THE FOURTH MORNING. THE VAULTED BOOK.
Well; he, or he and his son together, painted these four quarters of the roof of the Spanish Chapel. They were very probably much retouched afterwards by Antonio Veneziano, or whomsoever Messrs. Crowe and Cavalcasella please; but that architecture in the descent of the Holy Ghost is by the man who painted the north transept of Assisi, and there need be no more talk about the matter, - for you never catch a restorer doing his old architecture right again. And farther, the ornamentation of the vaulting ribs is by the man who painted the Entombment, No. 31 in the Galerie des Grands Tableaux, in the catalogue of the Academy for 1874. Whether that picture is Taddeo Gaddi's or not, as stated in the catalogue, I do not know; but I know the vaulting ribs of the Spanish Chapel are painted by the same hand.
Again: of the two brothers Memmi, one or other, I don't know or care which, had an ugly way of turning the eyes of his figures up and their mouths down; of which you may see an entirely disgusting example in the four saints attributed to Filippo Memmi on the cross wall of the north (called always in Murray's guide the south, because he didn't notice the way the church was built) transept of Assisi. You may, however, also see the way the mouth goes down in the much repainted, but still characteristic No. 9 in the Uffizii. [Footnote: This picture bears the inscription (I quote from the French catalogue, not having verified it myself), "Simon Martini, et Lippus Memmi de Senis me pinxerunt." I have no doubt whatever, myself, that the two brothers worked together on these frescoes of the Spanish Chapel: but that most of the Limbo is Philip's, and the Paradise, scarcely with his interference, Simon's.]
Now I catch the wring and verjuice of this brother again and again, among the minor heads of the lower frescoes in this Spanish Chapel. The head of the Queen beneath Noah, in the Limbo, - (see below) is unmistakable.
Farther: one of the two brothers, I don't care which, had a way of painting leaves; of which you may see a notable example in the rod in the hand of Gabriel in that same picture of the Annunciation in the Uffizii. No Florentine painter, or any other, ever painted leaves as well as that, till you get down to Sandro Botticelli, who did them much better. But the man who painted that rod in the hand of Gabriel, painted the rod in the right hand of Logic in the Spanish Chapel, - and nobody else in Florence, or the world, could.
Farther (and this is the last of the antiquarian business); you see that the frescoes on the roof are, on the whole, dark with much blue and red in them, the white spaces coming out strongly. This is the characteristic colouring of the partially defunct school of Giotto, becoming merely decorative, and passing into a colourist school which connected itself afterwards with the Venetians. There is an exquisite example of all its specialities in the little Annunciation in the Uffizii, No. 14, attributed to Angelo Gaddi, in which you see the Madonna is stupid, and the angel stupid, but the colour of the whole, as a piece of painted glass, lovely; and the execution exquisite, - at once a painter's and jeweller's; with subtle sense of chiaroscuro underneath; (note the delicate shadow of the Madonna's arm across her breast).
The head of this school was (according to Vasari) Taddeo Gaddi; and henceforward, without further discussion, I shall speak of him as the painter of the roof of the Spanish Chapel, - not without suspicion, however, that his son Angelo may hereafter turn out to have been the better decorator, and the painter of the frescoes from the life of Christ in the north transept of Assisi, - with such assistance as his son or scholars might give - and such change or destruction as time, Antonio Veneziano, or the last operations of the Tuscan railroad company, may have effected on them.
On the other hand, you see that the frescos on the walls are of paler colours, the blacks coming out of these clearly, rather than the whites; but the pale colours, especially, for instance, the whole of the Duomo of Florence in that on your right, very tender and lovely. Also, you may feel a tendency to express much with outline, and draw, more than paint, in the most interesting parts; while in the duller ones, nasty green and yellow tones come out, which prevent the effect of the whole from being very pleasant. These characteristics belong, on the whole, to the school of Siena; and they indicate here the work assuredlyof a man of vast power and most refined education, whom I shall call without further discussion, during the rest of this and the following morning's study, Simon Memmi.