The Works of J. W. von Goethe/Volume 12/Letters from Italy/Part III
FROM VERONA TO VENICE.
Verona, Sept. 16.
Well, then, the Amphitheatre is the first important monument of the old times that I have seen; and how well it is preserved! When I entered, and still more when I walked around the edge of it at the top, it seemed strange to me that I saw something great, and yet, properly speaking, saw nothing. Besides, I do not like to see it empty. I should like to see it full of people, just as, in modern times, it was filled up in honour of Joseph I. and Pius VI. The emperor, although his eye was accustomed to human masses, must have been astonished. But it was only in the earliest times that it produced its full effect, when the people was more a people than it is now. For, properly speaking, such an amphitheatre is constructed to give the people an imposing view of itself,—to cajole itself.
When anything worth seeing occurs on the level ground, and any one runs to the spot, the hindermost try by every means to raise themselves above the foremost: they get upon benches, roll casks, bring up vehicles, lay planks in every direction, occupy the neighbouring heights, and a crater is formed in no time.
If the spectacle occur frequently on the same spot, light scaffoldings are built for those who are able to pay, and the rest of the multitude must get on as it can. Here the problem of the architect is to satisfy this general want. By means of his art he prepares such a crater, making it as simple as possible, that the people itself may constitute the decoration. When the populace saw itself so assembled, it must have been astonished at the sight; for whereas it was only accustomed to see itself running about in confusion, or to find itself crowded together without particular rule or order, so must this many-headed, many-minded, wandering animal now see itself combined into a noble body, made into a definite unity, bound and secured into a mass, and animated as one form by one mind. The simplicity of the oval is most pleasingly obvious to every eye, and every head serves as a measure to show the vastness of the whole. Now we see it empty, we have no standard, and do not know whether it is large or small.
The Veronese deserve commendation for the high preservation in which this edifice is kept. It is built of a reddish marble, which has been affected by the atmosphere; and hence the steps, which have been eaten, are continually restored, and look almost all new. An inscription makes mention of one Hieronymus Maurigenus, and of the incredible industry which he has expended on this monument. Of the outer wall only a piece remains, and I doubt whether it was ever quite finished. The lower arches, which adjoin the large square called "Il Bra," are let out to workmen; and the reanimation of these arcades produces a cheerful appearance.
Verona, Sept. 16.
The most beautiful gate, which, however, always remains closed, is called "Porta stupa," or "del Pallio." As a gate, and considering the great distance from which it is first seen, it is not well conceived; and it is not till we come near it, that we recognise the beauty of the structure.
All sorts of reasons are given to account for its being closed. I have, however, a conjecture of my own. It was manifestly the intention of the artist to cause a new Corso to be laid out from this gate; for the situation, or the present street, is completely wrong. On the left side there is nothing but barracks; and the line at right angles from the middle of the gate leads to a convent of nuns, which must certainly have come down. This was presently perceived; and, besides, the rich and higher classes might not have liked to settle in the remote quarter. The artist, perhaps, died; and therefore the door was closed, and so an end was put to the affair.
Verona, Sept. 16.
The gallery which encloses the fore-court is also small, and the channelled Doric dwarfs have a mean appearance by the side of the smooth Ionic giants. But we pardon this discrepancy on account of the fine institution which has been founded among the columns. Here is kept a number of antiquities, which have mostly been dug up in and about Verona. Something, they say, has even been found in the Amphitheatre. There are Etruscan, Greek, and Roman specimens, down to the latest times, and some even of more modern date. The bas-reliefs are inserted in the walls, and provided with the numbers which Maffei gave them when he described them in his work, "Verona Illustrata." There are altars, fragments of columns, and other relics of the sort; an admirable tripod of white marble, upon which there are genii occupied with the attributes of the gods. Raphael has imitated and improved this kind of thing in the scrolls of the Farnesina.
The wind which blows from the graves of the ancients comes fragrantly over hills of roses. The tombs give touching evidences of a genuine feeling, and always bring life back to us. Here is a man by the side of his wife, who peeps out of a niche, as if it were a window. Here are father and mother, with their son between them, eyeing each other as naturally as possible. Here a couple are grasping each other's hands. Here a father, resting on his couch, seems to be amused by his family. The immediate proximity of these stones was to me highly touching. They belong to a later school of art, but are simple, natural, and generally pleasing. Here a man in armour is on his knees, in expectation of a joyful resurrection. With more or less of talent, the artist has produced the mere simple presence of the persons, and has thus given a permanent continuation to their existence. They do not fold their hands, they do not look toward heaven; but they are here below just what they were and just what they are. They stand together, take interest in each other, love one another; and this is charmingly expressed on the stone, though with a certain want of technical skill. A marble pillar very richly adorned gave me more new ideas.
Laudable as this institution is, we can plainly perceive that the noble spirit of preservation, by which it was founded, is no longer continued. The valuable tripod will soon be ruined, placed as it is in the open air, and exposed to the weather toward the west. This treasure might easily be preserved in a wooden case.
The Palace of the Proveditore, which is begun, might have afforded a fine specimen of architecture, if it had been finished. Generally speaking, the nobili build a great deal; but, unfortunately, every one builds on the site of his former residence, and often, therefore, in narrow lanes. Thus, for instance, a magnificent façade to a seminary is now building in an alley of the remotest suburb.
While, with a guide whom I had accidentally picked up, I passed before the great solemn gate of a singular building, he asked me good-humouredly whether I should not like to step into the court for awhile. It was the Palace of Justice; and the court, on account of the height of the building, looked only like an enormous wall. Here, he told me, all the criminals and suspicious persons are confined. I looked around, and saw that round all the stories there were open passages, fitted with iron balustrades, which passed by numerous doors. The prisoner, as he stepped out of his dungeon to be led to trial, stood in the open air, and was exposed to the gaze of all passers; and, because there were several trial-rooms, the chains were rattling, now over this, now over that passage, in every story. It was a hateful sight, and I do not deny that the good humour with which I had despatched my "Birds" might here have come into a strait.
I walked at sunset upon the margin of the craterlike Amphitheatre, and enjoyed the most splendid prospect over the town and the surrounding country. I was quite alone, and multitudes of people were passing below me on the hard stones of the Bra. Men of all ranks, and women of the middle ranks, were walking. The latter, in their black outer garments, look, in this bird's-eye view, like so many mummies.
The Zendale and the Veste, which serve this class in the place of an entire wardrobe, is a costume completely fitted for a people that does not care much for cleanliness, and yet always likes to appear in public,—sometimes at church, sometimes on the promenade. The Veste is a gown of black taffeta, which is thrown over other gowns. If the lady has a clean white one beneath, she contrives to lift up the black one on one side. This is fastened on so as to cut the waist, and to cover the lappets of a corset, which may be of any colour. The Zendale is a large hood with long ears. The hood itself is kept high above the head by a wire frame, while the ears are fastened round the body like a scarf, so that the ends fall down behind.
Verona, Sept. 16.
When, a little while ago, I spoke of the necessities of the multitude in such a case, I described the natural accidental amphitheatre as arising just in the manner in which I saw the people raised one over another on this occasion. Even at a distance, I could hear the lively clapping of hands which accompanied every important stroke. The game is played as follows: two boards, slightly inclined, are placed at a convenient distance from each other. He who strikes off the ball stands at the higher end: his right hand is armed with a broad wooden ring, set with spikes. While another of his party throws the ball to him, he runs down to meet it, and thus increases the force of the blow with which he strikes it. The adversaries try to beat it back; and thus it goes backward and forward, till at last it remains on the ground. The most beautiful attitudes, worthy of being imitated in marble, are thus produced. As there are none but well-grown, active young people, in a short, close white dress, the parties are only distinguished by a yellow mark. Particularly beautiful is the attitude into which the man on the eminence falls, when he runs down the inclined plane, and raises his arm to strike the ball: it approaches that of the Borghesian gladiator.
It seemed strange to me that they carry on this exercise by an old lime-wall, without the slightest convenience for spectators. Why is it not done in the Amphitheatre, where there would be such ample room?
Verona, Sept. 17.
What I have seen of pictures I will but briefly touch upon, and add some remarks. I do not make this extraordinary tour for the sake of deceiving myself, but to become acquainted with myself by means of these objects. I therefore honestly confess, that of the painter's art, of his manipulation, I understand but little. My attention and observation can only be directed to the practical part, to the subject, and the general treatment of it.
St. Georgio is a gallery of good pictures,—all altarpieces, and all remarkable, if not of equal value. But what subjects were the hapless artists obliged to paint! And for whom? Perhaps a shower of manna thirty feet long and twenty feet high, with the miracle of the loaves as a companion. What could be made of these subjects? Hungry men falling on little grains, and a countless multitude of others, to whom bread is handed. The artists have racked their invention in order to get something striking out of such wretched subjects. And yet, stimulated by the urgency of the case, genius has produced some beautiful things. An artist who had to paint St. Ursula with the eleven thousand virgins has got over the difficulty cleverly enough. The saint stands in the foreground, as if she had conquered the country. She is very noble, like an Amazonian virgin, and without any enticing charms: on the other hand, her troop is shown descending from the ships, and moving in procession at a diminishing distance. The Assumption of the Virgin, by Titian, in the dome, has become much blackened; and it is a thought worthy of praise, that, at the moment of her apotheosis, she looks, not toward heaven, but toward her friends below.
In the Gherardini Gallery I found some very fine things by Orbitto, and for the first time became acquainted with this meritorious artist. At a distance we only hear of the first artists, and then we are often contented with names only; but when we draw nearer to this starry sky, and the luminaries of the second and third magnitude also begin to twinkle, each one coming forward, and occupying his proper place in the whole constellation, then the world becomes wide, and art becomes rich. I must here commend the conception of one of the pictures. Samson has gone to sleep in the lap of Delilah, and she has softly stretched her hand over him to reach a pair of scissors, which lies near the lamp on the table. The execution is admirable. In the Canopa Palace I observed a Danäe.
The Bevilagua Palace contains the most valuable things. A picture by Tintoretto, which is called a "Paradise," but which, in fact, represents the coronation of the Virgin Mary as queen of heaven, in the presence of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, saints, angels, etc., affords an opportunity for displaying all the riches of the most felicitous genius. To admire and enjoy all that care of manipulation, that spirit and variety of expression, it is necessary to possess the picture, and to have it before one all one's life. The painter's work is carried on ad infinitum. Even the farthest angels' heads, which are vanishing in the halo, preserve something of character. The largest figures may be about a foot high; Mary and the Christ who is crowning her, about four inches. Eve is, however, the finest woman in the picture,—a little voluptuous, as from time immemorial.
A couple of portraits by Paul Veronese have only increased my veneration for that artist. The collection of antiquities is very fine. There is a son of Niobe extended in death, which is highly valuable; and the busts, including an Augustus with the civic crown, a Caligula, and others, are mostly of great interest, notwithstanding the restoration of the noses.
It is in my nature to admire, willingly and joyfully, all that is great and beautiful; and the cultivation of this talent day after day, hour after hour, by the inspection of such beautiful objects, produces the happiest feelings.
In a land where we enjoy the days, but take especial delight in the evenings, the time of nightfall is highly important: for now work ceases; those who have gone out walking turn back; the father wishes to have his daughter home again; the day has an end. What the day is, we Cimmerians hardly know. In our eternal mist and fog, it is the same thing to us whether it be day or night; for how much time can we really pass and enjoy in the open air? Now, when night sets in, the day, which consisted of a morning and an evening, is decidedly past; four and twenty hours are gone; the bells ring, the rosary is taken in hand, and the maid, entering the chamber with the lighted lamp, says, "Felicissina notte." This epoch varies with every season; and a man who lives here in actual life cannot go wrong, because all the enjoyments of his existence are regulated, not by the nominal hour, but by the time of day. If the people were forced to use a German clock, they would be perplexed, for their own is intimately connected with their nature. About an hour and a half, or an hour, before nightfall, the nobility begin to ride out. They proceed to the Piazza della Bra, along the long, broad street, to the Porta Nuova, out at the gate, and along the city, and, when night sets in, they all return home. Sometimes they go to the churches to say their Ave Maria della sera; sometimes they keep on the Bra, where the cavaliers step up to the coaches, and converse for awhile with the ladies. The foot-passengers remain till a late hour of night; but I have never stopped till the last. To-day just enough rain had fallen to lay the dust, and the spectacle was most cheerful and animated.That I may accommodate myself the better to the custom of the country, I have devised a plan for mastering more easily the Italian method of reckoning the hours. The accompanying diagram may give an idea of it. The inner circle denotes our four and twenty hours, from midnight to midnight, divided into twice twelve, as we reckon and as our clocks indicate. The middle circle shows how the clocks strike at the present season; namely, as much as twelve twice in
COMPARATIVE TABLE OF GERMAN AND ITALIAN TIME,
WITH THE HOURS OF THE ITALIAN SUN-DIAl. FOE THE LATTER
HALF OF SEPTEMBER.
|THIS NIGHT LENGTHENS HALF AN HOUR EVERY FORTNIGHT.||THE DAY LENGTHENS HALF AN HOUR EVERT FORTNIGHT.|
|Month.||Day||Time of night as shown by German clocks.||Midnight consequently falls about||Month.||Day.||Time of night as shown by German clocks.||Midnight consequently falls about|
|From this date the time remains constant, and it is:—||From this date the time remains constant, and it is:—|
Verona, Sept. 17.
The people here jostle one another actively enough. The narrow streets, where shops and workmen's stalls are thickly crowded together, have a particularly cheerful look. There is no such thing as a door in front of the shop or workroom: the whole breadth of the house is open, and one may see all that passes in the interior. Half-way out into the path the tailors are sewing, and the cobblers are pulling and rapping: indeed, the work-stalls make a part of the street. In the evening, when the lights are burning, the appearance is most lively.
The squares are very full on market-days. There are fruit and vegetables without number, and garlic and onions to the heart's desire. Then again, throughout the day there is a ceaseless screaming, bantering, singing, squalling, huzzaing, and laughing. The mildness of the air and the cheapness of the food make subsistence easy. Everything possible is done in the open air.
At night, singing and all sorts of noises begin. The ballad of "Marlbrook" is heard in every street; then comes a dulcimer, then a violin. They try to imitate all the birds with a pipe. The strangest sounds are heard on every side. A mild climate can give this exquisite enjoyment of mere existence, even to poverty; and the very shadow of the people seems venerable.
The want of cleanliness and convenience which so much strikes us in the houses, arises from the following cause: the inhabitants are always out-of-doors, and in their light-heartedness think of nothing. With the people all goes right. Even the middle-class man just lives on from day to day; while the rich and genteel shut themselves up in their dwellings, which are not so habitable as in the north. Society is found in the open streets. Fore-courts and colonnades are all soiled with filth, for things are done in the most natural manner. The people always feel their way before them. The rich man may be rich, and build his palaces, and the nobile may rule; but, if he makes a colonnade or a fore-court, the people will make use of it for their own occasions, and have no more urgent wish than to get rid as soon as possible of that which they have taken as often as possible. If a person cannot bear this, he must not play the great gentleman; that is to say, he must act as if a part of his dwelling belonged to the public. He may shut his door, and all will be right. But in open buildings the people are not to be debarred of their privileges; and this, throughout Italy, is a nuisance to the foreigner.
To-day I remarked in several streets of the town the customs and manners of the middle classes especially, who appear very numerous and busy. They swing their arms as they walk. Persons of a high rank, who on certain occasions wear a sword, swing only one arm, being accustomed to hold the left arm still.
Although the people are careless enough with respect to their own wants and occupations, they have a keen eye for everything foreign. Thus in the very first days I observed that every one took notice of my boots: because here they are too expensive an article of dress to wear, even in winter. Now that I wear shoes and stockings, nobody looks at me. Particularly I noticed this morning, when all were running about with flowers, vegetables, garlic, and other market-stuff, that a twig of cypress which I carried in my hand did not escape their attention. Some green cones hung upon it, and I held in the same hand some blooming caper-twigs. Everybody, large and small, watched me closely, and seemed to entertain some whimsical thought.
I brought these twigs from the Giusti Garden, which is finely situated, and in which there are monstrous cypresses, all pointed up like spikes into the air. The taxus, which in northern gardening we find cut to a sharp point, is probably an imitation of this splendid natural product. A tree the branches of which, the oldest as well as the youngest, are striving to reach heaven; a tree which will last its three hundred years,—is well worthy of veneration. Judging from the time when this garden was laid out, these trees have already attained that advanced age.
Vicenza, Sept. 19.
The way from Verona hither is very pleasant. We go northeastward along the mountains, always keeping to the left the foremost mountains, which consist of sand, lime, clay, and marl: the hills which they form are dotted with villages, castles, and houses. To the right extends the broad plain along which the road goes. The straight broad path, which is in good preservation, goes through a fertile field. We look into deep avenues of trees, up which the vines are trained to a considerable height, and then drop down, like pendent branches. Here we can get an admirable idea of festoons. The grapes are ripe, and are heavy on the tendrils, which hang down long and trembling. The road is filled with people of every class and occupation; and I was particularly pleased by some carts with low, solid wheels, which, with teams of fine oxen, carry the large vats in which the grapes from the vineyards are put and pressed. The drivers rode in them when they were empty, and the whole was like a triumphal procession of Bacchanals. Between the ranks of vines the ground is used for all sorts of grain, especially Indian corn and millet (Sörgel.)
As one goes toward Vicenza, the hills again rise from north to south, and enclose the plain. They are, it is said, volcanic. Vicenza lies at their foot, or, if you will, in a bosom which they form.
Vicenza, Sept. 19.
Though I have been here only a few hours, I have already run through the town, and seen the Olympian Theatre and the buildings of Palladio. A very pretty little book is published here, for the convenience of foreigners, with copperplates and some letter-press, that shows knowledge of art. When once one stands in the presence of these works, one immediately perceives their great value; for they are calculated to fill the eye with their actual greatness and massiveness, and to satisfy the mind by the beautiful harmony of their dimensions, not only in abstract sketches, but with all the prominences and distances of perspective. Therefore I say of Palladio, he was a man really and intrinsically great, whose greatness was outwardly manifested. The chief difficulty with which this man, like all modern architects, had to struggle, was the suitable application of the orders of columns to buildings for domestic or public use; for there is always a contradiction in the combination of columns and walls. But with what success he has worked them up together! What an imposing effect the aspect of his edifices has! at the sight of them one almost forgets that he is attempting to reconcile us to a violation of the rules of his art. There is, indeed, something divine about his designs, which may be exactly compared to the creations of the great poet, who out of truth and falsehood elaborates something between both, and charms us with its borrowed existence.
The Olympic Theatre is a theatre of the ancients, which is realised on a small scale, and is indescribably beautiful. However, compared with our theatres, it reminds me of a genteel, rich, well-bred child, contrasted with a shrewd man of the world, who, though he is neither so rich, nor so genteel and well-bred, knows better how to employ his resources.
If we contemplate on the spot the noble buildings which Palladio has erected, and see how they are disfigured by the mean, filthy necessities of the people, how the plans of most of them exceeded the means of those who undertook them, and how little these precious monuments of one lofty mind are adapted to all else around, the thought occurs, that it is just the same with everything else; for we receive but little thanks from men, when we would elevate their inner aspirations, give them a great idea of themselves, and make them feel the grandeur of a really noble existence. But when one cajoles them, tells them tales, and, helping them on from day to day, makes them worse, then one is just the man they like; and hence it is that modern times take delight in so many absurdities. I do not say this to lower my friends: I only say that they are so, and that people must not be astonished to find everything just as it is.
How the Basilica of Palladio looks by the side of an old castellated kind of a building, dotted all over with windows of different sizes (whose removal, tower and all, the artist evidently contemplated), it is impossible to describe: and besides, I must now, by a strange effort, compress my own feelings; for I, too, alas! find here side by side both what I seek and what I flee from.
Yesterday we had the opera, which lasted till midnight; and I was glad to get some rest. The "Three Sultanesses" and the "Rape of the Seraglio" have afforded several tatters, out of which the piece has been patched up, with very little skill. The music is agreeable to the ear, but is probably by an amateur; for not a single thought struck me as being new. The ballets, on the other hand, were charming. The principal pair of dancers executed an Allemande to perfection.The theatre is new, pleasant, beautiful, modestly magnificent, uniform throughout, just as it ought to be in a provincial town. Every box has hangings of the same colour; and the one belonging to the Capitan Grande is only distinguished from the rest by the fact that the hangings are somewhat longer.
The prima donna, who is a great favourite of the whole people, is tremendously applauded on her entrance; and the "gods" are quite obstreperous with their delight when she does anything remarkably well, which very often happens. Her manners are natural: she has a pretty figure, a fine voice, a pleasing countenance, and, above all, a really modest demeanour, while there might be more grace in the arms. However, I am not what I was. I feel that I am spoiled—I am spoiled for a "god."
To-day I visited Doctor Tura. Five years ago he passionately devoted himself to the study of plants, formed an herbarium of the Italian flora, and laid out a botanical garden, under the superintendence of the former bishop. However, all that has come to an end. Medical practice drove away natural history; the herbarium is eaten by worms; the bishop is dead; and the botanic garden is again rationally planted with cabbages and garlic.
Doctor Tura is a very refined and good man. He told me his history with frankness, purity of mind, and modesty, and altogether spoke in a very definite and affable manner. At the same time he did not like to open his cabinets, which, perhaps, were in no very presentable condition. Our conversation soon came to a standstill.
Sept. 21. Evening.
I called upon the old architect Scamozzi, who has published an edition of "Palladio's Buildings," and is a diligent artist, passionately devoted to his art. He gave me some directions, being delighted with my sympathy. Among Palladio's buildings, there is one for which I always had an especial predilection, and which is said to have been his own residence. When it is seen close, there is far more in it than appears in a picture. I should have liked to draw it, and to illuminate it with colours, to show the material and the age. It must not, however, be imagined that the architect has built himself a palace. The house is the most modest in the world, with only two windows, separated from each other by a broad space which would admit a third. If it were imitated in a picture which should exhibit the neighbouring houses at the same time, the spectator would be pleased to observe how it has been let in between them. Canaletto was the man who should have painted it.
To-day I visited the splendid building which stands on a pleasant elevation about half a league from the town, and is called the "Rotonda." It is a quadrangular building, enclosing a circular hall, lighted from the top. On all the four sides you ascend a broad flight of steps, and always come to a vestibule, which is formed of six Corinthian columns. Probably the luxury of architecture was never carried to so high a point. The space occupied by the steps and vestibules is much larger than that occupied by the house itself, for every one of the sides is as grand and pleasing as the front of a temple. With respect to the inside, it may be called habitable, but not comfortable. The hall is of the finest proportions, and so are the chambers; but they would hardly suffice for the actual wants of any genteel family in a summer residence. On the other hand, it presents a most beautiful appearance as it is viewed on every side throughout the district. The variety which is produced by the principal mass, as, together with the projecting columns, it is gradually brought before the eyes of the spectator who walks round it, is very great; and the purpose of the owner, who wished to leave a large trust-estate and at the same time a visible monument of his wealth, is completely obtained. And, while the building appears in all its magnificence when viewed from any spot in the district, it also forms the point of view for a most agreeable prospect. You may see the Bachiglione flowing along, and taking vessels down from Verona to the Brenta, while you overlook the extensive possessions which the Marquis Capra wished to preserve undivided in his family. The inscriptions on the four gable-ends, which together constitute one whole, are worthy to be noted down:
Marcus Capra Gabrielis filius
Qui ædes has
Arctissimo primogenituræ gradui subjecit
Una cum omnibus
Censibus agris vallibus et collibus
Citra viam magnam
Memoriæ perpetuæ mandans hæc
Dum sustinet ac abstinet.
The conclusion, in particular, is strange enough, A man who has at command so much wealth and such a capacious will still feels that he must bear and forbear. This can be learned at a less expense.
This evening I was at a meeting held by the academy of the "Olympians." It is mere play-work, but good in its way, and seems to keep up a little spice and life among the people. There is the great hall by Palladio's Theatre, handsomely lighted up. The Capitan and a portion of the nobility are present, besides a public composed of educated persons, and several of the clergy; the whole assembly amounting to about five hundred.
The question proposed by the president for to-day's sitting was this, "Which has been most serviceable to the fine arts,—invention, or imitation?" This was a happy notion; for, if the alternatives which are involved in the question are kept duly apart, one may go on debating for centuries. The academicians have gallantly availed themselves of the occasion, and have produced all sorts of things in prose and verse, some very good.
Then there is the liveliest public. The audience cry Bravo, and clap their hands, and laugh. What a thing it is to stand thus before one's nation, and amuse them in person! We must set down our best productions in black and white. Every one squats down with them in a corner, and scribbles at them as he can.It may be imagined, that, even on this occasion, Palladio would be continually appealed to, whether the discourse was in favour of invention or imitation. At the end, which is always the right place for a joke, one of the speakers hit on a happy thought, and said that the others had already taken Palladio away from him; so that he, for his part, would praise Franceschini, the great silk manufacturer. He then began to show the advantages which this enterprising man, and, through him, the city of Vicenza, had derived from imitating the Lyonnese and Florentine stuffs, and thence came to the conclusion that imitation stands far above invention. This was done with so much humour, that uninterrupted laughter was excited. Generally those who spoke in favour of imitation obtained the most applause; for they said nothing but what was adapted to the thoughts and capacities of the multitude. Once the public, by a violent clapping of hands, gave its hearty approval to a most clumsy sophism, when it had not felt many good, nay, excellent things that had been said in honour of invention. I am very glad I have witnessed this scene; for it is highly gratifying to see Palladio, after the lapse of so long a time, still honoured by his fellow citizens as their polar star and model.
This morning I was at Tiene, which lies north, toward the mountains, where a new building has been erected after an old plan, of which there may be a little to say. Thus do they here honour everything that belongs to the good period, and have sense enough to raise a new building on a plan which they have inherited. The château is excellently situated in a large plain, having behind it the calcareous Alps, without any mountains intervening. A stream of living water flows along the level causeway from each side of the building, toward those who approach it, and waters the broad fields of rice through which one passes.
I have now seen but two Italian cities, and for the first time, and have spoken with but few persons; and yet I know my Italians pretty well. They are like courtiers, who consider themselves the first people in the world, and who, on the strength of certain advantages, which cannot be denied them, can indulge with impunity in so comfortable a thought. The Italians appear to me a right good people. Only one must see the children and the common people as I see them now, and can see them, while I am always open to them, nay, always lay myself open to them. What figures and faces there are!
It is especially to be commended in the Vicentians, that with them one enjoys the privileges of a large city. Whatever a person does, they do not stare at him; but, if he addresses them, they are conversable and pleasant, especially the women, who please me much. I do not mean to find fault with the Veronese women: they are well made, and have decided profiles; but they are, for the most part, pale, and the Zendal is to their disadvantage, because one looks for something charming under the beautiful costume. I have found here some very pretty creatures, especially some with black locks, who inspire me with peculiar interest. There are also fairer beauties, who, however, do not please me so well.
Padua, Sept. 26.
In four hours I have this day come here from Vicenza, crammed, luggage and all, into a little one-seated chaise called a Sediola. Generally the journey is performed with ease in three hours and a half; but, as I wished to pass the delightful daytime in the open air, I was glad that the Vetturino fell short of his duty. The route goes constantly southwards, over the most fertile plains, and between hedges and trees, without further prospect, until at last the beautiful mountains, extending from the east toward the south, are seen on the right hand. The abundance of the festoons of plants and fruit, which hang over walls and hedges, and down the trees, is indescribable. The roofs are loaded with gourds, and the strangest sort of cucumbers are hanging from poles and trellises.
From the observatory I could take the clearest survey possible of the fine situation of the town. Toward the north are the Tyrolese mountains, covered with snow and half-hidden by clouds, and joined by the Vicentian mountains on the northwest. Then toward the west are the nearer mountains of Este, the shapes and recesses of which are plainly to be seen. Toward the southeast is a verdant sea of plants, without a trace of elevation, tree after tree, bush after bush, plantation after plantation, while houses, villas, and churches, dazzling with whiteness, peer out from among the green. Against the horizon I plainly saw the tower of St. Mark's at Venice, with other smaller towers.
Padua, Sept. 27.
I have at last obtained the works of Palladio, not indeed the original edition, which I saw at Vicenza, where the cuts are in wood, but a fac-simile in copper, published at the expense of an excellent man, named Smith, who was formerly the English consul at Venice. We must give the English this credit, that they have long known how to prize what is good, and have a magnificent way of diffusing it.
On the occasion of this purchase I entered a bookshop, which in Italy presents quite a peculiar appearance. Around it are arranged the books all stitched; and during the whole day good society may be found in the shop, which is a lounge for all the secular clergy, nobility, and artists who are in any way connected with literature. One asks for a book, opens it, and amuses himself as one can. Thus I found a knot of half a dozen, all of whom became attentive to me when I asked for the works of Palladio. While the master of the shop looked for the book, they commended it, and gave me information respecting the original and the copy: they were well acquainted with the work itself, and with, the merits of the author. Taking me for an architect, they praised me for having recourse to this master in preference to all the rest; saying that he was of more practical utility than Vitruvius himself, since he had thoroughly studied the ancients and antiquity, and had sought to adapt the latter to the wants of our own times. I conversed for a long time with these friendly men, learned something about the remarkable objects in the city, and took my leave.Where men have built churches to saints, a place may sometimes be found in them where monuments to intellectual men may be set up. The bust of Cardinal Bembo stands between Ionic columns. It is a handsome face, strongly drawn in, if I may use the expression, and with a copious beard. The inscription runs thus: "Petri Bembi Card, imaginem Hier. Guerinus Ismeni f. in publico ponendam curavit ut cujus ingenii monumenta æterna sint, ejus corporis quoque memoria ne a posteritate desideretur."
With all its dignity, the University gave me the horrors as a building. I am glad that I had nothing to learn in it. One cannot imagine such a narrow compass for a school, even though, as the student of a German university, one may have suffered a great deal on the benches of the auditorium. The anatomical theatre is a perfect model of the art of pressing students together. The audience are piled one above another in a tall, pointed funnel. They look down upon the narrow space where the table stands; and, as no daylight falls upon it, the professor must demonstrate by lamplight. The botanic garden is much more pretty and cheerful. Several plants can remain in the ground during the winter, if they are set near the walls or at no great distance from them. At the end of October the whole is built over, and the process of heating is carried on for the few remaining months. It is pleasant and instructive to walk through a vegetation that is strange to us. With ordinary plants, as well as with other objects that have been long familiar to us, we at last do not think at all; and what is looking without thinking? Amidst this variety which comes upon me quite new, the idea that all forms of plants may, perhaps, be developed from a single form, becomes more lively than ever. On this principle alone it would be possible to define orders and classes, which, it seems to me, has hitherto been done in a very arbitrary manner. At this point I stand fast in my botanical philosophy, and I do not see how I am to extricate myself. The depth and breadth of this business seem to me quite equal.
The great square, called Prato della Valle, is a very wide space, where the chief fair is held in June. The wooden booths in the middle of it do not produce the most favourable appearance; but the inhabitants assure me that there will soon be a fièra of stone here, like that at Verona. One has hopes of this already, from the manner in which the 'Prato is surrounded, and which affords a very beautiful and imposing view.
A huge oval is surrounded with statues, all representing celebrated men who have taught or studied at the University. Any native or foreigner is allowed to erect a statue of a certain size to any countryman or kinsman, as soon as the merit of the person and his academical residence at Padua are proved.
A moat filled with water goes round the oval. On the four bridges which lead up to it stand colossal figures of popes and doges. The other statues, which are smaller, have been set up by corporations, private individuals, or foreigners. The King of Sweden caused a figure of Gustavus Adolphus to be erected, because, it is said, he once heard a lecture in Padua. The Archduke Leopold revived the memory of Petrarch and Galileo. The statues are in a good, modern style, a few of them rather affected, some very natural, and all in the costume of their rank and dignity. The inscriptions deserve commendation. There is nothing in them absurd or paltry.
At any university this would have been a happy thought; and here it is particularly so, because it is very delightful to see a whole line of departed worthies thus called back again. It will, perhaps, form a very beautiful Prato, when the wooden Fièra will have been removed, and one built of stone, according to the plan they are said to have made.
In the consistory of a fraternity dedicated to St. Anthony, there are some pictures of an early date, which remind one of the old German paintings, and also some by Titian, in which may be remarked the great progress which no one has made on the other side of the Alps. Immediately afterward I saw works by some of the most modern painters. These artists, as they could not hope to succeed in the lofty and the serious, have been very happy in hitting the humourous. The decollation of John by Piazetta is, in this sense, a capital picture, if one can once allow the master's manner. John is kneeling, with his hands before him, and his right knee on a stone looking toward heaven. One of the soldiers who is binding him is bending round on one side, and looking into his face, as if he were wondering at his patient resignation. Higher up stands another, who is to deal the fatal blow. He does not, however, hold the sword, but makes a motion with his hands, like one who is practising the stroke beforehand. A third is drawing the sword out of the scabbard. The thought is happy, if not grand; and the composition is striking, and produces the best effect.
In the Church of the Eremitani I have seen pictures by Mantegna, one of the older painters, at which I am astonished. What a sharp, strict actuality is exhibited in these pictures! It is from this actuality, thoroughly true,—not apparent merely, and falsely effective, and appealing solely to the imagination,—but solid, pure, bright, elaborated, conscientious, delicate, and circumscribed; an actuality which had about it something severe, credulous, and laborious,—it is from this, I say, that the later painters proceeded (as I remarked in the pictures by Titian), in order that by the liveliness of their own genius, the energy of their nature, illumined at the same time by the mind of the predecessors, and exalted by their force, they might rise higher and higher, and, elevated above the earth, produce forms that were heavenly indeed, but still true. Thus was art developed after the barbarous period.
The hall of audience in the town-house, properly designated by the augmentative Salone, is such a huge enclosure, that one cannot conceive it, much less recall it to one's immediate memory. It is three hundred feet long, one hundred feet broad, and one hundred feet high, measured up to the roof, which covers it quite in. So accustomed are these people to live in the open air, that the architects look out for a market-place to overarch. And there is no question that this huge vaulted space produces quite a peculiar effect. It is an enclosed infinity, which has more analogy to man's habits and feelings than the starry heavens. The latter takes us out of ourselves; the former insensibly brings us back to ourselves.
For the same reason, I also like to stay in the Church of St. Justina. This church, which is eighty-five feet long, and high and broad in proportion, is built in a grand and simple style. This evening I seated myself in a corner, and indulged in quiet contemplation. Then I felt truly alone; for no one in the world even if he had thought of me for the moment, would have looked for me here.
Now everything ought to be packed up again; for to-morrow morning I set off by water, upon the Brenta. It rained to-day; but now it has cleared, and I hope I shall be able to see the lagunes and the Bride of the Sea by beautiful daylight, and to greet my friends from her bosom.