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his imagination to some resemblance of what she must have been before her fall. Let him, looking from Lido or Fusina, replace in the forest of towers those of the hundred and sixtysix churches which the French threw down ; let him sheet her walls with purple and scarlet, overlay her minarets with gold,* cleanse from their pollution those choked canals which are now the drains of hovels, where they were once vestibules of palaces, and fill them with gilded barges and bannered ships; finally, let him withdraw from this scene, already so brilliant, such sadness and stain as had been set upon it by the declining energies of more than half a century, and he will see Venice as it was seen by Canaletto ; whose miserable, virtueless, heartless mechanism, accepted as the representation of such various glory, is, both in its existence and acceptance, among the most striking signs of the lost sensation and deadened intellect of the nation at that time ; a numbness and darkness more without hope than that of the grave itself, holding and wearing yet the sceptre and the crown like the corpses of the Etruscan kings, ready to sink into ashes at the first unbarring of the door of the sepulchre.
The mannerism of Canaletto is the most degraded that I know in the whole range of art. Professing the most servile and mindless imitation, it imitates nothing but the blackness of the shadows; it gives no one single architectural ornament, however near, so much form as might enable us even to guess at its actual one ; and this I say not rashly, for I shall prove it by placing portions of detail accurately copied from Canaletto side by side with engravings from the Daguerreotype; it gives the buildings neither their architectural beauty nor their ancestral dignity, for there is no texture of stone nor character of age in Canaletto,s touch ; which is invariably a violent, black, sharp, ruled penmanlike line, as far removed from the grace of nature as from her faintness and transparency ; and for his truth of
* The quantity of gold with which the decorations of Venice were once covered could not now be traced or credited without reference to I he authority of Gentile Bellini. The greater part of the marble mouldings have been touched with it in lines and points, the minarets of St. Mark's, and all the florid carving of the arches entirely sheeted. The Casa d'Oro retained it on its lions until the recent commencement of its Restoration.
color, let the single fact of his having omitted all record, wliatsoever, of the frescoes whose wrecks are still to be found at least on one half of the unrestored palaces, and, with still less excusableness, all record of the magnificent colored marbles of many whose greens and purples are still undimmed upon the Casa Dario, Casa Bianca Capello, and multitudes besides, speak for him in this respect.
Let it be observed that I find no fault with Canaletto, for his want of poetry, of feeling, of artistical thoughtfulness in treatment, or of tne various other virtues which he does not so much as profess. He professes nothing but colored Daguerreotypeism. Let us have it: most precious and to be revered it would be : let us have fresco where fresco was, and that copied faithfully; let us have carving where carving is, and that architecturally true. I have seen Daguerreotypes in which every figure and rosette, and crack and stain, and fissure are given on a scale of an inch to Canaletto's three feet. What excuse is there to be offered for his omitting, on that scale, as I shall hereafter show, all statement of such ornament whatever? Among the Flemish schools, exquisite imitations of architecture are found constantly, and that not with Canaletto,s vulgar, black exaggeration of shadow, but in the most pure and silvery and luminous grays. I have little pleasure in such pictures; but I blame not those who have more; they are what they profess to be, and they are wonderful and instructive, and often graceful, and even affecting, but Canaletto possesses no virtue except that of dexterous imitation of commonplace light and shade, and perhaps, with the exception of Salvator, no artist has ever fettered his unfortunate admirers more securely from all healthy or vigorous perception of truth, or been of more general detriment to all subsequent schools. $8i. Expression Neither, however, by the Flemings, nor by any age'on aJtfiuec- other of the elder schools, was the effect of age or ture by s. Prout. of ]mman iife upon architecture ever adequately expressed. What ruins they drew looked as if broken down on purpose, what weeds they put on seemed put on for ornament. Their domestic buildings had never any domesticity, the people looked out of their windows evidently to be drawn, or came into the street only to stand there forever. A peculiar studiousness infected all accident; bricks fell out methodically, windows opened and shut by rule ; stones were chipped at regular intervals ; everything that happened seemed to have been expected before; and above all, the street had been washed and the houses dusted expressly to be painted in their best. We owe to Prout, I believe, the first perception, and certainly the only existing expression of precisely the characters which were wanting to old art, of that feeling which results from the influence among the noble lines of architecture, of the rent and the rust, the fissure, the lichen, and the weed, and from the writing upon the pages of ancient walls of the confused hieroglyphics of human history. I suppose, from the deserved popularity of the artist, that the strange pleasure which I find myself in the deciphering of these is common to many; the feeling has been rashly and thoughtlessly contemned as mere love of the picturesque; there is, as I have above shown, a deeper moral in it, and we owe much, I am not prepared to say how much, to the artist by whom pre-eminently it has been excited. For, numerous as have been his imitators, extended as his influence, and simple as his means and manner, there has yet appeared nothing at all to equal him; there is no stone drawing, no vitality of architecture like Prout's. I say not this rashly, I have Mackenzie in my eye and many other capital imitators ; and I have carefully reviewed the Architectural work of the Academicians, often most accurate and elaborate. I repeat, there is nothing but the work of Prout which is true, living, or right in its general impression, and nothing, therefore, so inexhaustibly agreeable. Faults he has, manifold, easily detected, and much declaimed against by second-rate artists; but his excellence no one has evei touched, and his lithographic work, (Sketches in Flanders and Germany,) which was, I believe, the first of the kind, still remains the most valuable of all, numerous and elaborate as its various successors have been. The second series (in Italy and Switzerland) was of less value, the drawings seemed more laborious, and had less of the life of the original sketches, being also for the most part of subjects less adapted for the development of the artist,s peculiar powers: but both are fine, and the Brussels, Louvain, Cologne, and Nuremberg, subjects of the one. toeether with the Tours. Amboise, Geneva, and Sion of the other, exhibit substantial qualities of stone and wood drawing, together with an ideal appreciation of the present active vital being of the cities, such as nothing else has ever approached. Their value is much increased by the circumstance of their being drawn by the artist,s own hand upon the stone, and by the consequent manly recklessness of subordinate parts, (in works of this kind, be it remembered, much is subordinate,) which is of all characters of execution the most refreshing. Note the scrawled middle tint of the wall behind the Gothic well at Ratisbonne, and compare this manly piece of work with the wretched smoothness of recent lithography. Let it not be thought that there is any inconsistency between what I say here and what I have said respecting finish. This piece of dead wall is as much finished in relation to its function as a wall of Ghirlandajo's or Leonardo's in relation to theirs, and the refreshing quality is the same in both, and manifest in all great masters, without exception, that of the utter regardlessness of the means so that their end be reached. The same kind of scrawling occurs often in the shade of Raffaelle.
It is not only, however, by his peculiar stone touch nor perception of human character that he is distinguished. He „ oo «• , if* the most dexterous of all our artists in a cer
i 32. nis excellent composi- tain kind of composition. Xo one can place
Cion and color. L x
figures like him, except Turner. It is one thing to know where a piece of blue or white is w"anted, and another to make the wearer of the blue apron or white cap come there, and not look as if it were against her will. Prout,s streets are the only streets that are accidentally crowded, his markets are the only markets where one feels inclined to get out of the way. With others we feel the figures so right where they are, that we have no expectation of their going anywhere else, and approve of the position of the man with the wheelbarrow, without the slightest fear of his running against our legs. One other merit he has, far less generally acknowledged than it should be : he is among our most sunny and substantial colorists. Much conventional color occurs in his inferior pictures (for he is very unequal and some in all ; but portions are always to be found of quality so luminous and pure that I have found these works the only ones capable of bearing juxtaposition with Turner and Hunt, who invariably destroy everything else that comes within range of them. His most beautiful tones occur in those drawings in which there is prevalent and powerful warm gray, his most failing ones in those of sandy red. On his deficiencies I shall not insist, because I am not prepared to say how far it is possible for him to avoid them. We have never seen the reconciliation of the peculiar characters be has obtained with the accurate following out of architectural detail. With his present modes of execution, farther fidelity is impossible, nor has any other mode of execution yet obtained the same results; and though much is unaccomplished by him in certain subjects, and something of over-mannerism may be traced in his treatment of others, as especially in his mode of expressing the decorative parts of Greek or Roman architecture, yet in his own peculiar Gothic territory, where the spirit of the subject itself is somewhat rude and grotesque, his abstract of decoration has more of the spirit of the reality than far more laborious imitation. The spirit of the Flemish Hotel de Yille and decorated street architecture has never been even in the slightest degree felt or conveyed except by him, and by him, to my mind, faultlessly and absolutely ; and though his interpretation of architecture that contains more refined art in its details is far less satisfactory, still it is impossible, while walking on his favorite angle of the Piazzetta at Venice, either to think of any other artist than Prout or not to think of him.
Many other dexterous and agreeable architectural artists we have of various degrees of merit, but of all of architect urai whom, it may be generally said, that they draw rally, o. catter- hats, faces, cloaks, and caps mnch better than Prout, but figures not so well; that they draw walls and windows but not cities, mouldings and buttresses but not cathedrals. Joseph Nash,s work on the architecture of the middle ages is, however, valuable, and I suppose that Haghe,s works may be depended on for fidelity. But it appears very strange that a workman capable of producing the clever drawings he has, from time to time, sent to the New Society of Painters in Water Colors, should publish lithographs so conventional, forced, and lifeless.
It is not without hesitation, that I mention a name respect