Look at De Hooghe; look at The Pilgrim's Progress, or even Shakespeare himself how long they slept unawakened, though they were in broad daylight and on the public thoroughfares all the time. Look at Tabachetti, and the masterpieces he left at Varallo. His figures there are exposed to the gaze of every passer-by; yet who heeds them? Who, save a very few, even know of their existence?
They have doubtless been shifted more than once since Tabachetti left them. The sleeping figures are all good. St. James is perhaps a little prosaic. One Roman soldier who is coming into the garden with a lantern, and motioning silence with his hand, does duty for the others that are to follow him.
The sleeping soldier is very pleasing. The Ascension is not remarkably interesting; the Christ appears to be, but perhaps is not, a much more modern figure than the rest. The Descent of the Holy Ghost. Some of the figures along the end wall are very good, and were, I should imagine, cut by Tabachetti himself. Those against the two side walls are not so well cut. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
If, however, the reader will bear in mind these somewhat obvious considerations, and will also remember the pathetic circumstances under which the chapels were designed for Tabachetti when he reached Saas was no doubt shattered in body and mind by his four years' imprisonment he will probably be not less attracted to them than I observed were many of the visitors both at Saas-Grund and Saas-Fee with whom I had the pleasure of examining them.
Tabachetti has a chapel with this subject at Varallo, and the Saas group is obviously a descent with modification from his work there. The figure of Christ is so like the one at Varallo that I think it must have been carved by Tabachetti himself.
Selwyn has greatly improved the arrangement of the figures, but even now they are not, I imagine, quite as Tabachetti left them. The figure of Christ is greatly better in technical execution than that of either of the two thieves; the folds of the drapery alone will show this even to an unpractised eye.
Or he may have been sacrificed in order to facilitate the return of the workers in stucco whom he had superseded on the Sacro Monte. I suppose, then, that Tabachetti was shut up in a madhouse at Varallo for a considerable time, during which I can find no trace of him, but that eventually he escaped or was released.
It can no more be compared with Tabachetti or Donatello than Hogarth can with Rembrandt or Giovanni Bellini; but as it does not transcend the limitations of its age, so neither is it wanting in whatever merits that age possessed; and there is no age without merits of some kind.
Tabachetti had no chapel with this subject at Varallo, and there is no resemblance between the Saas chapel and that by D'Enrico. The figures are no doubt approximately in their original positions, but I have no confidence that I have rearranged them correctly. They were in such confusion when I first saw them that the Rev. E. J. Selwyn and myself determined to rearrange them.
The next chapel to the Birth of the Virgin is that of the Sposalizio. There is no figure here which suggests Tabachetti, but still there are some very good ones. The best have no taint of barocco; the man who did them, whoever he may have been, had evidently a good deal of life and go, was taking reasonable pains, and did not know too much. Where this is the case no work can fail to please.