Modena – Italy

In the prosecution of our journey, towards mid-day, we reached Reggio, the birth-place of Ariosto, a small fortified city, lying on the Tessone: and from thence, passing through Ruberia, arrived at Modena early in the evening. The entrance into this city, the capital of the Duchy of Modena, is beautiful; the streets, lined with open arcades, are broad, elegant, and clean, especially the Strada Mastra, which is very striking; the general character of the architecture good; and many of the palaces and public buildings very handsome. Modena has always been distinguished as the peculiar home and residence of princes of a domestic character, who loved and cherished the arts: of their taste in this respect, the Ducal Palace bears proof, being adorned by the works of the first masters, Tintoretto, Guido, Guercino, Andrea del Sacchi, &c. &c.; and the Gallery of Paintings, although not equal to what it once was, still presents many works of great merit. Correggio’s celebrated Nativity, generally styled la Notte del Correggio; a beautiful piece by Paul Veronese, so remarkable for the richness and power of his composition; with some other fine, though less distinguished paintings, formed a part of it. This charming little city, which is sufficiently large to be elegant, and yet small enough to have the delights of village walks near home, is finely situated, lying between the rivers Panaro and Secchia; while the innumerable brooks which water the ground, produce a remarkable freshness and richness in the verdure. The multiplicity of these springs and rivulets probably arises from the geological condition of the country, which appears to have been a vast lake, connected with the Mediterranean, of which the Lake of Mantua forms the only remains.

My short stay in this little city, which is interesting on so many accounts, afforded an opportunity for little more than a mere local survey of the surrounding objects. While thus engaged, I could not help remarking the uncommon beauty of the people; the women, in particular, seemed to possess a natural elegance of figure, combined with much flexibility of limb, and gracefulness of action. The artists of this city, I am told, take their designs from their fellow-citizens; and people, quite unconscious of any personal merit, often find themselves introduced into fine pictures. I have observed, that in each little district of Italy, in cities, perhaps divided only by thirty or forty miles, some little variation in expression, or in features, may be traced, although much of this is lost from the general uniformity of dress: I had looked to find, in different costumes, some mark of being in a foreign country; but, in this point, the French mode of dress is almost universal through all Northern Italy.