THE Tribune is an octagonal room built by the Grand-Duke Ferdinand I to contain his collection of camei and intagli. The cupola above was inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and the room was at first surrounded by carved ebony cabinets; whilst in the centre stood a splendid table of pietra dura, around which were placed the finest antique statues. The cabinets and gems have been removed, and the walls hung with a choice selection of pictures, which are not, however, seen to advantage, from the confined space and imperfect light.
Facing the door leading to the corridor is the celebrated Venus de’ Medici. She is thus described in the notes of Mr. John Bell, from whose ‘ Travels in Italy’ we have already quoted in other parts of this work : `The Venus de’ Medici, truly a subject for the little and beautiful, measuring only four feet eleven inches ; exquisite in all its forms and proportions, but much injured in the restored parts ; found in the Villa Hadrian in Tivoli.’ The Venus was brought to Florence with the Apollino opposite, which is a rare example of a statue discovered entire. It was, however, unfortunately broken by the fall of one of the pictures, and the Tuscan sculptor, Bartolini, who undertook the repairs, concealed them by a worse injury, as he painted the whole statue, and thus destroyed the transparency of the marble ; but the easy attitude, the dignity and grace of the figure, with the beauty of the face and limbs, are unaltered, and constitute one of the most charming of antique statues. The Dancing Faun opposite is in strange contrast with the elegance of the Apollino. Though the Faun was re-paired by Michael Angelo, the original part of the statue continues the finest. Mr. Bell’s admiration of this work makes him severely critical on the additions by the modern artist. `This statue,’ he proceeds, is perhaps the most exquisite piece of art of all that remains of the ancient ; the Torso is the finest that can be imagined. It is adventurous to differ from so great a master as Michael Angelo, who, when he restored it, must have studied the subject well, and who is even said to have taken the idea of the head and arms from an antique gem; (but) he has given round and fleshy forms to a shrunk and somewhat aged figure, evidently intended for the caricature of drunkenness and folly. The limbs are all in a strained and staggering attitude. The whole body inclines forward, and there must have been a proportioned bend backwards of the head, to counterbalance the inclination of the trunk. Buonarroti has given too fresh and full a face for his shrunk, meagre, and dried-up body.’ The remark that this statue is `the caricature of drunkenness and folly’ appears somewhat exaggerated ; for it has rather the wild movements of a being half animal, half humanthe faun of the ancientsengrossed with the pleasure of the moment and in the delirium of a Bacchanalian dance.
As a learned anatomist and art critic, Mr. Bell’s observations on the remaining statues are no less interesting and important : ` The Knife Grinder, not exempt from faults, but most interesting; the whole posture and the whole composition being singularly just and effective. The knife blade in the right hand touches the grinder; the body, slightly bent forward, is balanced by the resting of the fingers of the left hand on the block, whilst the head, for which the whole forms of the trunk are exquisitely prepared, is turned round. The figure is neither leaning nor resting, but is yet full of nature; the attitude being evidently that of momentary action. The eyes of the slave are not fixed on the work. His bony, square form, the strength of the neck, the squalid countenance, the short neglected hair, the character of a slave still more plainly written on his coarse hard hands and wrinkled brow; yet it is a slave, presented with all the fine broad expression of nature, bearing all the striking features of strength and labour. The Wrestlers, a beautiful little group ; the figures too much under size, delicately and exquisitely finished for the subject. The slender limbs seem exiles from the body, and, owing to an affectation of anatomy and science, have too much fibre ; the heels and toes are too small ; the legs of the conqueror are stringy and quite out of drawing. The whole may be described as being a nice, well-finished little group, but wanting in grandeur, action and expression.’
Behind the statue of the Venus is placed the chef-d’oeuvre on panel of Andrea del Sarto, the greatest colourist of the Florentine school. The Madonna, with her eyes cast down, stands on a pedestal ; she holds a book, on which the Child steps, as with infantine grace and playfulness He climbs to her neck ; the girlish features of the Madonna have a nobility and grandeur of expression rarely found in the works of Andrea. St. Francis and St. John stand on either side ; St. Francis is an ordinary peasant with a mournful countenance; St. John, gentle, earnest, and very beautiful ; most lovely angels support the Virgin. The composition of this picture is pyramidal, the extremities of the figures are drawn admirably, and everything is in just balance ; there is great breadth of chiaroscuro ; the colour is rich and harmonious, and a deep religious feeling and dignity pervades the whole.
Below this picture is one of the gems of the collection, a triptych by Andrea Mantegna (1430-1506). Finished with exquisite delicacy and care, it has at the same time all the grandeur of drawing and composition of a picture of larger dimensions. The subjects are : the Adoration of the Magi, with the Circumcision and the Resurrection on either side. It once adorned the Chapel of the Ducal Palace at Mantua, but was acquired by Don Antoniothe adopted son of the Grand Duke Francis I. and Bianca Cappelloand was placed in this gallery at his death in 1632.
To the left of this picture is a fine painting of a Sibyl by Guercino of Bologna (159o-1666), and a splendid portrait of a gentleman in a black dress, Jean de Montfort, by Vandyke (1599-1641).
The portrait of Francesco Maria II. della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, is by Baroccio (1528-1612). Francesco Maria was the last duke : his son Federigo married Claudia de’ Medici, daughter of the Grand Duke Cosimo II., and died young, leaving an infant daughter, Vittoria, who was married when a child to her cousin, the Grand Duke Ferdinand IL, to whom the Duchy of Urbino was promised as her dowry : her grand-father, Francesco della Rovere, however, was persuaded by the priests who surrounded him to withdraw this promise, and to bestow Urbino on Pope Urban VIII. Tuscany obtained, with Vittoria’s diminished dowry, Raffaelle’s portrait of Pope Julius IL, and other valuable pictures.
Between these portraits is a picture of Venus by Titian (1477-1576), much celebrated for its fine colouring, and on the other side of the large painting by Andrea del Sarto is the companion picture of the same subject, also by Titian.
On the line below the first Venus, are the Samian Sibyl of Guercino, a very fine portrait of Beccadelli, a Bolognese pre-late, and the Pope’s Nuncio to Venice in 1552, by Titian ; as well as the Flight into Egypt, with St. Francis worshipping, by Correggio (1494-1534). The authenticity of this picture was at one time questioned, but it was decided to be an early work of the master, executed when he was only nineteen years of age.’
Near the door is a portrait of a lady by Raffaelle d’ Urbino (1483-1520), drawn with freedom, yet with the utmost care, delicacy, and exquisite finish of detail. The picture was painted when Raffaelle was hardly twenty years of age, and when he was under the influence of Leonardo da Vinci, whose style it closely resembles. Lanzi remarks of this picture:` I am inclined to believe that the same characteristic of an affable, generous disposition, diligent in the search after perfect beauty, must have made them (Raffaelle and Leonardo) known to one another, even if they had not been united by friendship.’ A certain resemblance to the painter himself, and the dress being that of a citizen who did not belong to Florence (which Raffaelle had visited at that period), make it probable that this is the portrait of his aunt Santa, who was married to a rich tailor, but who, when left a young widow, resided with his father, Giovanni ; Raffaelle’s mother had died when he was a child. This picture was brought from the Villa of Poggio a Caiano in 1713.1
Above the door leading from the rooms of Tuscan masters is a Madonna and Child with St. John and St. Sebastian, by Pietro Perugino (14461523). To the left of the door is another portrait by Raffaelle d’ Urbino, called the Fornarina, or Baker’s Wife ; but so little resembling the picture of the same name in the Barberini Palace in Rome, that this is probably a misnomer, and the portrait is believed to represent Beatrice of Ferrara, the mistress of Lorenzo d’ Urbino, the father of Catharine de’ Medici. Passavant, the biographer of Raffaelle, places the date of this picture at 1512. The artist rises here to a fulness and depth of colour which can only be compared to Giorgione, who had died the previous year.
The Madonna del Pozzo, or Virgin at the Well, is attributed to Raffaelle, but is probably by Franciabigio. It is painted with much sweetness ; the children are very lovely and playful ; but neither the Virgin nor other parts of the composition have the grace and dignity of Raffaelle’s paintings.
St. John in the Wilderness is the only painting on canvas by Raffaelle. Although a noble picture, the subject is treated as a study, and Passavant traces in the finished picture the and of a pupil ; it has, therefore, rather served as a valuable lesson for the young artist than awakened much interest in the visitor to the gallery.’
The Madonna del Cardellinothe Madonna of the Goldfinchnext the picture of St. John, is one of Raffaelle’s most charming compositions, and belongs to his Florentine period. This great artist’s works are divided into three styles : the first acquired when a diligent pupil under Perugino and Francia, and when his genius was kept in strict subordination to the rules and mannerism of these schools ; the second beginning with his first visit to Florence, and intercourse with the great artists there, who awakened new ideas of the wider boundaries of Art ; his third and last style belonging to his Roman period, when he had studied from Roman models and Venetian pictures, and had gained that grandeur of outline and composition, and richness of colour, which found their culmination in his latest works, the Transfiguration and the Madonna di San Sisto. The Madonna del Cardellino was painted in 1505, when Raffaelle was twenty-two years of age, for Lorenzo Nasi, a Florentine, who presented it to his bride. The picture was injured in 1548, when Nasi’s house was shaken by an earth-quake, but it was carefully repaired. ` It is,’ as Passavant observes, ` full of lovely simplicity and heavenly grace, and the possessor held it in great honour all his life.’ The fresh and pure feeling in the composition and colour has a charm which no copy can wholly convey ; and, however familiar we may be with repetitions and engravings, this picture can neither disappoint at first sight, nor cause satiety by being frequently visited.
To the right of the door is Raffaelle’s majestic portrait of Pope Julius II., painted in his latest Roman manner, for the family of the pontiff, the Della Rovere. Julius II. was connected by marriage with the Duke of Urbino, the patron of the painter, who had likewise a friend in the youthful heir to the duchy, the nephew of the duke, Francesco della Rovere. There is a repetition of this picture in the Pitti Palace, and both are probably by the hand of Raffaelle ; a third is in the National Gallery of London. The original design in chalk is in the Palazzo Corsini of Florence. The character of the irascible and resolute old man, who united the genius of a ruler and warrior with taste for art and the refinement of a high-bred gentleman, is expressed in the features, attitude, and dress of the Pope.
Above the Madonna del Pozzo is a fine picture of Isaiah, by Fra Bartolommeo, and further on is the companion picture of Job. They are both very powerful in drawing and expression, and are painted in full deep colour. They were executed for a Florentine merchant, and made part of the great picture of the Resurrection of our Saviour, which is in the Gallery of the Pitti Palace.
Between the Prophets is a portrait of the Emperor Charles V. mounted on a splendid white charger. An eagle, holding a crown of laurel, soars above him. This picture is an imaginary portrait by Vandyke (1599-1641), since the Emperor died in 1558.
Above the portrait of Pope Julius II. is a beautifully-painted head of John the Baptist, by Correggio, which was formerly in the villa of Poggio a Caiano ; on the other side of the door leading to the Corridor is the daughter of Herodias, bearing the head of the Baptist in a charger, with the executioner, by Bernardino Luini of Milan (1460-1530). Higher up, a very lovely Holy Family is by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588). St. John kisses the foot of the Infant Christ ; St. Catharine, a beautiful Venetian woman, with her palm-branch, stands beside the Child ; St. Joseph is to the left of the picture.
A most exquisite small painting by Correggio, of the Virgin Kneeling in Adoration of the Child, was a royal gift by the Duke of Mantua to the Grand Duke Cosimo II. A sleeping Endymion, by Guercino (1590-1666), is a good specimen of the Bolognese school of art. Two pictures of Adam and Eve are by Lucas Kranach (14721553), and beneath is a Holy Family, by Michael Angelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). The history of this last picture, given by Vasari, establishes its authenticity, otherwise it would be difficult to believe the great master could have been capable of such distorted and defective drawing, as in the arm and part of the figure of the Virgin. Her constrained attitude is characteristic of this artist’s love of grappling with difficulties.
The Adoration of the Magi, by Albert Dürer (147r-1528), is interesting as an example of the work of the greatest of German masters. Christ Rising from the Tomb is by Lucas van Leyden (14941533). There are other pictures of merit in the Tribune, but in too obscure positions to be seen to advantage.
From the Tribune the visitor passes through a series of small rooms, containing pictures by artists from different Italian States, as well as Dutch, Flemish, German, and French.
In the first room of paintings of the Venetian and Lombard schools, and, on the wall to the left of the entrance from the Tribune, is a most exquisite picture, by Andrea Mantegna (1430-1506). The Virgin is seated with the Child on her knees, under a rock in the wilderness; a landscape in the back-ground. The colour is sober but harmonious, the drawing and composition have much grandeur, and every detail is delicately finished. Not far from this picture is a lovely little sketch of St. Agnes crowned by Angels, by Paolo Veronese ; also St. Anna presenting cherries to the Child, with St. John the Baptist, and Joachim, by Mazzolino di Ferrara (1481-1530). On the wall farthest from the window, to the right of the entrance, there is a very beautiful picture of children sporting under trees, by Francesco Albano (15781666).
On the opposite wall to the left, a most lovely little painting of a Holy Family is by Guido Reni (1575-1642), the infant St. John kisses the foot of the Child. Above it is another Holy Family of much beauty, by Annibale Caracci (1560-1609). A larger picture towards the Centre of the wall, by Parmiggiano (1504-1541), represents a Holy Family, with St. Jerome and the Magdalene. The Virgin caressing the Child, by Carlo Cignani (1628-1712), a Bolognese painter of the school of Albano, is greatly admired. Cignani was, according to Lanzi, one of the most renowned painters of his time.
The two rooms which follow contain many very interesting pictures, of the Dutch and German schools. Rembrandt Mieris, Ostade, Netscher, and Teniers are well represented in the first room, in their small pictures. A Holy Family, by Rembrandt (1606-1674), to the right of the entrance, is highly finished, and a most beautiful example of his treatment of chiaroscuro.
In the next room to the left, near the window is the portrait of an old man’s head, by Holbein (1498-1554), one of that artist’s finest works. In the catalogue it is given as a portrait of Zwinglius ; but as the great reformer died in battle at the age of forty-seven in 1531, this portrait of a feeble old man was probably that of some burgomaster, of the town of Basle. It is painted with hardly any shadow, yet the relief and the morbidezza, or tenderness of flesh, are perfect, whilst the expression is most life-like. There are several other portraits in this room, also by Holbein ; but one, if authentic, would be of especial interest to the English visitor, as it is supposed to represent Sir Thomas More, when young. This portrait, if really his likeness, must have been painted soon after the artist’s arrival in England in 1526, when More was forty-six years of age. Holbein worked for three years in Sir Thomas More’s house at Chelsea, where Henry VIII. visited the Chancellor, and expressed his pleasure in the painter’s works. The picture hangs on the wall to the left and near the door, and whether of Sir Thomas More, or whether by Holbein, or–as some supposeby an Italian artist, it is a good painting. On the opposite side of the room, near the door of exit, is another very interesting portrait by Holbein, of one Richard Southwell ; small tablets of bronze on the frame bear inscriptions, describing him as a Councillor of State under King Henry VIII. A portrait of Luther at the farther end, opposite the window, is by Kranach ; Luther’s wife, Catharine Bora, by Holbein, is a superior painting to that of Kranach. Near these are two interesting small portraits in one frame, also by Kranach, of the Protestant Electors John and Frederick. Above the portrait of South-well is a fine portrait by Albert Dürer of his father, and beside it, another excellent portrait of a man at his prayers by Hans Hemling or Memling (1440, living 1499).
Not far from these is one of Claude Lorraine’s charming landscapes, which has been engraved in his Liber Veritatis. Two pictures here are by Adrian Brauer, the rival of Teniers (1608-1640).
The rooms that follow are devoted to the Flemish and French schools. A very lovely portrait of the Princess Claudia, daughter of the Grand Duke Ferdinand I., and wife of the Archduke Leopold of Austria, is by Justus Sustermans (1597-1681). There are two other good portraits by the same artist, of a gentleman of the Puliciani family, and of a lady. He has also a picture here of St. Margaret and the Dragon.
In the last room containing paintings by French artists, to the right of the entrance is the portrait of the celebrated beauty, Madame de Grignan, the daughter of Madame de Sévigné, by Peter Mignard (1610-1695). A small portrait of Madame de Sévigné, by the same painter, is at the farther end of the room facing the window. Alfieri and his wife, Countess of Albany, and widow of the young Pretender, are painted by Saverio Fabre (1766-1837). A very fine portrait of Bossuet is by Rigaud (1659-1743). There are two portraits of gentlemen attired in black, by Philippe Champagne. The portrait of Jean Jacques Rousseau is by Nicolas Largillière, of Paris (1656-1746). This artist was esteemed for his fresh and transparent method of colour, and his correct drawing. A young girl and boy placed opposite one another near the entrance to this room, and called Pilgrims, are by Alexis Grimon, who died in 1740. His vigorous style and good colour gave promise of great eminence in his art, but an idle, dissipated life obliged him to work only for the payment of his debts.