Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

than his piety as a monk, to resume his pencil. To him, in turn, Raphael imparted bis knowledge of perspective.

Though there is no proof of any intercourse, at this tine, between Raphael and Lionardo da Vinci, who, being much older, seems to have lived secluded from the rising school of artists at Florence, it cannot be doubted that Raphael owed much to the study of his works ; but he does not appear yet to bave felt, if indeed he ever did in any considerable degree, the influence of Michel Angelo. There is nothing in any of his works before he went to Rome, that would indicate that he had seen those of bin who was afterwards to be his great rival. The paths in which their minds naturally moved were so different, that though he must have learned much, he could adopt nothing from Michel Angelo. There was no place in his own composed and graceful designs, for the startling but cold grandeur of the sculptor. Indeed, Michel Angelo was a painter but unwillingly and occasionally. The impatience of his genius would not stoop to the tedious process of oil painting, which he attempted only in a single instance, and abandoned with contempt ; and of fresco, which seemed from the boldness and rapidity of execution which it requires, better suited to his taste, he knew not even the most common details, until he was afterwards compelled, by Julius the Second, to learn it, that he might enter the lists against Raphael in the Sistine chapel. His severe and grand conceptions were better suited to the garb of sculpture, and of architecture, to which he seeins to have used drawing only as a subordinate help. Painting was a field in which he disdained to labor, and into which he sprang only to demolish a rival. His great cartoon of the battle of the Florentines and Pisans, was produced from emulation of the applause bestowed on that of Lionardo. It represented an army, surprised in the act of bathing by a sudden attack of the enemy. The subject was chosen to give him an opportunity for the display of his profound knowledge of the figure, in its most complicated postures, and in every variety of action ; difficulties which he seems to have sought, that he might show how well he could overcome them. It was a lesson in design such as had never before been exhibited. If the study of it produced any effect upon the paintings of Raphael, it is to be found not in any adoption or imitation of the same manner, but only in a greater freedom and ease he was enabled by the knowledge thus acquired to give to his own, without at all departing from its original character. Raphael imitated no one after he left the school of Perugino ; but he made free use of the works of all, to supply the deficiencies of his own style. He had the rare talent of keeping nature always in view, and of learning every thing from others that conformed to her laws, and nothing that departed from them. And yet, in his time, there seems to have been, at least at Florence and Rome, but little opportunity for studying from the life, compared with what afterwards existed there, and probably at a much earlier period at Venice.

It is said of Titian, that he painted every thing directly from nature ; and certainly there is an individual truth in his works, and perhaps a want of the ideal, that demonstrate it. He thus carried the mere art of imitation to a much higher point than Raphael, who designed much less from actual nature, but was perfect in the practice of drawing, as far as his knowledge of it extended, and that was to all but what

may be called its mere science ; that is, he designed with great ease and rapidity, and with a degree of correctness quite sufficient to express all the various actions and emotions which his subjects required, without being such a posture-master in the art as Michel Angelo, who was often led to select unnatural attitudes and actions merely from the love of displaying his power. Raphael's power of design had become a habit as familiar to him, as the bandwriting that we use simply to express our thoughts and not to show our penmanship. The beauty of his forms was the mere repetition of the image in his mind, which it seems to have cost him no labor to transfer to his drawings. There is a letter from him to Castiglione, in which he speaks of this practice. He had just finished his picture of Galatea, in the Farnesina palace, and in answer to the compliments of his friend, he says, that to paint one beautiful figure, there should be a careful selection from many beautiful originals, but that he had access to so few, that he relied rather upon what he called “ certa idea che mi viene alla mente.' I know not,” he says, “ if this has any excellence in the art, but I labor hard to acquire it.” This labor was not in the execution, but in the conception ; for the multitude of his designs, not only those that were painted by himself and his pupils, but those which he furnished for the engraver and his friends, and of which large collections still remain, prove that he designed with great facility. This early

[graphic]

quired to give to his own, without at all departing from its original character. Raphael imitated no one after he left the chool of Perugino ; but he made free use of the works of all, o supply the deficiencies of his own style. He had the rare alent of keeping nature always in view, and of learning every ning from others that conformed to her laws, and nothing that eparted from them. And yet, in his time, there seems to ave been, at least at Florence and Rome, but little opportunity or studying from the life, compared with what afterwards existd there, and probably at a much earlier period at Venice

. It is said of Titian, that he painted every thing directly rom nature ; and certainly there is an individual truth in his works, and perhaps a want of the ideal

, that demonstrate it. He thus carried the mere art of imitation to a much higher

point than Raphael

, who designed much less from actual nature, but was perfect in the practice of drawing, as far as his knowledge of it extended, and that was to all but what may be called its mere science ; that is, he designed with great ease and rapidity, and with a degree of correctness quite suficient to express all the various actions and emotions which his subjects required, without being such a posture-master in the art as Michel Angelo, who was often led to select unnatural attitudes and actions merely from the love of displaying his power. Raphael's power of design had become a habit as familiar to him, as the handwriting that we use simply to express our thoughts and not to show our penmanship. The beauty of his forms was the mere repetition of the image in his mind, which it seems to have cost him no labor to transfer

to bis drawings. There is a letter from him to Castiglione, in which he speaks of this practice. He had just finished his picture of Galatea, in the Farnesina palace, and in answer to the compliments of his friend, he says, that to paint one beautiful figure

, there should be a careful selection from many beautiful originals

, but that he had access to so few, that

says,

« if this has

cellence in the art, but I labor hard to acquire it." This labor was not in the execution, but in the conception; for the himself and his pupils, but those which he furnished for the engraver and his friends, and of which large collections still remain, prove that he designed with great facility. This early

head of his art ; but it was but the beginning of his glory. During his stay at Florence, he had finished the course of study he had proposed, and had just offered, through a relative, to furnish one of the designs for the Council Chamber, for two of which the cartoons of Lionardo and Michel Angelo were already prepared. He already felt himself able to contend with the greatest masters of the art ; and with this confidence in his powers, he began his famous frescoes of the Vatican. And yet all that he had accomplished before was hardly equal to the improvement that he made in the course of that work. He soon went far beyond the bounds to which he had before directed his ambition, and opened to himself, as well as to others, a new view of the powers of the art. The first room, on which he was employed, was to be painted with four allegorical subjects, representing Theology, Philosophy, Poetry, and Jurisprudence. These he accomplished in about two years, in a manner so far beyond that of his predecessors, that their recent designs in the other Chambers were ordered to be defaced, to make room for those of Raphael. And here be displayed a trait of that spirit of modesty and gratitude, that he never forgot in his greatest prosperity. He saved the work of his old master Perugino from this disgrace, and raised him to a higher reputation by retaining his design among his own; and still further to show his reverence for the instructer whom he had so far surpassed, he several times introduced his portrait into these compositions. The painting of Theology represented a Christian Council, deliberating on the mysteries of religion ; that of Philosophy, an Academy of the Greek philosophers; that of Poetry, Apollo, and the Muses on Mount Parnassus ; and that of Jurisprudence, the publication of the Digest by Justinian, and of the Decretals by Gregory the Ninth. After having finished these compositions, he occupied himself with other subjects for two or three years, both in oil and in fresco; and then, for the first time, he is said to have attempted the style of Michel Angelo, in his Prophets and Sybils. But, in the judgment of M. de Quincy, in these, he far surpassed his supposed models; giving to the grandeur of form he is said to have derived from Michel Angelo's figures of a similar character in the 'Sistine Chapel, an intensity of character and expression, in which those were wholly wanting. In the instance of his Prophet Isaiah, which, from the unmeaningness of the attitude, and the want of expression and interest, to be found in no other work of Raphael, the author admits he may have imitated from Michel Angelo. He even suggests that a parody on the style of that artist might have been intended; but in the other Prophets and Sibyls, he finds the charge of imitation entirely answered by the great merit of those works, in character and expression, and in the propriety and elegance of costume, in which those of Michel Angelo are pronounced to be wholly wanting. It will startle some of the admirers of that great man, to see how slightly his pretensions to any thing but a sort of brute force of design are treated by M. de Quincy ; but as he is of some authority in such matters, we shall here abridge his comparison of the two great artists :

Michel Angelo saw in the antique, and drew from it, nothing but the expression of force of mere muscular strength in the male statues, and that which is called the science of design. Raphael, aiming at the expression of the beautiful, and skilful in collecting its elements, acquired the perfect power of combining them, by his constant study of ancient art. It was by its beauty, that the antique attracted his taste. The habit of considering it always in this view, gave bim, above all painters, that purity without dryness, grace without affectation, nobleness without pomp, and that inexhaustible richness of invention ; qualities, all of which we shall seek in vain in the works of Michel Angelo. If we compare the Prophets of Raphael with those of Michel Angelo, we shall find the latter osten vulgar, and always odd in costume, the attitudes extravagant, the character of the heads almost always wanting in expression; in fine, nothing that indicates the origin of those by Raphael. A parallel between their female figures would still more decisively put the question of imitation at rest. The Sibyls of Michel Angelo are not only strange in costume, but in form neither male nor female, nor like any thing in nature; while those of Raphael are among his most noble, graceful, and elevated conceptions. Their grace, beauty, and variety of costume, are as remarkable as the elevation of character and thought, of which they seem the personifications. So far, therefore, was Raphael from borrowing any thing from these designs of Michel Angelo, that he appears to have endeavoured, in all parts of his own, to exhibit exactly what was wanting in those of his predecessor ; nobleness of form, dignity of character, beauty of countenance, and propriety of design. In truth, their minds had nothing in common. Michel Angelo, by a persevering study of anatomy and dissection, opened the way to the true science of design; VOL. XLVI. No. 98.

13

« ForrigeFortsett »