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But the blood of the martyrs was like- upon the ground in profound sleep, or wise, as we have said, the seed of Christ- disconsolate after the gourd had withered. inn art. To the earliest believer these From the New Testament we find the catacombs were as holes and caves of the Nativity, the adoration of the Magi, our carth—his refuge in life, his tomb in death Saviour turning the water into wine, his --at once his house, his church, his sepul- healing the sick, opening the eyes of the cher. But the place of trouble became a blind, the raising of Lazarus, and the triscene of triumph. The martyrs suffer- umphant entry into Jerusalem. ings were at length the believers' glory, As works of art, all these frescoes and and the Church, which was at first a mere bass-reliefs are wholly unsatisfactory. In grave, grew at length into a temple deco- style they belong to the degraded decarated by art, with the symbols of the dence of the Roman empire--rude in exChristian's faith. Christianity may thus, in ecution, low in type, and coarse in sentithese early symbols and pictures, be said ment. The Christian sarcophagi and the to lie buried and embalmed. The sub- copies of mural paintings, collected by jects of these first works are simple, and the present Pope in the Christian Museum their meaning, though often vailed, for of the Lateran, do not afford, with the exthe most part direct and evident. The ception of the noble statue of St. Hippodove stands for the soul, and, combined lytus, a single example pure in art. We with the olive branch, signifies that the have visited the various catacombs in soul of the believer rests in peace. If the search of the earliest heads of Christ, fish be added, which is the symbol of hoping that in proportion as the work Christ, the figure reads, the soul dwells in approached the era of his life, it might the peace of Christ. Again, a painting of bear some evidence of authentic likeness. a wicker-basket containing bread, a flask We were, however, disappointed. The of blood in the center, all resting on a fish, head, for example, in the catacomb of St. symbolizes the connection between Christ Calixtus, a sketch of which is given in and the sacraments. The fish likewise has Sir Charles Eastlake's edition of Kugler's occasional reference to the words, “ fishers Handbook, bears, in its type and style, of men ;” and accordingly, we find a fish- evidence of a Roman, rather than of a erman on a bank, with a large angling- Christian origin. In the lapse of four line in hand, drawing a fish out of the centuries, indeed, the tradition of the Savwater, which is supposed forthwith to iour's aspect, well-nigh, if not wholly turn into a disciple. That there may be forgotten, it is evident the artist found no doubt about the fact, the fish has been himself left to the free expression of his actually found half transmuted into the own low ideal. human form. For the most part, how- By an apparent anomaly, which, how, ever, the subject is made scarcely less ever, admits of easy explanation, those explicit by placing the figure of a man centuries in which Christianity is presumed close by, standing out from the water, and to have been most pure, are characterready to receive the rite of baptism! The ized by a Christian art the most corrupt. anchor is, of course, the symbol of hope, Christian art came not by revelation, and the top seen above the water, in the claims no immediate descent from heaven, form of a cross, shows the foundation of but cradled, as we have seen, in suffering that hope. Then, passing from symbol- and helplessness, it grew into the strength ism to pictorial and bass-relief representa- and beauty of manhood by the slow protion, we find paintings of the Good Shep- cess of earthly development. In examin. herd bearing the lost sheep upon his ing the early works already described, shoulders; Daniel in the lions' den; the this want of beauty has come upon us three Children in the fiery furnace; the with pain and surprise. We look in vain sacrifice of Isaac; and Moses receiving for the beauty of holiness, for that calm the tables of the law, or striking the rock. and placid beauty which comes through On sarcophagi, the history of Jonah is a patient suffering, or trustful resignation. subject also frequently repeated. We We seek in vain for those beauties which find, for example, in one continuous bass- adorn the Christian virtues, or for the relief, Jonah cast overboard from the sublimity of the truths which Christianity ship, then swallowed by the sea-monster, first revealed. These high attributes of then again thrown out upon the shore, Christian art, in some respects the highest and, lastly, the prophet, as seen stretched which art has ever attained, were re

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served for the development of a later though through a series of failures, to the
epoch, and the dawn of a revived civiliza- goal of an ultimate success.
tion. The decay of the Roman empire, But the arts had yet long to slumber
and the dying-out of the Pagan civilization, during the night of the human intellect.
are in truth the explanation of the debased We have seen that as life ebbed out of
aspect of Christian art in this its earliest the Roman empire, and darkness blotted
rise. Christianity, a heaven-born spirit, out the light of civilization, the new-born
sought upon earth a habitation, and de- Christian art became in each succeeding
manded from art a human form to dwell century less vital and beauteous. Thus
in. She found in the Roman empire art have we the strange anomaly of an infant
fallen, and in each succeeding century still art marked from the hour of its birth with
further debased. The types of humanity, all the decrepitude of age; and thus, like-
fashioned by the artist, were even to Pa- wise, we find that the growing years
ganism a degradation. And the new re which should have added maturity and

ligion in the first centuries of its growth, vigor, did but accelerate decay. The
still unable in its feebleness to enter on earliest works are the best. The Mosaics
original creation, compelled, indeed, to of the fifth century, in the Baptistery of
take art as she found it, necessarily em- the Cathedral at Ravenna, have still some
ployed such painters and sculptors as the remaining vigor, some recollection of na-
times afforded, and thus was condemned ture. In the Baptism of Christ, which
to the humiliation of stamping upon the occupies the center of this ornate cupola,
earliest Christian works the mark and the the action and bearing of St. John, with
stigma of a Pagan style and origin. upraised arm of baptism, are especially

What good purpose these catacomb noble, the heads both of the Baptist and pictures and sculptures could have an- of the Saviour showing almost the dawn swered it is difficult to understand. For of the Christian rather than the dying-out , us, however, in the present day, they are of the Pagan type. The figures of the of the utmost interest. It may indeed be twelve Apostles have likewise some gransaid that the creed of the early Church deur with, however, an increase of debilhas not only been written by the Fathers, ity. The draperies, though retaining a but in these sepulchers and churches was reminiscence of former dignity, fall into actually delineated by the painters. The incoherent confusion; and the onward excavators set to work by the Papal Gov- step of the figures, while good in intenernment may be said to be now exhuming tion, halts in lameness. Other portions of what is in that land, if not an extinct, at this great and important work, still deeper least a buried Christianity. Whatever in corruption, scarcely admit of art-critibattles the priests of various churches cism. In like manner, in Rome, the earlimay fight over these old bones in defense est Christian mosaics are for the most of essential creeds, it is fortunately not part the best. They are remarkable as our province to decide between them. possessing the rude vigor of Roman art For us, as art critics, these works are links rather than the more refined debility of in a great and universal system of art-de- Byzantine. Thus the head of Christ in velopment and decay. They are the first the mosaics of the sixth century in the beginnings of that Christian art which, in Church of SS. Cosmo and Damiano possubsequent centuries, rose to so great a sesses much nobility, mingled, however, glory. Even in their very degradation with stern savage grandeur — something, they are a marked example of the univer- if we may be allowed the comparison, besal craving in the human mind for expres- tween St. John wild from the desert, and sion through the language of art. A Pluto vengeful from Hades. religion may be as yet weak in infancy; Throughout the wide world of Christian an empire may be tottering in decay; yet mosaics, it is melancholy to find efforts so the experience of the entire world shows stupendous, labors so vast, with art-results us that a people not content to express comparatively so worthless. Within, or itself merely through words must likewise immediately without, the walls of Rome speak through the language of forms. are ten to twelve churches still in part This struggling to obtain for the invisible decorated by these works, and yet, we an outward expression, was, as we have must confess, that for us, at least, there is said, at first futile ; but the faculties and not a single example in which the spirit, laws which led to the attempt urged on, the beauty, or the purity, of the Christian



religion has found expression. Such works “In the apsis itself, upon a dark-blue ground are doubtless of the utmost importance to with golden-edged clouds, is seen the colossal the antiquary, and even to the art-student, figure of Christ : the right hand raised either in establishing the universal laws of devel: benediction or in teaching, the left holding a establishing the universal laws of devel: written scroll; above is the hand which we opment or decay ; but for the lover of have already noticed as the emblem of the First art in its beauty and its poetry, to the Person of the Trinity. Below on each side, the disciple of Christianity, zealous for the apostles Peter and Paul are SS. Cosmo and'Dahonor of his religion, these mosaics are miano, each with crowns in their hands, towards too low in the human and divine type, the Saviour, followed by St. Thcodore on the too debased in art, to give pleasure or right, and by Pope Felix IV., the founder of satisfaction. But, doubtless to the stu- the church, on the left. ... Two palm-trees, dent, as we have said, they afford much sparkling with gold, above one of which appears

the emblem of eternity—the phoenix-with staroccasion for conjecture and speculation. shaped nimbus, close the composition on each In the wreck or resurrection of empires, side. Further below, indicated by water-plants, in the conflux of civilization and barbarism, sparkling also with gold, is the river Jordan. in the intermingling of races, and the con- The figure of Christ may be regarded as one of flict of religions, these grand expressions the most marvelous specimens of the art of the of a people's faith have surely a deep im- middle ages. Countenance, attitude, and draport. Mr. Ruskin has finely said, that the pery, combine to give him an expression of quiet art of Venice is the meeting of the glacier found again in equal beauty and freedom. The

majesty, which, for many centuries after, is not stream of the north with the lava-flood of drapery especially is disposed in noble folds, and the south. Truly the conflux and the only in its somewhat too ornate details, is a furconflict of the early Christian arts in Italy ther departure from the antique observable. ... are as the meeting of hostile forces in nå- The apostles Peter and Paul wear the usual ture, and in that country the confusion of ideal costume. SS. Cosmo and Damiano are at

tired in the late Roman dress: violet mantles in a divided people led to a corresponding gold stuff, with red embroideries of Oriental anarchy in art. It was an anarchy and

barbaric effect."* yet a servitude. An anarchy, because no legitimate authority was paramount :

In justice, however, we will add these Nature no longer held the sway; the succeeding words: “In spite of the high classic types had been abandoned; Christ- excellence of this work, it is precisely here ianity, as we have seen, had as yet failed that we can clearly discern in what reto obtain expression; and the genius to spects the degeneracy and impoverishment create secmed annihilated. In this mosaic of art first showed itself.It showed art there was likewise, as we have said, itself just as “degeneracy and impovera servitude; servitude in the servile sub- ishment” manifest themselves in national serviency to tradition when life had be- civilization, want of vigor in action and come extinct—the lifeless repetition, year thought, want of elevation in the characafter year, for seven centuries in succes

ter and type of the people, and want of sion, of types in which there was no nature, truth to the simplicity of nature. On vaand attitudes in which there was no rious visits to Italy we have spent many action. In an art thus lost in anarchy and hours, and indeed days, in the examinadegraded by servitude, the choice between tion of these early works, with, we must Roman Christian, Byzantine Christian, and confess, little accruing pleasure, and with Lombardic Christian, can offer no wide but doubtful advantage. Our love of art scope or variety. Praise of such works in its periods of perfection, whether classic is comparative, a kind of mitigated cen- or Christian, is too intense to permit us sure, an adaptation of the judgment, in any actual enjoyment in antiquity without charity for the times, to the prevailing excellence, and art without beauty. Nev. standard. Thus we can understand that ertheless we have gone studiously through the antiquary, after passing some weeks all these works, in order that we might underground in the catacombs, not once know what was the origin of the arts of rectifying or refreshing his eye by feasting the revival, what were the difficulties on the classic or the Christian art of the with which they contended, and by what Vatican, should on coming to the above means and agencies they rose from the mentioned mosaic in the church of SS. Cosmo and Damiano, burst out in the fol

* See Kugler's "Schools of Painting in Italy," 2d lowing rhapsody:

edit., p. 32.

grave of nations into the victorious life of Christian art began where Pagan ended a new civilization. Our reward has been -that the fall of one and the origin of that, from the depths in which we found the other were alike part of that second this early art cast down, we have learned barbarism which swept over Roman civilso much the more to reverence and love zation. the essential beauty, truth, and goodness From the Roman Christian mosaics of of that Italian art which rose into life out the fifth century to the Byzantine of the of ruin.

thirteenth, an interval of seven centuries, Rome," the city of the soul,” the grave the traveler has only to pass from the of so much greatness, which still offers to nave of Santa Maria Maggiore to the tri. the mind riches inexhaustible, and fires bune. In this domed apsis he finds one the imagination with an ardor not to be of the richest and most ornate examples extinguished—that city which, having at of Byzantine art; the Saviour with glory first “conquered the world by the power round the brow, holding in one hand an of her arms, for a second time subdued it open book, places the crown upon the by the spell of her imagination ” — the head of the Madonna, henceforth Queen wreck of the world's past hopes, and the of Heaven, who, with one hand raised in despair of all present aspiration-contain- wonder and the other laid upon the breast, ing within her walls the treasures of well- gently bends forward in humble acquiesnigh three thousand years—saw the first cence. Beneath the throne are a comrise of Christian art in the catacombs and pany of adoring angels floating on the the Basilicas—and now endures art's lat-wing, and near at hand are kneeling est degeneracy in the statue of the Im- bishops and standing saints, all gazing upmaculate Conception. In that city the ward in wondering adoration. All nature, student can walk from the earliest likewise rejoicing, breaks forth into exuchurches, or from the Christian Museums berant growth: arabesques, rich in flowers of the Vatican or of the Lateran from and foliage, fill the heavens; and among art of the fifth and sixth centuries to Ra- the branches perch or sport gentle doves phael's fresco of Theology in the Stanzas or the gorgeous bird of paradise. Beneath, of the Vatican; and in that short walk he flowing across the foreground, is a riverwill have traversed just one thousand stream, on the margin whereof walks the years. All that we have before asserted, stag, in whose waters sport fish and birds, well-nigh all indeed that can be told of the or float boats and cherub children, carried progression of Christian art, receives in by the wind or borne on wings. All this, this city either proof or illustration. Let it must be admitted, from the beauty and the traveler in Rome take only one morn- | the poetry of the idea, reads better in ing's drive, and we would point out to description than it looks in reality. The him more in three hours than, by mere work, as we have before stated, is an exhome study, he might learn in three years. ample of the Byzantine school, the disLet him take his carriage in the Piazza di tinction between which and the Roman Spagna, and passing the Palazzo Barbe- Christian is, however, little more than rina, traversing the Quirinale and the technical, each being to the ordinary obViminale, reach, on the summit of the server about equally removed from the Esquiline, the grand basilica of Santa truth of nature or the beauteous spirit. Maria Maggiore. In the stately aisle of uality of succeeding Christian art. It this queenly church he will see a series of may, however, be well for a moment to small mosaic pictures, taken from the Old dwell on the distinction between these Testament, and dating back to the first two schools of the Empire of the West half of the fifth century. To us the great on the one hand, and the Empire of the interest of these works has always been East on the other, the evidence they furnish of the identity Roman art, we will frankly say, is our in style between the latest Roman and the detestation. We speak not, of course, of earliest Christian art. Compare these Grecian, which, on the contrary, is equally rude, overcrowded mosaics, in costume, our worship, nor of that Greco-Romano type of figure, and art-treatment, with the which was, in fact, Greek by parentage, bass-reliefs on the Colonna Antonina, with and Roman only by the rites of naturalia late and remarkably debased bass-relief of zation. We must confess, however, that Æneas and Dido in the Vatican, and it we have great abhorrence, for the most will be seen, as already pointed out, that part, of all statues of Roman emperors, however gigantic-of all gladiators in mation of the Gospel. Like the sound of a inosaic found in the Baths of Caracalla- hymn of praise, the adorations of the old and of all bass-reliefs on triumphal arches and new time, of the Evangelists and of the great of those endless processions of Roman at the same time considers that the whole

teachers of the faith, here unite; and whoever soldiers, with captives and spoils, winding length of the walls of the center aisle was fortheir way to the summit of a column. At merly occupied with the history of Christ and best such works have a low worldly na- the Church-consisting of a series of biblical turalism, the very opposite of that pure scenes, with saints, martyrs, and portraits of art-treatment, at once ideal and natural, the Popes, all intended to prepare the eye for which gives to Grecian art its unparalleled the great subjects upon the arch of triumphexcellence. It must, however, be admit- will find it difficult to imagine how the mosaics

of the Tribune itself could surpass in beauty ted, that though Roman works have little those of the aisles. "* of aesthetic beauty, they possess, as we have said, a certain rude naturalism, and,

In the rebuilding of St. Paul's this above all, somewhat of that Roman energy mosaic has been now restored ; and Mr. which conquered the world. But when Anderson, our English photographer, has, that energy had become enervated, and we are glad to say, included the work in his nature was either forgotten or corrupted, admirably executed series of Roman phonothing remained to Roman art but its

tographs. Photography, among the many essential coarseness. At this unhappy changes it must produce in art, may, we moment Christianity sought for art-ex- trust, lead to greater precision and accuracy pression, and hence the origin of the in art-criticism. Were we, for example, in Roman Christian school. Its characteris- reading the above glowing description, tics will now be understood : a coarse limited to the dim recollections of memory, naturalism, in which nature was corrupted - a rude energy, degenerating into weak- we might hesitate before we ventured to

or even to the vagueness of written notes, ness. Yet, strange to say, such works obtain admirers. The following is a de- pronounce these eulogistic words a pre

posterous exaggeration. By this photoscription of the mosaic of the fifth cen- graph, however, we bring the mosaic ittury covering the arch of triumph in the self for quiet examination into our own church of St. Paul, without the walls of

room, are not only able to revive our own Rome :

impressions, but to show how utterly “Within a cruciform nimbus fifteen feet in valueless is the entire system of criticism, diameter, and surrounded with rays, shines forth which dares to characterize such wretched in the center the colossal figure of the Saviour imbecility by terms of praise suited only --the right hand raised in benediction, the left to the master-works in art. Why, this holding the scepter: a delicately folded mantle head of Christ, "grand in conception," of thin material covers the shoulders ; the form “ the eyebrows finely arched,” “ the nose is stern, but grand in conception; the eyebrows in finely-arched half circles above the widely in a straight Grecian line, "'« the mouth opened eyes; the nose in a straight Grecian with an expression of mild serenity," line; the mouth, which is left clear of all beard, terms only to be justified in the designaclosed with an expression of mild serenity, and tion of a type by Leonardo or Raphaelhair and beard divided in the center. Ábove, this head of Christ so extolled, is, in truth, in the clouds, on a smaller scale, are seen the piteous to look on. Truly he is here the four-winged animals bearing the books of the

man of sorrows and acquainted witlı Gospels; lower down two angels (perhaps one of the earliest specimens of angel-representa- grief; but it is sorrow and grief in which tion) are lowering their wands before the Re- there is no ministry of angels, no access decmer, on each side of whom the four-and- to the Godhead. The divine aspect is twenty elders are humbly casting their crowns lost—the human even degraded. Lines

- those on the right bare-headed, the others of corroding care, the cast of a hopeless covered: the one signifying the prophets of the melancholy, have taken possession of the Old Testament, who only saw the truth through features, as if the temptation and the fasta veil; the other, the apostles of the New-Tes- ing of the forty days had been carried tament, who beheld it face to face. Finally, below these, where only a narrow space remains

over as many years, and the Evil One had next the arch, appear on the left, St. Paul with at last made sure his empire. It is needthe sword, and on the right St. Peter with the less that we should further stigmatize this keys; both, in the style of the divided hair, somewhat approaching the type of Christ; both * See Kugler's "Schools of Painting in Italy," 2d in active gesture, as if engaged in the procla- | edit., p. 29.

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