Page images
PDF
EPUB

day he worked in his studio with closed doors, and obtained enormous prices for his pictures. His best he sent to Rome to be exhibited in the Pantheon, for he hoped to keep up his name in the city he so loved.

"I will show the Romans," he said, "that though they have proscribed my person, genius is a thing beyond their power to persecute."

His heart so yearned after his friends in Rome, that in about three years time he declared he must go there and see them and the dear old city again, though but for a few days.

He wrote to ask if there would be any

danger in his doing so; and received for answer that he must on no account set his foot in Rome; that he had bitter enemies there who would take care he did not leave it again alive. Unfounded charges of sedition and secret plotting with the lower orders would at once be laid against him if he appeared there, and that he must consider

Rome as a spot of which he must keep entirely clear.

Salvator read the letter gloomily and with much disappointment. The very impossi→ bility of going only fanned the intense desire he felt to be there. Always impetuous and impatient of being thwarted, he suddenly flung down his brush, walked up and down his studio rapidly for a quarter of an hour, then having apparently made up his mind to carry out some scheme he had been planning, he rang the bell for his servant, and desired him to order post horses to set out for Rome in a few hours. He then sat down and wrote a number of notes to take with him, and in a very short time he was speeding along as fast as four horses could take him.

He so arranged his journey as to arrive in Rome after dark, when no one would be able to recognize him, and drove at once to the gardens of the Vigria Navicella, which were closed by that hour. He knew the cus

todian, and a bribe easily gained him admittance. Then he arranged quickly for getting up a supper in the gardens by the light of the almost full moon. Meanwhile he sent off his notes by messengers found by the custodian. In these he had invited his friends, to the number of about sixteen, to meet him at once in the gardens.

Fearing that the heedless, impetuous artist was in some fresh scrape, and had been ordered out of Florence as he had before to fly Rome, they all hastened to the place of rendezvous, and there found Salvator full of spirits and overjoyed at seeing them again. They sat down to supper, as sumptuous a one as money and haste could provide, and thoroughly enjoyed each other's society for some time. Then, at dawn of day, the host bade them all good-bye, and getting into his carriage drove off to Florence, where he arrived without any one there knowing that he had quitted it even for an hour.

It was soon after this freak that his friends

begged him, as they had often done before, to sit for his likeness. Salvator had always

refused.

"My paintings shall represent me," he used to say. "Posterity may get some good by looking at them, but what would be the use of sending down my face for it to gaze at? Besides, if I wished ever so much to be taken, I could not be bored by sitting for my portrait. I never can sit still for long together, nor keep my countenance steady for five minutes."

His friend Lippi, the great painter, did his best to persuade him to change his mind, but in vain.

Lippi was in the habit of being read to whilst he drew, and kept a reader for this purpose. It happened one day when Salvator called on him that he had just stretched a new canvas for a fresh picture.

Lippi was a poet as well as painter, and his reader was

beginning to read aloud a poem he was about

to publish.

Salvator, as he entered, nodded to Lippi, put his finger on his lip, and made a sign to the reader not to stop. He sat down in the carved oak gothic window-seat, which had some richly stained glass in it. Throwing back his head to rest on the oak panel, he soon became absorbed in listening to the poem.

Lippi was standing at his easel and about to put on the new canvas the first strokes of his intended drawing, when his eye caught Salvator's face and head lighted up by the brightly stained glass. His fine features being in perfect repose, and his eye beaming with expression from the interest he was feeling in what was being read, in an instant Lippi changed the subject of his picture, and with wonderful rapidity and accuracy he sketched his head, face, and bust, whilst Salvator supposed he was commencing

« PreviousContinue »