Imágenes de páginas

in his early life, and his paintings are always marked by the purity and modesty of their subject and treatment; many, indeed, being of a most religious nature. Though his person, talents, and attainments would have given him every chance of success, especially under the example of a most libertine court in France, and a most designing one in Italy, it is well known that no man of his time was less given to intrigue. On the contrary, in spite of the influences that surrounded him, his life was most exemplary. In the religious experience of his last days he speaks of no remorse for a life of vice and immorality, but he only mourns that he “had wronged both God and man by not making better use of his talents in advancing the arts and sciences."

The story is current that Leonardo died during a spasın, in the arms of the Emperor Francis, and it has been repeated in many of the best authorities. These writers could not have been aware that on the day when Leonardo died, May 2, 1519, at Cloux, near Amboise, by the records of the court, they were with the emperor at St. Germain en Laye; and further, that Melzi, Leonardo's most intimate companion, who had accompanied him to France, carried the news to the emperor, who received it with the greatest manifestations of sorrow and regret, as only a few days previous he had left him feeling considerably better. Thus at the age of sixty-seven—not of seventy-five, as stated by some of his biographers—was closed the remarkable career of this most remarkable man.

Were not the record of history too clear to admit of the least ground of doubt, we might question the statement made by Hallam, that Leonardo da Vinci was the greatest man in the fifteenth century. He inspired every branch of thought with new life and activity. He “first broke loose from the fetters of authority," and prepared the way for the incoming of modern philosophy and science. Art owes still more to him. He was thirty years the senior of Michael Angelo. And there is no question that from viewing Leonardo's works, that great artist incorporated much of the breadth of view and grandeur of design that so especially distinguish his works. When Leonardo was in the zenith of his fame and power, Raphael visited Florence, and after studying carefully his cartoons, he adopted the easy grace of his style and the harmony of his composition, in

[ocr errors]

exchange for the hard and stiff style of Perugino, from whom he had received his instruction. Though both of these were greater artists in the number and extent of their works, Leonardo was the greatest man, and they owed much of what they did achieve to the inspiration they received from viewing his works.

It would seem that the eminence Leonardo attained in any one of the many departments in which he was so distinguished would have been sufficient to establish a most enviable reputation, and that to be the forerunner of the institution of a new school of philosophy and art would be sufficient honor of itself, even though history gave us nothing but the memory of his name. That he did not accomplish more was owing to the interruptions of his work by the incessant turmoils of the Italian states. During the short intervals of peace he was busily employed in conducting nearly every work of public improvement of the state in which he lived. Venturi expresses the opinion that in his undeciphered writings there are treasures of thought as valuable as those that-taken quite at random from his works --have so much surprised us. Leonardo frequently mentioned to Melzi his intention of collating the scattered notes, memoranda, and apothegms that he had recorded upon different branches of philosophy, science, and art, into systematic treatises, but this he was unavoidably prevented from doing.

His treatise on painting has passed through several editions in Italy, France, and England. The last one in England was published in 1856. It is very rare. The book is written in apothegms, probably in the form in which they were given to the students in the academy at Milan. Its style is clear, terse, and expressive. The instruction is discriminating, and even in the present day profitable to the practical artist. It is worthy of a place in the library of every man of taste, and it is to be regretted that we have no American edition of it.

Of Leonardo's paintings seventy or eighty principal pieces are known to have been executed. Comparatively few of these are known to exist at the present day. Of the large number of minor pieces it is quite uncertain how many were painted by his followers, or only received their finishing touches from his hands. In the Bryan Gallery in this city are two heads claimed to be by him. One is a picture of St. John, the other is named

(with little evident authority) St. John weeping. The last was probably by one of Leonardo's imitators. In the Aspinwall Gallery is a painting of our Saviour, claimed to be genuine, and a painting of a lady, executed in his style, if not by his hand. Mr. Jarvis, who has collected the Gallery of the Fine Arts with so much labor and expense, has a Madonna by Leonardo, the most valuable piece in his collection.

Da Vinci left fourteen folio volumes of drawings with notes attached. Contrary to the express terms of his will, they were scattered soon after his death, and one found its way to England.

Bartolozzi, Historical Engraver to the Crown, engraved a large number of these drawings in 1794–1806. The subjects are very miscellaneous, including portraits, single figures, caricatures, tilting horses and other animals, botany, optics, perspective, gunnery, hydraulics, mechanics, and a great variety of spirited anatomical studies. Many of the elegant heads were drawn with red and black chalks on red and blue paper, others executed with a metal point on tinted paper ; a few are washed and then whitened with chalk, and many are on common paper, drawn with pen and ink. The chief attraction of this volume, however, is the profile copy of Da Vinci's head, drawn by him. self. It is one of the most perfect and symmetrical heads that art has recorded, and indicates the high endowments of his mind. A copy of this volume of engravings is one of the most interesting works in the Astor library.

To claim that Leonardo possessed no faults would be saying that he was more than human. He was keenly sensitive to dishonorable treatment, and could not submit to neglect or indignity even from so high a functionary as the Pope. He was also inclined at times to be empirical, and to this undoubtedly is owing the destruction of some of his paintings. That some of his projects were too grand to be executed in those turbulent times is rather a compliment than otherwise to the breadth and scope of his views. But when we consider his versatile genius, and the perfection to which he carried everything he undertook, we may say again that “we cannot apply to him the tests of ordinary genius," and that “ he was without doubt the greatest man in the fifteenth century.”



FAILURE? The strongest advocate of the modern camp-meeting would hardly appeal to any explicit scriptural command, or to any exact scriptural example, in support of his preference. A regularly attested biblical paternity that institution can never claim. The“ tented grove,” with its wealth of memories, so dear and sacred to the hearts of thousands, is nowhere mentioned in the word of God. It had no existence until centuries after the last book of inspiration had enriched the world. Its very origin was providential if not fortuitous, and its subsequent recog. nition as a religious instrumentality has wholly resulted from its supposed efficiency in this respect.

But in this concession we by no means include the whole question of Scriptural precedent. The essential features of the modern institution find a strong parallel in the ancient "Feast of Tabernacles," as described in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, and in the eighth of Nehemiah. This will be recog. nized as a solemn religious festival, divinely appointed in the time of Moses, to commemorate the goodness of God in the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, and in their miraculous preservation during their sad and weary wanderings. Its character, therefore, was purely religious, and its sole object the promotion of a deeper piety in the hearts of the people. By express command seven days were set apart, and to each was definitely assigned its appropriate duty. For public ministrations, the people assembled in the open air, but lodged in tents, or “booths,” hastily erected for the purpose. The law of God was daily read to the congregation by an authorized interpreter, or “scribe," whose office bore a close analogy to that of the modern preacher. A glimpse of the manner in which this duty was performed is afforded in a passage not immediately relating to the solemnity in question. “So they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” That a thorough analysis or exposition of the text accompanied the reading is, according to Dr. Clarke, implied in the original. The effect

a solemn religiemorate the goodnes in their miraculous.

was very impressive and striking. “For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.” And even when the preliminary ascription of praise was rendered, by the officiating scribe, to “ the Lord, the great God,” “all the people answered Amen, amen, with lifting up their hands, and they bowed their heads, and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”

We now ask if every essential particular to which we have alluded is not effectually reproduced in the modern camp-meeting? Now, as then, several days are set apart, and especially devoted to the solemnities of the occasion. Tents or booths take the place of ordinary abodes, and, so far as practicable, all“servile work” is suspended. From the “pulpit of wood,” the law of God is read to the gathered multitude, the same glorious word of duty and of promise, yet with priceless accessions to the volume of the ancient record. The “ thunders of Sinai" are re-echoed in the living voice that is lifted up “like a trumpet” to “show the people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins.” And from Calvary's sacred summit now resounds that inspiring evangel of peace and redemption, for which the longing ear of king and of prophet vainly listened. No wonder if the great truth of all time, which to the ancient worshiper lay vailed amid the mystic draperies of prophecy, now thrills the hearts of the people, while with the same responses that then broke the silence of attention, and with kindred tears of penitence or of hope, thousands bend the knee and worship.

That no great national event is commemorated in these annual gatherings, has little to do with the analogy we have demonstrated. Their salient characteristic is their religious element. The promotion of a more deep and general piety is their only intention. To familiarize the people with the word of God, to inspire a readier obedience to his will, and to confirm the faith, and quicken the life of the Church, is the golden principle, without which both they and their famous Jewish prototype would have been only meaningless parades. Upon the most exalted basis, therefore, rests the parallel between the modern institution and its time-honored predecessor.

But a direct precedent in the word of God is not indispensable to our purpose. An essentially religious and scriptural

« AnteriorContinuar »