Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/584

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


the entrance to the garden of the Belvedere, the newly-found Apollo was erected by Julius II (1503-13),—the Pope who perceived how renascent art could add splendour to the See of St Peter, and at whose bidding Bramante replaced the ancient basilica of Constantine by the greatest church of Christendom. Michelangelo saw the Laocoon disinterred from the ruined Baths of Titus. Leo X acquired the reclining statues of the Nile and the Tiber, and the so-called Antinous. These and other specimens of classical art, though not representative of that art at its best, helped to educate Italian taste, already well-disposed towards every form of classical culture. The Latin verse-writers of Leo's age show the impression made by the newly-found works of sculpture. It is more interesting to note the remark of an expert, the Florentine sculptor Ghiberti, who, in speaking of an ancient statue which he had seen at Rome, observes that its subtle perfection eludes the eye, and can be fully appreciated only by passing the hand over the surface of the marble.

The most memorable record of the new zeal for ancient Home is the letter addressed to Leo X, in 1518, by RafFaelle. He writes as Master of the Works at St Peter's, and Inspector-General of Antiquities, having been appointed to these posts in 1515. For a long time he had been engaged in a comprehensive study of the ancient monuments. In them, he says, he had recognised "the divinity of those minds of the old world." A pitiful sight it is to him, "the mangled corpse of this noble mother, once the queen of the world." "Temples, arches, statues, and other buildings, the glory of their founders," had been allowed to suffer defacement or destruction. "I would not hesitate to say," he continues, "that all this new Rome which our eyes behold, grand and beautiful as it is, adorned with palaces, churches, and other structures, has been built with lime made from ancient marbles." He next recalls, with details, the progress of the havoc during the twelve years which he has passed in Rome. And then he unfolds his project. Mapping out Rome into fourteen regions, he urges that systematic works should be undertaken for the purpose of clearing, or excavating, all existing remains of the ancient city, and then safeguarding them against further injury. His premature death in 1520 prevented the execution of the design. The greatness of that design is well expressed in one of the Latin elegies which mourned his loss: Nunc Romam in Roma quaerit reperitque Raphael. It shows the grasp of his genius, and is also an impressive witness to the new spirit of the Renaissance.

This was a period at which Vitruvius (edited not long before by Fra Giocondo) and Frontinus found many readers. The classical influence was indeed already the dominant one in Italian sculpture and architecture. It was a power which might tend to cold formalism, as in Palladio, or happily ally itself with the native bent of the modern artist, as in Giulio Romano; but, for good or evil, it was everywhere. Meanwhile