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It was but one gleam he had caught just there in mediæval Siena of that large pagan world he was, not so long afterwards, more completely than others to make his own. And when somewhat later he painted the exquisite, still Peruginesque, Apollo and Marsyas, semi-mediæval habits again asserted themselves with delightfully-blent effects. It might almost pass for a parable—that little picture in the Louvre-of the contention between classic art and the romantic, superseded in the person of Marsyas, a homely, quaintly poetical young monk, surely! Only, Apollo himself also is clearly of the same brotherhood; has a touch, in truth, of Heine's fancied Apollo “in exile,” who, Christianity now triumphing, has served as a hired shepherd, or hidden himself under the cowl in a cloister; and Raphael, as if at work on choir-book or missal, still applies symbolical gilding for natural sunlight. It is as if he wished to proclaim amid newer lights—this scholar who never forgot a lesson—his loyal pupilage to Perugino, and retains still something of mediæval stiffness, of the monastic thoughts also, that were born and lingered in places like Borgo San Sepolcro or Citta di Castello. Chef-d'autre! you might exclaim, of the peculiar, tremulous, half-convinced, monkish treatment of that after all damnable pagan world. And our own generation certainly, with kindred tastes, loving or wishing to love pagan art as sincerely as did the people of the Renaissance, and mediæval art as well, would accept, of course, of work conceived in that so seductively mixed manner, ten per cent. of even Raphael's later, purely classical presentments.
That picture was suggested by a fine old intaglio in the Medicean collection at Florence, painted therefore after Raphael's coming thither, and therefore also a survival with himn of a style limited, immature, literally provincial; for in the phase on which he had now entered he is under the influence of style in its most fully determined sense, of what might be called the thorough-bass of the pictorial art, of a fully realized intellectual system in regard to its processes, well-tested by experiment, upon a survey of all the conditions and various applications of it-of style as understood by Da Vinci, then at work in Florence. Raphael's sojourn there extends from his twenty-first to his twenty-fifth year.
He came with flattering recom
mendations from the Court of Urbino; was admitted as an equal by the masters of his craft, being already in demand for work, then and ever since duly prized; was, in fact, already famous, though he alone is unaware—is in his own opinion still but a learner, and as a learner yields himself meekly, systematically to influence; would learn from Francia, whom he visits at Bologna; from the earlier naturalistic works of Masolino and Masaccio; from the solemn prophetic work of the venerable dominican, Bartolommeo, disciple of Savonarola. And he has already habitually this strange effect, not only on the whole body of his juniors, but on those whose manner had been long since formed; they lose something of themselves by contact with him, as if they went to school again.
Bartolommeo, Da Vinci, were masters certainly of what we call “ the ideal” in art. Yet for Raphael, so loyal hitherto to the traditions of Umbrian art, to its heavy weight of hieratic tradition, dealing still somewhat conventionally with a limited, non-natural matter—for Raphael to come from Siena, Perugia, Urbino, to sharpwitted, practical, masterful Florence was in immediate effect a transition from reverie to realities—to a world of facts. Those masters of the ideal were for him, in the first instance, masters also of realism, as we say. Henceforth, to the end, he will be the analyst, the faithful reporter, in his work, of what he sees. He will realize the function of style as exemplified in the practice of Da Vinci, face to face with the world of nature and man as they are; selecting from, asserting one's self in a transcript of its veritable data; like drawing to like there, in obedience to the master's preference for the embodiment of the creative form within him. Portrait-art had been nowhere in the school of Perugino, but was the triumph of the school of Florence. And here a faithful analyst of what he sees, yet lifting it withal, unconsciously, inevitably, recomposing, glorifying, Raphael too becomes, of course, a painter of portraits. We may foresee them already in masterly series, from Maddalena Doni, a kind of younger, more virginal sister of La Gioconda, to cardinals and popes -to that most sensitive of all portraits, the “Violinplayer,” if it be really his. But then, on the other hand, the influence of such portraiture will be felt also in his
inventive work, in a certain reality there, a certain convincing loyalty to experience and observation. In his most elevated religious work he will still keep, for security at least, close to nature, and the truth of nature. His modeling of the visible surface is lovely because he understands, can see the hidden causes of momentary action in the face, the hands—how men and animals are really made and kept alive. Set side by side, then, with that portrait of Maddalena Doni, as forming together a measure of what he has learned at Florence, the “Madonna del Gran Duca," which still remains there. Call it on revision, and without hesitation, the loveliest of his Madonnas, perhaps of all Madonnas; and let it stand as representative of as many as fifty or sixty types of that subject, onwards to the Sixtine Madonna, in all the triumphancy of his later days at Rome. Observe the veritable atmosphere about it, the grand composition of the drapery, the magic relief, the sweetness and dignity of the human hands and faces, the noble tenderness of Mary's gesture, the unity of the thing with itself, the faultless exclusion of all that does not belong to its main purpose; it is like a single, simple axiomatic thought. Note withal the novelty of its effect on the mind, and you will see that this master of style (that's a consummate exaniple of what is meant by style) has been still a willing scholar in the hands of Da Vinci. But, then, with what ease, also, and simplicity, and a sort of natural success not his!
It was in his twenty-fifth year that Raphael came to the city of the popes, Michelangelo being already in high favor there. For the remaining years of his life he paces the same streets with that grim artist, who was so great a contrast with himself, and for the first time his attitude towards a gift different from his own is not that of a scholar, but that of a rival. If he did not become the scholar of Michelangelo it would be difficult, on the other hand, to trace anywhere in Michelangelo's work the counter influence usual with those who had influenced him. It was as if he desired to add to the strength of Michelangelo that sweetness which at first sight seems to be wanting there. Ex forti dulcedo: and in the study of Michelangelo certainly it is enjoyable to detect, if we may, sveet savors amid the wonderful strength, the strange
ness and potency of what he pours forth for us: with Raphael, conversely, something of a relief to find in the suavity of that so softly moving, tuneful existence, an assertion of strength. There was the promise of it, as you remember, in his very look as he saw himself at eighteen; and you know that the lesson, the prophecy of those holy women and children he has made his own, is that “the meek shall possess.” So, when we see him at Rome at last, in that atmosphere of greatness, of the strong, he too is found putting forth strength, adding that element in due proportion to the mere sweetness and charm of his genius; yet a sort of strength, after all, still congruous with the line of development that genius has hitherto taken, the special strength of the scholar and his proper reward, a purely cerebral strength—the strength, the power of an immense understanding.
Now the life of Raphael at Rome seems as we read of it hasty and perplexed, full of undertakings, of vast works not always to be completed, of almost impossible demands on his industry, in a world of breathless competition, amid a great company of spectators, for great rewards. You seem to lose him, feel he may have lost himself, in the multiplicity of his engagements; might fancy that, wealthy, variously decorated, a courtier, cardinal in petto, he was “serving tables.” But, you know, he was forcing into this brief space of years (he died at thirty-seven) more than the natural business of the larger part of a long life; and one way of getting some kind of clearness into it, is to distinguish the various divergent outlooks or applications, and group the results of that immense intelligence, that still untroubled, flawlessly operating, completely informed understanding, that purely cerebral power, acting through his executive, inventive or creative gifts, through the eye and the hand with its command of visible color and form. In that way you may follow liim along many various roads till brain and eye and hand sušldenly fail in the very midst of his work-along many various roads, but you can follow him along each of them distinctly.
At the end of one of them is the “Galatea,” and in quite a different form of industry, the data for the beginnings of a great literary work of pure erudition. Coming to the capital of Christendom, he comes also for the first time
under the full influence of the antique world, pagan art, pagan life, and is henceforth an enthusiastic archæologist. On his first coming to Rome a papal bull had authorized him to inspect all ancient marbles, inscriptions, and the like, with a view to their adaptation in new buildings then proposed. A consequent close acquaintance with antiquity, with the very touch of it, blossomed literally in his brain, and under his facile hand, in artistic creations, of which the Galatea is indeed the consummation. But the frescoes of the Farnese palace, with a hundred minor designs, find their places along that line of his artistic activity, and did not exhaust his knowledge of antiquity, his interest in and control of it. The mere fragments of it that still cling to his memory would have composed, had he lived longer, a monumental illustrated survey of the monuments of ancient Rome.
To revive something of the proportionable spirit at least of antique building in the architecture of the present, came naturally to Raphael as the son of his age; and at the end of another of those roads of diverse activity stands Saint Peter's, though unfinished. What a proof again of that immense intelligence, by which, as I said, the element of strength supplemented the element of mere sweetness and charm in his work, that at the age of thirty, known hitherto only as a painter, at the dying request of the venerable Bramante himself, he should have been chosen to succeed him as the director of that vast enterprise. And if little in the great church, as we see it, is directly due to him, yet we must not forget that his work in the Vatican also was partly that of an architect. In the Loggia, or open galleries of the Vatican, the last and most delicate effects of Quattro-cento taste come from his hand, in that peculiar arabesque decoration which goes by his name.
Saint Peter's, as you know, had an indirect connection with the Teutonic reformation. When Leo X pushed so far the sale of indulgences to the overthrow of Luther's Catholicism, it was done after all for the not entirely selfish purpose of providing funds to build the metropolitan church of Christendom with the assistance of Raphael; and yet, upon another of those diverse outways of his so versatile intelligence, at the close of which we behold his unfinished picture of the Transfiguration, what has been