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L. The Vatican did not quite answer your expectation ?
H. To say the truth, it was not such a blow as the Louvre; but then it came after it, and what is more, at the distance of twenty years. To have made the same impression, it should have been twenty times as fine; though that was scarcely possible, since all that there is fine in the Vatican, in Italy, or in the world, was in the Louvre when I first saw it, except the frescoes of Raphael and Michael Angelo, which could not be transported, without taking the walls of the building across the Alps.
L. And what, may I ask, (for I am curious to hear,) did you think of these same frescoes ?
H. Much the same as before I saw them. As far as I could judge, they are very like the prints. I do not think the spectator's idea of them is enhanced beyond this. The Raphaels, of which you have a distinct and admirable
view, are somewhat faded-I do not mean in colour, but the outline is injured-and the Sibyls and Prophets in the Sistine Chapel are painted on the ceiling at too great a height for the eye to distinguish the faces as accurately as one would wish. The features and expressions of the figures near the bottom of the Last Judgment' are sufficiently plain, and horrible enough they are.
L. What was your opinion of the · Last Judgment' itself? H. It is literally too big to be seen.
It is like an immense field of battle, or charnelhouse, strewed with carcases and naked bodies : or it is a shambles of Art. You have huge limbs apparently torn from their bodies and stuck against the wall : anatomical dissections, backs and diaphragms, tumbling “with hideous ruin and combustion down,” neither intelligible groups, nor perspective, nor colour; you distinguish the principal figure, that of Christ, only from its standing in the centre of the picture, on a sort of island of earth, separated from the rest of the subject by an inlet of sky. The whole is a scene of enormous, ghastly confusion, in which you can only make out quantity and number, and vast, uncouth masses of bones and muscles. It has the incoherence and distortion
of a troubled dream, without the shadowiness; every thing is here corporeal and of solid dimensions.
L. But surely there must be something fine in the Sibyls and Prophets, from the copies we have of them ; justifying the high encomiums of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and of so many
others? H. It appears to me that nothing can be finer as to form, attitude, and outline. The whole conception is so far inimitably noble and just ; and all that is felt as wantiug, is a proportionable degree of expression in the countenances, though of this I am not sure, for the height (as I said before) baffles a nice scrutiny. They looked to me unfinished, vague, and general. Like some fabulous figure from the antique, the heads were brutal, the bodies divine. most, the faces were only continuations of and on a par with the physical form, large and bold, and with great breadth of drawing, but no more the seat of a vivifying spirit, or with a more powerful and marked intelligence emanating from them, than from the rest of the limbs, the hands, or even drapery. The filling up of the mind is, I suspect, wanting, the divinæ particula aura : there is prodigious and mighty prominence and grandeur and simplicity in the features, but they are not surcharged with meaning,
with thought or passion, like Raphael's, “the rapt soul sitting in the eyes.” On the contrary, they seem only to be half-informed, and might be almost thought asleep. They are fine moulds, and contain a capacity of expression, but are not bursting, teeming with it. The outward material shrine, or tabernacle, is unexceptionable; but there is not superadded to it a revelation of the workings of the mind within. The forms in Michael Angelo are objects to admire in themselves : those of Raphael are merely a language pointing to something beyond, and full of this ultimate import.
L. But does not the difference arise from the nature of the subjects ?
H. I should think, not. Surely, a Sibyl in the height of her phrensy, or an inspired Prophet—"seer blest”-in the act of receiving or of announcing the will of the Almighty, is not a less fit subject for the most exalted and impassioned expression than an Apostle, a Pope, a Saint, or a common man. If
you say that these persons are not represented in the act of inspired communication, but in their ordinary quiescent state,-granted; but such preternatural workings, as well as the character and frame of mind proper for them, must leave their shadowings and lofty traces behind them.
The face that has once held communion with the Most High, or been wrought to madness by deep thought and passion, or that inly broods over its sacred or its magic lore, must be “as a book where one may read strange matters,” that cannot be opened without a correspondent awe and reverence. But here is neither the cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night:" neither the blaze of immediate inspiration nor the hallowed radiance, the mystic gloomy light that follows it, so far as I was able to perceive. I think it idle to say that Michael Angelo painted man in the abstract, and so left expression indeterminate, when he painted prophets and other given characters in particular. He has painted them on a larger scale, and cast their limbs in a gigantic mould to give a dignity and command answering to their situations and high calling, but I do not see the same high character and intensity of thought or purpose impressed upon their countenances. Thus, nothing can be nobler or more characteristic than the figure of the prophet Jeremiah. It is not abstracted, but symbolical of the history and functions of the individual. The whole figure bends and droops under a weight of woe, like a large willow tree surcharged with showers. Yet there is no pecu