Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

ing, was by them associated with religion. ism, declared that the loss of those The noblest masterpieces were till eighty artistic “hables” was to be accounted years ago safely deposited in the churches gain to Italy : that the Italians had too where some of them had been conveyed long been held in just contempt by in solemn procession by the pious popu- their neighbours as “mere daubers and lation. The fame of their artists was a fiddlers," and that the removal of their subject of domestic pride to the Italian enervating gewgaws would best foster cities. Almost every one of those old among them those stern, manly Repubmasters is at home in soine locality of lican virtues which inight fit them for his own—Correggio in Parma, Guido companionship with the generous nation in Bologna, Perugino in the town of that summoned them to a new existence. which he hears the name. Not to have The work of depredation went, however, stopped at the painter's favoured spot beyond the endurance even of these stout was to be imperfectly acquainted with believers, and the indignation of the his real manner and power. Hence the trodden people knew no limits at the importance attached to many of those sight of the irreparable losses caused dull, decayed, Tuscan, Lombard, and by the wanton recklessness and the Æmilian communities among which a awful disorder with which the spoliacivilized stranger loved to linger. Hence tion was accomplished. The thought one of the main attractions by which that what made Italy so much poorer Italy was endeared to her visitors above made, after all, France no richer—that all other European regions. And the so large a part of what was to be only day had now come in which that poor stolen was hopelessly destroyed-wrung boast of Art was to be taken from the every patriotic heart. In many instances Italians ; in which all that was valuable conspicuous citizens, aggravated at the and portable was to be carried across havoc made by the brutal soldiery the Alps-carried away not by an among the treasures of their art-reenemy making good his right of con. positories, volunteered their aid in the quest, but by a friend inaugurating the removal—so offering, like the real mother era of liberty, proclaiming the universal before Solomon's judgment seat, to give brotherhood of nations, and laying claims up her own child rather than have it hewn to the most advanced civilization. The asunder. Their help was not always infatuation of the Italian people for their accepted; but again, in some cases, it liberators exceeded all limits, and at first was tyrannically enforced. By a decree there were among the most ardent repub- of the Directory an agent was appointed licans men who locked upon their spoli- who should follow the French armies in ators with something like indulgence. Italy to “extract” and despatch to It was natural after all, they urged, that France such objects of art, science, &c., Art should in a free age be used as an as might be found in the “conquered ornament to freedom, as in pious times towns," independently of the objects of it lent its loftiest charms to religion. art already ceded by the Italian Powers It was the claim of the Brave to the in virtue of the treaties of peace and Fair. Italy was rich enough in canvas suspensions of hostilities contracted with and marble to be able to give a few the Armies of the Republic. By a clause specimens of her skill to a deserving in the decree, whenever the French sister. Her hand would not for all that military authorities were unable to forget its cunning, and it would always provide their agent with the means be in the power of living artists to fill necessary for the conveyance of the up the void that French greed for the property," the said agent was authorold masters might create behind the ized to requisition horses and carriages main altars of Italian churches or on from the towns in which these “extracthe walls of Italian mansions. Others tions” should take place. There is only again, with heads filled with mock-heroic too much evidence that the agent availed notions of Roman or even Spartan stoic himself of the power thus conferred

upon him without stint.

But even by be taken, what was she to do with it? lending a hand, either voluntarily or by All Italian art was already in her poscompulsion, the Italians failed to save session ; and, as far as her victories exfrom the wreck a large proportion of tended, the galleries of Antwerp and the art-treasure which the pioneers of Brussels, of Dresden and Munich, of civilization who called them to liberty Madrid and Seville, were made to add were conveying into captivity. At times, their tribute to the vast mass of spoils the surprise of the pillayed population with which the Louvre was encumbered. evidently threatened to give way to in Paris was the world's museum ; was it dignation. It is on record that at likely to become the world's school of Venice and throughout the towns of art ?: The First Empire was, perhaps, the Venetia the spoilers could not do their epoch in France in which genius and work without the protection of a for taste were at the lowest ebb.1

The midable array of bayonets. At Florence, nation had as little leisure for thought among a gentler and more quick-witted or feeling as its restless ruler ; and one people, popular displeasure found its of the most remarkable phenomena of vent in bitter taunts and jeers. French the period was the apparent indifference superior officers who stood wrapt in with which the French looked on the admiration before Giotto's elegant belfry, accumulation of all that immense artistic were asked by the street urchins whether treasure. Beyond a little flourish of “they were meditating how they could gratified vanity, there is, at least, no evipack up the Campanile in their military dence of any great enthusiasm evinced vans ?” And within the Uffizi Gallery, by the Parisians at the appearance of as the Venus de Medici was being taken their new acquisitions ; no evidence of down from her pedestal, together with any extraordinary frequency of visitors at Raphaels and Titians, preparatory for the Louvre, not even from mere motives her journey to the North, the old con of curiosity. It may be suggested that servator to whom that precious marble the popular apathy was to be attributed had been an object of worship for the to the varied vicissitudes of those stirbest part of his life, was so overcome as ring times; that the Empire had toiled to burst into tears : whereupon one of not for its own generation, but for after the sneering Frenchmen, affecting to ages; that what its short period had console him, observed that “the dear devoured would remain for the digestion goddess was not so much to be pitied, of future epochs ; so that the issue to as she was only going to Paris, where be expected from the intermarriage of the Belvedere Apollo was already among

all the ancient and modern schools in the recent arrivals, and where prepara Paris would eventually be a French tions would soon be made to marry the school combining the merits, and eclipsRoman to the Florentine statue.” The ing the achievements, of all ages and sorrow of the conservator was turned to countries. rage, as he retorted, “Marry the statues But it is very questionable whether, as much as you like: out of such a union even if France had been able to retain in your country there will never be

permanent possession of her ill-gotten issue.” The old man meant that all goods, this sublime conceit of national the masterpieces of Phidias and Praxi.

1 M. Jules Janin said at a recent meeting teles in the world would never make the of the French Academy: “On ne savait plus French a nation of sculptors.

guère parmi nous les noms des grands poètes. For, after all, what could be the ob

On eût dit qu'Homère et Virgile étaient morts

tout entiers ; Athènes et Rome étaient tout au ject or the pretext for all these whole

plus un souvenir.” Yet that was the age of sale robberies? “Leave nothing behind mock Brutuses and Cæsars, of Plébiscites and of what can be of the least use to us." Senatus-Consultes, and of all that hodge-podge Such were the general instructions; such

of pseudo-Roman institutions which have since the invariable rule and practice. But

been made to cloak with grand words the

hideousness and repulsiveness of Napoleonic when France had taken all that could

despotism.

selfishness could ever have been realized. Art is not to be more easily transplanted than literature: genius is, in a great measure, a matter of soil and climate; it chooses its own time and place for its peculiar development; it takes its own growth regardless of culture, rebellious against the shelter and restraint of the forcing-house. All the knowledge of Greek in the world would never have made of Shakespeare a Homer; nor could many years' contemplation of the Madonna di San Sisto have made of Jacques Louis David a Raphael. In Italy itself it has been found that too intense a reverence for ancient art is as apt to stunt and cripple modern art as to mature it. Admiration begets imitation; manner is taken for law; religion degenerates into superstition ; and with the rise of academies the decline of creative power too generally sets in. Both before and after the first Republic and Empire France had artistic as well as literary instincts of her own; but it may be freely asserted that the bane of French genius in all its efforts has been its exaggerated worship of what it considered classicism.

It may be imagined, however, that neither Bonaparte nor the officers in his suite gave themselves much thought about the remote results of their brigand exploits. They plundered for plunder's sake ; a kind of thievish monomania seemed to have seized those lawless warriors; and the demoralization had, at a very early period, reached the lowest ranks. The charming pages of Erckmann-Châtrian describe the eagerness with which men and women from the quietest and most unsophisticated districts, set out in quest of adventure in the train of the armies, under some vague impression that the world was the oyster which the soldier's sword was to open for them ; they went forth, they rambled far and wide, and came back to startle their families and friends with the display of toys and trinkets of which they often could tell weither the use nor the value, and when reproached for dishonesty, they claimed it as a merit that they had rifled a mere

No. 146.-VOL. XXV.

"tas de Prêtres et d'Aristocrates," and mulcted a stolid people who “even so many years after the inroad of their armies could not yet utter one word of intelligible French.”

As to Napoleon himself he pleaded patriotism in justification of brigandage; and whatever fault might be found with all the other acts of his reign, in the mere spoliation of inoffensive neighbours, he could rely on the complicity of the French people. A whole age had to pass before a few writers of the Lanfrey and Erckmann-Châtrian stamp dared to take up the cause of the outraged nations. But at the dawn of the nineteenth century all France acted upon one impulse. The great point was how Paris could be made everything and the world nothing. The idea of sinking Rome to the rank of a mere “chef-lieu" of a French department might have shocked a very Brennus; but it had nothing to deter the “ Brutuses” and “Cæsars," who, as Botta writes, “ profaned churches, robbed sacred treasures, pilfered oil-paintings, damaged frescoes, and destroyed the ornaments they could not remove.” As Paris was the museum, so it was to become the archive of the world. After the peace of Schönbrunn, all the records and documents of the German Empire were made to travel from Vienna to Paris. They filled altogether 3,139 cases, and the transport cost 400,000f. The archives of Belgium and Holland, those of St. Mark and the Vatican, had gone before. At Simancas, in Spain, the men charged with the execution of the Emperor Napoleon's decrees sent word that the papers to be enlévés ” would require 12,000 carts for their conveyance. The work in this quarter, however, began too late, and was interrupted by the advance of the English, Portuguese, and Spanish Armies ere it had proceeded very far. The plunderers were almost caught in flagrante, and, in the harum-scarum of their precipitate retreat, they did almost greater mischief than, perhaps, they would have done had their work been suffered to proceed undisturbed. For “the presence during four years of a

[ocr errors]

come.

garrison in the castle," says M. Gachard great crash of 1814, and the melancholy in his account of the Archives of Siman result was the hopeless misplacement cas, published in 1848, “and the free and dispersion of precious memorials, access of the soldiers to all its apart and the fraudulent or forcible retention ments, threw the papers into the greatest of ill-gotten goods on the part of the confusion, and caused the most serious nation which had been bound to restitulosses ; nor was this all, for, after the tion. The incomparable collection of flight of the French, the peasantry of diplomatic reports or “relations " which the neighbourhood rushed in; they tore Venice had treasured up with the open the parchments, broke the strings, greatest care from the earliest dates of and made confusion worse confounded." its Republic, and which has caused the Again, when Spain claimed her own at revision of almost every page of EuroParis, in 1815, she vainly applied for pean history, went asunder from the many of those Simancas documents, the very moment the French laid their hands French retaining them as their own, upon it in 1797, and its fragments had under pretence of their appertaining to be picked up here and there with a "more or less,” to the affairs of Burgundy toil and diligence only rewarded with and Lorraine ; though many of the partial success. As with papers, so with deeds thus wrongfully withheld con pictures and statues. They were handled sisted of treaties concluded by Spain as stolen goods, and valued for what with France, or of the correspondence they cost. France was never fully aware of the Court of Madrid with its ambas of the enormous wealth of art which sadors in the same country. They did not had come to her from every corner of the say on what grounds they retained the tributary world. Many of the cases correspondence of Charles V. and Philip lay for years in store-rooms and cellars, II. with the Viceroys of Aragon, and and went back unopened as they had the despatches addressed to this last

Even of what had been publicly Sovereign and his successor by their taken much was privately abstracted, ambassadors at Venice.

and we have seen, that most of those As there was to be in Europe only who marched with or after the French French art, so there was only to be a armies did not suffer their zeal in their French version of history.

country's service to interfere with a unbiassed as Count Daru, as unpre little business on their own account. judiced as M. Thiers, were to have the In Spain, for instance, Napoleon's Marmonopoly of all the memorials of the shals took the lion's share for thempast. Of such events as the Battle of selves, and Soult laid hold of a few Waterloo or the negotiation of the Murillos, for one of which France afterSpanish marriages there should be only wards paid 25,0001., and which Spain one official account, and that should would gladly buy back at twice the price. come from a people whose streets go by A proof of the extent to which all ten different names within a quarter of a feelings of justice had by that long age century; a people who flatter themselves of violence been blunted throughout that they can blot out memories when Europe may be found in the indifference they pull down monuments. There is with which the Allies of 1814 had every reason to believe that the

papers suffered vanquished France to keep all taken from all Italy, Austria, Germany, the spoils of the victorious nations. and the Netherlands were of as little By the first Treaty of Paris, as M. Thiers profit to France as those for which says, “Nous conservions les immenses Simancas was ransacked. French Com richesses en objets d'Art acquises au missions charged with examining and prix de notre sang. The patriotic arranging that vast farrago of heteroge- historian attributes that forbearance to neous documents were appointed at fear; and, certainly, it would be diffivarious times; but their work, both at cult to say how the plundered people home and abroad, stopped short with the would ever have come by their own had

Men as

Napoleon never broken from the Isle of restoration was even more fatal than Elba. But as the Allies had again to French damage. The Madonna della find their ways to Paris, they stipulated Seggiola had, on its return to Florence, in the second Treaty dated from that to be covered with glass to throw a city, that whatever France had ever got film over the opaque white with which by victory she should now lose by it had been plastered over in Paris, so defeat. The thing was, of course, as in some manner to disguise and soften easier said than done, and it is possible it. And Señor Madrazo, the conservator that no very great zeal was displayed of the Madrid Gallery, when the brickin the execution of the convention, dust with which the “Spasimo di Siciespecially by those among the con lia" is all daubed over is pointed out to tracting parties who had no direct him, declares that the disfigurement of interest in it. Poor Italy was only that and other masterpieces in the same represented by Austria and by Princes collection is the result of the treatment who looked upon their subjects as the pictures of Spain met with at the no better than rebels, and who had to hands of their French captors. That struggle against the lingering vestiges the French should leave well alone, of those French sympathies which had that they should not think they knew powerfully contributed to hurl them better than the Italians or the Spaniards from the throne. At all events, the of the sixteenth century, was not, indeed, demands of the commissioners sent from to be expected: and it is only a matter the ravaged countries to recover the of wonder that the Madonna del Cardelplunder were in a thousand instances lino did not go back to her country met with blank denial, with arrogant graced with a chignon, or that the resistance, with evasion or subterfuge. Moses of Michael Angelo was not No doubt such a picture had been taken “coiffé à la Brutus.

Time was not from Italy; but it could not be proved allowed for the solution of the problem that it had ever reached France. whether, after so many years' spoliation, had somehow disappeared half-way: it French art was to be modified by its was hidden somewhere in that huge imported treasures, or whether, on the limbo where unpacked cases lay still contrary, it was the world's art that was pell-mell, mountain high. And when to be Frenchified; for the instinct of the day of keen search was over, the French genius is fashion, and art aims stolen property came forth from its at eternity. It is well known that lurking-places, and was laid out un when Napoleon stood before the stolen blushingly and conspicuously:-here the works in the Louvre, and some of the marble Gladiator that ought to be back bystanders dwelt with rapture on the on its pedestal in the Borghese Garden, “immortal ” character of those producnear Rome-there the panels of the tions, he turned sharply round, and grand Mantegna picture, only part of asked, “ how long that painted canvas which is now to be seen above the dese would endure." And, being answered crated main altar of St. Zeno at Verona. that with care it could be preserved for

Even of what was rescued not a five hundred years to come, he observed little still bears evidence of the indigni- contemptuously “C'est une belle immorties to which it had to submit during talité.” Whether those years of Gallic captivity. There “immortality” could have been secured are Correggios and Caraccis at Parma for captive Art in French hands we may still seamed by the cracks caused by be allowed to doubt : for—terrible to the large canvas being folded up by think of—had the Commune been less rough soldiers to fit it to the size of discordant and irresolute, whatever their vans.

Of fragments of marbles either French genius had ever produced broken on their way to Paris and back or French “valour" plundered, would the Vatican and the Museo Borbonico equally have gone to feed the blaze of could muster large heaps. But French the great Paris bonfire in May 1871.

even

that poor

« VorigeDoorgaan »