THE SIXTH MORNING. THE SHEPHERD'S TOWER.
I am obliged to interrupt my account of the Spanish chapel by the following notes on the sculptures of Giotto's Campanile: first because I find that inaccurate accounts of those sculptures are in course of publication; and chiefly because I cannot finish my work in the Spanish chapel until one of my good Oxford helpers, Mr. Caird, has completed some investigations he has undertaken for me upon the history connected with it. I had written my own analysis of the fourth side, believing that in every scene of it the figure of St. Dominic was repeated. Mr. Caird first suggested, and has shown me already good grounds for his belief,[Footnote: He wrote thus to me on 11th November last: "The three preachers are certainly different. The first is Dominic; the second, Peter Martyr, whom I have identified from his martyrdom on the other wall; and the third, Aquinas."] that the preaching monks represented are in each scene intended for a different person. I am informed also of several careless mistakes which have got into my description of the fresco of the Sciences; and finally, another of my young helpers, Mr. Charles F. Murray, - one, however, whose help is given much in the form of antagonism, - informs me of various critical discoveries lately made, both by himself, and by industrious Germans, of points respecting the authenticity of this and that, which will require notice from me: more especially he tells me of certification that the picture in the Uffizii, of which I accepted the ordinary attribution to Giotto, is by Lorenzo Monaco, - which indeed may well be, without in the least diminishing the use to you of what I have written of its predella, and without in the least, if you think rightly of the matter, diminishing your confidence in what I tell you of Giotto generally. There is one kind of knowledge of pictures which is the artist's, and another which is the antiquary's and the picture-dealer's; the latter especially acute, and founded on very secure and wide knowledge of canvas, pigment, and tricks of touch, without, necessarily, involving any knowledge whatever of the qualities of art itself. There are few practised dealers in the great cities of Europe whose opinion would not be more trustworthy than mine, (if you could get it, mind you,) on points of actual authenticity. But they could only tell you whether the picture was by such and such a master, and not at all what either the master or his work were good for. Thus, I have, before now, taken drawings by Varley and by Cousins for early studies by Turner, and have been convinced by the dealers that they knew better than I, as far as regarded the authenticity of those drawings; but the dealers don't know Turner, or the worth of him, so well as I, for all that. So also, you may find me again and again mistaken among the much more confused work of the early Giottesque schools, as to the authenticity of this work or the other; but you will find (and I say it with far more sorrow than pride) that I am simply the only person who can at present tell you the real worth of any; you will find that whenever I tell you to look at a picture, it is worth your pains; and whenever I tell you the character of a painter, that it is his character, discerned by me faithfully in spite of all confusion of work falsely attributed to him in which similar character may exist. Thus, when I mistook Cousins for Turner, I was looking at a piece of subtlety in the sky of which the dealer had no consciousness whatever, which was essentially Turneresque, but which another man might sometimes equal; whereas the dealer might be only looking at the quality of Whatman's paper, which Cousins used, and Turner did not.
Not, in the meanwhile, to leave you quite guideless as to the main subject of the fourth fresco in the Spanish chapel, - the Pilgrim's Progress of Florence, - here is a brief map of it:
On the right, in lowest angle, St. Dominic preaches to the group of Infidels; in the next group towards the left, he (or some one very like him) preaches to the Heretics: the Heretics proving obstinate, he sets his dogs at them, as at the fatallest of wolves, who being driven away, the rescued lambs are gathered at the feet of the Pope. I have copied the head of the very pious, but slightly weak-minded, little lamb in the centre, to compare with my rough Cumberland ones, who have had no such grave experiences. The whole group, with the Pope above, (the niche of the Duomo joining with and enriching the decorative power of his mitre,) is a quite delicious piece of design.
The Church being thus pacified, is seen in worldly honour under the powers of the Spiritual and Temporal Rulers. The Pope, with Cardinal and Bishop descending in order on his right; the Emperor, with King and Baron descending in order on his left; the ecclesiastical body of the whole Church on the right side, and the laity, - chiefly its poets and artists, on the left.
Then, the redeemed Church nevertheless giving itself up to the vanities and temptations of the world, its forgetful saints are seen feasting, with their children dancing before them, (the Seven Mortal Sins, say some commentators). But the wise-hearted of them confess their sins to another ghost of St. Dominic; and confessed, becoming as little children, enter hand in hand the gate of the Eternal Paradise, crowned with flowers by the waiting angels, and admitted by St. Peter among the serenely joyful crowd of all the saints, above whom the white Madonna stands reverently before the throne. There is, so far as I know, throughout all the schools of Christian art, no other so perfect statement of the noble policy and religion of men.