Page images
PDF
EPUB

despair. In the heavens above, an attempted image of the Supreme Being is seen seated on a throne, wearing a white beard, clad in purple robes, with a sceptre in his right hand, and his left resting on a globe. The Saviour is by his side, bearing the emblematic cross; and two angels hover below, ready to crown the ascending spirit with wreaths of palm. Such a painting must necessarily be in some measure a caricature, whatever may be the genius and skill of the artist; for the subject is entirely beyond the reach of the pencil.

Returning to Albano through the luxuriant woods, which shade these hills, we visited at evening the ruins of Pompey's Prison They are scattered over the garden of a modern villa, and consist of gloomy arches, composed of large blocks of Peperine, without cement. There is nothing very interesting in the construction, or agreeable in the associations of the remains, which are now hidden among the foliage. From the steps of a little chapel in the vicinity, we again saw the sun go down in all its effulgence, gilding the woody peaks of the Alban Mount, and shooting in horizontal streaks of light across the vapours of the Campagna. A thousand scenes, consecrated by real events and fabled incidents in the tissue of Roman story, spread before ushills on which divinities perched, to watch the movements of conflicting armies-shores along which the Trojan fleet coasted-the windings of the Lydian Tiber, explored by the hero of the Æneid-and Rome herself, proudly seated amidst vanquished nations, and girt with her hundred fields of fame. We lingered till the last tints of day had faded, and then retired only to retrace in dreams our classic rambles.

On the following morning I rose at sunrise and visited a Museum in the village of Albano. It contains a set of antique porcelain, comprising about nine hundred articles, found under a bed of lava, on the shore of the Lake, near the site of Alba Longa. The collection embraces an infinite variety of vases and cinerary urns, some of them containing the bones and ashes of the dead. Scarcely any two of their forms are alike. The larger ones are round, in the shape of little temples, with a door in front, and conical roofs. They are supposed to present a miniature picture of ancient cottages. In the interior, are smaller vessels and ornaments of various kinds, such as lamps, tiny plates to hold the sop for Cerberus, and cups for wine, oil, and incense-equipments for the travels of departed spirits on their journey to another world. At the threshold of the vases stand two rude images, probably lares, six or eight inches in height, and rudely fashioned. All the articles are of baked earth, appearing to be moulded by the hand, and not cast like those of Greece and ancient Etruria. The decorations of the ware seem to be of oriental origin, resembling

Egyptian hieroglyphics. These antiquities were discovered only five or six years ago, and have not yet been fully examined or satisfactorily explained. If they are genuine, they indicate that there was a town upon the shore of the lake, anterior to the foundation of Alba Longa, and that it was probably buried in lava, like Herculaneum. Mr. Hobhouse, in his illustrations of the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold, has some judicious remarks on this subject, to which those of my readers are referred, who wish for any thing beyond a passing notice.

After breakfast we set out for Frascati, a white village situated on the western declivity of the mountain, eight or nine miles from Albano : a passable but rough carriage road extends along the brow of the hill, midway between the base and top, affording a succession of charming views. It winds nearly half round the high borders of the Alban Lake, which was now seen by us for the last time, presenting an unruffled mirror to the morning sun, and reflecting vivid images of its sylvan and rural shores. The landscape in this region is the richest I have found in Italy, the groves of oak, ilex, and the plane-tree being of large growth and extremely beautiful. We paused at a considerable village, belonging entirely to the Colonna family, and examined two of the churches. One of them was hung with crimson banners and other, finery, in preparation of the feast of St. Barnabas. On these occasions the ecclesiastics of Rome perform pilgrimages across the Campagna, and join the villagers in the festivities of the day. The other church contains a fine picture by Guido. It represents the Holy Trinity. The Father is shadowed forth, clothed in his usual attributes. He supports the Son, who leans upon his right hand; and the Spirit hovers near, in the form of a dove. The most is made of an objectionable subject. Napoleon is said to have offered $10,000 for this picture; but the authority of our cicerone was seriously doubted, as the Emperor was in the habit of taking such specimens of the arts, as struck his fancy, without asking the price.

A few miles farther on, we reached Grotto-Ferrata, so called from the massive iron gate, by which it was once guarded. It is situated in the midst of a wild and romantic district, girt with the striking scenery of the Alban Mount. A pretty brook, supposed to be the ancient. Crabra, descends in cascades from the declivity, murmuring through a deep and finely wooded glen. An hour was occupied in examining the Convent of St. Nilus, which is said to stand upon the site of Cicero's Tusculan Villa. Such a conjecture rests on no better authority than a vague tradition, which says that in the 11th century St. Nilus, a Calabrian monk of the order of St. Basil, demolished the Villa and built the monastery on its ruins. A few fragments of bas-relief, friezes, and

statues have been found in the vicinity; but in the general revolution, they might have been brought thither, and furnish no traces whatever of the splendid retreat of the Roman Orator, where several of his most celebrated works were composed. The evidence of identity is almost too feeble to awaken the train of association.

In the chapel of St. Nilus are several frescos by Domenichino-the finest I have ever examined. The most celebrated of these pieces is the Demoniac Boy, which is above all praise. It is one of the boldest, sublimest, and most vigorous productions of the pencil, and no one can survey it without an emotion. The figures in the group are numerous, and the strong and varied expression of their faces is admirable. But the maniac himself is one of the highest conceptions of a wild and poetical imagination, which this artist in a pre-eminent degree possessed. His pictures are never tamne, though often extravagant. Another compartment of the chapel represents St. Nilus praying for rain, and the shower descending. The subject of a third is the meeting of Otho III. with the Neapolitan clergy. In the multitude, the artist has introduced himself, in the humble attitude of holding the bridle of the Emperor's horse, and near him, two of his professional brethren, Guido and Guercino. The head of the white charger is in the highest degree spirited. Although I have examined acres of frescos, these were almost the first that subdued my prejudices against this species of or

nament.

Between Grotto-Ferrata and Frascati, we called at the villa of one of the patrician families of modern Rome, many of whom have summer residences on Mont Albano, which affords a comparatively pure air, and refreshing shades in the hot months. The large palace, though charmingly situated on an eminence overlooking the whole of the Campagna, was found to be dark, gloomy, and vacant, exhibiting none of that taste and elegance, which characterize the country seats of the English nobility. One of the halls contained several good paintings by Rubens; and another was entirely filled with female portraits, sufficient in number to trace back a line of ancestry to the age of Portia. Some of them were peculiarly beautiful, both in subject and execution.

Frascati is a pretty village, but of itself presents few objects of interest to the traveller. After taking such refreshment as a sinall coffee-house afforded, we mounted another lot of donkeys, and set out for the ruins of Tusculum, at the distance of several miles towards the summit of the hill. On our way thither, a short visit was paid to the villa lately owned and occupied by Lucien Bonaparte, who sold it to a Sicilian Countess, whose name it now bears. Its situation is enchanting, commanding a full view of Tivoli and the mountains beyond, So

racte, Rome and its environs. The apartments are tolerably neat, but present a waste of stucco. Among the ornaments is a long gallery of old family portraits. The garden affords the only attractions. Its groves are luxuriant and beautiful. A good statue of Venus coming

out of the bath adorns one of the fountains, and a small Cicero, sitting in a philosophical attitude, occupies a thickly woven arbour. An Apollo, a Discobolus and several other statues repose in the shades. It is said, that on one occasion the whole family residing at this villa were made captives, while at dinner, and the house pillaged by a band of robbers from the neighbouring hills.

The ascent from this point to Tusculum is arduous, leading along unfrequented paths, through pastures and woodlands, enriched by the charms of nature, but wild and solitary. Every step extends the traveller's horizon, till he arrives at the ruins of the old town, scattered over the summit of the hill. After traversing the streets of Pompeii, nothing of this kind can surprise: otherwise, Tusculum would have excited our admiration. On several accounts, the latter is less interesting than the former. The village was destroyed at a much later period than the town, and by a fate less calculated to awaken feelings of sympathy. Extensive excavations have been made, and the remains cover a wide area. Fragments of marble columns, capitals, and entablatures strew the field, half buried in matted grass, and overgrown with bushes, which it is necessary to thrust aside to read the mutilated inscriptions. We left our mules at the entrance of the disinterred village, and walked up the main street, laid bare to the pavement, composed of large blocks of stone. The amphitheatre is hidden by a coronet of verdure; and enough of the theatre exists, to show it was once a handsome building.

On the brow of the hill, at a little distance from the ruins, stood a villa, which is the rival of Grotto-Ferrata, in claiming the eclat of Cicero's name. For aught I know, the pretensions of the former may be as well grounded as those of the latter. The location is worthy of the taste of the great orator, statesman, and philosopher; suited to that elevation of thought and to that love of elegant retirement, for which he was celebrated. In front of his house rose Mont Albanus, surmounted by the temple of Jupiter Latiaris, already alluded to; and farther to the east, the sylvan heights of Mount Algidum looked down into a deep rural vale, opening into the Campagna. On the other side, his eye could rest upon Rome, the scene of his renown, and the object of his paternal cares. Such may have been the favourite retreat of the Father of his Country. The ruins of the house are extensive, and bear the marks of having been once splendid. It is said,

tiles have been found, inscribed with the name of Cicero; but the evidence in this instance, as in the one mentioned above, is extremely vague and unsatisfactory. The name of old Cato is also associated with the hill, and the Porcian Meadows form a part of the flowery field in the environs of Tusculum.

In returning to Frascati, we visited the Villa Belvedere, belonging to the Prince Borghese, who married the celebrated Paulina, sister of Napoleon. He is one of the most wealthy of the Italian nobility, his income amounting to something like half a million of dollars per annum. He is the proprietor of two of the most splendid villas in the vicinity of Rome; of the largest palace in the city; and of much real estate in Tuscany and other parts of Italy. His chateau on the Alban Mount is an extensive and showy pile of buildings. A group of pretty little girls met us at the gate, and presented to each of the party a bunch of red and white roses-an image of their own sunny cheeks. The guardian of the mansion, in the absence of the prince, was courteous in his demeanour, and conducted us through the apartments, which are neat, but contain few ornaments except some good prints and frescos. Among the latter, Judith with the head of Holofernes is admirably executed. In the grounds back of the palace are fountains and water-works, much in the style of those at Chatsworth in England. They were put in motion for our amusement. The concert commenced with the blowing of a horn by a Triton in a grotto. In another alcove is a representation of Parnassus, with musi cians seated upon the cliffs, who produce "a concord of sweet sounds," as the flood-gates are hoisted and the fountains begin to play. The contrivance is rather bungling, and the eye readily perceives, that the music is ground out by an organ, placed under the mountain, the crank of which is turned by a water-wheel. It is fit only to amuse children, and gratify vulgar curiosity. The stale trick of wetting persons, by decoying them into a grotto, from the pavement of which streamlets suddenly spirt, is here resorted to; but in this instance, a troop of rustics, who gathered round to witness the concert, were the only dupes.

Descending through the rural park of the Borghese, we visited another smaller palace, belonging, I believe, to the family of the Chigi. The rooms are rather elegant, and the ornaments exhibit a good deal of taste, the walls being hung with tapestry, and filled with statues, some of which are works of merit. Of these a head of Jupiter, a Diana, a Minerva, and above all, a full length likeness of Canova, as large as life, are the most interesting. The hall appropriated to music, is fitted up and adorned in a chaste and classical style. It may be

« PreviousContinue »