Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

discovers a world, Copernicus the laws of the universe: Gutenberg renders ignorance for ever impossible : Savonarola, Luther rouse up the individual conscience. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, crown this gigantic monument of human genius.)

To speak of Art alone, it reaches perfection almost at one bound. Doubtless it would be unjust to pretend that it owes nothing to individuals, and that it came forth from nothing. Byzantine traditions had penetrated Northern Italy, through Venice, and in the incomparable character of the mosaics was 110t without its influence upon the early Italian artists. The Arabs, with the bright reflections of their graceful fancies, had made a home in Sicily for beauty and for taste; the Christian painters, before they had cast off the trammels which a jealous church had imposed upon them, had retained some memories of the antique ; the most glorious productions of Greece and Rome came forth from the long oblivion in which so many ages had left them, and roused the spirits of a generation enthusiastic, eager to see, to comprehend all things. But whatever may have been the influence of external or ancient elements upon this time, it is none the less true that human intelligence made then a sudden movement, and that such was the abundance and spontaneity of the new life, that one may say humanity burst forth at the moment from death into a fresh existence, and endowed this age the name which it has since retained.

Another characteristic of this period, more important, and one which equally distinguishes it from preceding ages, is that the (works are more than ever individual, and marked with the author's stamps I am assuredly far from gainsaying the personal existence of Homer, of Zoroaster, or of the nameless sculptor of the marbles of Ægina. I can not tell whether

with

[blocks in formation]

he who sang of the Trojan war was blind ; I know not in what language or in what place men uttered the sayings of the oldest of the sages; the name of the architect of the temple to Panhellenic Zeus will probably be a mystery for ever, but these obscurities do not make me doubt that these are the works of distinct persons, of men who have lived. Still I cannot conceal from myself their collective and general character. The schools of antiquity represent the different directions of the human mind, and the successive natural modifications of sentiment. Severe teaching, the following of traditions, while clogging the flight of individual thought, carried Art to its extreme limits, by ever pushing it forward. Phidias, Scopas, Praxiteles, were less the masters of schools which bear their names, than the most illustrious representatives of the ideas which characterize them. From them flow forth both the abstract form of Grecian Art and its perfection.

(Under the powerful breath of liberty regained, man recovered all the attributes of a personal existence. The superstitions, the chimeras, the terrors of the Middle Ages vanished like the recollections of the empty dreams of a troubled sleep. A brilliant light shed its rays upon a race of men, young, free, and eager. Each man went the way his taste led him ; faculties the most diverse showed themselves. The character of the artist was unmistakably stamped upon his work, which as it became more living acquired a more distinct individuality, and reflected clearly his own thoughts, inclinations, and passions. Ghirlandaio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, lived in the same city and at the same time; but who could mistake their most trifling works! Everything in this unparalleled period is grand; souls are in the fulness of inspiration. In the midst of the most difficult circumstances, in the midst of political and social upheavings, the most violent, we rarely find these great single-minded men give way to the demands of personal interest, disregard the dignity of life, or forget that genius does not exempt them from the cultivation of the humblest virtues. Not everything, it is true, was perfect in this time, far from it; if the Renaissance had its heroes and saints it had also its Borgias; the highest faculties were often found associated with infamy and cowardice. These monstrous combinations which astonish and confound the judgment, and offend the inner sense, will ever be seen where man is to be found ; but they are comparatively rare, while examples of the contrary are numberless and striking.

If there is one man who is a more striking representative of the Renaissance than any of his contemporaries, it is Michelangelo. In him character is on a par with genius. His life of almost a century and marvellously active, is spotless. As an artist we can not believe that he can be surpassed. He unites in his wondrous individuality the two master faculties, which are, so to speak, the poles of human nature, whose combination in the same individual creates the sovereign greatness of the Tuscan school-invention and judgment—a vast and fiery imagination directed by a method precise, firm, and safe. Such giants whom antiquity would have made into gods, are thus thrown far and wide on the pages of history as living examples of the greatness to which our race may attain, and to which the ambition of man may aspire. If it is beyond our power to equal them, we can at least contemplate them from afar, follow them, and it does not seem to me out of place to call attention to those mighty beings to which Liberty gave birth amidst the raging of

storms.)

[graphic][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

BIRTH AND INFANCY OF MICHELANGELO-APPRENTICED TO

GHIRLANDAIO—LORENZO DE' MEDICI BECOMES HIS PATRON
- LIFE IN FLORENCE—GRIEF AT LORENZO's DEATH-
STUDIES IN LITERATURE AND ANATOMY—PIERO DE' MEDICI
RECALLS HIM FROM HOME - FIRST VISIT TO ROME—THE
PIETÀ.

A.D. 1475 TO A.D. 1501.

M

ICHELANGELO was born on the 6th of March, 1475,

near Arezzo, in Casentino. His father, Lodovico 1 Buonarroti Simoni, was at the time podestà of Castello di Chiusi and Caprese. Condivi maintains, and Vasari seems to believe, that the Buonarroti were descendants of the Counts of Canossa, a very ancient family, closely allied by blood to royalty. Gori, in his notes upon Condivi, even reproduces a genealogical tree of the Buonarroti family, the original of which, going back to 1260, he had seen. This remote origin, however, which was ordinarily accepted in Michelangelo's time, now appears to be more than doubtful. Still we know this much, that the Buonarroti had been long settled in Florence, that on several occasions they had served the Re

1 M. Clément calls him, in error, Lionardo Buonarroti.

[ocr errors]

public in not unimportant posts, and the name of Michelangelo requires no other nor higher origin.

His early biographers, not content with bringing him forth from a royal stem, enlarge complacently upon the omens which attended his birth. His mother, bearing him beneath her girdle, fell from a horse without serious injury. One of his brothers died in his cradle of a contagious disease without giving it to him. Lastly, at the moment of his birth, Mercury and Venus were in conjunction with Jupiter in the ascendant, a clear sign of the lofty destiny which was a waiting him.

However this may be, Lodovico Buonarroti's year of office having expired, he returned to Florence, and put the child to nurse at Settignano, where he had a small property, with the wife of a stone carver. Many years after Michelangelo used to recall this fact to Vasari. (« Dear Georgio,” he would say, “if my mind is worth anything I owe it to the clear air of your Arezzo country, just as it is to the milk which I sucked that I owe the use of the mallets and chisels for carving my figures.",

Lodovico Buonarroti was not rich. The income of his Settignano property, which he had valued, was scarcely suffi. cient to provide for a numerous family. Several of his children he put into the silk and woollen business, but soon seeing that young Michelangelo had remarkable tastes, he made him begin a course of study, and sent him to Francesco da Urbino, who kept a grammar school at Florence. Here Michelangelo made no progress. The only taste he showed was for drawing, and he spent all the time he could steal from his studies in covering the walls of his father's house with sketches. His first attempts were still in existence in the middle of th3 eighteenth century, and Gori mentions that the Cavaliere

« AnteriorContinuar »