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portions of this celebrated work, on which they have lavished extravagant praises. Eustace says the eye of the Judge "flashes lightning," as he pronounces the solemn and irrevocable sentence to the damned. Now, to say nothing of the impropriety of clothing the Saviour with such angry and revengeful terrors, the classical tourist must have possessed uncommon keenness of vision to discover the eye of the Judge at all, without the aid of an opera glass, defaced, dingy, and obscure as the picture is at present. I am free to confess, that it appeared to me a chaos of wild, incoherent, and ill-assorted images, where the spirits of the blessed and the cursed are scarcely distinguishable; and that I left the apartment with a full conviction, that if this fresco had been the production of an ordinary artist, nine out of ten would pass it over unobserved, or treat it with contempt. But the tenth man might be a connoisseur, and descry beauties which are concealed from vulgar eyes. It would certainly be less of a miracle, that even ninety-nine out of a hundred should be no judges of painting, than that Michael Angelo should be three years engaged on a single work, without producing any thing worthy of admiration. Such at least is Hume's rule of evidence.
The Paoline Chapel, near the Sistine, built by Paul III. is a dusky, gloomy, and cheerless shrine, exhibiting its proud decorations to very little effect. On the sides of the altar stand two beautiful porphyry columns which were taken from the temple of Romulus at the Forum, almost literally exemplifying the maxim of "robbing Peter to pay Paul." Among the ornaments is a rich and fantastic tabernacle, wrought of pure crystal; but such is its position in an obscure corner, that a beam of light seldom reaches and pierces the translucent gem. Here also are two pictures by Michael Angelo-the Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter. Owing to a bad light and other circumstances, they do not attract much attention.
We visited the celebrated galleries of Raphael several times. They open on three sides from the second story of the Palace of the Pope, into one of the principal courts of the Vatican, and command a most enchanting view of Rome and its environs. I often turned from the mimic creation of Raphael, to the sublimer works of Nature herself, presented in the blue summits of the Alban hills, and the long line of mountains beyond, brightened by the pure azure of Italian skies. The ceiling of these extensive galleries, stretching to the distance of perhaps three hundred feet, is divided into numerous compartments, and covered with frescos by Raphael and his scholars. The subjects are all scriptural, furnishing a series of illustrations of sacred history, from the creation of the world to the crucifixion of the Saviour, arranged
in chronological order. This Herculean labour was undertaken at the request or perhaps more properly by the injunction of Leo X.; and any defects in the design are ascribable to the Pope rather than to the artist. The latter has done all that mortal could do with such subjects; but even his inimitable skill has failed to impart a very high degree of interest to the work, any farther than as associated with his imperishable name. In looking at the tiresome compartments, one seems to see the divine artist upon the scaffolding, in the midst of his pupils, toiling at his daily task, with a sort of mechanical indifference, and attempting contrary to his own judgment, to comply with the wishes of his patron. Such will always be the effect, when genius is shackled with authority, and is not left free to follow its own inspirations. When was a good poem or a good picture produced in the way of job-work, and under the control of a superior? Raphael was never so great, as when left perfectly to himself, exempt alike from the trammels of schools, and the impertinent suggestions of Popes and Cardinals. His portrait of La Fornarina, the personification of his feelings and affections, has done more for his fame, than all the frescoed walls, which papal splendour ever called into being.
Not one visitant in fifty, except mere artists, has the patience to examine the almost innumerable compartments of this ceiling minutely, although the whole was executed under the immediate superintendence of the greatest master of any age. I shall not be at the pains to describe what others scarcely take the trouble to inspect. The commencement of the series is emphatically his own, both in delineation and colouring; and here his bust has been appropriately placed, at the head of the galleries. His creation is divided into four sections: the first exhibits a view of chaos, shapeless and void: in the second, the nascent globe appears in form, emerging from darkness and confusion in the third, trees and plants are seen springing forth from the earth and the fourth arrives at the birth of animated nature. In the attempted delineation of scenes, which so far transcend human efforts, an image of the Creator himself is presented in the guise of an old man, sprawling upon the ceiling, busy at his six-days work of making a world, and darting his strained limbs into chaos, to separate and reduce the discordant elements! Can there be a greater burlesque upon the simple grandeur of the scriptures-"let there be light, and there was light?" Yet this caricature, (for so with all its beauty of execution it may be called,) was from the pencil of Raphael himself. Is there need of farther argument to dissuade other artists from similar attempts, and to induce them to circumscribe their efforts within the boundaries of human skill? The daring flights of Italian genius, and the mad pre
sumption of approaching the throne of the Eternal, with the hope of bringing his image down to the humble conceptions of mortals, have often brought to my mind the apostrophe of the poet :
"Oh sons of earth! attempt ye still to rise,
The Chambers of Raphael constitute a more interesting portion of the Vatican. They are four in number, opening into one another; and the walls are occupied by sixteen separate paintings in fresco, all of his design, and a large proportion of them executed by himself. The dimensions of the rooms are perhaps twenty feet by thirty, presenting an immense area, to be filled as the tablets of his exhaustless fancy. These taken collectively form a great study for artists, affording an almost endless variety of invention, composition, and colouring; while each picture delights the mere visitant by some peculiar points. of excellence. I visited the chambers repeatedly, and always with increased pleasure. At first sight, the reality did not equal my high anticipations. The apartments do not enjoy intrinsically a very favourable light; and as the frescos have been defaced and obscured by the hordes of northern barbarians, who converted the halls into barracks, a cursory view often produces disappointment, and close attention is required to discover all their merits. In the choice of subjects, Raphael was here left more free to follow the dictates of his own good sense, and the impulse of his superior genius, than in the galleries projected by Leo; though in this splendid exhibition of talent, a connexion with the papal court is visible, and its malign influence has foisted in many a ridiculous episode, for the sake of giving immortality to Popes and their parasites.
The four pictures in the first hall commemorate the military achievements and the religious acts of Constantine the Great, comprising the vision of the cross and his harangue to his army before the victory over Maxentius; the battle of the Ponte Molle, alluded to in a former letter; the Baptism of the first Christian emperor at the font of St. John Lateran; and the Donation of patrimony to the church. All these are great historical events, and afforded fine themes for the embellishments of the pencil. They were designed by Raphael, but were not executed till after his death, by Julio Romano, his favourite pupil. Critics consider them master-pieces of their kind.
The second apartment is peculiarly interesting, all the frescos having been designed and coloured by the mighty master himself. One of
these is illustrative of a passage in the book of Maccabees, representing the overthrow of Heliodorus, who came to plunder the temple at Jerusalem, by two angels and a warrior mounted upon his charger, sent to the aid of Onias, the High Priest. The forms, the speed, the irresistible power of the celestial messengers in executing their commission, are admirably conceived and expressed. So also are the horse and his rider. It is not impossible, that Milton's image of the Arch-Fiend, "half on foot, half flying," was drawn from this very picture; for either angel, rushing onward towards Heliodorus,
"With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way,"
appearing scarcely to touch the earth in the rapidity of the move
The subject of the second picture in this room is the Miracle of Bolsena, in which a drop of blood exudes from the consecrated wafer, and thus removes the scepticism of a priest, who till then doubted the real presence of the Saviour in the eucharist. Sir Edward James Smith, in his remarks on this fresco, intimates that the wonder was wrought by the simple machinery of "a currant tart." But fortunately the merits of the painting do not depend on the truth of the story. The representation is admirable, and embodies the spirit of the papal court in that age. Pope Julius II. is present, but does not turn his head, as if a miracle was an ordinary event, and to be expected as a matter of course, for the conviction of unbelievers. His attendants manifest the same indifference, lest they should lead the amazed multitude to believe, that such prodigies are of rare occurrence with the faithful. The whole design is a severe satire upon his Holiness, although it was not probably so intended, as he was introduced by particular request.
A third picture in the same apartment represents Attila arrested in his march against Rome, by discovering St. Peter and St. Paul descending from heaven to oppose his progress. The army are unconscious of the vision; and the aerial phantom bears a strong resemblance to the dagger scene in the tragedy of Macbeth. There is a beautiful bas-relief representation of the same subject, on the tomb of one of the Popes in St. Peter's. The fourth wall of this room is occupied by the fresco, on which Dr. Bell and others have lavished so many praises the Release of St. Peter from prison by an Angel. If a criticism may be hazarded upon a work, which others have pronounced faultless, I should say there is a want of unity in the action. A picture can represent but a moment of time; yet the Angel here first awakens the Apostle out of sleep, and afterwards is seen con
ducting him from prison. The execution is worthy of all the ap plause it has received; and the management of the light and shade is perhaps unrivalled.
I hardly dare proceed with even a brief analysis of these celebrated frescos; and yet there are some others which ought not to be passed over in silence. Of the School of Athens every one has heard, and the universality of its fame does not transcend its intrinsic merits. In the assembled multitude of Grecian sages, no two heads are in the least alike, and so distinctly marked is the expression of each, as to amount to a philosophical personification of character, where the tenets of each sect may be read. Even the temple, in which the gathered wisdom of Athens is exhibited, possesses a high degree of interest; as it is a copy of the original design for St. Peter's, by Bramante and Michael Angelo.
Two of the remaining pictures in this chamber are filled with allegorical figures, and present comparatively few attractions; but the fourth is one of the most amusing in the whole collection. It represents Parnassus, and expresses Raphael's scale of poetic merit. On the summit of the Mount stands Homer, in the guise of an improvisatore, pouring forth rhapsodies, accompanied by Apollo on the violin! The latter is surrounded by the tuneful circle of the Muses. Old Mæonides is supported on the right by Dante, and on the left by Virgil, upon the same level with their great prototype. The artist has taken the liberty of placing himself in this group of kindred spirits; a rank to which he is fairly entitled by his genius, though the apotheosis had perhaps with more propriety been left to others. To the relative elevation of some of the poets, a classical scholar might feel disposed to object. Tibullus, though high on the mountain, is not perhaps placed above his merits; but why are Pindar and Horace degraded below Ovid and Boccacio?-Petrarch and Laura are happily introduced, still enamoured of the shade; while Sappho sits near, holding the lyre and listening to their loves.
The paintings in the fourth room represent the victory over the Saracens at Ostia; the Coronation of Charlemagne by one of the Popes; the oath taken in the presence of that monarch by Leo III.; and the Fire in the Borgo San Spirito, near the Vatican. Of these the last is by far the finest, and has been reckoned one of the greatest works of the immortal artist. In every particular, it is true to nature, and parts of it are in the highest degree pathetic; such as the frantic supplications of females, and a young man, Æneas like, rescuing from the flames his aged father. It is gratifying to observe with what religious veneration these frescos are now preserved, and with how much enthu