Page images

1851. Duke F. M. the Second ; Sixth and last Duke.


[ocr errors]

few years together. Lucrezia returned to the gayer court of her brother, and her husband, after leading for some years the life of a sportsman, shut himself up during the long remainder of his days, with his books, his horses, his gout, and the cold Spanish manners which he had grafted on the family irritability. He thrust off the cares of government upon boards and councils, and even upon a foolish boy. He dictated to them, nevertheless, the items of their conduct; chose to take the execution of his directions for granted, in order to save himself trouble; was forced to resume his place and office by the poor boy's death; made arrangements with the Church for transferring the Duchy into its hands; and showed his jealousy, to the last moment, of a change which he was nevertheless anxious to facilitate. In short, Francesco Maria the Second was a selfish pedant, imitating ‘in little’ the abdication of Charles the Fifth, and loving power while he hated its cares.

The fate of his son — the poor boy alluded to presents a strange and melancholy climax to the fortunes even of this strange and melancholy house. His father being a fool, the son naturally went counter to his directions: but the son, being unfortunately a fool also, became a proof of the old maxim, and only ran into vices the opposite of those of the father. He was a premature profligate; an associate with stable boys and strolling players; an actor on the stage himself, not as a hero or a gentleman, but as a buffoon, delighting in the lowest characters; and, after taking a wife, as if on purpose to insult her by the ostentation with which he kept a mistress, he died at eighteen years of age, of the debauchee's coup de grace, a fit of apoplexy. The poor child's name was Federigo: Alas, how changed from

Mr. Dennistoun claims for his whole series of Dukes of Urbino, with the exception of the first, the praise of mild government and of a flourishing community, superior to those of Italy in general; and we think he has made out his case. The sovereigns were enriched by external military employment; the sequestered and mountainous nature of the country helped to secure it against invasion; and, besides the rich agriculture of their valleys, the natives had a good stock of wealth in their trade and commerce.

At the close of the dukedom, they exported silks, woollen, leather, and majolica; and they realised a large balance over their imports. They had flourished thus, more or less, for two hundred years; and they have now, for the same space of time, been equally the reverse of flourishing, under the Popes. We recommend that “distinguished' fact to the reader's reflections. He has seen and heard enough of Popes lately to enable him to


do it justice. If we have said little of the prosperity of the Urbinese, it is because it was the result rather of local circumstances than of the characters of its princes. Federigo was an exception; and (those circumstances considered) what he did was too well done to lose its effect, even under successors less worthy. But the patronage of talent was a fashion throughout Italy; and granting, for the sake of argument (for thorough justice to our subject compels us to state the doubt), that literature flourished better at Urbino than elsewhere, and that the majority of its dukes were the patrons they are supposed to have been, the fact has little to do with the country's prosperity. The peasants ploughed, and the merchants trafficked; but the natives, upon the whole, were a sombre race for Italians; and the district neither read other people's books, nor produced any authors to speak of. The palace (with the exception of pictures for churches) was all in all as the abode of taste; and it is questionable, notwithstanding the pleasing visions of accomplished court circles and occasional residents, how far men of letters were permanently better off at Urbino than elsewhere. They came and went, as at other places; stayed longer perhaps occasionally, and were received with more cordiality; but what great name, or second great name, or any name at all, has lifelong connexion with its history ? Ariosto was only a visitor;

Tasso was only a visitor; Castiglione himself was not reinvited; Raphael was suffered to bloom elsewhere; Galileo once ‘passed through the country.' Men of genius are grateful; and there are patrons who have deserved their gratitude, for they have given as much comfort as they have received glory. But, with the exception of the Medici, to how many other rulers among their countrymen, princely or republican, can praise like that be given ? Perhaps to the Polentas, in the case of Dante; perhaps to the Colonnas, in that of Petrarch. Certainly to very few others, even in cases equally solitary. Florence, as a republic, did nothing to speak of for her greatest children. Of Petrarch she knew little; and Dante she exiled. Venice patronised painting, which is a semi-sensual luxury and a marketable commodity; but Titian could have done without her. Genoa patronised nobody.

Genoa patronised nobody. The chief celebrities at the Court of Urbino, the Bembos, Bibbienas, and others, were such as bad resources elsewhere; and those who had to be paid, probably had the same complaints to make as were made at Ferrara, of difficulty to get the money. All the courtliness of Castiglione did not render him an exception. (See vol. ii. p. 47.) Art and science flourished most; art, for the reason just mentioned, and for the magnificence of building;


Sources of Expression in Architecture.


science, for its application to warfare. The patrons of Ariosto at Ferrara were studying cannon-founding to no purpose, while the man who immortalised them was neglected by their treasurer, and insulted by themselves. And what has genius experienced of late years in Italy but imprisonment and exile ? The genius has flourished, it is true, whatever was the case with the man; for Italy is a land of genius, and its fruits will grow on the unworthiest of soils; but it is time that there should be an end to the talk about Italian princes and Italian patronage, compared with those of other countries. Louis the Fourteenth, with all his faults, did more for genius, than nine tenths of the princes of Italy; and we suspect that if the histories of our own British · Dukes' were written, though they are no princes at all except in the herald's office, they would be found as far to exceed the Dukes of Urbino in princeliness of patronage, as in services (with one exception) to their country, and the diffusion of elegance and good manners. Italy is a beautiful and wonderful country; and we shall never cease to be interested in hearing of it, especially if it become happy. But even the addition of a Duke Federigo to our stock of acquaintance cannot but make us wish that biographers would travel more at home, and show us what houses' our own island has possessed, to glorify and delight us.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ART. III. - 1. The Seven Lamps of Architecture. By JOHN

RUSKIN. London: 1848. 2. The Stones of Venice. Volume the First. The Founda

'tions. By John Ruskin. With Illustrations drawn by the Author. London: 1851.

is not usual to bring up young men as painters, sculptors,

or composers of music, unless it is supposed that they have uncommon talents for painting, sculpture, or composition ; but Architecture is seldom treated with such consideration. A father has four sons, feels that variety is charming,' and educates one' for a lawyer, another for a soldier, a third for a physician, and, if he has too much conscience to make a clergyman of the fourth, who appears to have no call' that way,

he resolves to make an architect of him, and does not entertain any misgiving, but that instruction, industry, and average general ability are capable of securing success in all the professions alike. Architecture and architects are no worse, and no better, than, under this condition, we ought to expect them

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to be. The art which (to judge by the paucity of its successful cultivators) requires, perhaps more than any other fine art, a peculiar faculty in its votary, sinks, in the hands of a man not so qualified, into the rank of the mere useful arts,none the less surely because certain systems of eminently useless decoration are attached to its exercise. It is not only in the matter of education that we show a practical disbelief, at present, of its being the duty of an architect to be anything more than what his name - literally Chief of the Works - implies him to be. Men who have acquired a considerable standing as architects make open admission of the entirely “professional' nature of the art as they practise it. Mr. Joseph Gwilt, for example, says, that an architect is a ' person competent to design and superintend the erection of any building;' adding, that an architect's qualifications are the instructions contained by his · Encyclopædia,' and that a thorough grounding in these, together with devotedness, faithfulness, and integrity towards his employer, with kindness and urbanity to those whose lot it

may be to execute his projects, will ensure a brilliant and happy career in his profession. Perhaps it would be well, since the necessities of a civilised and populous State require the services of architecture in Mr. Gwilt's sense of the word, that the fine art — the art which divided with painting the affections of Giotto, Michel Angelo, Da Vinci, and Raffaello, and produced the Greek temple, the Gothic abbey, and the Venetian palace,- should go by some other name.

So far is technical knowledge from being the main requisite, --so indispensable is genius to the practice of architecture as a Fine Art,

that the most consummate skill and learning which can be taught or acquired are of little worth in the absence of the

faculty divine.' Sir Christopher Wren thought the great Pointed style barbarous, and knew not so much of its details as is at present known of them by every young lady with a turn for ecclesiastical antiquities; nevertheless, there is an amount of true Gothic character in his attempts in this style, such as is rarely to be met with in the modern village churches which crowd our metropolis, and for every moulding, crocket, and corbel-head of which the architects can allege unquestionable authority in ancient examples.

Mr. Ruskin's works, written in a highly popular and attractive style, among other good services, will do much towards elevating the common notions of architectural art: He is, however, frequently fanciful and extravagant, besides there being, in professional, as well as popular views, now prevalent, certain fundamental delusions concerning architecture, which his works,

1851. Relation of Erpression to Construction in Architecture. 367

[ocr errors]

-original and, in many respects, valuable, as they are, — seem fitted rather to confirm than to dissipate.

Writers on architecture generally agree in classifying architectural details under two heads, specified, according to the notions of the critic, the mechanical and the artistical, the useful and the beautiful, the constructive and the decorative, and so forth; few, however, seem to be agreed, either with others or themselves, as to the point at which the constructive ends and the decorative begins. In the first instalment of The Stones

· of Venice,' Mr. Ruskin has made an elaborate, and, in some respects, a successful attempt to trace the working of the constructive element, in various details which are commonly held to be chiefly or entirely decorative; he has also put forth certain general views of decoration, the full development and illustration of which are intended to form the contents of the concluding volume. An attentive perusal of The Foundations' has served to convince us that Mr. Ruskin's ideas upon this subject require considerable modification; and we venture to hope that the forthcoming part of the work, unless it is already in an advanced stage of preparation, may have its utility increased by the adoption into its system of certain widely practised, but hitherto imperfectly examined architectural principles, which shall be stated, and briefly explained, in the course of the following pages.

Of the two great and acknowledged elements of architecture, considered as a Fine Art, the mechanical element only has been sufficiently, or, indeed, at all deeply and systematically investigated. The constructive history of architecture has now been well nigh exhausted. As a popular outline of this subject, Mr. Hope's book left little to be desired, and the details have been amply filled up by the labours of professed architects. But it bas not been possible to ignore one half of the art, or to attempt to do so without falling into serious error concerning the other half. The notion has arisen, and it appears still

to be gaining ground, that, if the architect takes good care of the useful, the beautiful will take care of itself. New constructional necessities and discoveries have been asserted, by architectural critics of respectable standing, to have constituted, not only the germ, but the whole essence and form of each new phase of architectural character; and our best authorities afford examples of many confused and self-contradictory statements, in which the nature of decoration, and all that relates to effect, are treated as wholly subordinate to, and exponential of, constructive obligations. This misconception -- for such we shall prove it to be - has been the re-action of the opposite and far

« PreviousContinue »