THE SIXTH MORNING. THE SHEPHERD'S TOWER.
Of these representations of human art under heavenly guidance, the series of bas-reliefs which stud the base of this tower of Giotto's must be held certainly the chief in Europe. [Footnote: For account of the series on the main archivolt of St. Mark's, see my sketch of the schools of Venetian sculpture in third forthcoming number of 'St. Mark's Rest.'] At first you may be surprised at the smallness of their scale in proportion to their masonry; but this smallness of scale enabled the master workmen of the tower to execute them with their own hands; and for the rest, in the very finest architecture, the decoration of most precious kind is usually thought of as a jewel, and set with space round it, - as the jewels of a crown, or the clasp of a girdle. It is in general not possible for a great workman to carve, himself, a greatly conspicuous series of ornament; nay, even his energy fails him in design, when the bas-relief extends itself into incrustation, or involves the treatment of great masses of stone. If his own does not, the spectator's will. It would be the work of a long summer's day to examine the over-loaded sculptures of the Certosa of Pavia; and yet in the tired last hour, you would be empty-hearted. Read but these inlaid jewels of Giotto's once with patient following; and your hour's study will give you strength for all your life. So far as you can, examine them of course on the spot; but to know them thoroughly you must have their photographs: the subdued colour of the old marble fortunately keeps the lights subdued, so that the photograph may be made more tender in the shadows than is usual in its renderings of sculpture, and there are few pieces of art which may now be so well known as these, in quiet homes far away.
We begin on the western side. There are seven sculptures on the western, southern, and northern sides: six on the eastern; counting the Lamb over the entrance door of the tower, which divides the complete series into two groups of eighteen and eight. Itself, between them, being the introduction to the following eight, you must count it as the first of the terminal group; you then have the whole twenty-seven sculptures divided into eighteen and nine.
Thus lettering the groups on each side for West, South, East, and North, we have:
W. S. E. N.
7 + 7 + 6 + 7 = 27; or,
W. S. E.
7 + 7 + 4 = 18; and,
2 + 7 = 9
There is a very special reason for this division by nines but, for convenience' sake, I shall number the whole from 1 to 27, straightforwardly. And if you will have patience with me, I should like to go round the tower once and again; first observing the general meaning and connection of the subjects and then going back to examine the technical points in each, and such minor specialties as it may be well, at the first time, to pass over.
1. The series begins, then, on the west side, with the Creation of Man. It is not the beginning of the story of Genesis; but the simple assertion that God made us, and breathed, and still breathes, into our nostrils the breath of life.
This, Giotto tells you to believe as the beginning of all knowledge and all power. [Footnote: So also the Master-builder of the Ducal Palace of Venice. See Fors Clavigera for June of this year.] This he tells you to believe, as a thing which he himself knows.
He will tell you nothing but what he does know.
2. Therefore, though Giovanna Pisano and his fellow sculptors had given, literally, the taking of the rib out of Adam's side, Giotto merely gives the mythic expression of the truth he knows, - "they two shall be one flesh."
3. And though all the theologians and poets of his time would have expected, if not demanded, that his next assertion, after that of the Creation of Man, should be of the Fall of Man, he asserts nothing of the kind. He knows nothing of what man was. What he is, he knows best of living men at that hour, and proceeds to say. The next sculpture is of Eve spinning and Adam hewing the ground into clods. Notdigging : you cannot, usually, dig but in ground already dug. The native earth you must hew.
They are not clothed in skins. What would have been the use of Eve spinning if she could not weave? They wear, each, one simple piece of drapery, Adam's knotted behind him, Eve's fastened around her neck with a rude brooch.
Above them are an oak and an apple-tree. Into the apple-tree a little bear is trying to climb.