Puslapio vaizdai
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

oblique ground plan,-San Matteo, San Pietro in Vinculi, and the celebrated little gothic chapel, Maria della Spina,-whereby an effect similar to that suggested for the leaning façade may have been contemplated.

In the alignment of the columns will be found considerable irregularity. No two bases are in the same line, and the eye loses thereby its standard for computing the length of the rows. One is inclined to believe the irregularity designed, on examining the stripes of the pavement and cutting of the blocks. Most wonderful of all is that the columns are inclined from the perpendicular by wedge-shaped bases, varying as much as a centimeter in the height of the opposite sides. The effect, as compared with that of erect and perfectly aligned columns, has the superiority of the forest vista over the symmetrically arranged trees of an artificial plantation.

In some cases, where the base is not wedged, the column proves to have been already cut in antiquity for a leaning position. In the Pisan Church of St. Frediano the wedged bases (here half a centimeter variation) are all turned in one direction, which precludes the idea of chance, both rows of columns leaning the same way. Three churches in Pisa have façades of

What I claim for all these deviations of alignment, obliquities, inclinations and curves is, first, that they tend to mystify and perplex the eye by depriving it of its ordinary standards of measurement," and so produce an effect of indefinite (i. e., of greater) extension; and, second, that they throw the building into a species of optical vibration by making upon the eye, at whatever standpoint, the varying effects of different standpoints, at one and the same moment. The arrangement of corresponding objects in unlike dimensions or unlike positions, is an additional element of optical effect, by giving the eye so many additional varying effects of shadow and new stopping points from which to begin afresh its computation. † The fact that no two contiguous arches of





[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

*A correspondent of the N. Y. "Nation," May 21st, 1874, notes the enormous perspective effect of the interior of the Pisa Cathedral as contrasted with its actual size.

+It is a curious fact that Jacob Burckhardt, one of the very greatest of living art critics, has recognized the existence of this latter principle in the architectural deformities of the Bernini period, in the 17th century decadence (pages 369-377 "Cicerone," vol I. not translated), but has failed to see its infinitely beautiful application in the Pisan buildings of the 11th century. Ruskin, on the other hand, recognizes the idea of life" in the varying size of the Pisan arches, of which no two contiguous ones, either within or without, are equal,

the Pisa Cathedral are equal must, therefore, increase its apparent size.

A longitudinal section of the little chapel (not St. Stefano within the walls) first mentioned is given in fig. VIII; its length is twenty-three paces. The five arches on either side lessen in width toward the choir and fall in height correspondingly. The roof falls fifty-six centimeters between entrance and choir. The distances between the pillars were measured with a stick which I lost before taking its length. In my note-book only the remainders over are given in centimeters; the numbers will give the proportion, however: 7 lengths, 6 lengths and 17 centimeters; 5 and 34 centimeters; 5 and 27 centimeters; 5 and 23 centimeters. The chapel appears three times its real size to the spectator turned,

Fig. V. 2.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

("Seven Lamps," Lamp of Life,) but without suspecting the optical deceptions with which the Cathedral swarms, proven by the masonry to be designed, and of which I consider the unequal arches simply a phase. Förster (Italian guide-book, Germ., not translated,) having noticed, as few can fail to do, the more prominent irregularities of the Cathedral, considers them, like the Tower, as evidence of a clumsy medieval objection to regularity (vol. I, p. 364), without attempting measurements or giving a word to the subject in his more lately published history of Italian Art.

It might be supposed that clearly visible irregularities are inconsistent with optical illusion, but such is not the case. To show this, a simple experiment may be tried in any parlor

[merged small][graphic][merged small][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

by laying obliquely on the floor a rug of striking color, somewhat smaller than the room. The room will appear larger, and its walls will appear to recede, each in the direction of the widening angle. The eye perceives that the rug is awry, but assumes a line half way between the edge of the rug and the wall as the rectangular line. The walls will appear oblique in spite of all knowledge to the contrary. In the same manner, a tendency of the eye to partially rectify the inclination of the Tower would contribute to its effect of "life," and it is not entirely absurd to assume this tendency in view of the numbers who fail to notice the pronounced inclination of the Baptistery and of the façade. That Kugler and Burckhardt resort to a purely hypothetical sinking after the statement of facts made in the Descrizione di Pisa e suoi contorni," by Ranieri Grassi. 3 vols., 1837, can be only explained by supposing the work unknown to them.

their buildings, already in a sinking condition before half way done, exactly as if nothing had happened! And how curious the chance which arrested further yielding forever afterward.

At any rate, whatever the bearing of the measurements recorded in this paper on the question of the Tower, close observation and masonry measurements will reveal the fact that perspective illusion was not confined to Pisa, but practiced on a most extensive scale throughout Italy and the the whole of Europe in the Middle Age.

It was in 1837 that the horizontal curves of the Parthenon were discovered by Mr. Pennethorn, although such curves are also prescribed in Vitruvius, the only antique architect whose writings have come down to us. Since then the masonry measurements of Penrose have established the intention of the curves, together with the existence and intention of many other remarkable irregularities in the Parthenon and the majority of Greek temples.*

All the horizontal lines of the stylobate, architrave, frieze, cornice, &c., curve upward and outward. The columns of the colonnade lean inward, as do also the side walls, the architrave, frieze and pediment, while the cornice, acroteria and subordinate faces lean outward; the end walls are perpendicular, but the antæ, or pilasters of the projecting wall-ends at the corners lean outward; "perpendicular faces are the exception, not the rule."

Thus far it has been customary to follow the lead of Penrose in explaining these curves and inclinations as designed to correct optical effects. I hold, on the contrary, that they were intended to produce them.

Penrose is himself surprised at the re

"An investigation of the principles of Athenian architecture, or the results of a recent survey, conducted chiefly with reference to the optical refinements exhibited in the construction of the ancient buildings at Athens, by Francis Cranmer Penrose. London, 1851."

sults of his measurements as to intention for the outward inclination of the antæ; here, as regarding the also intended inward leaning of the door-jambs, his theory is at fault, and he has no explanation for the direction of Vitruvius, which he quotes, that all faces above the columns,―architrave, frieze, and pediment,-shall lean outward. Penrose also proves a deviation of level in the substructure to be intended, for which his theory affords no solution.* Viewed in connection with the similar manifestations of the Pisa Cathedral, do we not gain new insight at once into the purpose of the Greek refinements, and the origin of those in Pisa. Pisa was in most intimate commercial relations with the Greek civilization of the Byzantine Empire. In the Levant, where Italian is universally spoken, it is still the Pisan dialect (not the Venetian) which is used. For eighty years of the eleventh century, from the close of which the cathedral dates (1063), the Doge of Pisa was also Duke of Athens. That we are dealing in the cathedral with Greek architecture is certain; its builders are recorded to have been Byzantine Greeks. Is it not a link in the history of civilization that irregular spacings, curves, inclined faces, and leaning columns, characterize Greek architecture alike in B. C. 440, and A. D. 1100; that the façade at Pisa obeys the prescriptions of Vitruvius, and copies in its inclination the antæ of the Parthenon?

* The variations in application of this optical illusion are exactly what we should expect them to be, according to the laws of structural art. The Greek temple is simply a shrine for the statue of the Divinity; it is not intended to be large, nor to look large. The Christian cathedral of the Middle Age is the material embodiment of its spiritual unity. It must hold the community, and must look as though it could, hence the enormous development of perspective illusion. Since public building has ceased to be the highest expression of national pride, and, with its adornment, the sole expression of the art-sense of the community, it can no longer be expected that money will pay for, or taste demand, the subtle refinements of Greece and the Middle Age. This does not diminish our interest in them; viewed from the standpoint of either art or history they teach some lessons that are eminently practical.

[merged small][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]



CUT through the green wilderness down to the ground,
Straight over the hills by the route of the crow,
Now black as the bird, where the hemlocks abound,
Then through the dim pines, half as white as the snow,
By a cataract's track sunk away to the gulf

That yawned grim and dark as the mouth of a wolf,
Up hill and down dale like the trail of a brave
From the Mohawk's wet marge to Ontario's wave,
When the world was in forest, the hamlet in grove,
Ran the stormy State Road where old Benjamin drove.

THE rude rugged bridges all growled at the stage,
The rough rolling ridges all gave it a lift,
You read off the route like a line on a page,
Then dropped out of day into twilight and rift!
Through the sloughs of October it heavily rolled
And lurched like a ship that is mounting a sea,
O'er rattling macadams of torrents untold,
Now in silence and sand midway up to the knee.
It visioned the night with its yellow-eyed lamps
Like creatures that prowl out of gun-shot of camps,
When plunging along in the gloom of the swamps,
With halt, jolt and thump and the driver's "ahoy!"
It struck with a bounce on the ribbed corduroy,

[blocks in formation]

The bellows dropped down with a vanishing snore,
The smith in black crayon gave the anvil the floor
And leaned on his sledge in the cave of a door;
The landlord in slippers cut away at the heel
Shuffled out on the stoop at the rattle of wheel.
Click-click-went the gates, and like yarn from a reel
Smiling women wound out and looked down the wide street
Where the driver swung plumb in his oriole seat,
The mail, chained and padlocked, tramped under his feet.

He tightens the reins and whirls off with a fling
From the roof of the coach his ten feet of string;
The invisible fire-works rattle and ring,
Torpedoes exploding in front and in rear,
A Fourth of July every day in the year!
Now lightly he flicks the "nigh" leader's left ear,
Gives the wheelers a neighborly slap with the stock,
They lay back their ears as the coach gives a rock
And strike a square trot in the tick of a clock!

There's a jumble, a jar and a gravelly trill
In the craunch of the wheels on the slate-stone hill
That grind up the miles like a grist in a mill.

He touches the bay and he talks to the brown,
Sends a token of silk, a word and a frown
To the filly whose heels are too light to stay down.
Clouds of dust roll behind with two urchins inside
That tow by the straps as the jolly-boats ride,
From the boot rusty-brown like an elephant's hide.
With a sharp jingling halt he brings up at the door,
A surge to the coach like a ship by the shore,
He casts off the lines and his journey is o'er.

If king were to barter, would Benjamin trade
His box for a knighthood, his whip for the blade
That should make him Sir John by some grand accolade?


Ан, few whips alive in their cleverest mood
Can write with a coach as old Benjamin could,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »