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The cottage roof, the burn, the spire, the graves,
O Thou! the primal fount of life and peace,
How longs each gulf within the weary soul
Amid the joys of all my grief revives,
And shadows thrown from me thy sunshine mar;
And draws its legions of dismay from far.
Prepare, O Truth Supreme! through shame and pain A heart attuned to thy celestial calm;
Let not reflection's pangs be roused in vain,
But heal the wounded breast with searching balm.
So, firm in steadfast hope, in thought secure,
So might in many hearts be kindled then
In One, who walk'd on earth a man of woe,
So this great All around, so He, and Thou,
ON TITIAN AND VENETIAN PAINTING.
WHILE the works of Michael Angelo and Raphael, in their peculiar or essential characteristics, announce the influence and operation of different constituents of the mind, a third, and very distinct portion of its perceptions, furnishes the foundation and reference of those of Titian, which occupy a station at once elevated and degraded -elevated by the extent of their relation or reference, and the exemplification of power or genius which they present degraded (to use the general language in respect to the sphere of mind or being to which they will be found to belong) in their basis and final tendency.
But it is only by a discrimination of those ultimate qualities with which the greater names in art should be seen to be synonymous, that those distinctions which we have already made in regard to Michael Angelo and Raphael, and in this instance shall endeavour to establish in respect to Titian, may be arrived at and apprehended. Surrounded, as all the masters of the great era of Italian painting were, by an almost common atmosphere, mental and physical; and each confessing the influence of those prevailing peculiarities, both of thought and style, which run throughout every department of art; with the same data or materials, and in a great measure with a like overt or professed purpose in their exercise, (setting aside all consideration of their general bond of unity-the nature of the art itself,) there is necessarily much which is common among them. But beyond this common surface, (dependent upon their being of one time, and the similarity of the subjects of their works,) lying beneath the immediate effect of those influences from the combination of which the peculiar animus of revived civilisation sprung, there are radical distinctions, which are not to be apprehended or characterised without a reference to the constitution of the mind; of which painting, in carrying forward its purpose-the explication or reproduction of the amassed tendencies of life
through the operation of emotion and passion, the legitimate and distinguishing end of all the arts—presents one diversified evolution. This is the view under which it should be regarded, in attempting to discriminate the character of different periods, schools, and masters. The primary distinctions in every art must be sought for, and found, in the relation which their separate productions hold with the different elements of the mind: not in reference to the necessary and obvious exercise of these-the condition of every intelligential act, from the simplest to the most complex-but by their being immediately manifested or exponed in different combinations, which should be recognised to constitute the ultimate distinctions of signification and style.
Of this manifestation, the works of Titian are among the most prominent examples. They originate from, and are addressed to, one great range of perception. The sphere to which he belongs, by its engrossing influence, " contends for mastery" with that of Michael Angelo and that of Raphael, to neither of which it is inferior in extent; but the nature of the tendency of his works separates him by a wide gulf from both.
Venetian painting, of which Titian must be considered to be the great representative, has been designated the school of colour. Thus, as in the instance of the Roman and other schools, the method of using or adopting a particular portion of the material, or means of signification, has been held to be ultimately distinctive of its character. The spirit-the vivida vis animi-which distinguishes different periods and different schools of art, one from the other, has been placed in lines and in tints; and its law, which led to the adoption or rejection-the selection and combination ofthese-has remained unnoticed. Its vehicula, like the cover of an Egyptian two thousand years dead, have been looked to for all that was to characterise it-the chrysalis shell mistaken for the liv ing psyche, which floated unobserved
* No. CCLXXX, and No. CCLXXXIV.
over-head. That" men seek truth in their own little world, and not in the great and common world," has been amply exemplified in connexion with art. The microcosm of individual and partial notions has there, as in every other subject, too frequently been made to regulate the decisions of judgment.
The nature of the colour of Venetian painting is a condition merely of the essential character of the Venetian school, not that in itself. The colour, and also the form and light of Giorgione and Titian, and to a certain extent of their predecessors, but still more eminently of their successors, are dependent upon the ultimate relation of their works. The individually varied styles of the Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Bonifazio, the elder Palma, and Schiavone,* with those others who may be considered to belong to this school, have one basement. While they differ in certain particulars, each exhibiting that variety which immediately distinguishes his works, they are bound together by one general intention or reference. From time of Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, (before which none of the schools of revived art had made any very distinct endexis of their particular character-all having, with considerable similarity, been step by step progressing in the use of the language of art, regulated in the mode of their productions by the type which had been founded upon those sentiments in connexion with which it had re-appeared) -from his time to that of the younger Palma, when deterioration had become apparent, Venetian painting is directed by one predominating object, by which it is separated from the other schools of the same period, and in obedience to the dictates of which, its style of form, colour, and light and shade, originated. These, however, as means or portions of the language of painting, are each differently adapt. ed, from their specific nature, to con
stitute an efficient medium in working out or substantiating this primary end; in connexion with which they are also employed with different degrees of success. In both respectsin efficiency, and in the degree of power with which it has been employed to enunciate the express use or end of the painting of Titian and his followers-colour becomes an obvious and striking feature of their art; and hence has been considered to be its ultimate distinction.
Another designation, still less adequate to express the character of Venetian painting, has been applied to itthat of the Ornamental School. But the sense attached to the term has not been defined. Whether, however, it is to be understood to apply to sentiment of an universal or of a factitious kind, or to the mere representation of actual variety or decorative multiplicity of parts, in form, colour, and light-allowing the most extended interpretation to be put upon the titleit is perfectly inapplicable to many of the most important productions of the school of Venice, which most strongly exemplify its particular character. Can the inspissated depth in colour and tone of the Virgin and Saints, by Giovanni Bellini ;† the unengaging substantiality of the Concert Champêtre of Giorgione; the ponderous solidity of the Assumption of the Virgin, by Titian; the strength and corrugated impasto of the Virgin in Glory, by Bonifazio; the sober monotonous uniformity of the St Peter surrounded by Saints, ¶ by the elder Palma-can these works, which may be held to represent the greater number of the others of these masters-the roots and stem of Venetian painting-be called ornamental? The attempt, however, to embrace them inclusively under this appellation, speaks the unity which was felt to exist among them, although its nature was not perceived.**
But while colour and ornament are
Sebastian Piombo is not mentioned here, merely to avoid confusion; his style, which is essentially Venetian, having been frequently grafted on the conceptions of Michael Angelo, as in the Flagellation, in S. Pietro, in Montorio Rome, and the Lazarus in the National Gallery.
† In San Zaccherino in Venice.
In the Academy of the Fine Arts, Venice.
Also in the Academy at Venice.
In the Gallery of the Louvre.
** Sir Joshua Reynolds has been necessitated, after using this term, to, in some mea
neither finally constitutive of the distinct nature of this circle of paintingand with form, and light and shade, must be considered merely to be the means through which signification is intimated-it must, at the same time, be observed, that they bear a relation to the art of Titian and his school, which is peculiar, and distinct from that which they hold in respect to the works of Michael Angelo and Raphael-a relation upon which their prominence in many instances depends. This, however, will afterwards come to be adverted to.
By these attempts to discriminate the range within which the genius of Titian is most distinctly prominent, it has been abridged and curtailed. A false boundary has been assigned to the wide geometry of his tenure, while, by implication, the erroneous supposition that his style alone, among the painters of Italy, furnished the example of excellence in colour, has originated the misconception, that it should, in every instance, be made the standard of judgment in that respect. The super-materiality of sentiment, to which colour has been rendered subservient, in the tints of the prophets and sibyls of the Capella Sistina, and its purified strength in the Madonna da Foligno, and the Marriage of the Virgin, by Raphael, have been lamented and decried. Thus, as if one language were to be deemed the only tongue which should be employed to convey every diversity of perception and thought, colour, as subjected to the particular range of
Venetian art, has been held alone to present truth or excellence.* But this, by a similar misapprehension, has, on the other hand, been amply retaliated upon the Venetians, in connection with their style of design or form. In respect to this, the Florentine and Roman schools have been made the rule of judgment; and however different, or even opposed, their objects are to that of the school of Venice, it has been made to bend to their standard. Weighed against the intellectual reference of the style of Michael Angelo, and the selection or moral preference of Raphael, it has been found wanting. It, however, is not amenable to such a criterion. Its domain is distinct; and the question in such instances should be, shall not each be judged by the particular purpose which constitutes the different law of each? The separate question, in respect to which is greatest or best in this their final relation-which dictates these and every other portion of their mode or style, and stamps the worth of each as a whole-is, in its turn, dependent upon a still more ultimate connexion, which has before been alluded to, the portion of the mental constitution of which it expresses the operation, in carrying forward and sustaining the existence of humanity in man.
While one system of the mind demands the distinct and separate existence of material being from that which is mental or immaterial, as a basis for its construction, another founds upon the denial of this, and
sure, make an exception in respect to Titian, but without venturing to advert to those others, both predecessors and followers, who are most similar to him in style. Thus, after the distinction is made, its futility is confessed: there is no attempt made to place Titian under any other designation; and he is left to rank under this, which has originated in a portion of the works of Tintoretto and Paul Veronese. If, however, such an appellation may be used in connexion even with their works, it can only be adopted to particularize them as a portion of Venetian art-as a subsequent classification, to signify that certain qualities (which are dependent upon its more general and distinctive purpose) have been pursued by them to a greater extent than by others of the same school.
*These irrelevant comparisons are the result of the opposite purposes which originated the different modes of form, colour, and light, not being perceived. In the instance of Reynolds, however, this was rightly but partially entered into, Opie decided that the styles of Michael Angelo and Titian might be united, and has thus thrown down one more impediment in an interrupted road-that to the just apprehension of the principles of painting.
Not to take the remains of Grecian art into view, which again (with a like deficiency of apprehension) have been made a standard whereby these schools in their turn have been judged.
See "On the Genius of Raphael," No. CCLXXXIV.
proceeds to erect its scheme in idealism or in sensation. But whether the distinction may be questionable or not, supposing it is even denied that the operations of perception should necessarily be brought about by a means which is separate from and not recognisable by the mind-like the gold and ivory of the Jove of Elis, covering a machinery which is unseen-the separation of the mental or relative, and the material or individual, as differing claims of apprehension, as distinct circles of the perceptions of our conscious being, may be entered into and adopted. Through both, humanity or rational life is constituted. The range of human faculty consists in mental existence on the one hand, and animal or material on the other. By the first, which embraces and involves intellection and morality, the distinction of man is asserted in his relation to the perfect or infinite, the relatio inter divos. By the last, his separation or outness from that is sustained. By the one, the spirit of man goeth upwards; by the other, that of the beast goeth downwards. The universal or abstract is the region of the one; nature or individuality, the immediately apprehensible that of the other-the celestial and the sensible of Plato, figured under the allegoric form of Venus ministered unto by the Graces, which signify intellect, choice, and physics, one of whom proceeds outwards, and the others recede into the divine intelligence-a symbol of the unity of existence and the combination of its separate elements, which, although couched in terms connected with a mythos which is imperfectly understood, finds a wretched substitute in the cramped and fragmentary concretions of some later philosophers,encrustations upon the crucibles and retorts of inductive experiment, seen under the glare and dazzle of its lenses and prisms.
It is in connexion with this distinction, that the ultimate and final discrimination of the works of Titian must be made, in which must be found that difference which separates them from
those of Buonarotti and Urbino, and led to the adoption of those qualities of form, colour, and effect, which they display, as the necessary means by which their intention might be fulfilled.
The reference of the painting of Titian is founded in the sense of the material. Its essential or distinctive nature consists in recognising and signifying the impressions of sensuous being. While Michael Angelo announces the impulsion of the will intellectually opposed to imperfection and suffering, and the works of Raphael intimate the repose of recognised difference in undoubting acceptance or rejection, the result of moral distinction; those of Titian are expressive of material or physical existence. Their object furnishes the antithesis to that of Michael Angelo. To signify the outward, to convey or reiterate the sensations of animal life, is the wide field of the intention of the art of Venice. This is the ground upon which its distinction rests. It is upon this that the strength or separate quality of its signification is built. It is from this that the extent to which this range of art is entered into originates; but at the same time the confined nature of its influence.
Titian in this, the peculiarity of his genius, eminently exemplifies that of the Venetian people. Altogether, Venice intimated, or was exponent of the dominance of the sensual or animal.* The breath of Venetian life was drawn under this influence. It may be said to have constituted the predominating and animating energy of its endeavour, prompting to luxurious enjoyment, and the diffusion of that throughout Europe. In Venice (then possibly the second city of importance in the Christian world) there was an escape from the severity of superior sanctity claimed at least by Rome; but at the same time dereliction from mental dignity outward existence was all-engrossing. The Queen of the Sea, like the Aphrodisiac goddess born from its waves, acknowledged the ascendency of the empire of sense. With the spoils of eastern war, she imported
On the character of particular cities or nations, the moving forms of life and society are exemplified in the mass. Their manners and customs are not their distinction, but the result of that distinction or originating source of peculiarity. Venice has been usually referred to as exhibiting a particular form of political policy and of commercial enterprise; but may not the roots of these be traced to a connexion with the predominating activity of the influence here adverted to?