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EXHIBITIONS—THEIR ORIGIN AND PROGRESS.
Progress is the law of life, and Exhibitions, at once the outcome and the forebears of that very progress, have experienced its influence and in turn have reacted on it. The noble conception of the Prince Consort, so daring in its originality, and so comprehensive in its detail, was yet found capable of extension. Breaking down as it did old barriers of exclusiveness, and calling the nations into a common bond of brotherhood, it was in the very nature of the design to extend its borders, and the experiences of 1851 were utilised by its lamented author for the realisation of 1862.
True it is that the dreams of a universal kindred have not been realised, and that the kindly words of Jules Janin, “Battle-plains are behind us; " there remain before us but the fields of labour," have not been fulfilled. Equally true is it that the Arts of War have marched pari passu with those of Peace, have been tested by other standards than the adjudication of juries, and been subjected to ruder strains than the competition of rival manufacturers.
But all this would have arrived without a Congress of the Nations, and is beside the great question of Art progress, a progress so marked in its development, and so rapid in its strides that it would seem as if a century and not five lustres had passed away since a stone was thrown by a strong and brave hand into the ocean of time, the circles enlarging till they have embraced every branch of human industry, every scheme of modern thought, and have drawn within their span every nation upon the earth that lays claim to rank above the savage.
Prior to 1851, of local exhibitions there had been many; it is not our purpose, however, to refer their origin, as has been ingeniously done, to "the days of Ahasuerus " and the Book of Esther, when “in the third year of his reign
he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his " excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days,” the normal six months, it may be noted, of all International Exhibitions.
At this display in “Shushan, the palace," some five hundred and twenty-one years before the birth of Our Lord, were shown“white, green, and blue hangings, “ fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of " marble; the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red and blue, “ and white and black marble, and
the vessels of gold, the “ vessels being diverse one from another.” This diversity in " the vessels of gold” is not only a proof of the perfection to which the Industrial Arts had attained, but also lends a colour to the idea that this collection to a large extent was International, for Ahasuerus (said by some to be identical with Artaxerxes), as we are told, “reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over “ an hundred and seven and twenty provinces,” and the gold and silver work would point to India, as the purple would suggest the Tyrian dye, and the “fine linen " the Egyptian “ byssus.” Later on, when Tyre, Sidon, and Carthage became the marts of the world and the foci of Commerce, an everchanging series of industrial marvels must, in commercial phrase, have been constantly “on view,” for Tyre, says the prophet Isaiah, “is a mart “ of nations ..... whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the “ honourable of the earth,” and the prophet Ezekiel bears witness to the extent of her commerce, in the words "Fine linen with broidered works from Egypt, was that which thou spreadest forth to be thy sail.” When the last of her rivals had disappeared, and Carthage had been blotted out, Imperial Rome, the centre of civilization and the repository of art, held her public Exhibitions, in which were garnered together the spoils of war and the triumphs of peace, trophies of art borne by the conqueror from their Grecian homes, and luxuries ingathered from every clime where the Roman Legions had set foot or the Standard S.P.Q.R. had been planted,
Fine webs like woven mist, wrought in the dawn,
Apelles and Protogenes, Lysippus and Endius, Pheidias and Praxiteles, were beyond doubt present in their works at these displays, for we are told by Suetonius that Caligula proposed to substitute his head for that of the Olympic Zeus by Pheidias, whilst Pliny states that Claudius actually cut out the head of Alexander from a picture by Apelles, giving in exchange his image. The very dress of the Consuls, to say nothing of the Cæsars, tells of the luxurious tendencies of the age, the cloak (toga picta) richly embroidered, the tunic striped with purple (trabea), the shoes of cloth of gold (calcei aurati), all products of various nations. The old Republican simplicity was no more, Carthage with her armies had sent her luxuries, (Attalus, King of Pergamus, who died B.C. 133, left the bequest of tapestries,) the vanquished had conquered the conquerors, Greece by art, Antioch by pleasure, Alexandria by refinement; the "Serpent of Old Nile” though dead, had not forgotten its sting. What Rome borrowed from Egypt, or rather what Egypt had of which to be despoiled, is told in the words of Shakespeare, anent the progress of Cleopatra :
The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne
In her pavilion, cloth of gold, of tissue. So when Augustus reigned, monarch of the world, the once brave Romans were “feeble vassals of wine and anger and lust;" the sword was still there, but its edge was blunted, the hands that once wielded it were nerveless, the steel had rusted in its golden scabbard. But as the barbarians, the forestieri of the day, had not yet learned their own power, so the older civilizations had felt the prowess of their common masters, and thus all alike contributed of their substance to the glory of their conquerors. Britain, famous for its cloth even in those days, furnished the woollens whose tints were the envy of strangers ; from the Egyptians, skilful “in combing and weaving fine linen,” came the “byssus” cloth; Cos supplied gauzes like to the "wovenwind ” of India, of which Seneca spoke, saying, “I behold silken garments, if
garments they can be called, which are a protection neither for the body nor for sbame.” Pliny, touching on cloth of gold, states, “Gold may be
spun or woven like wool, without any wool being mixed with it.” Pope ridicules the “ charming chintz and Brussels lace" that "wrapped the cold “ limbs and framed the lifeless face;” the Imperial Romans were, however, much more luxurious, they not only flaunted in golden robes when living, but even in death were wrapped in golden shrouds. Sometimes even martyrs as well as masters had their golden death robes - instance St. Cecily, martyred A.D. 230—whose shroud when discovered in the ninth century was found drenched in her life's blood, in the language of heraldry gules and or, and the robe of the wife of the Emperor Honorius, untouched even by the hand of alldevouring Time, for dead in the first year of the fifth century, her grave
remained unopened till 1544, and her poor bones were found weighted with no less than thirty-six pounds of golden dross for upwards of 1,100 years ; nor was all this the climax of golden splendour, for recent excavations in the catacombs of Rome prove that the goldsmiths of Tarentum had revived in their jewellery the buried treasures of dead Etruria. Bref, each display was doubtless a compendium of all that could manifest the resources or set forth the wealth of the Empire of the World.
But invasion followed division, and the Empires of the East and West alike went down before Hun, Goth, and Moslem, and dark days came when the sword was Lord.
For many subsequent centuries such an idea as a collective display of articles of either art or industry would have seemed a chimera beyond even the wildest dream of the most visionary entlıusiast, for though the process of collection might and doubtless would have been tedious and uncertain, that of distribution would have been as rapid and effective as a high-handed process of annexation by some robber band or neighbouring potentate could make it. Nor could even a strong body of troops have been depended on to guard such treasures, for the greatest difficulty of all would have been “ to guard the guards themselves."
It is not, therefore, till the year 1268 that any trace can be found of the barest attempt to illustrate the industries of any country by means of mutual association. In that year, however, Lorenzo Tiepolo being Doge, a strange blending of pageantry and utility was presented in Venice, then in truth Queen City of the Seas. The display was threefold, comprehending a water fête, a procession of the trades, and an Industrial Exhibition.
Da Canale, the historian of the scene, describes at length the parade of the navy, destined for the defence of the Venetian commerce in the Mediterranean, through the silent bighways of the city, gay with flags, and reinforced by the galleys and gondolas of nobles and wealthy citizens, and as “ old and young thronged her three hundred bridges," the splendid pageant moved on in procession through the canals until all were massed in front of the Ducal Palace, when choruses were sung in honour of the new Doge. The first act of the drama brought to an end, the second opened with an array of the various guilds, who defiled through narrow streets and narrower lanes to concentrate in force on the Piazza San Marco. Tanners and Tailors, the professors on the sartorial art magnificent in white mantles trimmed with fur, passed on, to be followed by Smiths and Skinners, the latter clad in taffeta,
lined with their most costly specimens, to be again succeeded by the Hosiers, Mercers, Weavers, and Drapers, these last for some occult reason bearing olive branches; then came the Glass-Blowers, Workers in Gold Cloth, habited in the choicest products of their skill, Fishmongers, Butchers, and Victuallers; and a brave show they must have made in blue and white, crimson and gold, green, scarlet and yellow, as, preceded by banners and the trophies of their respective callings, the artisans of Venice wound their devious way through street and lane, by bridge and postern, till they attained their goal. Here the low comedy element came into force in an episode recalling Don Quixote de la Mancha, the Knight of the Rueful Countenance and the Helmet of Mambrino, as the delegates of the Barbers, two in number, and attired as Knights Errant, caracolled into the ducal presence on, what must have appeared the greatest marvel of the day to the Venetian populace, two real destriers.
These valiant knights were accompanied by four damsels, as fancifully apparelled as their protectors, and as they took their places they told, in magniloquent phrases and truest language of chivalry, a heart-rending story of manly devotion and womanly weakness; how by perilous adventure they bad rescued the maidens from unheard-of dangers, and how, true to their knighthood, they were prepared, in place of drawing the blood of their customers, to shed the last drop of their own in the defence of the ladies. To all this the Doge fittingly replied, praying them rather to live and devote their manhood to the defence of the commonweal. At this shouts of “ Long live Our Prince Lorenzo Tiepolo, the noble Doge of Venice !” were raised, as the masters of the guilds stepped forward and requested the Dogaressa to inspect the exhibition of their various works set out in the apartments of the Palace.
No catalogue exists, and the historian is silent on the subject of the collection ; but as he tells us that the Dogaressa expressed her delight at all she saw, and in token of her pleasure thereat graciously partook of sweetmeats and other refreshments, we may consider that, judging by what we know of Venetian taste in the past and present, the gathering amply represented the skill of the day, and so ended this most original of exhibitions, a success doubtless, but a display which, looking at it with our lights, must, we fear, be regarded rather as a "private view” than a “World's Fair.”
“ Thus much for this first and most unique of Exhibitions, though we opine that the true germ of International gatherings, whether known as Exhibitions, Expositions, or Weltausstellungs, must be looked for in the great International Fairs of the middle ages. The enterprise of travel begotten by the