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with the tenants of the kitchen, who look up, with abject submission, to the smile and the favor of him who gives them wages in return for labor and obedience. All other pursuits depend on the general wants, habits, and tastes, of the people at large for patronage, and nothing is necessary to their success, but the general diffusion
those wants, habits, and tastes, to produce a liberal remuneration for the exercise of talents and industry, unaccompanied by any feeling of dependence or degradation whatever.
The artist or the literary man who receives a pension from a king, or who exists on the bounty of a great man, must almost necessarily be restricted in the employment of his genius. The painter or sculptor is in all probability directed in the choice of his subject, not by his own taste, but that of his patron; and the literary dependent must not soar beyond etiquette, nor grasp at forbidden fruit. His wings are clipped, his fancy restrained, and his reason manacled, by the fear of displeasing the master who feeds and clothes him. Vol. taire, who had ample personal experience on this point, during the boasted reign of Louis the Fourteenth, the Macenas of modern times, in speaking of the appointment of Addison to the post of Secretary of State, says, with equal truth and severity :
* Had he been in France, he would have been elected a member of one of the academies, and by the credit of some women, he might have obtained a pension of twelve hundred livres; or else been imprisoned in the Bastile, upon pretence that in his tragedy of Cato, strokes had been discovered which glanced at some persons in power.'
Voltaire was himself a striking example of the miseries of royal patronage, which is frequently but another name for royal persecution. He sought refuge from the latter in the protection of the Great Frederick of Prussia, under whose alternate smiles and frowns he languished a few years, and at length retired to Fernay, where alone he could enjoy the sweets of independence.
It seems to us that mankind are too prone to continue to receive, as a sort of inheritance, and to repeat without discrimination, those maxims which may have once been true, but which have become obsolete and inapplicable by the almost imperceptible yet wonderworking influence of time, and the great changes it produces. At the period in which literature and the arts awakened from the long sleep of ages, in Europe, the feudal system prevailed every where. All property and all power was in the hands of the king, the church, and the nobility; and as a direct inevitable consequence, it was from these alone that the arts, not indispensable to the existence of man in a social state, could receive encouragement, or expect support. Artists of course looked to this source exclusively; and hence we find them in a great degree under the special patronage of monarchs, popes, princes, cardinals, and nobility. It was the same with literary men, who could find no purchasers for their works among a people who could not read, and of course had no inclination to buy; and who, if they had, possessed not the means of paying for them.
The only exception to this state of things — and we look upon it as decisive in favor of our theory – was the city of Florence, then a democracy. It was in this free city, that literature and the fine arts first arose from out the obscurity of the dark ages. It is from a democratic community, shining like a solitary star in the dark regions of feudal despotism, that we can distinctly trace the progress of literature and the arts in modern times. It was there that the first Greek scholars opened their schools ; it was there that Dante, the great original of modern poetry, strung his lyre; it was there that painting and sculpture first throw off the fetters of a barbarous taste; and such was the vast influence of its literature, that it wrested from Columbus the glory of giving his name to a new world which he had discovered. And we will ask, who were the first and greatest patrons of those arts and that literature ? Not monarchs or princes, but a family of illustrious merchants, holding their temporary authority by virtue of the choice of the people, and deriving their wealth, not from their labors, but from the pursuits of an enlightened commerce. Nor were they alone the patrons of the arts, since, among the earli. est and finest specimens of sculpture in that distinguished city, are a series of statues voluntarily contributed for its embellishment by the companies of artists and laborers. One of these is by Michael Angelo, and others by the most distinguished of his contemporaries.
Do not these facts, founded on historical authority, sufficiently prove that the institutions of monarchy and aristocracy, and the consequent degradation of a large portion of mankind, are not essential to the most flourishing state of literature and the arts ? Do they not indicate, with the finger of truth, that these embellishments of life need not necessarily be purchased at the price of slavery and dependence? The city of Florence will be found, on consulting the great historian Machiavel - who, though a consistent republican, has been oddly metamorphosed into an advocate of tyranny- to have been at the very time she gave the impulse and the law to the literature and arts of Europe, as much a democracy, as Athens herself, when she stood in the same commanding attitude, at the head of the Grecian State, we may say at the head of the world. If such examples are not more common in history, it is because, with few exceptions, mankind have, in all ages and nations, been trodden under foot by the armed hoof of despotic power.
The general principle is unquestionably in favor of the doctrine, that it is the nature of free institutions to expand and invigorate the faculties of the human mind. Out of a state of absolute barbarism, liberty cannot exist without a general though not an equal distribution of property and intelligence. It presupposes what is indispensable to its being, a people free from actual poverty and its consequent wants ; possessing a spirit which resists all innovation on their rights, and a degree of culture which elevates them above the common level of abject ignorance. Such a people, imbued, as they always will be more or less, with the rudiments of taste, a desire for mental gratifications, and a capacity for improvement, may, and will do, in their collective numbers, all, and more than all, that kings, popes, princes, cardinals, and nobility, have done, or ever will do, for literature and the arts. And this, too, without subjecting artists and literary men to a degrading dependence on the favor or caprice of one single man. Appealing to a wealthy and enlightened community, nay to the whole civilized world, their genius has not only a noble incitement of a far higher character than that of pleasing one single man, but a wider scope for its exercise, free from all apprehension of the loss of bread or favor, by expatiating in the boundless space of the universe. They need not fear to incur banishment or imprisonment by exploring the depths of philosophy for hidden truths, or vindicating the rights of the human race at the expense of those who inflict on them nothing but wrongs; they have no reason to apprehend the fate of Galileo, Grotius, and hundreds of illustrious victims to the persecutions of jealous power, or bigotted intolerance, for they address themselves to a free people, who neither start at shadows, nor imagine they see in the diffusion of knowledge the downfall of religion and civil government.
On general principles, which furnish the only just grounds for general truths, we maintain, then, that it is a solecism to presume that equal rights, and the general diffusion of property and intelligence, can operate injuriously on the exercise of the human intellect in any department, pursuit, or profession whatsoever. Such a theory is unphilosophical in principle; it is at war with the inflexible union of cause and effect, and it is contradicted by the long experience of mankind, which has clearly demonstrated that free institutions make free minds; and that it would be just as true to assert that the physical powers of man are strengthened by chains, as that his intellectual faculties are expanded by being prohibited from exercise.
For the purpose of maintaining our doctrine on the basis of indi. vidual experience, we will now proceed to compare what the royal and noble patrons have done in former times, with what the people are doing now in other quarters. When the faction of the nobles gained the ascendancy in Florence, over the democracy, they exiled Dante, and persecuted Michael Angelo. Tasso was patronized by the Duke of Ferrara, and after having his heart broken and his rea. son shattered, by the capricious tyranny of his noble patron, died a beggar and a madman. Michael Angelo, having established a fame which made it an honor for princes to employ him, was invited to Rome, and patronized by Leo the Tenth, the Macenas of the purple. Let us see to what this patronage led.
• The artist,' says his biographer, ‘had received instructions to construct a monument for Julius the Second, and he was anxious to complete the work, when he was called from it by the pope (Leo the Tenth,) who insisted upon his going to Florence to build the facade of the Church of St. Lorenzo. He would have remonstrated, but was forced to submit, and while at Carrera procuring the marble, he received a letter from Leo, ordering him to go to the quarries of Pietra Santa for that purpose.
Michael Angelo complied, but reported that the marble there was of bad quality, and that there was no way of conveying it to Florence, without making a road over mountains and marshes to the sea. The pope, however, persisted, and commanded him to proceed; the consequence of which was, that the talents of this great man were buried in those mountains during the whole pontificate of Leo, in raising stone out of a quarry and making a road. Those who desire to know more of the patronage of popes and kings, have only to consult the biography of that great but eccentric artist, Benvenuto Cellini.
Annibal Caracci was patronized by the Cardinal Farnese, who demonstrated his veneration for antiquity by pulling down the Coliseum to get materials for his palace. The prize he received for those splendid paintings, now forming the richest ornaments of that palace, and which occupied him ten years, was five hundred crowns, which does not amount to one half of what the porter now every year receives from thousands of visitors who flock from all parts of the world to admire these splendid productions of art. But he had the honor of being patronized by a prince cardinal.
Dominichino was also patronized by a cardinal, who paid him about twelve pounds for the Communion of St. Jerome, which is now worth as many thousands. There is a fine picture of the Flight into Egypt by Andrea del Sarto, in which Joseph is represented on a sack of corn. The following fact will account for this circumstance : The picture was painted for a munificent patron who paid him with a sack of corn, to commemorate which, he introduced it as we have described.
Titian, who stands at the head of his art, after being patronized by Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, and the Senate of Venice, continued in such a state of poverty, that his friend Peter Aretino, the famous satirist, who kept kings and popes equally in fear, in order to relieve him, recommended him to Charles the Fifth, Emperor of Germany, who took him under his patronage. The greatest honor ever paid to this eminent artist, in the opinion of his biographer, was the emperor stooping down one day to pick up his pencil! But Corregio, the graceful, the touching, the inimitable Corregio! Nobody can tell the time of his birth, or the place where he was born. His parents were poor, and his education was neglected. Yet, by a persevering study in the school of nature alone, he arose to a degree of excellence which none have ever exceeded. But he continued poor all his life, and the manner of his death, while it presents one of the most affecting pictures on record, peculiarly illustrates our theory. He was employed to paint the Assumption of the Virgin in the cupola of the cathedral at Parma, a task which he performed in a manner that still calls forth the admiration of all true judges of the art. His work was found fault with by his patron, probably as an excuse for beating down the price, which was reduced to one half. This was paid in copper money, which the poor artist was obliged to carry home on his shoulders to his indigent family, a distance of seven or eight miles. The weight of his burthen, the heat of the weather, and the depression of his spirits, threw him into a fever, wbich, at the expiration of three days, put a period to his life. After this, let us hear no more of the necessity of monopolies of wealth and rank, to the existence and encouragement of the fine arts.
We could, without the labor of much research, easily swell this catalogue to an extent that might surprise the reader who has been accustomed to consider the patronage of the great as synonymous with wealth and honors. We could quote hundreds of distinguished names in literature and the arts, who were condemned to poverty and degradation by the patronage of kings, princes, and nobles, or left to perish in neglect and obscurity by their want of taste and munificence. The whole history of literature and the arts shows distinctly that there is scarcely an instance, in which the unfortunate protegés of aristocracy did not pay, by a life of flattery and servitude, for the miserable pittance of ostentatious parsimony, and the still more degrading condescensions of lordly pride. These patrons of the arts were seldom if ever the first to discover and encourage unprotected genius. They waited until the voice of fame had proclaimed their triumphs, and it was not until then that they condescended to reward their talents with a niggardly patronage, and to admit them into their society, when they could derive honors from the association far greater than they could bestow.
From a pretty careful examination of the subject, we are satisfied it was not to the patronage of the great that literature and the fine arts were indebted for their revival, or their ultimate excellence, during the period in which they flourished in Italy. There must, therefore, have been other causes operating to produce this effect, and they will probably be found in the natural eagerness and vigor with which the human intellect pursues a novel and attractive object in a new field and fruitful soil not yet exhausted by cultivation. This field presented itself on the revival of literature and the arts in Europe; and it cannot be wondered at that men of genius cultivated it with all their newly-awakened energies, and with a success which has left to posterity no greater glory than that of equalling them.
The wide distinction of ranks, and the awe with which all those who were not noble, looked up toward those that were, may have come in aid of other excitements to the cultivation of literature and the arts. Setting aside courage and skill in war, there were no other means by which the barrier between the noble and the peasant could be overleaped, than excellence in literature and the fine arts. This procured admission into the charmed circle of nobility, and attracted the notice of princes. It raised the low-born peasant to an intercourse with those to whom he was accustomed to look up with reverence and fear, as a superior order of beings; and though experience generally proved that such an association only brought mortification and indignity to the ambitious scholar or artist, still it was not the less an object of ardent solicitude, or a less powerful stimulant to exertion. When Charles the Fifth picked up the pencil of Titian and presented it to him, saying, ' It is fit that Cæsar should wait on Titian,' there can be no doubt the knowledge of such a condescension inspired equal envy and emulation among his rivals and successors.
So far, then, the approbation of the great undoubtedly contributed to animate the exertions of genius. But is there not in a free country a nobler stimulus to the ambition of a generous spirit in the admiration of an enlightened people? Surely the applauses of millions, and the encouragement held out by their taste and munificence, furnish sufficient stimulatives, as they afford sufficient rewards, for the highest exertions of genius. Such patrons require no degrading sacrifices of independence, and exact no servility. Instead of looking down with proud superiority on the man who administers to their pleasure and improvement, they contemplate him with affectionate reverence, and reward him by every demonstration of gratitude in their power. While Florence was free, the distinguished literary men of that illustrious commonwealth, were honored with the highest offices. The Secretary of State was almost always