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How the unique brick architecture of the Lombard cities took its origin -whether from the precepts of Byzantine aliens in the earliest middle ages, or from the native instincts of a mixed race composed of Gallic, Ligurian, Roman, and Teutonic elements, under the leadership of Longobardic rulers-is a question for antiquarians to decide. There can, however, be no doubt that the monuments of the Lombard style, as they now exist, are no less genuinely local, no less characteristic of the country they adorn, no less indigenous to the soil they sprang from, than the Attic colonnades of Mnesicles and Ictinus. What the marble quarries of Pentelicus were to the Athenian builders, the clay beneath their feet was to those Lombard craftsmen. From it they fashioned structures as enduring, towers as majestic, and cathedral aisles as solemn, as were ever wrought from chiselled stone. There is a true sympathy between those buildings and the Lombard landscape, which by itself might suffice to prove the originality of their almost unknown architects. The rich colour of the baked clay-finely modulated from a purplish red, through russet, crimson, pink, and orange, to pale yellow and dull grey-harmonises with the brilliant greenery of Lombard vegetation and with the deep azure of the distant Alpine range. Reared aloft above the flat expanse of plain, those square torroni, tapering into octagons and crowned with slender cones, break the long sweeping lines and infinite horizons with a contrast that affords relief, and yields a resting place to tired eyes; while, far away, seen haply from some bridge above Ticino, or some high-built palace loggia, they gleam like columns of pale rosy fire against the front of mustering storm-clouds blue with rain. In that happy orchard of Italy, a pergola of vines in leaf, a clump of green acacias, and a campanile soaring above its church roof, brought into chance combination with the reaches of the plain and the dim mountain range, make up a picture eloquent in its suggestive beauty.
Those ancient builders wrought cunningly with their material. The bricks are fashioned and fixed to last for all time. Exposed to the icy winds of a Lombard winter, to the fierce fire of a Lombard summer, and to the moist vapours of a Lombard autumn; neglected by unheeding generations; with flowers clustering in their crannies, and birds nesting in their eaves, and mason-bees filling the delicate network of their traceries-they still present angles as sharp as when they were but finished, and joints as nice as when the mortar dried in the first months of their building. This immunity from age and injury they owe partly to the imperishable nature of baked clay; partly to the care of the artists who selected and mingled the right sorts of earth, burned them with scrupulous attention, and fitted them together with a patience born of loving service. Each member of the edifice was designed with a view to its ultimate place. The proper curve was ascertained for cylindrical columns and for rounded arches. Larger bricks were moulded for the supporting walls, and lesser pieces were adapted to the airy vaults and lanterns. In the brickfield and the kiln the whole church was planned
and wrought out in its details, before the hands that made a unity of all these scattered elements were set to the work of raising it in air. When they came to put the puzzle together, they laid each brick against its neighbour, filling up the almost imperceptible interstices with liquid cement composed of quick-lime and fine sand in water. After five centuries the seams between the layers of bricks that make the bell-tower of S. Gottardo at Milan, yield no point of vantage to the penknife or the chisel.
Nor was it in their welding of the bricks alone that these craftsmen showed their science. They were wont to enrich the surface with marble, sparingly but effectively employed-as in those slender detached columns, which add such beauty to the octagon of S. Gottardo, or in the string-courses of strange beasts and reptiles that adorn so many of the church fronts of Pavia. They called to their aid the mandorlato of Verona, supporting their porch pillars on the backs of couchant lions, inserting polished slabs on their façades, and building huge sarcophagi into their cloister alleys. Between terra-cotta and this marble of Verona there exists a deep and delicate affinity. It took the name of mandorlato, I suppose, from resembling almond blossoms. But it is far from having the simple beauty of a single hue. Like all noble veined stones, it passes by a series of modulations and gradations through a gamut of associated rather than contrasted tints. Not the pink of the almond blossom only, but the creamy whiteness of the almond kernel, and the dull yellow of the almond nut may be found in it; and yet these colours are so blent and blurred to all-pervading mellowness, that nowhere is there any shock of contrast or violence of a preponderating tone. The veins which run in labyrinths of crossing, curving, and contorted lines all over its smooth surface add, no doubt, to this effect of unity. The polish, lastly, which it takes, makes the mandorlato shine like a smile upon the sober face of the brickwork: for, serviceable as terra-cotta is for nearly all artistic purposes, it cannot reflect light or gain the illumination which comes from surface brightness.
What the clay can do almost better than any crystalline material, may be seen in the mouldings so characteristic of Lombard architecture. Geometrical patterns of the rarest and most fanciful device; scrolls of acanthus foliage, and traceries of tendrils; Cupids swinging in festoons of vines; angels joining hands in dance, with fluttering skirts, and windy hair, and mouths that symbol singing; grave faces of old men and beautiful profiles of maidens leaning from medallions; wide-winged genii filling the spandrils of cloister arches, and cherubs clustered in the rondure of rose-windows-ornaments like these, wrought from the plastic clay, and adapted with true taste to the requirements of the architecture, are familiar to every one who has studied the church front of Crema, the cloisters of the Certosa, the courts of the Ospedale Maggiore at Milan, or the public palace of Cremona.
If the mandorlato gives a smile to those majestic Lombard buildings,
the terra-cotta decorations add the element of life and movement. The thought of the artist in its first freshness and vivacity is felt in them. They have all the spontaneity of improvisation, the seductive melody of unpremeditated music. Moulding the supple earth with "hand obedient to the brain," the plasticatore has impressed his most fugitive dreams of beauty on it without effort; and what it cost him but a few fatigueless hours to fashion, the steady heat of the furnace has gifted with imperishable life. Such work, no doubt, has the defects of its qualities. As there are few difficulties to overcome, it suffers from a fatal facility— nec pluteum cædit nec demorsos sapit ungues. It is therefore apt to be unequal, touching at times the highest point of inspiration, and sinking not unfrequently into the commonplace of easy-going triviality. But it is never laboured, never pedantic, never dulled by the painful effort to subdue an obstinate material to the artist's will. If marble is required to develop the strength of the few supreme sculptors, terra-cotta saves intact the fancies of a crowd of lesser men.
When we reflect that all the force, solemnity, and beauty of the Lombard buildings was evoked from clay, we learn from them this lesson that the thought of man needs neither precious material nor yet stubborn substance for the production of enduring masterpieces. The red earth was enough for God when He made man in His own image; and mud dried in the sun suffices for the artist, who is next to God in his creative faculty-since non merita nome di creatore se non Iddio ed il poeta. After all, what is more everlasting than terra-cotta? The hob-nails of the boys who ran across the brickfields in the Roman town of Silchester, may still be seen, mingled with the impress of the feet of dogs and hoofs of goats, in the tiles discovered there. Such traces might serve as a metaphor for the footfall of artistic genius, when the form-giver has stamped his thought upon the moist clay, and fire has made that imprint permanent.
Of all these Lombard edifices, none is more beautiful than the Cathedral of Crema, with its delicately-finished campanile, built of choicely-tinted yellow bricks, and ending in a lantern of the gracefullest, most airily capricious fancy. This bell-tower does not display the gigantic force of Cremona's famous torrazzo, shooting 396 feet into blue ether from the city square; nor can it rival the octagon of S. Gottardo for warmth of hue. Yet it has a character of elegance, combined with boldness of invention, that justifies the citizens of Crema in their pride. It is unique; and he who has not seen it does not know the whole resources of the Lombard style. The façade of the Cathedral displays that peculiar blending of Byzantine or Romanesque round arches with Gothic details in the windows and with the acute angle of the central pitch, which forms the characteristic quality of the late trecento Lombard manner. In its combination of purity and richness it corresponds to the best age of decorated work in English Gothic. What, however, strikes a northern observer is the strange detachment of this elaborate
façade from the main structure of the church. Like a frontispiece cut out of cardboard and pierced with ornamental openings, it shoots far above the low roof of the nave; so that at night the moon, rising above the southern aisle, shines through its topmost window, and casts the shadow of its tracery upon the pavement of the square. This is a constructive blemish to which the Italians in no part of the peninsula were sensitive. They seem to have regarded their church-fronts as independent of the edifice, capable of separate treatment, and worthy in themselves of being made the subject of decorative skill.
In the so-called Santuario of Crema- -a circular church dedicated to S. Maria della Croce, outside the walls-the Lombard style has been adapted to the manner of the Mid Renaissance. This church was raised in the last years of the fifteenth century by Gian Battista Battagli, an architect of Lodi, who followed the pure rules of taste bequeathed to North Italian builders by Bramante. The beauty of the edifice is due entirely to its tranquil dignity and harmony of parts, the lightness of its circling loggia, and the just proportion maintained between the central structure and its four projecting porticoes. The sharp angles of these vestibules afford a contrast to the simplicity of the main building, while their clustered cupolas assist the general effect of roundness aimed at by the architect. Such a church as this proves how much may be achieved by the happy distribution of architectural masses. It was the triumph of the best Renaissance style to attain lucidity of treatment, and to produce beauty by geometrical proportion. When Leo Battista Alberti complained that a slight alteration of the curves in his design for S. Francesco at Rimini would "spoil his music," this is what he meant. The melody of lines and the harmony of parts made a symphony to his eyes no less agreeable than a concert of tuned lutes and voices to his ears; and to this music he was so sensitive that any deviation was a discord.
After seeing the churches of Crema and sauntering about the streets awhile, there is nothing left to do but to take refuge in the old Albergo del Pozzo. This is one of those queer Italian inns, which carry you away at once into a scene of Goldoni. It is part of some palace, where nobles housed their bravi in the sixteenth century, and which the lesser people of to-day have turned into a dozen habitations. Its great stone staircase leads to a saloon upon which the various bed-chambers open; and round its courtyard runs an open balcony, and from the court grows up a fig-tree poking ripe fruit against a bedroom window. Oleanders in tubs and red salvias in pots, and kitchen herbs in boxes flourish on the pavement, where the ostler comes to wash his carriages, and where the barber shaves the poodle of the house. Visitors to the Albergo del Pozzo are invariably asked if they have seen the Museo; and when they answer in the negative, they are conducted with some ceremony to a large room on the ground-floor of the inn, looking out upon the courtyard and the fig-tree. It was here that I gained the acquaintance of Signor Folcioni, VOL. XXXV.No. 210.
and became possessor of an object that has made the memory of Crema doubly interesting to me ever since.
When we entered the Museo, we found a little old man, gentle, grave, and unobtrusive, varnishing the ugly portrait of some Signor of the Cinque Cento. Round the walls hung pictures, of mediocre value, in dingy frames; but all of them bore sounding titles. Titians, Leonardos, Guido Renis, and Luinis, looked down and waited for a purchaser. In truth this museum was a bric-à-brac shop of a sort that is common enough in Italy, where treasures of old lace, glass, armour, furniture, and tapestry may still be met with. Signor Folcioni began by pointing out the merits of his pictures; and after making due allowance for his zeal as amateur and dealer, it was possible to join in some of his eulogiums. A would-be Titian, for instance, bought in Verona from a noble house in ruins, showed Venetian wealth of colour in its gemmy greens and lucid crimsons shining from a background deep and glowing. Then he led us to a walnut-wood bureau of late Renaissance work, profusely carved with nymphs and Cupids, and armed men, among festoons of fruits embossed in high relief. Deeply drilled worm-holes set a seal of antiquity upon the blooming faces and luxuriant garlands-like the touch of Time who "delves the parallels in beauty's brow." On the shelves of an ebony cabinet close by he showed us a row of cups cut out of rock-crystal and mounted in gilt silver, with heaps of engraved gems, old snuff-boxes, coins, medals, sprays of coral, and all the indescribable lumber that one age flings aside as worthless for the next to pick up from the dust-heap and regard as precious. Surely the genius of culture in our century might be compared to a chiffonnier of Paris, who, when the night has fallen, goes into the streets, bag on back and lantern in hand, to rake up the waifs and strays a day of whirling life has left him.
The next curiosity was an ivory carving of St. Anthony preaching to the fishes, so fine and small you held it on your palm, and used a lens to look at it. Yet there stood the Santo gesticulating, and there were the fishes in rows-the little fishes first, and then the middle-sized, and last of all the great big fishes almost out at sea, with their heads above the water and their mouths wide open, just as the Fioretti di San Francesco describes them. After this came some original drawings of doubtful interest, and then a case of fifty-two nielli. These were of unquestionable value; for has not Cicognara engraved them on a page of his classic monograph? The thin silver plates, over which once passed the burin of Maso Finiguerra, cutting lines finer than hairs, and setting here a shadow in dull acid-eaten grey, and there a high light of exquisite polish. were far more delicate than any proofs impressed from them. These frail masterpieces of Florentine art-the first beginnings of line engraving-we held in our hands while Signor Folcioni read out Cicognara's commentary in a slow impressive voice, breaking off now and then to point at the originals before us.
The sun had set, and the room was almost dark, when he laid his book