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work of our old masons, or of the Lom-, disguise.
bard architects. The tower was a genuine conception of the committee mind, and Giotto was engaged to decorate the folly. Like Phidias, as the greatest of the workmen, he “directed all, and was overseer of all; and yet the building had great artists of the works; ” for the carving of the lower story was the work of Andrea Pisano, Luca della Robbia, and Donatello; “and almost all things were in his hands, and he superintended all the artists.” These carvers, like their predecessors at the Parthenon, worked each to please and to express himself, and so the tower has been saved from absolute debasement. But when Giotto died, the work went on “professionally,” as a copy and without artistic growth, a thorough “modern " work; and the result is an extravagant and useless seat of uninspired labour, hard and mechanical, without life or art relationship, or any influence in architectural development and history. Mute, inexpressive, isolated, it is but a tall toy, most beautiful among its peers, but in true architectural worth as much inferior to the rough manliness of the old palace of the Signoria, or to the delicate variety of the small Spina Chapel, as it is beyond these buildings in mere altitude and in proportionate expense. But Giotto was a real “master-workman,” and himself assisted in the “sculptured " decoration of the tower. His panelled work is very much superior to that on the cathedral, which is as bad and mean as the interior of the church is ugly. The interiors of the churches and cathedrals after the Lombard period are for the most part miserably poor, both in conception and detail. The Duomo and the church of Santa Croce show the degradation of the master-mason, and the carved capitals of the nave-piers in the “Gothic.” churches are so bad as to suggest some recondite and undiscovered meaning for their special ugliness. The Greeks used marble as a means for their refined and delicate display of form and outline. The masons at St. Mark's employed it in a sound workman's way, subordinate to the architectural character of the basilica; and there the work commands respect and admiration by reason of its genuine simplicity of method and of aim. But at Florence, surface marble-work, from the mean parti-coloured panelling of the Duomo, to the lavish expenditure on the Chapel
In using marble decoration singleness of purpose is the universal absolute necessity, and the single purpose that takes precedence of all in works of art is the social and refined enjoyment of the workman. The Greek carver and the master-builder never thought about the costliness of the Pentelic stone, but only of its absolute susceptibility of all gradations of expression and of form. The Byzantine workman gloried in coloured marbles, and rejoiced that he could make his building seem to harmonize with and reflect the splendours of his Eastern sea and sky While he recognized the dignity of the material, there was in him no thought of costliness for its own sake, or of the “imposing character’ of rare and polished stone. He had no idea of making all his work subordinate to any ecclesiastical pretension, and at St. Mark's he used his monolithic marble shafts, his brightest colours, and his choicest pictures of mosaic-work and gold, not only for the glory of the hierarchy and their upper seats, but also in the front, the portals, and most public portions of the church, to dignify and please the world. And thus his workman's inspiration has become a permanent ennobling charm for all men. Most people suffer somewhat from magnificence upon the brain, and hence the safety of society is greatly due to the incompetence of men to carry out their vast designs. The Florentines were sadly subject to this overleaping impulse; and in consequence their buildings seldom reached completion. But for the Duomo they resolved “to raise the lostiest, most sumptuous, and most magnificent pile that human invention could devise or human labour execute.” The result of all this “sumptuous” determination is Arnolfo's miserable nave, in which it seems Giotto had some hand, and as a suitable climacteric the dismal cupola that, four generations later, Brunelleschi raised. And so throughout the Renaissance we find that in architecture sumptuousness and engineering, domes and marbles, entirely superseded noble work. Italian mediaeval architecture was in fact ruined by costly marble-work. Stone and the inspired mason were neglected, and costliness and polished smoothness were esteemed the elements of art. In carving, however, and in tombs and monuments, the workman still for centuries maintained his masterful condiWe know that Michael Angelo declared and signed himself a “carver,” but at clerical suggestion he sometimes, like Giotto, left his special work and aptitude to make designs for buildings. The Farnese Palace has no doubt a handsome “elevation,” that is to say, it is agreeable to look at for a moment, and then to be well rid of. Who can help pitying the owner of that dismal cube of stone-work when he daily came in sight cf it and saw it was his home 2 The general design is worth some admiration upon paper. The architect who completed the exterior had consummate knowledge of the influence of proportion, boundless wealth to work with, and the Colosseum for a quarry. Moreover he was present at the work, and so careful of the details that he had them formed in wood full size, and tested on the building. Michael Angelo was not an “architect only.” Still the palace is but a majestic misery, cheerless as a prison, and incapable of human sympathy or popular delight; the stones are evidently dead, they had no inspiration from the workmen.
of the Medici, is a pure luxury without 'tion.
Michael Angelo, much against his will, was compelled to decorate the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The idea of such decoration is of course absurd. Giotto, the working plaster-painter, knew much better than to perpetrate such waste, and at the Arena Chapel he made the ceiling a lain azure blue, that served by contrast to increase the effect of colour in his paintings on the walls. Michael Angelo's commission was not given from any love of art, but as a means of personal distinction and of hierarchical display. Julius had no wish to “patronize the arts,” but only to make use of them to glorify himself, and he impressed poor Michael Angelo just as he might enlist a leader of trained bands. This was the true spirit of the Revival. Art was to be no longer an unobtrusive quiet ordinary work, but must be treated as a slavish luxury, and be compelled to illustrate the wayward whimsies of the papal churchmen. But Michael Angelo actually worked at the Sistine Chapel ceiling not merely furnishing the plin and drawings, but himself 44 fresh-pointing ” all the plaster. He was the inspired workman ; but as he was a carver and not a practised decorator, he designed the ceiling in a technically unskilful way. He could draw and mould the human form with masterly precision, but when he ventured into architectural details, he, pardonably, missed the true
artist method, and so his pictures on the ceiling are surrounded by a barbarous medley of Renaissance forms, a half-pretence of solid architecture, absurd in principle, and clumsy in effect. How the mediaeval and the ancient decorative painters could conventionalize the forms of building-work, and subordinate them to the requirements of art, is shown in Giotto's pictures and the Pompeian frescoes, but the “architectural” painting on the loggie ceilings in the Vatican shows how little Raphael had discovered of the sense and scope of decorative art. Both Michael Angelo and Raphael were in some things servants to the fashion of the day. Their buildings were designed, as of necessity when power of wealth and power of mind were ample, with much dignity and grace; but in the details their unworkmanlike contrivances proclaim the whole to be a fiction, a mere “imitative art.” To Michael Angelo the “Renaissance " Italian style was a dead language, and to his workmen it was but an unknown tongue. The master and his men were equally unable to express themselves artistically in such a fabricated dialect ; and from St. Peter's to the latest building of “New Rome,” Italian architecture is but a dreary evidence of luxury, a record of expenditure and folly. True, there is art in Italy, and of the best ; but Italy is still the great “world's show" of architectural rubbish, and this rubbish is exactly what our travelled people most extol and feebly seek to imitate. In Germany some sixty years ago an ancient vellum drawing of Cologne Cathedral was discovered. This was, perhaps, the original design, or a contemporary copy, and its elaboration and completeness well account for the demerits of the building. It is a student’s effort, the result of knowlege and selection; and its evident intention was to make a church supreme in size, and height, and symmetry of form. All this has been attained, but in human sympathy and true poetic art the building is a failure. It is, perhaps, the largest church of Gothic commonplace that ever was constructed, and for artistic worth is not for a moment comparable with the Abbey Church at Westminster, St. Stephen's at Vienna, or a hundred still existing abbeys and ca
thedrals. The design was made when Amiens, Rouen, Rheims, and Notre Dame Cathedrals were still new. These
were all built by masons who made drawings quite subservient to their work of
art; but at Cologne the draughtsman spirit ruled, and so the masons used their common knack without a thought of poetry or touch of life. Cologne Minster is, in fact, a previous example of what Mr. Fergusson has called the “imitative styles.” On the projected spires the details are extravagant in size, the crowning finials are much larger than the open archway of the minster doors. This is not mason's work or architecture, but a clear evidence of draughtsmanship and of imaginative incapacity. On the resumption of the minster works there was a festal gathering, and there, most prominently placed, was every workman then employed upon the church, from the chief master to the quarryman's apprentice. “And, turning to the artisans, the Dom-Baumeister bade them prove their skill, concluding a manly, honest address with the sentiment of Schiller's ‘Song of the Bell:” –
Let praise be to the workman given, But the blessing comes from Heaven.”
With us the drawing-master, not “the workman,” gets “the praise; ” and so, it seems, “the blessing” does not come. The public hear Cologne Cathedral called the culminating effort and display of mediaeval art; and, knowing and mistrusting their own ignorance, they accept the dicta of the connoisseurs, and strenuously endeavour to be pleased. Of course they fail, and, finding nothing lovely or of interest, they leave the church in blank amazement at its height and bigness, and perplexed at what they modestly assume to be their own deficiency in architectural discernment. The work is a gigantic folly, and a total waste unless it proves a warning. Let us contrast our own old English building-method which but sixty years ago was not extinct. About that time the exterior of Henry VII.'s Chapel was restored, and there we find the mastermason still a power: —
There was but very little occasion for the interference of the architect; all the labour of arranging the work, tracing out the details and ornaments, and supplying the defects from corresponding parts, being left to the discretion and industry of the mason. The task was an important one ; and required professional skill, a practised eye, and sound judgment. It is no eulogium to say that the execution of this work could not have been entrusted to a more careful artisan than Mr. Gayfere.
This was Thomas Gayfere, mason of the Abbey. The Abbey, then, was built
by masons, its noble tombs were made and were designed by working-men, and the most lavish work was capably restored by a discreet industrious mason. The habitual notion of the middle and superior classes that the workmen are inferior in natural ability, or in the higher qualities of lively genius and imaginative mind, is very English. In fact, these men are frequently above “their betters” in power of mental application and endurance. The man that makes a table or a chair requires more nervous energy than the glib shopman offering it for sale. A banquer-mason or a leading joiner is, “by profession,” greatly more accomplished than a small tradesman or a banker's clerk. The workman's only want is to regain his old and natural position, and secure the opportunity to make his capabilities and requirements felt and known. Where this is given, even to a mill-hand, or machinist, or a manufacturing engineer, his mental power becomes magnificent. Of the seven hundred patents for our hosiery and lace machines, every inventor except two has been recorded as a working handicraftsman. Or if we rise above mechanics, and proceed from manufacturing England to the land of poetry and song, these arts are the acknowledged birthright of the people ; not only of a Dante, a Manzoni, a Palestrina, or a Mario, but of the vinedressers of Bronte, and the peasantry of Veggiano ; of the plaintive cantatore of the Bay of Naples, and of the wandering herdsman on the Tuscan Apennines. Remaining still in Italy, and studying Baron Hübner's general view of Rome three hundred years ago, we find that when Pope Sixtus, the last man of great commanding power on the papal throne, proposed to build, he did not choose an “architect’ or draughtsman, but engaged a young Comascho mason as his master-builder. “He and the young Fontana together formed plans, diséussed and settled them.” When it had been proposed to raise the obelisk of Nero in the centre of the Piazza of St. Peter, “Michael Angelo and San Gallo, who were the first architects of the day, were unanimous in declaring the undertaking to be impracticable. Their opinion being law,” the idea was given up. Fontana afterwards designed a plan which was accepted ; but, as the mason was still young, two “architects of eminence” were ordered by the eommission to carry out the work. Fontana then, appealing to the pope, declared “that no man ran better carry out a plan than the man who Aas conceived it, for no one can perfectly master the thoughts of another.” Struck by the justice of this remark, Sixtus intrusted the whole business to his former mason. Not only Rome, but the whole of Europe, watched the works with anxious curiosity, and on September 10, 1586, the obelisk was erected on its pedestal with perfect success. Going with Mr. Fergusson still further south, to work entirely recent, we discover in the “parish church of Mousta, in the Island of Malta, a remarkable instance of a building erected in the same manner, and according to the exact principles which covered Europe with beautiful edifices during the middle ages.”
The area of this master-mason's selfsupporting dome is one-third larger than that of our architectural wonder at St. Paul's, and the height is greater than that of the Pantheon at Rome. The total cost was one-and-twenty thousand pounds, “besides the gratuitous labour of the villagers and others, estimated at half that amount.”
George Kemp, the architect of the Scott monument at Edinburgh, was but a village carpenter, and so was much objected to by his superiors, who desired that some “professional” of eminence should be employed, and not a common man of great ability, whose work and powers were much above their mental range.
The late Augustus Welby Pugin was a noted “architect,” and able as a draughtsman, and so to some might seem to be an illustration adverse to our theory. But Pugin was much more than a draughtsman : —
The most careful discipline and training after academic methods will fail in making an artist, unless he himself take an active part in the work. Like every highly cultivated man, he must be self-educated. When Pugin,
LIVING AGE. Vol. VIII. 4I4
who was brought up in his father's office, had
learnt all that he could of architecture, ac
cording to the usual formulas, he still found that he had learnt but little, and that he must
begin at the beginning and pass through the
discipline of labour. He hired himself out as a common carpenter at Covent Garden Theatre, and thus acquired a familiarity with work. Smiles, Self-Help.
Pugin was apparently an artist spoilt. Had he discarded “instruments" and kept to tools, he might have reached his natural position, and become a famous |master-workman. His architectural and decorative works all show exceptional ability in their inferior way; but none are really good. His church at Ramsgate, where he was, in fact, the master, is by far the best, and is his worthiest monument. Who can tell how different his fate might possibly have been, had he secured the quiet soothing influence of true artist life, instead of suffering the vexation and excitement of a mock profession ?
We may now quote the latest instance of true building master-workmanship. The Portcullis Club, 93, Regent Street, Westminster, “is a working-man's club in the strictest sense of the word. The ground upon which it stands has been purchased. The materials of which it is built have been paid for, and the labour has been found by the working men themselves, many of them working until twelve o'clock at night. Not only so ; they have been their own architects. The whole of the plans and elevations have been beautifully drawn by one of the members; ” and thus the little front is much more satisfactory and respectable than the Charing-Cross Hotel or the Royal Academy façade.
These are examples of mere accidental gleams of truth in modern practice, and they show that the return to sanity in art is by a very short and easy way. And now, continuing the method of historical comparison, that discovers art to be in every age the exclusive trust and treasure of the workman, let us go back four thousand years to the Egyptian tombs, and hear “the dead lift up his voice to tell us of his life.” Ameni, a great functionary, has inscribed upon his tomb the record of his own administration, and therein reveals the generous influence of the master-workman in a wider sphere. “All the lands under me were ploughed and sown from north to south. Thanks were given to me on behalf of the royal house for the fat cattle which I collected.
Nothing was ever stolen out of my workshops. I worked myself, and kept the whole province at work. Famine never occurred in my time, nor did I let any one hunger in years of short produce; never did I disturb the fisherman or molest the shepherd ; never was a child afflicted, never a widow ill-treated by me; and I have not preferred the great to the small in the judgments I have given.” And on the wall are durably depicted illustrations of Ameni's works: the building and lading of large shifts, the fashioning of furniture from costly woods, the preparation of garments, and various scenes of husbandry and handicraft. Of the comparative value and intelligence of the Egyptian workmen, the three great Memphian Pyramids, the oldest monuments extant of building-art, give curious and simple evidence. “The slope of the entrance-passages is just the angle of rest for such material as the stone of the Pyramids, and, therefore, the proper inclination for the sarcophagus to be easily moved without letting it descend of itself.” Our readers, possibly, may recollect “the launch " of the “Great Eastern,” and “the angle of rest" and immobility that our engineer of eminence “designed.” Had common workmen used their own responsible intelligence about the work, the recent “builders of large ships" upon the foreshore of the Thames might not have proved inferior to the primeval working engineers and architects who built the wondrous mausoleums in the valley of the Nile. The failure and the remedy have been at length discovered. At the recent distribution of prizes at the Engineering College, Cooper's Hill, Lord Salisbury, in the true spirit of the operarius or master-workman, advised the students “not to be afraid, but to cultivate a knowledge of the smaller, and what he might call the more repulsive (?), details of their profession. He was very glad to see that the attendance in the workshops was spoken of in the very highest terms by the examiners. There has been hitherto no lack of the most distinguished theoretical knowledge, but the deficiencies have been in those small practical matters on which the success of the work often depends.” Our history of the master-workman is complete. His method and position have been traced throughout the course of European culture. To him we are indebted for the glories of the Athenian Acropolis, the splendour of the Vene
tian Basilica, the dignity of the Lombard Duomo, and the infinite variety and charm of mediaeval building-work. The old method still survives in Oriental manufacture, and here again we find the modern workman painfully surpassed by his more “educated ” Indian rival. In the International Exhibition at South Kensington,
It was humiliating to our national pride to perceive in the specimens of Indian art workmanship a grace and finish to which we cannot attain in spite of all our modern discoveries and appliances of mechanism daily becoming more delicate in their operation. The Indian worker in gold or silver produces the most elaborate and beautiful objects with the rudest tools, and as long as we leave him to himself his models are purely artistic, but as soon as he attempts to produce European articles from our designs the individuality of the artist is lost, and his work is vulgarized. — Companion to the British Almanack, 1872.
Those who last year visited the World's Show at Vienna will admit the general truth of these remarks. The Japanese display of art made ours look pitiful. In Japan the true style and method of art decoration are maintained. The porcelain and the painting are, in artistic combination, but one work. In our Bond Street china the fine paintings on the plates and vases are mere pictures quite distinct from pottery, and only gain some prettiness and polish from the soft glaze and texture of the ware ; but they are no more to be styled ceramic art than any portrait on a panel or on copper can be classed with the achievements of the joiner or the smith. It is painful to see that in Japan, as in India, the attempt to produce articles for the European taste and market is already corrupting the workman. At Vienna in the Oriental courts there were sad evidences of the debasing influence of “Western culture.”
Much wonderment and admiration have been frequently expressed at what we in a patronizing way are pleased to call the almost Occidental cleverness of our new friends the Japanese. The cause of their ability is obvious. The people of Japan for many hundred years “have placed the handicraftsman, down to the humblest, above the merchant and the trader in the social scale ; ” they have steadily maintained the artistic and imaginative training of their workmen, and as a consequence, or a concurrent influence and result, the entire population has retained its natural intelligence, and is apt to think, quick in fancy and