coes, by that great naturalistic reformer gate of Paradise, a vast fortress, flanked with in the arts, Masaccio, which would seem towers, and guarded by the cherub standing by their vigor and their truth, in the before it with his drawn sword; the tree of life dignity they restore to man, and by the rising above it, and the Phønix, apparently the beauty with which they adorn womanemblem of the resurrection, reposing on the hood, to enter a protest against the ensuinmit."*
tire series of Christian mosaics, whether For the sake of the supposed traveler Roman or Byzantine, which had so long
Italy. In this country the reader will most readily * See “Sketches of the History of Christian Art," obtain an idea of the composition of these works by by Lord Lindsay ; vol. ii., p. 60. Outlines of all the the small illustrations published in Sir Charles Eastmosaics above described have been published in lake's edition of Kugler's“Handbook," already quoted.
violated nature and parodied revelation. tioned for its Roman Christian mosaics of The churches of Rome are catholic at the sixth century. And finally, immedileast in the open asylum which they ately beyond, is the grand portico to the equally give to the universal art of all temple of Antoninus and Faustina, wbich, Christian ages. In the arts, at all events, in its mutation into the present Church of the, Church of Rome would appear to S. Lorenzo, affords another memorable preach no exclusive salvation. In St. example of the consecration to the ChristPeter's, a bronze statue of Jupiter has ian religion and Christian art of pagan been received for St. Peter himself, and works otherwise threatened with destrnicwe think it would have been equally po- tion. Our circuit is now ended. We litic, and certainly not less latitudinarian, leave the Palatine Mount, with the ruined could a statue of Apollo have been trans- palace of the Cæsars on the left, drive muted into a figure of Christ. Thus in a through the Roman Forum among ruined charity of taste, which we could wish ex- porticos and columns, to which we shall tended to an equal enlargement of creed, not presume to assign a name, in the disdo we find art, not only the most diverse pute between conflicting antiquaries. We but even the most hostile, made accessory skirt the base of the Capitol, pass the arch to and found acceptable in the same Christ. of Septimus Severus and the Mamertine ian worship. We scarcely can regret so prison, and so proceeding onwards, leavwide a toleration, even though the liber-ing the piazza and column of Trajan to ty granted to genius may ofttimes have the right, we reach the modern Corso, and degenerated into license. We scarcely at length gain once again the Piazzi di can object to find that, in the creation of Spagna, now, as we have said, in a bad art, Christianity can include a diversity sense illustrious by the latest of Christian varied as hunan nature, an empire wide monuments, the column to that latest of as the world ; that the church which may dogmas, the Immaculate Conception. On dedicated to the St. Mary is not shut to a future day it may be well to complete the Magdalen, and that while angels sing the investigation by a circuit to one or in the choir, demons are permitted to two churches through the Trastevere, and howl in the crypt.
by a still more important excursion beIt is time to bring our drive through yond the walls, to visit those earliest of Rome in quest of these old mosaics to a Christian mosaics of the fourth century in close. We are near to the Coliseum, that the church of S. Constanza, and at the ruin which, like so many remains in Rome, same time to examine the adjacent and seems to connect paganism with Christi- now restored Basilica of St. Agnese. In anity. While the martyrs were here given this intermingling of monuments sacred up to wild beasts, the Church had fled to and profane, Christian and classic, the the catacombs from persecution, and this reader finds a characteristic illustration of once arena of the passionsis now dedicat- the Roman and pagan origin of Christian ed to the Christian virtues by the cross art. The early Christian Church coming and the altars which stand where the into so rich an inheritance, is it surprising early Christian was massacred. Making that Romish Christian art should be cast the circuit of the Coliseum, we enter the in the form of paganism ? The Romish Via Sacra, at the Meta Sudans, pass under Church took from the pagan religion its the arch of Titus, take a hasty glance at incense, holy water, lamps and candles, the bass-relief of the Emperor's triumphal votive offerings, images ; chapels on the procession, bearing the seven-branch can- way-sides and tops of hills, processions, dlestick and the spoils of the Jewish tem- and miracles.* Is it then at all surprising ple, connecting, as it were, Judaism, Pa- that Christian art should take from the ganism, and Christianity. On the imme- pagan its types and its treatment ? diate right, close likewise to the Basilica Other portions of Italy are scarcely less of Constantine, and built in part on the rich in mosaic art. The Baptisteries in site of the Temple of Venus and Rome, is Florence and in Parma both contain inthe ancient church of S. Francesca Ro- portant works; but of far greater extent mana, remarkable for its mosaics of the and splendor are the still remaining moninth century. Close at hand, the Tem- saies in Ravenna, that great capital and ple of Remus forms the circular vestibule Italian center of eastern magnificence. to the Basilica of the present church of SS. Cosmo and Damiano, already men- * See Dr. Middleton's "Letter from Rome."
Early in the present year we left the cold- and of Moses, and the fall of manna in the est of Italian cities, Bologna—the snow wilderness—all reduced to pictorial perknee-deep-for the milder shores of the spicuity, all thus pictorially printed, when Adriatic. After a tedious journey of six- the art of printing was unknown; all this and-twenty hours, we reached Ravenna, was indeed to put the Bible, not into the where Byron lived and loved, where hands of the few who could read, but to Dante is buried, where nature has spread place it within the reach of the multitudifor twenty miles along the margin of the nous many, to whom the symbol and the sea that noble forest of stone pines, and picture was the most speaking revelation. where art, once scarcely less noble and The great truths concerning life, death, ambitious, covered whole churches with and eternity, thus set in all the glory of mosaics—those pictures for eternity. To gold, sanctified by all the splendor of rainthe artistic or Christian antiquary, these bow color, built with enduring stone into works doubtless offer many points for in the very fabric of the Church, as they vestigation and discussion ; suffice it, how- were also to be moulded into the very ever, to say, that for us they afforded but heart of the believer, the whole surpassadditional evidence of the conclusions al- ing all earthly splendor, awed the imagi. ready stated. It may, however, be assert- nation of the multitude, as a revelation ed generally, that these mosaics—such, which flashed, not across the sky and then for example, as the Baptism of Christ in was lost in darkness, but as a revelation the Baptistery, the remarkably pure and put lastingly on record in the dome spanbeautiful figure of the Good Shepherd, ning heaven, as an undying rainbow, surrounded by his sheep, in the tomb of which, as the first rainbow, became a coveGalla Placidia, together with portions of nant of mercy. All that could exalt or the Apsis of S. Vitale--are more than appall the imagination was brought within usually allied to Grecian art, and are con- this temple. The richest marbles-the sequently marked by greater elevation of most precious stones-spoils taken from type, and a nearer approach to nature. the exhaustless East-relics and vestments Thus these works, in Ravenna, of the fifth of the saints-bass-reliefs from tombs of and sixth centuries, contrast on the one martyrs—the labor of man's hands in all hand, with the debility of the Venetian possible forms of patient elaboration for mosaics of the eleventh, and, on the other, the glory of God-the mysterious mingwith the rude nature and low type of the ling of light and color with a cavern darkRoman-Christian school.
ness----the precarious yet constant lamp But it is from the Church of St. Mark, burning like faith in a world of darkness, in Venice, that an adequate conception joined with the sound of music and the can alone be formed of the barbaric splen- deep chant coming from that sanctuary dor of Byzantine art. This marvelous where Christ and his apostles, in giant church, written as a scroll within and mosaic form, are present at the daily worwithout, not as the book given to Ezekiel, ship—all these art-appliances to devotion with lamentations, and mourning, and rouse every faculty of the soul to transwoe, but as the Alpha and the Omega, port, save the paralyzed intellect and conthe first and the last, the beginning and science. So earnest and so eloquent an the ending, from the time when God creat- outpouring of religion into art could not ed Adam from the dust to the consum- long remain without the highest works to mation when Christ ascended into glory, testify to the nobility and the purity of It was a pictorial Bible to the multitude, the aim. We shall see that the religious when the written Bible was a sealed book. ardor which fired these rude and early It was a continuous narrative of successive mosaics became, at a later and more vital events illustrating God's dealings towards epoch in Christian art, associated with the children of men with a fullness, and heavenly beauty and earthly truth. We simplicity, and fidelity, eminently belong. have allowed ourselves to speak of St. ing to those early times of unsophisticated Mark's as we ourselves have often felt, art. Adam and Eve, from their first call when, laying aside critical severity, we ing into life to their expulsion—the crea- surrendered the imagination to the spell tion of the earth, the sun, the moon, and of poetic dreams. It must however be the stars—the sacrifice of Cain and Abel candidly admitted, that in these mosaic -the building of the Tower of Babel pictures, which were in olden times, as and of the Ark—the history of Joseph I we have said, the Bible of the people,
Christian art was as yet in its cradled / we find that the Byzantine mosaics in infancy.
Rome, Ravenna, and Venice, are characThese Byzantine works, so sumptuous terized by gigantic figures, stiff, obsolete in material and so wide in extent, were forms—"the childish play of false and at once of classic art the grave and of unseasonable ornament," puerile Christian the cradle. Gibbon, in the attempt at elevation, and the exaggeration conclusion to his history, says that the of what is small and in meaning trivial. “ decline and fall of the Roman Empire is Art had, indeed, become the pampered "the greatest, perhaps the most awful luxury of a court, and of a people emasscene in the history of mankind.'” In culated through pleasure and debauched the history of art, in like manner, we by riches. The decorations of the church know of no downfall so deplorable as that were but in keeping with the adornings of the classic, instinct with life and beauty, of the palace-in both, alike, richness of into the grave of the Byzantine, so lifeless material supplied the poverty of invention, and deformed. The description which and the servility which attended the monGibbon gives of the decay of taste and arch in his empire .naturally became genius in the Byzantine Empire, literally superstition in the church. We accordapplies as well to the arts as to literature. ingly read that, in the palace of the En“They held,” he says, “in their lifeless peror Theophilus at Constantinople, “the hands the riches of their fathers, without long series of the apartments was adapted inheriting the spirit which had created to the seasons, and decorated with marand improved that sacred patrimony; ble and porphyry, with painting, sculpture, they read, they praised, they compiled, and mosaics, with a profusion of gold, but their languid souls seemed alike in- silver, and precious stones. His fauciful capable of thought and action.” Of art, magnificence employed the skill and paequally as of literature, it might still fur- tience of such artists as the times could ther be asserted, that, “ in the revolution afford; but the taste of Athens would of ten centuries, not a single discovery was have despised their frivolous and costly made to exalt the dignity or promise the labors: à golen tree with its leaves and happiness of mankind. Not a single idea branches, which sheltered a multitude of has been added to the speculative systems birds warbling their artificial notes, and of antiquity; and a succession of patient two lions of massy gold, and of the nadisciples became, in their turn, the dog. tural size, who looked and roared like matic teachers of the next servile genera- their brethren of the forest !!* tion. Not a single composition of history, If the reader doubt the justice of our philosophy, or literature, has been saved censure, we would beseech him to turn to from oblivion by the intrinsic beauties of the third volume of Mr. Ruskin's “Stones style or sentiment of original fancy, or of Venice,” wherein he will find a marveleven of successful imitation.” That uni- ous, though, as we can testify, a literally versal law which binds into unity of ex- correct rendering of a Byzantine olive-tree istence the art of a people with its mental, as wrought in mosaic, in a cupola of St. social, and political life, never received Mark. In words it is difficult to designate more pointed illustration than in the such a work. For ourselves, however, Empire of the East. Thus Gibbon again, had not Mr. Ruskin assured us, with his in the following criticism on the writers of usual emphasis, that the work possesses Byzantium, unconsciously seizes on the all the attributes of the olive, a knitted leading characteristics of Byzantine art. cordage of fibers," with all the powers “In every page,” he says, our taste and and honor of the olive in its fruit,” we reason are wounded by the choices of gi- should assuredly have mistaken bis careful gantic and obsolete words, a stiff and diagram for some unknown product, lying intricate phraseology, the discord of im- somewhere between a kitchen mop and a ages, the childish play of false and unsea- cow-cabbage. If the reader, however, sonable ornament, and the painful attempt require further confirmation of our stricto elevate themselves to astonish the tures upon Byzantine art, he will find it reader, and to involve a trivial meaning in the inordinate praise which Mr. Ruskin in the smoke of obscurity and exaggera- lavishes upon this extraordinary work. tion.” Accordingly, in obedience to those laws by which a people's thoughts obtain * See for all the above referonces, Gibbon's expression through the language of art, “Decline and Fall," chap. 53.