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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/225

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VALUE OF THE STUDY OF ART.

"The august mysteries of the Christian dogma, the poetry of the Old and of the New Testament, the triumphant deaths of martyrs, the miracles of saints and their infinite charity—these things which the middle ages failed to put into clear and intelligible words are fully rendered in sculpture. The work of the chisel is large and firm. Difficulties are not sought, nor are they feared. Whatever be the material, the form is sure. To understand how superior the plastic is to the literary work, and to measure the distance, compare the Amiens statue with the portraits the authors of the Mysteries endeavor to draw of the Son of God. 'What can be more flat than these poor verses, which are nevertheless of the sixteenth century? The authors had good intentions and an apprehension of what should be done, but they were betrayed by the language in which they wrote. The sculptors of the thirteenth century, on the contrary, who possessed fully the grammar of their art, expressed all they felt, and have left us the most divine images of Jesus Christ in existence.'[1]

"Italy of the Renaissance is quite unintelligble to any one who has not measured the place held by art in the preoccupations not only of artists who practice it, but of all men of all conditions—of princes, nobles, tradesmen, and of citizens of most humble occupations. No one in any rank is without a passionate love for plastic beauty. This love was Italy's life and Italy's death. She died of it, because all her sap was consumed in satisfying it. It made her indifferent to her dismemberment, to the hard yoke of her tyrants, to the loss of her political liberties, and of her independence. But, at the same time, it constituted the intensity of her life which was exhausted and renewed again in the ardor with which she pursued her ideal and in her endeavors to realize it under all its aspects. Let him who would wish to obtain an exact idea of this condition reside for a while in Mantua, in Parma, in Sienna, in Florence, or in any other less-known city which nevertheless had its local school of art, its architects, its sculptors, its painters, some of whom, though they only worked for their native city, were not far from manifesting genius.[2]

"The written history of the seventeenth century and its rich literature can not alone give an idea of the situation occupied by Louis XIV in Europe when he was admired, imitated, or rather servilely copied, as pre-eminently the type of the modern king even by those who hated him the most. After two centuries, have we


  1. E. Mâle. Revue Universitaire, Third Année, l. i, p. 15.
  2. Raphael's Madonnas save the reputation of the papal see of the sixteenth century, for pontiffs who cherished such pure and gentle representations could not have been so corrupt as Luther's partisans assert.