Puslapio vaizdai

the balcony which surrounds the lantern. The height is so great that even the great dimensions of the biggest palace in the world are dwarfed in the deep perspective, and the wide gardens look small and almost insignificant. But the relative proportions of the buildings and grounds appear correctly, and measure each other, as it were. Moreover, it is now so hard to obtain access to the gardens at all that the usual way of seeing them is from the top of St. Peter's, from an elevation of four hundred feet.

To the average stranger «the Vatican » suggests only the museum of sculpture, the picture-galleries, and the Loggie. He remembers, besides the objects of art which he has seen, the fact of having walked a great distance through straight corridors, up and down short flights of marble steps, and through irregularly shaped and unsymmetrically disposed halls. If he had any idea of the points of the compass when he entered, he is completely confused in five minutes, and comes out at last with the sensation of having been walking in a labyrinth. He will find it hard to give any one an impression of the sort of building in which he has been, and certainly he can not have any knowledge of the topographical relations of its parts. Yet in his passage through the museums and galleries he has seen but a very small part of the whole, and, excepting when in the Loggie, he probably could not once have stood still and pointed in the direction of the main part of the palace.

In order to speak even superficially of it all, it is indispensable to classify its parts in some way. Vast and irregular it is at its two ends, toward the colonnade and toward the bastions of the city, but the intervening stretch consists of two perfectly parallel buildings, each over 350 yards long, about 80 yards apart, and yoked in the middle by the Braccio Nuovo of the museum and a part of the library, so as to inclose two vast courts, the one known as the Belvedere, not to be confused with the Belvedere in the museum, and the other called the Garden of the Pigna, from the bronze pine-cone which stands at one end of it.

[ocr errors]

Across these parallel buildings, and toward the city, a huge pile is erected, about two hundred yards long, very irregular, and containing the papal residence and the apartments of several cardinals, the Sistine Chapel, the Pauline Chapel, the Borgia Tower, the Stanze and Loggie of Raphael, and the court of St. Damasus. At the other end of the parallelogram are grouped the equally irregular but

more beautiful buildings of the old museum, of which the windows look out over the walls of the city, and which originally received the name of Belvedere on account of the lovely view. This is said to have been a sort of summer-house of the Borgia, not then connected with the palace by the long galleries.

It would be a hopeless and a weary task to attempt to trace the history of the buildings. Some account of the Pope's private apartments has already been given in these pages.1 They occupy the eastern wing of the part built round the court of St. Damasus; that is to say, they are at the extreme end of the Vatican, nearest the city, and over the colonnade, and the windows of the Pope's rooms are visible from the square. The vast mass which rises above the columns to the right of St. Peter's is only a small part of the whole palace, but is not the most modern by any means. It contains, for instance, the Sistine Chapel, which is considerably older than the present church, having been built by Sixtus IV, whose beautiful bronze monument is in the Chapel of the Sacrament. It contains, too, Raphael's Stanze, or halls, and Bramante's famous Loggie, the beautiful architecture of which is a frame for some of Raphael's best work.

But any good guide-book will furnish all such information, which it would be fruitless to give in such a paper as this. In the pages of Murray the traveler will find, set down in order and accurately, the ages, the dimensions, and the exact positions of all the parts of the building, with the names of the famous artists who decorated each. He will not find set down there, however, what one may call the atmosphere of the place, which is something as peculiar and unforgetable, though in a different way, as that of St. Peter's. It is quite unlike anything else, for it is part of the development of churchmen's administration to an ultimate limit in the high center of churchmanism. No doubt there was much of that sort of thing in various parts of Europe long ago, and in England before Henry VIII, and it is to be found in a small degree in Vienna to this day, where the traditions of the Holy Roman Empire are not quite dead. It is hard to define it, but it is in everything: in the uniforms of the attendants, in their old-fashioned faces, in the spotless cleanliness of all the Vatican,-though no one is ever to be seen handling a broom,—in the noiselessly methodical manner of doing everything that is to be done, in the scholarly rather than scientific arrangement of the objects in the museum and galleries-above all,

1 See THE CENTURY for February, 1896.

The Vatican

Roma. dec. 94.

A. Castorn na



of the ceiling, conceived by Michelangelo as a series of frames for his paintings. Beautiful beyond description, too, is the exquisite marble screen. No one can say certainly who made it; it was perhaps designed by the architect of the chapel himself, Baccio Pontelli. There are a few such marvels of unknown hands in the world, and a sort of romance clings to them, with an element of mystery that stirs the imagination, in a dreamy way, far more than the gilded oaktree in the arms of Sixtus IV, by which the name of Rovere is symbolized. Sixtus commanded, and the chapel was built. But who knows where Baccio Pontelli lies? Or who shall find the grave where the hand that carved the lovely marble screen is laid at rest?

It is often dark in the Sistine Chapel. The tourist can rarely choose his day, and not often his hour, and, in his hard-driven appreciation, Michelangelo may lose his effect by the accident of a thunder-shower. Yet, of all sights in Rome, the Sistine Chapel most needs sunshine. If in any way possible, go there at noon on a bright winter's day, when the sun is streaming in through the high windows at the left of the «Last Judgment.» Every one has heard of the picture before seeing it, and almost every one has formed a picture of the picture in imagination. Consequently almost everybody is surprised or disappointed on seeing it for the first time. Then, too, the world's ideas about the terrific subject of the painting have changed since Michelangelo's day. Religious belief can no more be judged by his work than his work should be judged by the standard of religion. It is wiser to look at it as a work of art alone, as the most surprising masterpiece of a master draftsman, and as a marvelous piece of composition.

In the lower part of the picture, there is a woman rising from her grave in a shroud. It has been suggested that Michelangelo meant to represent by this figure the Renaissance in Italy, still struggling with darkness. The whole picture brings the times before us. There is the Christian heaven above, and the heathen Styx below. Charon ferries the souls across the dark stream; they are first judged by Minos, and Minos is a portrait of a cardinal who had ventured to criticize the rest of the picture before it was finished. There is in it all the whirling confusion of ideas which made that age alternately terrible and beautiful, devout and unbelieving, strong and weak by turns, scholarly upon a foundation of barbarism, and most realistic

when most religious. You may see the reflected confusion in the puzzled faces of most tourists who look at the «Last Judgment » for the first time. A young American girl smiles vaguely at it; an Englishman glares, expressionless, at it, through an eye-glass, with a sort of cold inquiry-«Oh! is that all?» he might say; a German begins in Paradise at the upper left-hand corner, and works his way through the details to hell below, at the right. But they are all inwardly disturbed or puzzled or profoundly interested, and when they go away it is the great picture which, willingly or unwillingly, they remember with the most clearness.

And as Michelangelo set his great mark upon the Sistine, so Raphael took the Stanze and the Loggie for himself-and some of the halls of the picture-galleries too. Raphael represented the feminine element in contrast with Michelangelo's rude masculinity. There hangs the great « Transfiguration,» which, all but finished, was set up by the young painter's body when he lay in state-a picture too large for the sentiment it should express, while far too small for the composition, and yet, in its way, a masterpiece of composition. For in a measure Raphael succeeded in detaching the transfigured Christ from the crowded foreground, and in creating two distinct centers of interest. The frescos in the Stanze represent subjects of less artistic impossibility, and in painting them Raphael expended in beauty of design the genius which, in the «Transfiguration,» he squandered in attempting to overcome insuperable difficulties. Watch the faces of your fellowtourists now, and you will see that the puzzled expression is gone. They are less interested than they were before the «Last Judgment,» but they are infinitely better pleased.

Follow them on to the library. They will enter with a look of expectation, and presently you will see disappointment and weariness in their eyes. Libraries are for the learned, and there are but a handful of scholars in a million. Besides, the most interesting rooms, the Borgia apartments, are not shown.

Two or three bad men are responsible for almost all the evil that has been said and written against the characters of the popes in the middle ages. Farnese of Naples; Caraffa of Maddaloni, another Neapolitan who reigned as Paul IV; and Rodrigo Borgia, a Spaniard, who was Alexander VI, are the chief instances. There were, indeed, many popes who were not perfect, who were more or less ambitious, avaricious, warlike, timid,



VOL. LII.-74

headstrong, weak, according to their several characters; but it can hardly be said that any of them were, like those I have mentioned, really bad men through and through, vicious, unscrupulous, and daringly criminal. Paul IV outlived most of his vices, and devoted his last years to ecclesiastical affairs, but Alexander died poisoned by an accident. According to Guicciardini, the Pope knew nothing of Cæsar Borgia's intention of poisoning their rich friend, the cardinal of Corneto, with whom they were both to sup in a villa on August 17, 1503. The Pope arrived at the place first, was thirsty, asked for a drink, and by a mistake was given wine from a flask prepared and sent by Cæsar for the cardinal. Cæsar himself came in next, and drank likewise. The Pope died the next day, but Cæsar recovered, though badly poisoned, to find himself a ruined man and a fugitive. The cardinal did not touch the wine. This event ended an epoch and a reign of terror, and it pilloried the name of Borgia forever. Alexander expired in the third room of the Borgia apartments in the raving of a terrible delirium, during which the superstitious bystanders believed that he was conversing with Satan, to whom he had sold his soul for the papacy, and some were ready to swear that they actually saw seven devils in the room when he was dying. The fact that these witnesses were able to count the fiends speaks well for their coolness, at all events.

It has been much the fashion of late years to cry down the Vatican collection of statues, and to say that, with the exception of the «Torso,» it does not contain a single one of the few great masterpieces known to exist, such as the "Hermes of Olympia,» the «Venus of Medici,» the «Borghese Gladiator,» the «Dying Gaul.» We are told that the "Apollo >> of the Belvedere is a bad copy, and that the head of the original is in St. Petersburg; that the «Laocoon» is a copy, in spite of the signatures of three Greek artists, one on each of the figures; that the «Antinous» is a bad Hermes; and so on to the end of the collection, it being an easy matter to demolish the more insignificant statues after proving the worthlessness of the principal ones. Much of this criticism comes to us from Germany. But a German can criticize and yet admire, whereas an Anglo-Saxon usually despises what he criticizes at all. Isaac Disraeli says somewhere that certain opinions, like certain statues, require to be regarded from a proper distance. Probably none of the statues in the Vatican is placed as the sculptor would have placed it to be seen to advantage.

Michelangelo believed in the «Laocoön,» and he was at least as good a judge as most modern critics, and he roughed out the arm that was missing,-it lies on the floor in the corner,-and devoted much time to studying the group. It is true that he is said to have preferred the torso of the «Hercules,» but he did not withhold his admiration of the other good things. Of the «Apollo » it is argued that it is insufficiently modeled. Possibly it stood in a very high place and did not need much modeling, for the ancients never wasted work, nor bestowed it where it could not be seen. However that may be, it is a far better statue, excepting the bad restorations, than it is now generally admitted to be, though it is not so good as people used to believe that it was. Apparently there are two ways of looking at objects of art. The one way is to look for the faults; the other way is to look for the beauties. It is plain that it must be the discovery of the beauty which gives pleasure, while the criticism of the shortcomings can only flatter the individual's vanity. There cannot be much doubt but that Alcibiades got more enjoyment out of life than Diogenes.

The oldest decorated walls in the palace are those by Fra Angelico in the chapel of Nicholas. For some reason or other this chapel at one time ceased to be used, the door was walled up, and the very existence of the place was forgotten. In the last century Bottari, having read about it in Vasari, set to work to find it, and at last got into it through the window which looks upon the roof of the Sistine Chapel. The story, which is undoubtedly true, gives an idea of the vastness of the palace, and certainly suggests the possibility of more forgotten treasures of art shut up in forgotten rooms.

One other such at least there is. High up in the Borgia Tower, above the Stanze of Raphael, is a suite of rooms once inhabited by Cardinal Bibbiena, of the Chigi family, and used since then by more than one assistant secretary of state. There is a small chapel there, with a window looking upon an inner court, which was once the luxurious cardinal's bathroom, and was beautifully painted by Raphael in fresco, with mythological subjects. In 1835, according to Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Passavant saw it as it had originally been, with the frescos, though much damaged, still beautiful, and the marble bath still in its place in a niche painted with river-gods. In one of the Vatican's periodical fits of prudery, the frescos were completely hidden with a wooden wainscot, the bath-tub was taken away, and the room was turned into a chapel.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »