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fall, it is not surprising that, under such advantages, they should attain a very high degree of perfection. Yet still I am inclined to doubt if even all these concurring are sufficient to account for this phenomenon in its full extent. In the first place, we find that history shows many periods where most of these causes, sometimes all, have concurred, yet the effect has not resulted. Princes have inherited a taste for the fine arts, and lavished their rewards upon indifferent artists. Nations have enjoyed peace, and ease, and opulence, and individuals have sought with eagerness the productions of art of other countries and of other ages, because their own age and country were barren. In the next place, we find that, in those golden ages of the arts, the transition from a bad to a good taste, from obscurity to splendour, was so rapid and instantaneous, as not at all to resemble the slow and gradual operation of moral causes. In those ages the torch of genius seems to have dropped at once from heaven, and to have kindled all in a blaze around it.

In the period of ancient history, we have seen that remarkable splendour to which the fine arts arose in the age of Pericles. In modern times, the age of Leo X. is an era equally distinguished.

The art of painting lay long buried in the west, under the ruins of the Roman empire. It declined in the latter ages with the universal decay of taste and genius, and needed not an irruption of the Goths to lay it in the dust. The Ostrogoths, who subdued Italy, that people who were barbarians only in name, had they found it in splendour, would have industriously cherished and preserved it, as they did every monument of ancient grandeur or of beauty: but painting and sculpture were never high among the ancient Romans; and that the taste and genius for the imitative arts underwent a regular and natural decay, we have the strongest proof in examining the series of the coins of the lower empire.

Such of the arts as were found by the Goths, upon the conquest of Italy, were carefully preserved by them. Muratori, in treating of those ages, informs us that Theodelinda, queen of the Lombards, about the year 592, built a palace, in which she made paintings be put up, representing the heroic actions of the Lombards. That paintings were used in the churches under the Gothic monarchy in Spain, in a very early period, we know from one of the canons of the council of Eliberi, held in the year 305, which prohibits them as idolatrous.

Instead of extinguishing and suppressing, there is even a probability that the Goths were the improvers, if not the actual inventors, of some of the arts dependant on design. A collection of receipts are given by Muratori, from an ancient manuscript, written in the most barbarous Latin-from which, however, it is evident that the Goths, at that time, possessed a pretty extensive knowledge in the ornamental arts, particuularly in that of the composition of mosaic. That they possessed taste and genius I will not pretend to assert. It is even probable that that mechanical knowledge which showed itself in those ages was in the subsequent times greatly diminished. The fine arts are said to have been revived in Italy by artists from Greece; and it seems highly probable that in that country, which had been eminently distinguished by their splendour and perfection, the taste should have been less entirely lost than in any other.

The most common notion is, that, about the end of the thirteenth century, Cimabue, a Florentine, observing the works of two Grecian artists, who had been sent for to paint one of the churches at Florence, began to attempt something of the same kind, and soon conceived that it would not be difficult to surpass such rude performances. His works were the admiration of his time; he had his scholars and his imitators, among these were Ghiotto, Gaddi, Tasi Cavallini, and Stephano Florentino; and the number of artists con

tinued so to increase, that an academy for painting was instituted at Florence in the year 1350.

Still, however, the art was extremely low, and the' artists, with great industry, seem to have had no spark of genius. The successors of Cimabue and of Ghiotto seem all to have painted in one manner. Their works are distinguished by a hard and rigid outline, sharp angles of the limbs, and stiff folds in the drapery; a contour, in short, in which there is not the smallest grace or elegance. Such, with little variation or improvement, was the manner of painting for above two centuries. The best artists valued themselves on the most scrupulous and servile imitation of nature, without any capacity of distinguishing her beauties and deformities. In painting a head, it was the highest pitch of excellence that all the wrinkles of the skin should be most distinctly marked, and that the spectator should be able to count every hair on the beard. Such was the state of painting till toward the end of the fifteenth century, when all at once, as if by some supernatural influence, it attained at a single step to the summit of perfection.

Nothing can more clearly demonstrate that the splendour to which the fine arts all at once attained, at the period of which we now speak was owing entirely to natural genius, and not to accidental causes, than this circumstance, that though many remains of the finest sculpture of the ancients existed, and were known in Italy for some centuries preceding this era, it was not till this time that they began to serve as models of imitation. Ghiotto, Cimabue, and their scholars, had seen some of the ancient statues, and many antique basso-relievoes met the eye in almost every street in Rome; but they had looked on them with the most frigid indifference: the case was, they found in them nothing conformable to their own miserable taste. These works now began to be regarded with other eyes. Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael arose, men animated with the same

genius that had formed the Grecian Apelles, Zeuxis, Phidias, Glycon, and Praxiteles.

And the prodigy was not confined to Rome: Florence, Venice, and other cities of Italy, produced in the same period many geniuses self-taught like them, who left at an infinite distance all that had gone before them in the path of the arts. Nor was that genius even peculiar to Italy: Germany, Flanders, and Switzerland produced in the same age artists whose works are yet the admiration of Europe. Of these we shall speak in their turn, after having shortly characterized the greatest of the Italian masters, and the several schools of which the different merits are distinct and peculiar.

As the most ancient, and not the least remarkable of these, the school of Florence deserves to be first mentioned. Of this, the first of the great painters was Michael Angelo Buonarotti, born in the year 1474, whose works attracting the notice of Pope Julius II., he was called from Florence to Rome, where he has left in the pontifical palace and in the churches some of the most sublime specimens of his art. A most profound intelligence of anatomy, and a skill in design, formed upon the contemplation of the ancient sculp tures, characterize the works of Michael Angelo. He understood most perfectly the human figure, but delighted too much to display his knowledge by exhibiting it in forced and violent attitudes. The subjects of his paintings are happily chosen to exhibit the grand, the sublime, and even the terrible; but he is ignorant of the beautiful. The strength with which he characterizes the muscles of the human body, and the violent fore-shortenings of limbs, are suitable to the persons of heroes, demi-gods, and devils, and these he has most happily represented; but his women are as muscular as the ordinary race of men, and his men are too much beyond nature.* Michael Angelo seems to have

The merit of Michael Angelo was never more truly or forcibly expressed than by a Frenchman, the sculptor Falconet,

studied the human body divested of the skin, where the beginning and termination of the muscles are distinctly seen, and their separatica marked by strong lines.

The paintings of Michael Angelo, are models of design; they are drawn with infantine skill, and to a young artist might almost supersede the imitation of the human figure, and the knowledge of anatomy; but they will not supply the place of the antique; for from that fountain Michael Angelo has adopted nothing else but skill and correctness of outline, without aiming at the attainment of grace or beauty; that was reserved for Raphael.

The Roman school owed its origin to Raphael, who was born at Urbino, in the year 1483. He soon departed from the dry manner of his master Perugino, and formed to himself one peculiarly his own, in which he has wonderfully united almost every excellence of the art. His invention and composition are admirable, his attitudes grand and sublime, his female figures in the highest degree beautiful. He understood the anatomy of the human figure as well as Michael Angelo, but he never offends by a harsh delineation of the muscles. His skill in the chiarooscuro, or in the effect of light and shade, is beyond that of Michael Angelo, and his colouring very far superior to him. In the action of his figures there is nothing violent and constrained, but all is moderate, simple, and gracefully majestic. Many painters there are, excellent in different departments, and several that, in one single department, may be found to exceed even Raphael; but in that supreme excellence, which consists in the union of all the various merits of the art, he stands unrivalled, and far removed from all competition.

who, after viewing two of his statues, observed-"J'ai vu Mithel Ange-il est effrayant."-"I have seen Michael Angelohe is terrifying."

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