Puslapio vaizdai


ture, but his best claim to renown is tant to-day, since an American named Perfounded on his etchings of the magnificent kins invented a process whereby an etched ruins of ancient Rome.

or engraved copper plate could have a very His artistic production was enormous, thin coating of steel superadded to it by a probably unprecedented. There exist from chemical process. This steel facing yields his hand more than two thousand large, very many more fine proofs than the bare carefully executed plates. Many of these, copper could have yielded, and when the however, cannot be called available pic- facing is at last worn out, all that remains tures, being no more than archæological of it can be removed by another chemical studies of detached details.

operation, and another thin coating of Piranesi's industry and facility were steel applied to the copper. So perfect is wonderful. He never boggled over the the working of the process in preserving “first state” or the "second state” of his unworn an etched copper plate, that I plate, and in my long researches in his have in my possession the ninety thouwork I have never seen more than one sandth proof of a plate, and it is a good slight sketch drawn by him of a subject one. It was given to me by the etcher which he afterward etched, and I have Henri Guérard of Paris, and it represents never seen a single trial proof of an unfin- the portrait of the prolific author who ished plate. These elaborate etchings, the wrote the daily "penny dreadful" for the product of his brain and hand, seem to “Petit Journal," a paper which claims to have sprung into existence full grown and have much the largest circulation in the fully armed.

world. This portrait was used by the His method of corroding, or "biting,” publishers as a premium to new subscribhis etched plates was unknown to others in his day. Other etchers plunged their Four centuries ago, in the time of Alplates into diluted aqua fortis, so that the brecht Dürer, the original engraver cut acid would corrode the lines which had into the copper plate the lines which made been drawn on the copper plate by the his picture by means of an implement artist. So able a technician as Mr. Joseph called a burin, or graver. Every line had Pennell declares, however, that Piranesi to be cut separately, and famous line-ennever achieved his rich black tones by that gravings exist which exacted from the enmethod, but with a stout feather must graver from six to nine years of close work have painted his etched picture on the cop- on a single plate. Yet such long and hard per plate with the acid, thus achieving his labor was necessary at that epoch, because wonderful gradations of tone.

line-engraving was then the only method Piranesi was endowed, or cursed, with of reproducing in black-and-white the eswhat Thackeray calls a fine, furious tem- sential design of some great picture per." Like his great predecessors, Michel- painted in colors. The great English angelo and Benvenuto Cellini, he quar- mezzotint engraver Samuel Cousins used reled with the pope.

to call this tedious work "solitary confineHowever, he neglected one precaution ment with hard labor." The invention of which should be taken by every etcher who the etching process is ascribed to Albrecht values his own reputation: he never de- Dürer, who was born in the year 1471, stroyed any of his plates when they began and who was himself perhaps the supreme to deteriorate through the wear and tear of line-engraver. In the etching process there the printing-press. The sad result is that is no cutting of the lines into the copper prints from the worn-out and “doctored" plate line by line. The etcher covers his plates can still be bought in Rome at the plate with a coating of varnish which is price of one dollar each; but so deplorable impervious to acid; he then draws the lines is their condition from over-use and abuse, and dots of his composition into the prethat these prints are not really worth the pared plate, each line cuts through the dollar which is asked for them. Fine, un- coating, or "ground,” laying the copper worn impressions of the works of the old bare. He then applies diluted aqua fortis engravers are essential to any collector to his plate, and this mordant acid corwho wishes exawples of what the engraver rodes, or "bites,” the lines thus laid bare, had intended his proofs to be. This re- while the coating protects all the rest. quirement, however, is much less impor- After this first biting, if the plate were

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

printed from, every line would then be Palace. Of it an English writer has said of equal strength; but by a refinement of that what the Goth and Vandal barbarithe etching process a “stopping-out” var- ans had spared, the Barberini destroyed. nish is used. At this stage the artist makes Even the magnificent Colosseum was used use of this varnish, closing all the more as a quarry, so that little is now left of it distant lines of the composition so that in except part of the outer shell. the second biting the acid has no effect on When we remember that most of the the lines so stopped-out, while it goes on buildings etched by Piranesi were erected making deeper corrosion into the other about two thousand years ago, this ignolines that are unprotected by the varnish. rant destruction of them is a source of Successive stoppings-out and bitings yield keen regret. Indeed, the only great Roat last just the effect which the artist de- man building of that epoch which is still sires, and all this operation is still far in use as a building, and not conserved as more expeditious than the tedious method a melancholy ruin, is the Pantheon. of the line-engraver.

Among the writers who have celebrated What is called a "steel engraving" is the prints of Piranesi, two may be cited. nearly always an engraving on copper, In the early Victorian era Thomas De which is a much easier metal for the artist Quincey, in his famous book, “Confesto work on. Indeed, the only genuine sions of an English Opium-Eater," says: steel engravings I know of are the banknotes issued by the Treasury at Wash- Many years ago, when I was looking over ington.

Piranesi's Antiquities of Rome, Mr. ColeIn one respect etching is the most ridge, who was standing by, described to me purely intellectual of all art processes. a set of plates by that artist, called his The painter, the sculptor, the illustrator, Dreams (Le Carceri), and which record and the architect can see the effect which the scenery of his own visions during the they are producing as they proceed with delirium of a fever: Some of them (I detheir work; but the etcher cannot see his scribe only from memory of Mr. Colefuture picture except in his "mind's eye.” ridge's account) representing vast Gothic His method might be compared to that of halls: on the floor of which stood all sorts the marksman who should point his rifle of engines and machinery, wheels, cables, over his shoulder and fire it off backward; pulleys, levers, catapults, etc., etc., expresor like the feat of Blind Tom, the negro sive of enormous power put forth, and repianist, who in other respects was an idiot, sistance overcome. Creeping along the sides but who could turn his back to the piano of the walls, you perceived a staircase; and and play difficult compositions finely, his upon it, groping his way upwards, was Piraleft hand playing the treble notes and his nesi himself: follow the stairs a little furright hand the bass.

ther, and you perceive it come to a sudden With regard to the magnificent ruins of abrupt termination, without any balustrade, ancient Rome, it may be mentioned that and allowing no step onwards to him who one precaution which their builders took had reached the extremity, except into the to make them almost immortal was the depths below. Whatever is to become of cause of their disintegration and destruc- poor Piranesi, you suppose, at least, that his tion. In building a temple, the builders labours must in some way terminate here. used to strap each great stone to its fellow But raise your eyes, and behold a second by means of a thick band of copper, but in Alight of stairs still higher: on which again later ages the ignorant inhabitants found Piranesi is perceived, but this time standing it profitable to tear down these precious on the very brink of the abyss. Again elebuildings so as to possess themselves of vate your eye, and a still more aërial Aight these bands.

of stairs is beheld; and again is poor PiraAnother and more inexcusable cause of nesi busy on his aspiring labours; and so the destruction of these precious monu- on, until the unfinished stairs and Piranesi ments of antiquity was the using of them both are lost in the upper gloom of the hall. for quarries to supply stone for new build- With the same power of endless growth ings.

and self-reproduction did my architecture One of the buildings constructed of this proceed in dreams. In the early stage of pillaged material is the great Barberini my malady, the splendours of my dreams


were indeed chiefly architectural; and I beheld such pomp of cities and palaces as was never yet beheld by the waking eye, unless in the clouds. From a great modern poet I cite part of a passage which describes, as an appearance actually beheld in the clouds, what in many of its circumstances I saw frequently in sleep:

The appearance, instantaneously disclosed,
Was of a mighty city- boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self-withdrawn into a boundless depth,
Far sinking into splendour--without end!
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold,
With alabaster domes, and silver spires,
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
Uplifted; here, serene pavilions bright,
In avenues disposed; there, towers begirt
With battlements that on their restless

Bore stars--illumination of all gems!
By earthly nature had the effect been

Upon the dark materials of the storm
Now pacified; on them, and on the coves
And mountain-steeps and summits,

The vapors had receded, taking there
Their station under a cerulean sky.

De Quincey does not mention the name of the "great modern poet" who wrote this fine piece of blank verse, but it is to be found in Wordsworth's "Excursion."

Besides the ruins in Rome and in the Roman suburb of Tivoli, some of Piranesi's finest plates are the etchings of the great temples at Pæstum, which was originally a Greek colony, and came under Roman domination. These temples, built about 600 years before the Christian era, are in the stern and noble Doric style, which antedated both the lonic and the Corinthian orders of architecture. Although the temple of Neptune has taken on a rich yellow color, Piranesi, while otherwise giving a faithful presentation of the great building, for pictorial purposes has imparted to it a rich blackness in the shaded parts which the building does not possess.

The eminent architect and critic, the late Russell Sturgis of New York, in writing of Piranesi's etchings of the Pæstum temples, says: “The truth is that time has little to do with the destruction of a solid building. It is not time, but the wilful injury done by man, superadded, in some cases, by shock of earthquake, which has ruined the great buildings of the past."

If what is known as the Grand Style was exemplified by Michelangelo in sculpture and painting, by John Milton in poetry, and by Handel in music, it was surely possessed in etching by Piranesi.

The sublime circumstance,"battlements that on their restless fronts bore stars,"might have been copied from my architectural dreams, for it often occurred.




Author of “Dead Man's Bar," "The Man Who Saw It," etc.



THEN the Trinculo, of the Meier- to keep me going for six months, provid

dick and Knudsen Line, got readying I went where I could n't get back to to sail out of New York for Rum Cay, New York while the money lasted. Fortune Island, Caicos, Inagua, Gonaives, We were on the Trinculo because her Caimanéra, and some score of other places owners were philanthropists. The Trinthat are not world-ports, there were four culo had no passenger-carrying license. of us aboard, and three knew one another. She was a tin can ornamented with a fun

There was Bob McAllister, a red-haired nel to make her look like a ship. Meierexotic from the Orkneys, transplanted dick and Knudsen permitted wanderers to while still a tender seedling; Dick Sut- ship on their vessels as assistant pursers or ton, primevally a Boston person, and my- second assistant cat-o'-nine-tails for a total self. Between us we knew a man who salary of one (1) dollar, receipt of which was known to the fourth man. The fourth is hereby acknowledged, in return for man was Lindon Spencer, better known which they accepted unregistered passageas “Toledo" Spencer, because he had been money at the rate of two dollars a day. born there. He had a patriotic habit They did not know that they were beneof asking strangers about Toledo, and he factors. They thought they were making used to say that really he must take a look money out of it, because in exchange for at it some day.

the two dollars they provided cabins that Sitting on deck between a boiler painted would be despised for pantry purposes good as new for a man down Bahama-way

in those tight-fitting sarcophagi and a crated lion, cast-iron, for a Haitian called city apartments, and because the plaza, we found out what we had been food was low caste, prepared in an imdoing since the last time.

pressionistic way by a cook who had long Bob had sold a Solomon Island copper ceased to regard his profession as anything concession in Wall Street, and after the except a necessary evil. What they did purchasers got through buying it from not take into account was that for the two him he had just money enough left to dollars they sold blue ocean and Aying

his passage to the Caribbees, where he fish and islands that are cheap at any price, hoped to get the taste of New York out even the price of eating the food. of his mouth.

The Trinculo was a good ship. She Dick had played with a ranch and he needed merely to be humored. Whenever was traveling on a few dozen assorted her bow pointed steadily for more than an cows that had remained over after his hour toward her destination, we went to creditors had interested themselves in his the bridge and fined the captain a drink. affairs.

He was not a humorist, but he said that Toledo Spencer had run up from his we should never become topers under that coffee less coffee-plantation in Honduras to arrangement. get a good dinner in town. It cost him The Bahama man lost his boiler. The S850, odd; and he was using the remain- crew unloaded it in the Gulf Stream just ing loose change to take another look at in time. But we delivered the lion safe and South America.

sound at Gonaives after each of us had I was going because I had enough money given him a kick. He was one of those


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