1 - 10 from 30
It is not wonderful that the painters of the fifteenth century should have been satisfied with repeating the themes left by the Giottesques. For the Giottesques had left them, besides this positive heritage, a negative heritage, a programme to fill up, of which it is difficult to realise the magnitude. The work of the Giottesques is so merely poetic, or at most so merely decorative in the sense of a mosaic or a tapestry, and it is in the case of Giotto and one or two of his greatest contemporaries, particularly the Sienese, so well-balanced and satisfying as a result of its elementary nature that we are apt to overlook the fact that everything in the way of realisation as opposed to indication, everything distinguishing the painting of a story from the mere telling thereof, remained to be done. And such realisation could be attained only through a series of laborious failures. It is by comparing some of the later Giottesques themselves, notably the Gaddi with Giotto, that we bring home to ourselves, for instance, that Giotto did not, at least in his finest work at Florence, attempt to model his frescoes in colour. Now the excessive ugliness of the Gaddi frescoes at St. Croce is largely due to the effort to make form and boss depend, as in nature, upon colour. Giotto, in the neighbouring Peruzzi and Bardi chapels, is quite satisfied with outlining the face and draperies in dark paint, and laying on the colour, in itself beautiful, as a child will lay it on to a print or outline drawing, filling up the lines, but not creating them. I give this as a solitary instance of one of the first and most important steps towards pictorial realisation which the great imaginative theme-inventors left to their successors. As a fact, the items at which the fifteenth century had to work are too many to enumerate; in many cases each man or group of men took up one particular item, as perspective, modelling, anatomy, colour, movement, and their several subdivisions, usually with the result of painful and grotesque insistency and onesidedness, from the dreadful bag of bones anatomies of Castagno and Pollaiolo, down to the humbler, but equally necessary, architectural studies of Francesco di Giorgio. Add to this the necessity of uniting the various attainments of such specialists, of taming down these often grotesque monomaniacs, of making all these studies of drawing, anatomy, colour, modelling, perspective, &c., into a picture. If that picture was lacking in individual poetic conception; if those studies were often intolerably silly and wrong-headed from the intellectual point of view; if the old themes were not only worn threadbare, but actually maltreated, what wonder? The themes were there, thank Heaven! no one need bother about them; and no one did. Moreover, as I have already pointed out, no one could have added anything, save in the personal sentiment of the heads, the hands, the tilt of the figure, or the quality of the form. Everything which depends upon dramatic conception, which is not a question of form or sentiment, tended merely to suffer a steady deterioration. Thus, nearly two hundred years after Giotto, Ghirlandaio could find nothing better for his frescoes in St. Trinit