Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

gold, according to the letter of the contracts, or if in Bank-paper, at an addition of seventeen and a half per cent of the nominal va. lue, the rate of its sapposed depreciation. Concerning the justice of this demand, much has been said, and it is not for us to decide; but we shall venture to assert, that if the great landed proprietors entertain the notion of shifting off the burden of the times from their own shoulders to those of any other class of society, they are directly leading the way to a revolution like that of France. While the state creditors, and all those who gain their living by the exertions of their industry, are obliged to accept their payments in paper, however depreciated, will it be endured that the opulent proprietors of land, who have been continually raising their rents in proportion to the increased price of commodities, should insist upon being paid in a different currency? For whose interests, so much as for those of the superior orders, bas all the waste of the long war under which we are groaning, been increased? This is a dangerous string to touch, and we forbear to say more.

The cause of the Bank-notes was at length taken up in parlia. ment by Lord Stanhope, a peer who acts from his own suggestions, more, probably, than any other member of that House; and it was a singular proof of the embarrassment felt by the Mi. nistry on the subject, that they were glad to adopt the project of one who was almost a constant opponent, and never scrupled to treat them with severe censure and sarcasm. He introduced, late in the Session, a Bill, the chief purpose of which was to render it illegal to give more for gold coin than its lawful value, or to take Bank-notes at a depreciated value. Though it did not make Bank-notes a legal tender, it in effect obliged a creditor to take them or nothing; and the plea was, that nothing else is to be had in the present deficiency of bullion, As his lordship af. firmed that he went upon the principle that the Bank of England is solvent, it seemed necessary to accompany the Bill with a clause restricting its paper.coinage to a definite sum, and this the mover appeared to intend; but Ministers would not admit such a restriction. The Bill was regarded as only a temporary expedient, and being hastened through both Houses, though not without much opposition, passed into a law on July 24th, just before the prorogation of parliament. It is now manifest that the circulating medium of the nation is placed entirely at the discretion of the Bank Directors, or of the Ministers, with whom they are identified; and this must continue as long as the war lasts.

The transactions in the other parts of Europe during the period of which we treat have not been of great moment. The war between the Turks and Russians has been carried on languidly; and there seems nothing in the circumstances of either

power

that should

should prevent its speedy conclusion, were the rulers of mankind prepared to make any sacrifices of pride or ambition to the wel. fare of the people subjected to their dominion. It is the wish of this country that a peace between these powers may take place, to be immediately succeeded by a sanguinary war between Russia and France. Doubtless it is on every account desirable that Russia'should assert its independence of French councils or commands, and if this cannot be effected without a breach with the despot of Europe, the political freedom of that empire may be worth such a hazard; yet its sovereign will perhaps pause before he again engages in an encounter where not a province, but a crown, will be the stake. In the mean time it is said that the financial difficulties of Russia have compelled it already to give indirect admission to British commerce; and it is probable that the first resistance to the French systein of exclusion will com. mence in that quarter.

In Sweden, the war with England is manifestly unpopular, and serious insurrections have occurred in some of the provinces on account of the military conscription. The deposed king of that country, who impatiently quitted the protection of an English frigate, and landed in Denmark, was apprehended by an order of the French government, and will probably end his days in an ho. nourable confinement.

The assembly of the French clergy, convoked for the purpose of rectifying the disordered state of the Catholic church of France, and filling the numerous episcopal vacancies, appears to have made little progress, and difficulties probably occur which even the uncontrouled power of Napoleon is unable to over

The Pope is residing at Savona, in a state of exile from his proper capital, and is thought to be still refractory to the commands of his oppressor.

From America, the most important intelligence to this country has been that of an unhappy rencounter between a British ship of war and one belonging to the United States. On May 16th, the King's sloop Little Belt, commanded by Captain Bingham, while cruising off the coast of North America, descried and gave chace to a strange sail, which proved to be the United State's frigate, of forty-four guns, the President, Commodore Rodgers. She was chased in her turn, and in the evening the chaser came within hail. To the mutual questions of What ship? no answers were returned ; shots were fired, from which vessel first is a matter of dispute, and without explanation on either part, a brisk action commenced, which terminated in great damage and loss of men on the part of the Little Belt. They parted for the night; and the next morning an elucidation took place, with some offers of assistance from the American, which were declined by Captain

Bingham;

come.

Bingham; and thus the affair terminated. Whether design, ma. val etiquette, or accident, were the cause of this unfortunate act of hostility, must be ascertained by further enquiry;. in the meantime it must have the effect of adding another source of disa pute to the differences subsisting between the two nations.

In Spanish America, war is still waged between the party at. tached to the mother country, and the votaries of independence; it is said with advantage to the latter. To that country the eyes of the speculative politician are turned with peculiar interest, as presenting a distant perspective of events which may be highly important to mankind, when the old world may be replunged into barbarism.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ART. XVII.-On the Talents of Frey and Piranesi, considered

with reference to the State of Italian Engraving in the Century which preceded them.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE REFLECTOR.

Si R,

WHEN we reflect on the advantages possessed by the artists of Italy.compared with those whose inferior fortune it has been to exist in the other countries of Europe, we cannot but feel some sur. prise that in the course of the seventeenth century, so few engravers who are justly entitled, to rank high in their profession, should have appeared in that highly-favoured country. While France, Germany, and the Low Countries, with inferior opportunities, present a respectable display of talent in that art, and are even brightened with some rays of original genius, the history of Italian engrav. g, from the time of Agostino Caracci to that of Piranesi and Giacomo. Frey, is little better than a dull record of creeping mediocrity,

If we derive more salutary kuowledge from example than from mere precept, it is surely desirable to ascertain the cause of an effect so remarkable, and so interesting when considered with reference to the future progress of the art of engraying, and if it should be found ascribable (as, generally happens in cases of this kind) to a combination of causes, to shew in what degrees they each contributed to its production; or, whether the decline of the art were more owing to paucity of Italian patronage; or to dearth of that particular kind of genius, combined with patient assiduity, which is requisite in order to excel in this art; or that it was not studied and practised in Italy (as it was at this time in the north of Europe) as a distinct profession from that of

painting; painting; or, that no philosophical view was then and there taken of the principles and practical energies of engraving, though painting and the art of the statuary were abundantly honoured with the literary attentions of their Italian professors and critics, which must have contributed largely to the diffusion of taste and knowledge in those arts among the people.

I do not propose any thing more at present than to state these questions, and invite your reflecting correspondents (or yourself, Mr. REFLECTOR, if you should think proper) to their discussion. I shall add such biographical notices of the two artists whom I have named, and such remarks on their professional merits, as reading and observation enable me to supply, and as may per. adventure shed some light on the questions at issue. The works of Frey and Piranesi, who, early in the eighteenth century, stood forth the distinguished leaders of Italian engraving, at least prove ed to their contemporaries that the genius of the art had not fled for ever, to climates less genial, and less benefited by the re-appearance of the sculptured wonders of antiquity.

Giacomo Frey was born at Lucerne, in Switzerland, in the year 1681, and his life presents a remarkable instance of the in. destructibility of genius; which it should seem that no rigour of adverse fortune can subdue, and no fire of intemperate passions

can consume.

[ocr errors]

He was apprenticed to the trade of a cartwright, and in spite of his propensities toward the Fine Arts, was obliged to follow that trade till he attained the age of two and twenty, when he surmounted the obstacles that stood in his road, and, somehow or other, made his way to Rome: but in quitting the peaceful and placid vale of Lucerne, he seems to have broken loose from all sober restraint; and on his arrival in Italy, his passions, which the self-denials of modesty and the fortitude of innocence had hitherto held in check, hurried him into every dangerous excess. Yet as the same Po, which roars and riots down the Alps, winds afterward a stately river through the plains of Italy, so it was with our artist: when the ebullitions of passion was over, he listă ened with delight to the advice of Arnold van Wirtenhout, and the instructions of Carlo Maratti, and from that period began to make surprising progress in the art of engraving.

A speech of Maratti to his pupil, which strongly marks the good sense and sound observation of that master, has been recorded :

-The engravers of history (said he) make too much use of the burin, and hence arises a certain hardness in their contours; I would advise you to familiarize yourself with the etching-point, because it operates in a far more picturesque manner than the graver.” Frey followed this advice, at once with the docility of a pu.

pil, and the intuitive readiness of a master. Robert van Aude. narde of Ghent was at this time his fellow-disciple and liberal ri. val, but the rapid strides of Giacomo soon left him at an im.' mense distance, though a man of ability. He drew with superior taste, had a fine eye for the harmony both of colours and chiaro. scuro, etched with a degree of spirit and freedom which have very rarely been attained, and worked over and finished his etch. ings with the graver at once with firmness and facility ; incorpo. rating the whole by means of such exquisite feeling of the merits of his original, that it has been emphatically said of his prints, that they appear rather painted than engraved. He was the Gerard Audran of Italy, and seemed, only to differ from Audran himself as Raphael, Guido, Dominichino, and Guerchino (after whom his principal works were engraved), differ from Le Brun. In short, his feeling for the peculiar excellencies of the first masters of the Italian schools, was of the highest, and purest kind; so that it may be said, almost without a metaphor, that in his engravings their forms appear revivified by the spirit of Giacomo Frey. He died at Rome in the year 1752, the admiration of

every

ina telligent artist, yet before he had received more than an earnest of the praises that are justly his due.

It is to be regretted, that when his plates, which were published by his son Philip, began to wear, they were injudiciously re. touched, perhaps by Philip himself, who destroyed all his father's sweetness and harmonious mellowness ; so that good impressions of the engravings of Frey in their original state, are now become rare, though they have not yet, in this country, nor perhaps in any other, attained their intrinsic value.

The works of Frey are somewhat numerous, notwithstanding that they are in general of large folio dimensions. Most of them are highly worthy of particular criticism, and are excellent studies for 'young historical engravers; but as my present intention reaches no further than to treat of the general merits of two exo traordinary artists, one of them the first historical, and the other the first landscape engraver, of their age and country, and who both shone forth at once, after a century of chalcographic dulness, I shall proceed to Piranesi.

GIOVANNI BAPTISTA PIRANESI was born at Rome early in the eighteenth century (Huber says in the year 1707) and died in that metropolis A.D. 1778. Of his parentage nothing is recorded; nothing of the events of his early youth; nothing of the steps which preceded his grand career. We gather from circumstances, that they were few, firm, and rapid ; and that he must have started a candidate for fame before most other men have half completed their preparatory studies; but we 'only know from facts, that he became a distinguished antiquary, architect, draughtsman,

and

« ForrigeFortsett »