A Wanderer in Florence eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 333 pages of information about A Wanderer in Florence.
less remarkable.  No. 81, above it, is by Browning’s Pacchiorotto (who worked in distemper); close by is the Masaccio, which has a deep, quiet beauty; and beneath it is a richly coloured predella by Andrea del Sarto, the work of a few hours, I should guess, and full of spirit and vigour.  It consists of four scriptural scenes which might be called the direct forerunners of Sir John Gilbert and the modern illustrators.  Lastly we have what is in many ways the most interesting picture in Florence—­No. 71, the Baptism of Christ—­for it is held by some authorities to be the only known painting by Verrocchio, whose sculptures we saw in the Bargello and at Or San Michele, while in one of the angels—­that surely on the left—­we are to see the hand of his pupil Leonardo da Vinci.  Their faces are singularly sweet.  Other authorities consider not only that Verrocchio painted the whole picture himself but that he painted also the Annunciation at the Uffizi to which Leonardo’s name is given.  Be that as it may—­and we shall never know—­this is a beautiful thing.  According to Vasari it was the excellence of Leonardo’s contribution which decided Verrocchio to give up the brush.  Among the thoughts of Leonardo is one which comes to mind with peculiar force before this work when we know its story:  “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master”.

The second Sala di Botticelli has not the value of the first.  It has magnificent examples of Botticelli’s sacred work, but the other pictures are not the equal of those in the other rooms.  Chief of the Botticellis is No. 85, “The Virgin and Child with divers Saints,” in which there are certain annoying and restless elements.  One feels that in the accessories—­the flooring, the curtains, and gilt—­the painter was wasting his time, while the Child is too big.  Botticelli was seldom too happy with his babies.  But the face of the Saint in green and blue on the left is most exquisitely painted, and the Virgin has rather less troubled beauty than usual.  The whole effect is not quite spiritual, and the symbolism of the nails and the crown of thorns held up for the Child to see is rather too cruel and obvious.  I like better the smaller picture with the same title—­No. 88—­in which the Saints at each side are wholly beautiful in Botticelli’s wistful way, and the painting of their heads and head-dresses is so perfect as to fill one with a kind of despair.  But taken altogether one must consider Botticelli’s triumph in the Accademia to be pagan rather than sacred.

No. 8, called officially School of Verrocchio, and by one firm of photographers Botticini, and by another Botticelli, is a fine free thing, low in colour, with a quiet landscape, and is altogether a delight.  It represents Tobias and the three angels, and Raphael moves nobly, although not with quite such a step as the radiant figure in a somewhat similar picture in our own National Gallery—­No. 781—­which, once confidently given to Verrocchio, is now attributed to Botticini; while our No. 296, which the visitor from Florence on returning to London should hasten to examine, is no longer Verrocchio but School of Verrocchio.  When we think of these attributions and then look at No. 154 in the Accademia—­another Tobias and the Angel, here given to Botticini—­we have a concrete object lesson in the perilous career that awaits the art expert,

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A Wanderer in Florence from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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