Raphael

Raphael

Author:
Paul G. Konody
Author:
Paul G. Konody
Format:
epub
language:
English

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Author: Konody, Paul G. (Paul George), 1872-1933
Raphael
1483-1520
Raphael


MASTERPIECES
IN COLOUR

EDITED BY – –
T. LEMAN HARE
RAPHAEL
1483–1520


Artist. Author.
VELAZQUEZ. S. L. Bensusan.
REYNOLDS. S. L. Bensusan.
TURNER. C. Lewis Hind.
ROMNEY. C. Lewis Hind.
GREUZE. Alys Eyre Macklin.
BOTTICELLI. Henry B. Binns.
ROSSETTI. Lucien Pissarro.
BELLINI. George Hay.
FRA ANGELICO. James Mason.
REMBRANDT. Josef Israels.
LEIGHTON. A. Lys Baldry.
RAPHAEL. Paul G. Konody.
HOLMAN HUNT. Mary E. Coleridge.
TITIAN. S. L. Bensusan.
MILLAIS. A. Lys Baldry.
CARLO DOLCI. George Hay.
GAINSBOROUGH. Max Rothschild.
TINTORETTO. S. L. Bensusan.
LUINI. James Mason.
FRANZ HALS. Edgcumbe Staley.
VAN DYCK. Percy M. Turner.
LEONARDO DA VINCI. M. W. Brockwell.
RUBENS. S. L. Bensusan.
WHISTLER. T. Martin Wood.
HOLBEIN. S. L. Bensusan.
BURNE-JONES. A. Lys Baldry.
VIGÉE LE BRUN. C. Haldane MacFall.
CHARDIN. Paul G. Konody.
FRAGONARD. C. Haldane MacFall.
MEMLINC. W. H. J. & J. C. Weale.
CONSTABLE. C. Lewis Hind.
RAEBURN. James L. Caw.
JOHN S. SARGENT. T. Martin Wood.
LAWRENCE. S. L. Bensusan.
DÜRER. H. E. A. Furst.
MILLET. Percy M. Turner.
WATTEAU. C. Lewis Hind.
HOGARTH. C. Lewis Hind.
MURILLO. S. L. Bensusan.
WATTS. W. Loftus Hare.
INGRES. A. J. Finberg.
COROT. Sidney Allnutt.
DELACROIX. Paul G. Konody.

Others in Preparation.


PLATE I.—THE ANSIDEI MADONNA. Frontispiece
(In the National Gallery, London)
Better than any other picture by Raphael, this important altar-piece shows the precociousness of Raphael’s genius, for it was painted at Perugia in 1506, when the master had scarcely passed into the twenty-third year of his life. He had then just returned from Florence, but, probably to humour his patrons, the Ansidei family, he reverted in this picture once again to the formal manner of his second master, Perugino. The “Ansidei Madonna” has the distinction of being the most costly picture at the National Gallery—it was purchased in 1885 from the Duke of Marlborough for £70,000.


RAPHAEL

BY PAUL G. KONODY ❀❀❀
ILLUSTRATED WITH EIGHT
REPRODUCTIONS IN COLOUR

LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK
NEW YORK: FREDERICK A. STOKES CO.


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Plate      
I. The Ansidei Madonna Frontispiece
    In the National Gallery, London  
Page
II. The Madonna del Gran Duca 14
    In the Pitti Palace, Florence  
III. The Madonna della Sedia 24
    In the Pitti Palace, Florence  
IV. “La Belle Jardinière” 34
    In the Louvre  
V. The Madonna of the Tower 40
    In the National Gallery, London  
VI. Pope Julius II. 50
    In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence  
VII. Putto with Garland 60
    In the Academy of St. Luca, Rome  
VIII. Portrait of Raphael 70
    In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence  

I

“And I tell you that to paint one beautiful woman, I should need to see several beautiful women, and to have you with me to choose the best,” wrote Raphael, then at the zenith of his fame and good fortune, to his life-long friend Count Baldassare Castiglione, who—the ideal courtier himself—has given the world that immortal monument of Renaissance culture, the Book of the Courtier. In penning these lines the prince of painters intended, perhaps, no more than a pretty compliment to one who was himself a model of courtesy and graceful speech, but the words would gain deep significance if picture were substituted for woman, and if Castiglione were taken to signify the personification of intellect and learning. For the beauty of Raphael’s art, which in the course of four centuries has lost none of its hold upon the admiration of mankind, is distilled from the various elements of beauty contained in the art that had gone before him and was being created around him; and in choosing the best, at least as far as idea and conception are concerned, he was guided by the deepest thinkers and keenest intellects of what were then the world’s greatest centres of culture.
Raphael was, indeed, born under a happy constellation. He was not a giant of intellect, nor an epoch-making genius; as Michelangelo said of him, he owed his art less to nature than to study; but he was born at a time when two centuries of gradual artistic development had led up to a point where an artist was needed to gather up the diverging threads and bring the movement to a culmination, which will stand for all times as a standard of perfection. Advantages of birth and early surroundings, charm of appearance and disposition which made him a favourite wherever he went, receptivity, adaptability, and application, and above all an early and easy mastery of technique, were combined in Raphael to lead him to this achievement. The smooth unclouded progress of his life from recognition to fame, from prosperity to affluence, is not the turbulent way of genius. Genius walks a sad and lonely path. Michelangelo, the turbulent spirit, morose and dissatisfied, Lionardo da Vinci, pursuing his high ideals without a thought of worldly success until his lonely old age sees him expatriated and contemplating the fruitlessness of all his labours—these men of purest genius have little in common with the pliant courtier Raphael, the head himself of a little court of faithful followers. The story goes that Michelangelo, in the bitterness of his spirit, when meeting his happy rival at the head of his usual army of some fifty dependants on his way to the Papal court, addressed him with the words “You walk like the sheriff with his posse comitatus.” And Raphael, quick at repartee, retorted “And you, like an executioner going to the scaffold.” Whether the anecdote be true or not, it marks the difference between the course of talent—albeit the rarest talent—and that of genius.

PLATE II.—THE MADONNA DEL GRAN DUCA
(In the Pitti Palace, Florence)
This picture, remarkable for the effective simplicity of its design and for the purity of the Virgin’s face, derives the name by which it is commonly known from the fact that it was bought in 1799 by the Grand Duke Ferdinand III. from a poor widow, and held by him in such esteem that he would never part from it and always took it with him on his travels. At one time it was actually credited with the power of working miracles. It is one of the first works of Raphael’s Florentine period, and now hangs in the Pitti Palace, Florence.

What are the qualities of Raphael’s art that have carried his fame unsullied through the ages and made him the most popular, the most admired, of all painters? The greatest of the primitives, and of the later masters Velazquez, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Watteau, to mention only a few of the brightest beacons in the realm of art, have at some time or other been eclipsed and held in slight esteem. Raphael alone escaped the inconstancy of popular favour; he was set up as an idol before he left the world to mourn his untimely death, and in the course of the years the world’s idolatrous worship was extended even to the feeble handiwork of his assistants, which often passed under his name. Only within the memory of living men did this blind and indiscriminating worship lead to a reaction as indiscriminating. But this reaction was confined to a comparatively small circle of æsthetically inclined art enthusiasts; and to-day, when the more scientific methods of criticism have succeeded in sifting the wheat from the chaff—the master’s own work from the factory-like production of his bottega—he has been reinstated in all his former glory. Contemptuous hostility to Raphael’s art has ceased to be a fashionable pose. The frank acknowledgment of the perfection of this art is no longer stayed by the consciousness of the harm done by that imperfect imitation of the Raphaelic code of beauty, which has been the result of all academic teaching in Europe since the founding of the Prix de Rome.
Beauty, formal beauty, pure and faultless, must appeal to everybody; and Raphael means to us the perfection of beauty—such beauty as lies in rhythm, balance, colour, form, and execution. It is a calculated beauty, the lucid, unambiguous expression of an absolutely normal, well-balanced mind assisted by an unerring hand; hence it is intelligible to everybody without that unconscious mental effort which is needed for the understanding of an art of greater emotional intensity. It is of the very essence of art that it should express an emotion; a picture which is merely imitative without holding a hint of what the artist felt at the time of creating it, ceases to be a work of art, even if it represents a subject beautiful in itself. On the other hand, an ugly subject may be raised to sublime art by emotional statement; but this emotion is of necessity more complex and more difficult to understand than that simplest of all emotions, the pleasure caused by the contemplation of beauty. This accounts for the common fallacy that art and beauty are indissolubly connected, and for the favouritism shown by all the successive generations to Raphael whose brush was wedded to beauty in the classic sense, and whose art knew nothing of the beauty of character.
But beauty alone does not constitute Raphael’s greatness, or Bouguereau and many other modern academic painters would have to be accounted great instead of being merely dull and insipid. Raphael developed to its utmost power of expressiveness the art of space-composition, the secret of which was the heritage of the Umbrian painters. What space-composition means cannot be better defined than it has been by Mr. Berenson: “Space-composition differs from ordinary composition in the first place most obviously in that it is not an arrangement to be judged as extending only laterally, or up and down on a flat surface, but as extending inwards in depth as well. It is composition in three dimensions, and not in two, in the cube, not merely on the surface…. Painted space-composition opens out the space it frames in, puts boundaries only ideal to the roof of heaven. All that it uses, whether the forms of the natural landscape, or of grand architecture, or even of the human figure, it reduces to be its ministrants in conveying a sense of untrammelled, but not chaotic spaciousness. In such pictures, how freely one breathes—as if a load had just been lifted from one’s breast; how refreshed, how noble, how potent one feels; again, how soothed; and still again, how wafted forth to abodes of far-away bliss!”
This sense of space and depth is achieved by methods which have nothing in common with our modern art of creating the illusion of what is called “atmosphere”—not by the “losing and finding” of contours, not by the application of optical theories, such as the zone of interchanging rays which dissolves all hard outlines, nor by the blurring and fogging of the distance. Space-composition in the sense in which it was practised by Raphael is closely akin to the art of architecture in its appeal to our emotions.
As an illustrator, again, Raphael was unequalled as regards clear, direct, measured statement of all that is essential to the immediate grasping of the idea or incident depicted. The first glance at one of Raphael’s works, whether it be a small panel picture or a monumental fresco, reveals its whole purport, and that in a manner so complete and lucid and convincing as could not be achieved by any other method of expression. With infallible sureness he invariably found the shortest way for the harmonious statement of idea, form, and emotion, which in his work are always found in perfect balance and so completely permeated by each other as to constitute an indissoluble trinity.
Another reason for Raphael’s powerful appeal—and in this he is perhaps the most typical child of his period—is that his art unites in one majestic current the two greatest movements of thought which have ever fired the imagination of civilised Europe; classic antiquity and Christian faith, when treated by Raphael’s brush, cease to be incompatible and live side by side in that measured harmony which is the hall-mark of his art. Christianity is presented to us in the glorious classic garb of the old world, and the myth and philosophy of the ancients are brought into intimate relationship with Christian teaching. He infuses new blood and life into the stones of ancient Greece and Rome—unlike Mantegna who had remained cold and classic in his relief-like reconstructions of antiquity; just as he accentuates the human emotional side of the Madonna and Child motif by discarding all hieroglyphic symbolism and setting before our eyes the intimate link of love that connects mother and babe. Almost imperceptibly his cupids are transformed into child angels, and the Jehovah of his “Vision of Ezekiel” has more in common with Olympian Jove than with the mediæval conception of the Lord of Heaven.

PLATE III.—THE MADONNA DELLA SEDIA
(In the Pitti Palace, Florence)
The Madonna “of the Chair,” one of the most characteristic and deservedly popular of Raphael’s numerous versions of the Virgin and Child motif, belongs to the master’s full maturity, and was painted during his sojourn in Rome, at the time when he was occupied with the stupendous task of decorating the Stanze of the Vatican. It would be difficult to find in the whole history of art a more pleasing solution of the problem presented by a figure composition in the round. The picture is now in the Pitti Palace, Florence.

Just as Timoteo Viti, Perugino, Fra Bartolommeo, Lionardo da Vinci, Masaccio, Michelangelo, and Sebastiano del Piombo (who imparted to him something of the glow of Venetian colouring), had been the sources from which Raphael drew his knowledge of technique, colour, composition, and all the elements of pictorial style, so the humanists had paved his way as regards the intellectual aspect of his art. His marvellous faculty of rapid assimilation enabled him, on the one hand, to appropriate whatever he found worthy of imitation in his precursors and contemporaries, and thus to complete his technical equipment at an age at which it was given to few to have achieved mastery; whilst, on the other hand, his clear intellect, aided by the not entirely unmercenary desire to please his patrons, helped him to carry out with triumphant success the ideas evolved by the keenest thinkers of his time. To doubt that the general idea, and perhaps a good many of the details, of such a stupendous work as the fresco decoration of the Stanze at the Vatican, had originated in Raphael’s head, is not to detract from his greatness. He was a boy in his early teens when he entered his first master’s bottega. He was a youth of twenty-five when he started on his great task; and the intervening years had been so completely filled with the study of his craft and with the execution of important commissions, that it is impossible to believe he could have found much leisure for book-learning. And such learning was indispensable for the conception of that elaborate scheme with all its historical allusions and allegorical imagery. The wonder is that Raphael could so completely enter into the suggestions made to him from various sources, and to weave them into a tissue of immortal beauty.


II

At the end of the fifteenth century the rule of the Duke Federigo of Montefeltre, an enlightened prince who devoted the best of his energy and such time as he could spare from his duties on the battlefield to the patronage of the arts, to the adornment of his noble palace, and to the collecting of priceless manuscripts, paintings, antiques, and works of art of every description, had raised the old city of Urbino to one of the centres of culture and learning, and made the ducal court a gathering-place for the distinguished painters, architects, poets, and humanists who were attracted by the wealth and liberality of this great patron. Among the less distinguished satellites attracted by the sun of Montefeltre was one Giovanni Santi, who had come to Urbino in the middle of the fifteenth century. Though a painter of considerable skill, trained perhaps by Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, he found it necessary in the early days of his sojourn at Urbino to supplement his modest income by trading in oil and corn and other commodities, as his father had done before him. But his varied accomplishments soon brought him into prominence and secured him a position as court painter and poet. More important than any of the pictures that have come to us from his brush is his famous rhyming chronicle of 23,000 verses in Dantesque measure, in which he glorifies the virtues and exploits of his patron. He was a special favourite of Elisabetta Gonzaga, the youthful spouse of Federigo’s son Guidob

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