« AnteriorContinuar »
from Michelozzo about 1427, at the respective prices of eight hundred and eight hundred and fifty florins. In the Duomo of Arezzo were those chef-d'œuvres of stained glass, which Vasari poetically calls," things showered from heaven for man's solace," and some fragments of which were lately to be purchased there. Some of them were executed in 1477 for fourteen lire (about 23 ducats), a square braccio of twenty two and a half inches, whilst fifteen lire were paid for those by Guillaume de Marseilles in 1519. Most of these sums appear enormous, taking the florin or ducat of the fifteenth century at nearly three pounds sterling.
Among the fortress-palaces of Florence, those solecisms of her democratic spirit, none is more conspicuous or severe than that of the Strozzi, none so little in accordance with the scenes of ephemeral gaiety that now hourly pass beneath its gloomy shadow. From a verbose narrative of its origin, drawn up by a son of the founder, and from his own still more wordy will, we obtain some curious insight into the man and the times:
Filippo Strozzi, having amply provided for his succession, was more intent upon fame than riches; and finding no more ready or certain means of leaving a memorial of himself than by building, for which he had much natural taste and no mean intelligence, he conceived the idea of erecting an edifice which might celebrate himself and his race, both in Italy and abroad. But there occurred a material difficulty, for as the higher powers (chi reggeva) might be jealous that any glory should dim their own, Filippo shrank from doing any thing calculated to occasion envy. He therefore began to spread reports, that having many children and a small dwelling, he would have to think about lodging those whom he had begotten, a matter which he could do during his life much better and more wisely than they after his death. He then originated long discourses with builders and architects, avowing the necessity he was put to for a house. At times, he feigned an intention of setting forthwith to work; then he would waver and grumble about spending quickly what he had gained in long years of industrious toil; disguising from all his real purpose and intention, solely that he might more effectually attain them, and even avowing, that all he required was a comfortable burgher's habitation, for use not show. But the architects and builders, as usual, enlarged all his plans, which was indeed very pleasing to him, although he pretended the reverse, declaring that they were compelling him to what he neither would nor could do. After he had seen and considered the plans, they added the [rustic] stone bosses, and many more ornaments: whereupon the more they persuaded, the more did Filippo simulate dissatisfaction, insisting that he would on no account have the bosses, which were unbecoming a plain citizen as well as too expensive, and that he was building for utility not for display, and meant to make under his dwelling a number of shops, that might yield a revenue to his sons; all which was eagerly opposed
The Projector of the Palazzo Strozzi.
by the architects, as unseemly and inconveniently confining the inhabitants. * In short, the more he seemed disposed to avoid outlay, and thereby to veil the grandeur of his views, and the extent of his means, the more was he spurred on and encouraged to launch out. The result was, that whilst every one thought it next to certain, that so vast a pile must absorb his means ere it could be completed, he calculated upon perfecting it out of his income without incroaching upon his capital."
It was commenced in 1489, but within two years its ambitious projector was removed from the cherished object of his hopes and intrigues, ere it reached the first story. The description of this worthy but vain citizen is highly graphic:
"In figure, Filippo was remarkably handsome and stout, patient of heat and cold, enduring of hunger and thirst. He was of a disposition so amiable, that when disagreements, such as are frequently incident to humanity, arose among his relations or intimates, all recurred to him as to their head, and he always reconciled them, supplying from his own resources what was necessary to promote their harmony, in addition to his personal trouble. Whatever friend or relative fell into sickness or adversity, he visited them, administering such solace or aid as was requisite, which they enjoyed more than any other comfort or medicine. In truth, he seemed formed by nature to dispense his wealth not less worthily than he had acquired it."
Nor are his testamentary dispositions less characteristic. His great object was to secure his house,' for there was no palace in republican Florence but that of the Seigneury, to his heirs male for ever, by stringent clauses which might serve as the model of a Scotch tailzie. His next thought was for its speedy completion without curtailment, and for this purpose he enjoined his heirs to maintain at least fifty men at work upon it, and finish it before 1497. On their neglecting to do so, Lorenzo de' Medici, or, in his default, certain public officers were authorised, within two years more, to terminate the building and furnish it out of his readiest means: and these persons were to be thereupon entitled to dine at stated times in it, at the expense of his heirs, but not exceeding fifty small lire a head (vol. i. pp. 354-365). By the will, the house was to be divided into two, half going to the only son of Filippo's first marriage, the other part to his two other sons. The eldest shrank from the task imposed by his father, and it was chiefly by the exertions of his youngest brother that the imposing edifice was completed in 1533. That brother was Filippo, who soon after was taken prisoner in the final struggle of Florentine democracy, and, in conformity with the pagan sentiments of his age and country, sought from his own hand the martyrdom for which he quoted the example of Cato. The intentions of the
founder have been more fully realised than usually happens to such testamentary calculations, and the stern old pile still keeps the ownership as well as the name of Strozzi; its almost Cyclopian strength, unscarred by time, and proof against innovation. Of the still beautiful chapel in the Santa Maria Novella, on which, by his will, at least a thousand florins was to be laid out, of the villas he erected, and the churches, chapels and oratories he founded or renovated, our limits will not allow us to speak.
The chief architect of the Strozzi palace was Simon Pollaiuolo, generally called il Cronaca, the chronicle, from an inveterate habit of telling tiresome stories of his own adventures. The long-established Italian usage of to-names found ample scope among artists of every class, few of whom are known to history by their family surnames. Thus the Corradi of Florence are always called Ghirlandaio, from the profession of their father, a garland-maker. Brusasorci, Sodoma and L'Ingegno are palpably nicknames. Raffaelle, Michelangelo and Tiziano are only baptismal names; Masaccio and Domenichino familiar contractions, meaning dirty Tom and little Dominick. Many, like Correggio, da Vinci, Perugino and Veronese, are called by their birth-place; still more by their patronymics; whilst a few, like Alessandro Bronzino, have assumed the name of their instructors in art. The prevalence of similar customs in modern Italy must have been observed by most of our readers. Nearly all the insurgents lately sentenced in Romagna and Calabria had some soubriquet appended to their designations; and, as a general rule, Italians of the lower class seldom know the family names of their next neighbours.
The fluctuations intrinsic to the profession of high art are developed in these volumes by many remarkable and not a few melancholy facts. Whilst on the one hand painters, sculptors, and military engineers (a branch of architecture in early times), appear as ambassadors and magistrates, or as the familiar correspondents of princes, we see them on the other living in the most straitened circumstances, hampered by debts, and actually pleading for subsistence. A tax-return of Jacopo di Domenico, painter, gives this sad account of himself:- "Ever since 1400 have I gone on struggling and eating the bread of others until 1421, after which I returned to Florence, where I found myself plundered and in debt, and totally destitute; and I took a wife and went to Pisa, where I mended the roads about the gates, and staid four years." In 1461 Agostino di Guccio, called della Robbia, was fortunate enough to get from the Seigneury of Florence a letter to the envoy from Perugia, dunning for payment of a work he had executed for that city. These tax-returns form a very curious class of documents, to which we are indebted for
Masaccio's Tax Return-Perugino.
many dates and interesting facts. As a specimen we take that of Masaccio:
"Declaration of the means of Tommaso di S. Giovanni, called Masaccio, and of his brother Giovanni, to the officers of the fisc.
66 Before you, the officers of the fisc for Florence and the province, we, Tommaso and Giovanni di S. Giovanni, from Castel S. Giovanni, in the upper Val-d'Arno, inhabitants of Florence, hereby make known all our goods and substance.
"We are two in family, with our mother, who is forty-five years of age; I, Tommaso, am twenty-five, and my said brother, Giovanni, is twenty. We live in the house of Andrew Macigni, for which we pay ten florins a year; I, Tommaso, have part of a shop at the Badia, for two florins a year. I owe Nicolo di S. Lapo, the painter, 102 lire, 4 soldi. We owe Piero Battiloro about six florins, and to the pawnbrokers at the signs of the Lion and of the Cow, four florins on pledges; also to Andrea di Giusto, who painted with me, Tommaso, six florins of his salary. Our mother ought to have a hundred florins in dowry, sixty of which from the heirs of her second husband, who also left her a vineyard in life-rent, but she draws nothing from it."
The son of this Andrea bound himself apprentice in the studio of Neri di Bicci for two years, in 1458, being then aged seventeen; he was to have fifteen florins and a pair of shoes yearly.
Of Perugino we have some important notices. In June, 1505, he thus writes to Elizabeth, Marchioness of Mantua :-Vol. i., p. 68.
"Most illustrious and lofty Lady, your worship.
"I have received, by the bearer, Zorzo, your noble ladyship's messenger, the eighty ducats promised me as the price of this picture, on which I have bestowed such care as seemed requisite to satisfy your noble ladyship's honour, and also my own, which I have always considered more than gain. And I humbly pray God, that I may be duly thankful to him for having made something agreeable to your noble ladyship, as my first wish is to serve and please you in so far as in my power, and for that purpose I ever offer myself as your noble ladyship's good servant and friend. I have executed the picture in distemper, having heard that Messer Andrea Mantegua had done so. If I can perform any thing else for your noble ladyship, I am ready, and to your ladyship I humbly commend myself. May Christ keep you in happiness. Done this 14th of June, 1505, by your most humble servant,
PIETRO PERUSINO, Painter in Florence."
This letter is very properly noted as inconsistent with the opinion prevalent as to the mercenary character of this painter, an impression against which Gaye scarcely attempts any defence. That there is a considerable inequality of merit in his multitudinous works is beyond dispute, but this failing seems to have been greatly exaggerated by some critics; and even those pictures at
Florence, which are quoted as proofs of his degraded mind and impaired powers, though indifferent Peruginos, would have great merit if passed under the names of most of his pupils. Although surpassed by few in purity of feeling, sweetness of expression, and delicacy of execution, he was not endowed with commanding genius. His timidity sometimes verged upon feebleness, his selfplagiarisms indicated a poverty of invention, and the glory of having instructed Raffaelle was purchased at the cost of contrasts between his own style, and that perfection to which it attained in the hands of his pupil. Yet his fresco of the Baptism of Christ stands foremost among the ornaments of the Sistine Chapel, and his Entombment scarcely yields the palm to that of Sanzio himself. That this charming painter is neither understood nor appreciated in England is sufficiently accounted for by the prevailing obtuseness among our countrymen to the really high art of the Italian schools.
Perugino appears under more suspicious circumstances at pp. 70 and 143. He had agreed, in 1494, to paint two large oil pictures for a compartment in the great council-hall at Venice, for which he was to receive four hundred ducats, finding his own colours; but he afterwards declined the commission unless the price was doubled. About twenty years later the work was assigned to Titian, who offered to do it for the sum originally stipulated, the wages of an assistant lad being also paid, at four florins a month; but this offer was cut down twenty-five per cent. when accepted by the government.
The subject of Raffaelle has been so assiduously investigated that little remained for Gaye to bring forth. He has, however, established that the tapestries executed from the Hampton Court cartoons reached Rome before April, 1518, the cost of their transport from Flanders by Lyons being twenty-nine ducats. They were then eleven in number. Some of them, stolen in the sack of Rome, found their way again to Lyons, and were offered to Clement VII., who, in 1530, refused to pay more than a hundred and sixty ducats for their recovery!* Verily the spirit of Leo passed not to his nephew.
Titian, the friend of princes, the flattered of monarchs, appears here in those bright hues which give splendour equally to his life and to his canvass. On the 5th of March, 1531, the Marquis of Mantua thus writes to him:
"I have received the picture of St. Jerome which you sent me, and which pleases me exceedingly; indeed, it is peculiarly acceptable, and I rank it among my best things, on account of its beauty, and appreciate it highly. I know not what greater commendation to give it than to say it is a work of Titian, but under that renowned name it will pass with
* Query, are these the tapestries lately offered for sale in London?