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Opis ebooka Michelangelo - Estelle M. Hurll

Michelangelo's place in the world of art is altogether unique. His supremacy is acknowledged by all, but is understood by a few only. In the presence of his works none can stand unimpressed, yet few dare to claim any intimate knowledge of his art. The quality so vividly described in the Italian word terribilità is his predominant trait. He is one to awe rather than to attract, to overwhelm rather than to delight. The spectator must needs exclaim with humility, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." Yet while Michelangelo can never be a popular artist in the ordinary sense of the word, the powerful influence which he exercises seems constantly increasing. Year by year there are more who, drawn by the strange fascination of his genius, seek to read the meaning of his art.

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Fragment ebooka Michelangelo - Estelle M. Hurll

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Table of contents

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX

X

XI

XII

XIII

XIV

XV

XVI

PRONOUNCING VOCABULARY OF PROPER NAMES AND FOREIGN WORDS

PREFACE

In making a collection of prints from the works of Michelangelo, it is impossible to secure any wide variety, either in subject or method of treatment. We are dealing here with a master whose import is always serious, and whose artistic individuality is strongly impressed on all his works, either in sculpture or painting. Our selections represent his best work in both arts. These are arranged, not in chronological order, but in a way which will lead the student from the subjects most familiar and easily understood to those which are more abstract and difficult.

INTRODUCTION

I. ON MICHELANGELO'S CHARACTER AS AN ARTIST. Michelangelo's place in the world of art is altogether unique. His supremacy is acknowledged by all, but is understood by a few only. In the presence of his works none can stand unimpressed, yet few dare to claim any intimate knowledge of his art. The quality so vividly described in the Italian word terribilità is his predominant trait. He is one to awe rather than to attract, to overwhelm rather than to delight. The spectator must needs exclaim with humility, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." Yet while Michelangelo can never be a popular artist in the ordinary sense of the word, the powerful influence which he exercises seems constantly increasing. Year by year there are more who, drawn by the strange fascination of his genius, seek to read the meaning of his art.His subjects are all profoundly serious in intention. Life was no holiday to this strenuous spirit; it was a stern conflict with the powers of darkness in which such heroes as David and Moses were needed. Like the old Hebrew prophets, the artist poured out his soul in a vehement protest against evil, and a stirring call to righteousness.Considered both as a sculptor and a painter, Michelangelo's one vehicle of expression was the human body. His works are "form-poems," through which he uttered his message to mankind. As he writes in one of his own sonnets,"Nor hath God deigned to show himself elsewhereMore clearly than in human forms sublime."In his art, says the critic Symonds, "a well-shaped hand, or throat, or head, a neck superbly poised on an athletic chest, the sway of the trunk above the hips, the starting of the muscles on the flank, the tendons of the ankle, the outline of the shoulder when the arm is raised, the backward bending of the loins, the curves of a woman's breast, the contours of a body careless in repose or strained for action, were all words pregnant with profoundest meaning, whereby fit utterance might be given to thoughts that raise man near to God."Learning his first lessons in art of the Greeks, he soon possessed himself of the great principles of classic sculpture. Then he boldly struck out his own path; his was a spirit to lead, not to follow. With the subtle Greek sense of line and form, he united an entirely new motif. In contrast to the ideal of repose which was the leading canon of the Greeks, his chosen ideal was one of action. Moreover, he invariably fixed upon some decisive moment in the action he had to represent, a moment which suggests both the one preceding and the one following, and which gives us the whole story in epitome. Thus in the David we see preparation, aim, and action. It was a far cry from the elegant calm of the Greek god to the restless energy of this rugged youth.Even with seated figures he followed the same principle. Moses and the Duke Giuliano are ready to rise to their feet if need be. In his frescoes we again find the same motif,—Adam rising to his feet in obedience to the Creator's summons, and Christ the Judge sweeping asunder the multitudes.In his love of action and his passion for the human form lay the elements of his art most easily lending themselves to exaggeration. That the master did indeed permit himself to be carried beyond due limits in these matters is seen by comparing the grandeur of the Sistine ceiling with the mannerisms of the Last Judgment. The interval between was "the time of his best technical and spiritual creativeness," when he produced the statues of the Sacristy of S. Lorenzo.It was characteristic of Michelangelo's impetuous nature to spend his enthusiasm upon the early stages of his work, and leave it unfinished. This unfinished effect of many of his marbles seems to bring us in closer touch with his methods as a sculptor. Nor is a rough surface here and there inharmonious with the rugged character of his conceptions. Moreover, as a critic[1] has pointed out, the polished and rough portions enhance each other, giving a variety in the light and shadow which is pictorial in effect.[1] See notes on the Life of Michelangelo Buonarotti in the Blashfield-Hopkins edition of Vasari.To a man of Michelangelo's austere temperament, intensely masculine in his predilections, the beauty of womanhood was not fully revealed. His sibyls can scarcely be counted as women; they belong to a world of their own, neither human nor divine. It was only in his few Madonnas that we can trace his feminine ideal, an ideal noble and dignified, rather than beautiful. The Madonna of the bas-relief is proud rather than tender, the Virgin of the Pietà is grand rather than lovely. These were works of his youth. Later in life, when he had known the blessing of a good woman's friendship, he developed a new ideal in the gentle and delicate womanhood of the Virgin of the Last Judgment.Michelangelo has been compared to two great masters of dissimilar arts, Milton and Beethoven. There are striking points of similarity in the men themselves, in stern uprightness of character, in scorn of the low and trivial, in lofty idealism. The art of all three is too far above the common level to be popular; it requires too much thinking to attract the superficial. In poetry, in music, and in sculpture, all three utter the profoundest truths of human experience, expressed in grand and solemn harmonies.II. ON BOOKS OF REFERENCE.The original materials for the study of Michelangelo's life and work are the two biographies by his contemporaries, Vasari and Condivi. Vasari's was the first of these (1550), and like the other portions of his "Lives of the Painters" contained many inaccuracies. It was to correct these that Condivi published his little book a few years later. This rival effort aroused Vasari's wrath, and after Michelangelo's death he issued an enlarged edition of his own book, unscrupulously incorporating all that was valuable in Condivi's work, and adding thereto many reminiscences of the master's life. The fame of Vasari's monumental work caused Condivi's little book to be entirely forgotten for long years, and it has been one of the tasks of modern scholarship to restore it to its true place. Even now, however, there is no available form of Condivi's biography for American readers, though Vasari's "Lives" in Mrs. Foster's translation is found in most libraries. The latest edition of Vasari, published in 1897, contains annotations by Mr. and Mrs. E.H. Blashfield, and A.A. Hopkins, which correct all the statements in the light of recent authorities.Far more valuable even than the early biographies is the mass of existing documents of the Buonarotti family, including contracts, letters, poems, and memoranda, and containing data for a full and exact biography of the master. Unfortunately, however, this great storehouse of material has been for all these centuries a sealed treasure, given up only little by little, to successive generations of scholars. When Hermann Grimm wrote his celebrated "Life of Michael Angelo" (in 1860), the only original material accessible to him was the collection of letters in the British Museum. His volumes are still read with interest and profit, though it is to be regretted that they should be reprinted without any editorial comments to connect formerly received opinions with later conclusions. John S. Harford's "Life of Michael Angelo Buonarotti" was published at about the same time as Grimm's work, that is, in 1857. It was in two volumes, and contained translations of many of Michelangelo's poems, as well as material about Savonarola, Vittoria Colonna, and Raphael. The work is found in the older libraries, and is well worth studying, as the latter portion is still valuable for all that refers to the architecture of St. Peter's.Signor Gotti's "Vita," in 1875, was the first to profit to any considerable degree by documentary researches. The conclusions of this book are best known to the English-reading public through Charles Heath Wilson's "Life and Works of Michelangelo Buonarotti" (1876 and 1881), consisting of compilations from Gotti, to which are added original investigations of the Sistine frescoes, which are very valuable.More privileged than any of his predecessors was John Addington Symonds, who, by special favor of the Italian government, was allowed to examine the Buonarotti collection in Florence, so long debarred to others. His "Life of Michelangelo Buonarotti" is therefore unique in being, as the sub-title announces, "based on studies in the archives of the Buonarotti family at Florence." It was published in 1893 in two large, finely illustrated volumes, and is taken as the latest authoritative word on the subject, a word singularly independent of others' conclusions, and influenced by an artistic and literary nature of rare sensitiveness.To those who wish briefer notices of Michelangelo's life and work than any of these full biographies are recommended the chapters on Michelangelo in Kugler's "Handbook of the Italian Schools," in Mrs. Jameson's "Memoirs of the Italian Painters," in Frank Preston Stearns's "Midsummer of Italian Art," in Mrs. Oliphant's "Makers of Florence," and in Symonds's volume on "Fine Arts" in the series "Renaissance in Italy."To understand more fully the character of the man Michelangelo, the student should read his sonnets. There is a complete collection translated by J.A. Symonds, while both Wordsworth and Longfellow have translated a few.The life of Michelangelo has furnished material for two long poems by American writers,—Longfellow's drama, and the poem by Stuart Sterne. The former, which is annotated, is a well-balanced study of the great artist's career and ideals.III. HISTORICAL DIRECTORY OF THE WORKS OF ART IN THIS COLLECTION.Portrait frontispiece. An oil painting in The Hall of the Portraits of Old Masters, Uffizi Gallery, Florence. The authorship of the painting is not certainly known. Symonds says that "it may perhaps be ascribed with some show of probability to Bugiardini." Bugiardini was a friend of Michelangelo's youth and a fellow student in the gardens of the Medici. That later in life he painted a portrait of his distinguished friend we know from Vasari. Vasari tells us that the portrait showed a peculiarity in the right eye, and this fact lends probability to the identification of the Uffizi portrait with Bugiardini's work.1. Madonna and Child, an unfinished bas-relief medallion, made, according to Vasari, during Michelangelo's residence in Florence in 1501-1505. It was made for Bartolommeo Pitti. It is now in the National Museum (Bargello), Florence.2. David