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THE IMPERIAL MAGAZINE.
NOTICES OF CARLO DOLCI.
(With an Engraving from his "Salvator Mundi.")
“The Florentine school," says Lanzi, in his History of Painting, “(I do not speak of its greatest masters, but of the general practice of the others,) had no great merit in colouring, from which Mengs was induced to denominate it a melancholy school : nor did it excel in its drapery, from which arose the saying, that the drapery of figures appeared to be fashioned with economy in Florence.
" It did not shine in power of relief, a study not generally cultivated till the last century; nor did it exhibit much beauty, because, long destitute of fine Grecian statues, Florence was late in possessing the Venus; and only through the attention of the Grand Duke Leopold, has been enriched by the Apollo, the group of Niobe, and other choice specimens. From these circumstances, this school aimed only at a fidelity of representation, that resembles the works of those who copied exactly from nature, and in general made a judicious selection of its objects. It could not boast of superior grouping in the composition of a picture, and it was more inclined to erase a superfluous figure, than to add one unnecessarily to the rest. In grace, in design, and in historic accuracy, it excels most other schools ; chiefly resulting from the great learning that always adorned this city, and invariably gave a bias to the erudition of her artists.
“ Design forms the peculiar excellence of this school, and its hereditary patrimony, to which the national characteristic of minute correctness has greatly contributed ; and it may justly be observed, that this people has excelled others no less in the symmetrical delineation of the figure, than in purity of idiom. It may also boast of having produced a great many excellent painters in fresco; an art so superior to that of painting in oil, that Bonarruoti looked on the latter as mere sport, when compared with the former, as it necessarily requires great dexterity, and the talent of executing well, and with rapidity, very difficult attainments in any profession. This school had but few engravers on copper, from which circumstance, though abounding in historians, and rich in paintings, it has not a sufficient number of prints to make it known in proportion to its merit; a defect which the Etruria Pittrice has in some measure supplied. Finally, the reader may indulge in this very just reflection, that the Florentine school first taught the method of proceeding scientifically, and according to general rules. Some other schools have originated in an attentive consideration of natural effects; by mechanically imitating, if we may be 2D, SERIES, NO. 39.--VOL. IV.
183,- VOL. XVI.
allowed the expression, the external appearances of objects. But Vinci and Bonarruoti, the two great luminaries of this school, like true philosophers, pointed out the immutable objects and established laws of nature, thence deducing rules which their successors, both at home and abroad, have followed with great benefit to the art.”
Of this school was Carlo Dolci. He was a disciple of Iacopo Vignoli, to whose memory no pupil did equal honour. He was born at Florence, in the year 1616. His style of painting was chiefly remarkable for elaborateness and exquisite finish. He was remarkably slow in the execution of his works, and is even reported to have suffered a temporary aberration of mind, on seeing Luca Giordano execute more with his pencil in four or five hours, than he could have done in so many months. He painted some portraits, but an idea of the general style of his painting is conveyed by the engraving which adorns our present number. His subjects were chiefly sacred, and were managed with great feeling in the design, and even fastidiousness of taste in the execution. He died at Florence in the year 1686, at the age of 70.
In the works of the Italian historian from whom we have already quoted, we have the following criticism on the style of Carlo Dolci :
“ Dolci holds the same rank in the Florentine, that Sassoferrato holds in the Roman school. Both, though destitute of great powers of invention, obtained great reputation for Madonnas and similar small subjects, which have now become extremely valuable ; for the wealthy, desirous of possessing pictures at once estimable and religious, to hang up in their oratories, have brought those two masters into great request, notwithstanding that they operated on very different principles. Carlo is not so celebrated for beauty, (for he was, like his master, a mere naturalist,) as for the exquisite pains with which he finished every thing, and the genuine expression of certain affecting emotions ; such as the patient suffering of Christ, or of the Virgin Mary; the penitential compunction of a Saint, or the holy confidence of a Martyr devoting himself as a victim for the living God. The colouring and general tone of his pictures accord with the idea of the passion; nothing is turgid or bold; all is modesty, repose, and placid harmony. In him we may retrace the manner of Rosseli brought to perfection, as we sometimes can view the features of the grandsire in his descendants.
A few of his larger works still remain, such as the S. Antonio, in the royal museum; the Conception of our Lady, in the possession of the Marquis Rinuccini ; also a very few of his subjects from profane story, a few of his portraits, and the celebrated figure of Poetry in the palace of Prince Corsini. His small pictures, for each of which he usually received 100 crowns, are very numerous ; and were frequently repeated by himself or by his pupils, Alessandro Lomi and Bartolommeo Mancini ; and often by Agnese Dolci, his daughter, a good artist, and follower of the style of her father ; but not his equal. His two Madonnas, in the cabinet of the Grand Duke, and his martyrdom of Saint Andrew, in the possession of the Marquis Gerini, have been often copied.
Of the private history of Carlo Dolci, of the early portion of his life, of the nature of his education, and of his private character, but little is known. It is only of the founders of schools of painting, that any minute details descend to posterity. Carlo Dolci was a disciple and an imitator; and whatever, therefore, may have been his worth, it is only to be discovered in the achievements of his own pencil.
ON THE INCONSISTENCIES AND CRIMES OF COMMUNITIES.
HUMAN NATURE has been justly termed “a bundle of inconsistencies.” This is sufficiently true of individuals, to justify the adage. The varying states of the human mind under the influence of mood and feeling, the fluctuations to which it is subject, in consequence of its connexion with a physical system which is in a great measure at the mercy of external and uncontrollable agency, no less than its dependence upon circumstances and events entirely without the sphere of its direction, sufficiently demonstrate the truth of this humiliating statement. But, perhaps, it is still more strikingly true of human nature, considered collectively, than it is of the majority of individuals. In their social capacity, men seem but little sensible of the weight of personal responsibility. “ Defendit numerus.” The guilt of any practice, or of any bad system of social regulation, is divided among a multitude ; and as each individual professes but a limited influence upon the notions and conduct of the whole, so he acknowledges but a slender share of accountability for the conduct of the community to which he belongs. Hence opinions pass uncontradicted, and practices are pursued, among societies which claim a high character for conscientiousness, and even for Christian principle, which would be indignantly disavowed by the large majority of individuals.
The proof of these remarks may be read upon the very surface of national history; and certainly the records of our own country and of our own times furnish ample illustration of their truth. It has, for example, been ever received as one of the fundamental principles of our political constitution, that the third estate of the realm is to consist of a perfect representation of the people. It is this principle which completes the boasted harmony of our system of government; and it is only on this principle that our nation can be considered to possess that freedom which every Englishman claims as his birthright. Indeed, it has ever been held as of the nature of an axiom, and has been assumed as such in the House of Commons, in the days of its foulest corruption. Yet who, that compares the present constitution of that House, with what it was but five years ago, can fail to perceive that if it is now any thing like a representation of the people of England, it was then any thing else than this ? And, who that compares even its present constitution with that which is assigned to it in theory, can doubt that many important changes must pass upon it still, before it fulfils its appointed functions, and completes the integrity of that system which it goes to constitute ? Yet but a few years prior to the corrective measures which have been recently adopted, this intelligent, thinking, and moral nation viewed, with almost entire indifference, the wide deviation of this branch of their legislature from its proper character, and quietly tolerated all the abominations, political, moral, and religious, to which that deviation
Let us imagine a political millennium. Let us suppose (and it is not a chimerical supposition,) a state of things in which our posterity shall legislate upon those inviolable principles of moral truth, by which, as a Christian nation, we now profess to be guided ; in which they shall not only acknowledge, but feel, that what is morally wrong can never be politically right; that “justice is itself the standing policy of civil society," and that any departure from it, under any circumstances, is no policy at all. Should the records of our national iniquity be preserved until that time, and they will probably be very ancient and disputable documents long before it arrires,) the historical students of that day will become acquainted with the following facts : that in the 18th century, the parliament of this country listened to the eloquence and the political wisdom of some of the most illustrious men that ever adorned it; that their deliberations were sanctified (as some thought) by the presence of the ministers of religion ; that the equitable administration of the laws was secured by publicity, as well as by the vigilance of the legislature,