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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
a scholar of eminence, and a great portion of her embassies were confided to that class of men. The States of Holland, when enjoying their greatest degree of freedom, pursued the same policy, with regard to Grotius, and other distinguished writers; and Rubens was charged with more than one important embassy by these famous republics.
Compare the sums of money received by the distinguished writers and artists of the present age, in England, with the rewards of those who enjoyed the patronage of kings, princes, and nobility. The former had no patrons but a liberal and enlightened public, through whose munificence they received a far more liberal remuneration, independent of the degradation of individual patronage, than any king of England, France, or Spain, or any prince or pope of Italy, ever bestowed. In illustration of this, it is only necessary to cite the examples of Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Mr. Moore, and many minor names, who received their thousands for single works, certainly not superior to those of Dante and Tasso, both in turn the objects and victims of princely patronage and oppression.
On the other hand, let us turn to the long and dismal array of names which, in the days of royal and noble patronage, lived a life of poverty, and perished in despair. To cite them, would fill a volume, and savor of the records of a parish poor-house. But since the period when genius become emancipated from all other patronage but that of an enlightened public, we hear no more of its perishing for want, or pining in hopeless obscurity. Poverty is no more its reproach or opprobrium, and the old joke of living in garrets, is no longer applicable. The voice of their countrymen calls them forth from oblivion, its munificence rewards their exertions, and men of unquestionable talents in literature and the arts are only required to exercise that degree of industry and prudence which is necessary in all other pursuits of life, to attain to competency if not wealth.
With regard to the fine arts, the result is the same. It is true that Vandyke was invited over to England by King Charles, and knighted when knighthood was the jest of the poets and dramatic writers. But it is now known, from documents lately brought to light, that he was obliged to paint portraits for the king at a less price than he received from others. Our countryman West also tasted the sweets of royal patronage, and spent a good portion of his life in painting pictures for which he was never paid.
We should never have done, were we to undertake to cite all the examples of royal and princely patronage. They will most of them readily occur to the general reader, and such is their numbers and celebrity, that their united weight is sufficient to overwhelm all the empty boasts of the munificence of kings, princes, and nobility.
Turning our eyes toward our own free country, which labors under the ban of aristocracy, and is considered little better than a barren waste in which neither literature nor the arts can find either soil or sustenance, there is nothing which indicates that she will not in good time attain to eminence in both, without paying for them more than they are worth, in the sacrifice of liberty. If we do not err, she is destined in good time to vindicate them from the foul slander of being the grovelling satellites of corruption, the abject
followers and dependents of despotism. It is in the rich soil of rational freedom, which, while it gives scope and license to all the vigorous efforts of genius, at the same time affords peace and security, as well as rewards to its exertions, that all the higher qualities have attained their greatest perfection. It is there that genius and virtue find their most appropriate home, and their noblest field of exercise, because they have nothing to hope from base prostitution, and nothing to fear from jealous despotism.
We hear it every day confidently asserted, as if it were a fact challenging denial, that the rewards bestowed on literature and the fine arts in the United States, have not equalled those they received in Italy and other countries of Europe. We deny this, and appeal to the proof in the examples already brought forward. Did we ever hear of any respectable artist in the United States being rewarded by a sack of corn for a first rate picture ? Is there an instance of one perishing like the inimitable Corregio, from carrying the price of a picture in copper coin on his shoulders ? Or admitting there is one capable of producing a picture equal to the St. Jerome of Dominichino, would he find, in the wide circuit of these United States, a gentleman who would debase himself by offering such a price as the Italian artist received ? On the contrary, we know that Colonel Trumbull received eight thousand dollars a piece, from the Congress of the United States, for four pictures, neither of them certainly equal to the Communion of St. Jerome, the Flight into Egypt, or the Assumption of the Virgin. We know too, that the same distinguished body has lately voted a similar sum for a similar number of pictures of native artists, to be placed in the rotunda of the capital for the contemplation of future ages; and we also know that a company of gentlemen in Boston has contracted with Mr. Washington Alston for a picture, for which he is to receive ten thousand dollars, if it is ever finished, of which we believe there is some doubt. Other instances might be adduced of American artists making four, six, and even twelve thousand dollars a year. We put the question to those who assail our institutions and government on this ground, whether they know of any potentate of Europe, who, within the same period, has offered such inducements to living artists? No. They give enormous prices for the works of dead artists, and leave the living ones to take their chance with the public.
Our artists need no longer go abroad to earn a livelihood, or gain a name. Those who have talents and industry, meet with employment and liberal compensation. They receive quite as much, and sometimes a great deal more, than is given for similar productions in Europe ; they also receive equal, if not greater attention, and their society is courted by the first people in the land. We know that that distinguished sculptor, and most amiable, intelligent gentleman, Mr. Horatio Greenough, whom his country delights, and ought to delight, to honor, when he left this city, a few days since, carried with him engagements to the amount of seventeen thousand dollars, and that others to a large amount have since been forwarded to him. We also know that he has ascertained there is a sufficiency of marble in this country, superior for all purposes of statuary to that of Carrara, and that when he has finished his statue of Washington, he
means to come home and devote himself to the establishment of a school of statuary. We shall then see whether it requires the patronage of kings, the distinctions of ranks, the monopoly of wealth, and the sacrifice of liberty, to make the arts flourish in our great republic.
Our literary men and artists need no longer go abroad, we again repeat, to earn a livelihood or gain a reputation. The period is fast approaching, when they will address themselves to fifty, and by and by a hundred, millions of their countrymen, all speaking the same language, all advancing abreast with equal steps, and forming a solid phalanx of mind and purpose, such as the world never saw before. Is there not here a sphere adequate to the most vaulting ambition ? And why, therefore, should they look abroad for the stinted praise of foreign hireling critics, when they can implant their names deep in the soil of a country, wider than any homogeneous empire that the world ever saw, and where they will live in ages to come, when peradventure the fate of Europe may follow that of the other quarters of the old world.
Let them appeal to the feelings and pride of this great and growing nation, instead of those of foreigners, and consecrate their genius at the shrine of patriotism. Let them strike the right chord, and if it does not promptly respond to the touch, then let them complain, and let the imputation we have been contesting be acknowledged as the truth. Then let them repeat the old sing-song about the incompatibility of freedom with the perfection of the arts, and the necessity of patronage, servitude and degradation to a Michael Angelo, a Raphael, a Corregio, a Claude, a Titian, a Canova, a Thorwalsden, or a Greenough. Until they have made this trial, silence, study, effort and industry, would better become them, than complaint and despondency. Let them read the lives of these illustrious artists, whose fame now illuminates the civilized world, and learn by what a succession of labors, anxieties, disappointments, and mortifications, they at length gained the summit of their art. They will then see, that the highest rewards are only the meed of the greatest efforts, and that the exertions of a whole life are necessary to live hereafter.
Let them also recollect, that all the artists of Italy are not equally celebrated. The names of thousands and tens of thousands, during the period in which the arts flourished in that country in their greatest splendor, now rest in the repose of oblivion, or are only recorded in dictionaries. Thousands and tens of thousands have also attained but a small portion of the fame of these illustrious masters, who, though nearly cotemporary with each other, seem to have been the product of centuries. Ages preceded and succeeded them, without producing their equals, and who knows but that in which the old world has failed, may be achieved by the new ?
Without doubt, many a bright genius of whom the world has never heard, during the age of these great masters, pined away in neglect and obscurity, notwithstanding the patronage of kings and nobility, and what is more, in spite of that of the illustrious merchants and mechanics of Florence. A still greater number of artists, without genius or industry, were left to combat with their own imbecility, and, we dare say, were loud in their complaints of the neglect of their countrymen. It is the lot of mediocrity and inferiority to