declension to the same cause to which the ancient Critics and Philosophers have imputed the corruption of eloquence. Indeed the same causes are likely at all times and in all ages to produce the same effects ; indolence,—not taking the same pains as our great predecessors took,--desiring to find a shorter way,are the general imputed causes. The words of Petro. nius* are very remarkable. After opposing the natural chaste beauty of the eloquence of former ages to the strained inflated style then in fashion,

neither,” says he, “ has the Art of Painting had a better fate, after the boldness of the Egyptians had found out a compendious way to execute so great an art.”

By compendious, I understand him to mean a mode of Painting, such as has infected the style of the later Painters of Italy and France ; common-place, without thought, and with as little trouble, working as by a receipt ; in contra-distinction to that style for which

a relish cannot be acquired without care and long attention, and most certainly the power of executing cannot be obtained without the most laborious application.

I have endeavoured to stimulate the ambition of Artists to tread in this great path of glory, and, as well as I can, have pointed out the track which leads to it, and have at the same time told them the price at which it may be obtained. It is an ancient saying, that labour is the price which the gods have set upon every thing valuable.

The great Artist who has been so much the subject of the present Discourse, was distinguished even from his infancy for his indefatigable diligence ; and this


Pictura quoque non alium exitum fecit, postquam Ægyptiorum audacia tam magnæ artis compendiariam invenit.--R.

was continued through his whole life, till prevented by extreme old age. The poorest of men, as he observed himself, did not labour from necessity, more than he did from choice. Indeed, from all the circumstances related of his life, he appears not to have had the least conception that his art was to be acquired by any other means than great labour ; and yet he, of all men that ever lived, might make the greatest pretensions to the efficacy of native genius and inspiration. I have no doubt that he would have tho ght it no disgrace, that it should be said of him, as he himself said of Raffaelle, that he did not possess his art from nature, but by long study.* He was conscious that the great excellence to which he arrived was gained by dint of labour, and was unwilling to have it thought that any transcendant skill, however natural its effects might seem, could be purchased at a cheaper price than he had paid for it.

This seems to have been the true drift of his observation. We cannot suppose it made with any intention of depreciating the genius of Raffaelle, of whom he always spoke, as Condivi says, with the greatest respect : though they were rivals, no such illiberality existed between them ; and Raffaelle on his part entertained the greatest veneration for Michel Angelo, as appears from the speech which is recorded of him, that he congratulated himself, and thanked God, that he was born in the same age with that painter.

If the high esteem and veneration in which Michel Angelo has been held by all nations and in all ages, should be put to the account of prejudice, it must still be granted that those prejudices, could not have been

* Che Rafaelle non ebbe quest' arte da natura, ma per longo studio.-R.

entertained without a cause : the ground of our prejudice then becomes the source of our admiration. But from whatever it proceeds, or whatever it is called, it will not, I hope, be thought presumptuous in me to appear in the train, I cannot say of his imitators, but of his admirers. I have taken another course, one more suited to my abilities, and to the taste of the times in which I live. Yet however unequal I feel myself to that attempt, were I now to begin the world again, I would tread in the steps of that great master : to kiss the hem of his garment, to catch the slightest of his perfections, would be glory and distinction enough for an ambitious man.

I feel a self-congratulation in knowing myself capable of such sensations as he intended to excite. I reflect, not without vanity, that these Discourses bear testimony of my admiration of that truly divine man ; and I should desire that the last words which I should pronounce in this Academy, and from this place, might be the name of-MICHEL ANGELO.*

Unfortunately for mankind, these were the last words pronounced by this great Painter from the Academical chair. He died about fourteen months after this Discourse was delivered.-M.





« ForrigeFortsett »