Press enter after choosing selection

Foreign Correspondence

Foreign Correspondence image
Parent Issue
Public Domain
OCR Text

Home, Dec. 18, 1872. Friend Pond: We were just leaving Bologna in our last, and now we will continue the journey. This city, liko Padua, is nearly half erabraced in the eucircling arms of the railroad, and a good view is obtained of many of its surroundings. Araong the last prominent objects seen is the Monte della Guardia, crowned by its celebrated pilgrimage church of the Madonna di S. Luca. Conspicuously stretching upward, tortuously winding over and auiong the irregular slopes, the beautiful colonnade adds an almost romantic charm to the scène. Nowhere but in Bologna would such a thing have been dreamed of, inuch less realized. For over a mile this colonnade farms a delightful covered way, alike grateful in sunshine or in storm, to the thousands who resort to this church in discharge of vows made in affliotion or in gratitude and amid the exigencies of every human life. It is permanently constructed of brick and masonry, having 635 arches, and its earlier portions have alreafly been standing two hundred yeais. Although only constituting a well-covered walk, it is yet a work of great magnitude, extended, as it is, to such a length and over the unavoidable diffiuulties of its situation. Monte della Gardia constitutes the advanced guard, as it were, of the Appenines in the direction of the city, and the train bears us directly up the valley of the Reno for over fifty miles, and in a direction perpendicular to this great range of mountains, which here stretches out across the península. Of course this gave greater variety to the scenery and sometimes even great beauty, but the general charactcr of the soil, especially upon the sloping hillsides.was too light and barren pare with the ever fresli verdura of the Tyrol. Still tbere is always something in the wild and precipitous charater of mountahi sceuery which is refreshing, and here where the oíd Roman has everywheee left the impresa of his ancient wealth and power there ia but littla chance for ordinary indifference. Vineyards, as usual, eovered the valley, and neat villas were often seen ; but until we had passed the summit and reached Pistoja on the other side there were no places of any size or of particular importance. As the view began to open ahead into the " Garden of Italy," Tuscany, the interest rapidly increased, and gome time before the train stopped at Pistoja the surrounding hills and vistas opening between between them began to exhibit their richly clustered villages, and a richer vegetation as well as of a more tropical character. The Cyprus trees became quite a feature in the landscape, with their tall and graceful forms, aingly or in rowe, like sentinels posted to guard these fair domains. We were in central Italy and the beautiful city of Pistoja was at its portal to welcome all. It was near this place that Latalim, having failed by his brazen affrontery to silence prosecution for his conspiracy, had collected his undisciplined army, and being attacked, in the year 6.3 B. U , was defeated and slain instead of being strangled to death, as his associates were after trial and conviction. After leaving Pistoja we continued our way in a direction parallel with the Appenines and closely skirting their ern base. This whole región appeared like a well-improved and productivo one, thickly peopled. It was with real pleasure that we found ourselveg in Florence, for the renown of this city as one of the most beautiful and richest in art of Italy had led'us to anticípate the -visit with none of those equivocal emotions of doubt and suspense connected with Ies3 celebrated places of resort. Florence is one of the most modern and substantial cities we hare visited ; that is we are not everywhere met by the sight or smell of antiquity - though there are many buildings and localities of great interest hia torically from associations with medieval times. The Amo divides the city, and along its northern bank runs the celebrated Lung d'Arno, the great promenading street, and where, if one desires to see the fine dresses and equipages of the Florentines he can do it on any fine afternoon about 4 P. M. Unfortunately fine weather was scarce during our stay. The position of this street, overlooking the river on one side nd fine shops and buildings on the other, ia really very fine; but the irregular and ragged aspect of the buildings on the opposite side detracts greatly from its attractiveness, besides which the street in that part of its length near the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte Trinita, where it is most frequented, is narrow, and pedestrians are much annoyed by the constantly passing carriages. Further down the river the width is generous and the approach to the Cascine and Zoological Garden is really fine, which of course renders it a favorito drive, which niay be extended a diatance of two miles into the public park and garden. The residences iu this part of the city are al new and of palatial sizo and appearance Private carriages and Bplendid turn out are frequent here, and the best dressec men we see are apt to be the liveriod at taches to these conveyances, With a population of about 150,000, in secure possession of leadership ia the best par of Italy, Florence as the capital of a un ited country would have goon grown into rival size with the largest cities of Ï3u rope, but Victor Eraman uel has decided t ostablish his court at Home, and linde thig Ímpetus the prestige of Florenc must to some extent be lost, while th Eeternal City is impelled into unwontec activity. The Arno is a livor that requires mag nificent accommodationa, and at its flooc occöpies them 11, but the inuddy-lookin ítfpín aü'l i epo!?l raiiclty botiom t its lower stages do not seem fitted to f spire poetry. None. of the bridges aro of 1 any great beauty. Ponte Vecchio ] sents rather a singular appearance, ' ning tho river with three noble arches it 3 it is of suffioient widtb. to adrait of two í rows of shops, one on each side across its i entire length, and with soercely an excoption they are appropriated to the sale of jewelry. Above one row of these the 1 encloaed gallery or covered way is carried, ] through which visitera pass to and fro betwoen the Uöizzi on the north to the Pitti palaee in the southern portion of 1 the city. Lacking tha graceful spring of ( the single-arched Rialto, there is yet ■ something in the Ponte Vecchio which i reminda one of the more notad Venetian i bridge. The Florentino palaces are remarkable I for their number and fortress-like pearance. They are built without pórticos and without ornamentation except i the colossal heads of raen or animáis or coats of arms, so that their facades ' sent little for the eye to dweil upon except a vast surface of solid dark granite, four or five stories in height, with the small, heavily grated windows of the ground floor ten or twelve feet from the pavement. Verily this eitadel-like style of architecture must have been developed amid the Guelph and Ghiballine controversies of the twelfth century and later, when in real earnest and not as a figinent of law it was necessary that a man's house should be his castle. There was an artífice used in the construetion of some of these grim-looking edificea which, while it tended to break the tmiformity of the snrfaco gave them even an additional severity to the sight. This consisted in dressing huge blocks of stone so that hero and there a föughly shaped corner would project Stiveral inches, without any apparent regularity as to position or design.. Qreat iron rings were generally set in the wall some six feet from the sidewalk, and often other similar rings higher up, the latter to support flagstaffs and lamps on fete days and grand occasions. Taken all in all Florence is a beautiful city, in a charming situation, with streets rither narrow in the most busy marts of trade but clean and well lighted, with rauch accumulated wealth and a distribution of comfort among all classes apparently more general than is usual in the continental cities. The contrast bet veen this place and Venice is so striking that possibly the noise of its thousand Yehicles, often driven at headlong speed, and the freshness and extent of later improveraents have been magnified by the comparison. Before hurrying off to the galleries we occupied a day in taking notes of the more prominent features of the city, and among these of the Piazza della Siguoria, which is the great focus from which radiate the arteries of city life, and about which a greateT interest centers than at any other reason of itsold buildings, its historical associations, and its art adornments. The celebrated monk Savonarola was burned at the stake in this square in 1498. On the night of our arrival we had driven through this square going to the post-office, and all we had read and dreamed of the peculiar treasures of Florence rushed before us as we caught sight of the many beautiful statues and groups and 6culptured marbles and bronzes which stand about this crowded center, enhanced in its effect, no the witehery of the gas-light and strong contrasts of light and shade. Most central is the equestrian statue of josmo i., in bronze, by Gian de Bologna, n 1594, with historical reliëfs, Then we reach the celebrated fountain with the colossal statue of Neptune with his trident, nearly twenty feet in height, but it does not appear so müCh, as the figure stands in a car placed in the center of a deep basin. The four horses by which the car is drawn (hypothetically) present a very spirited aspect as they appearjust ready to surmount the marble margin of ;he fountain, around which tritons, nymphs, and satyrs are grouped in all 8orts of impossible attitudes. Further on is the colossal statuo of Hercúlea strangling Cacus, by Baudinelli, which is unfortunate in being placed only a few Feet distant f rom the celebrated " David " of Michael Angelo, thus pTövoking if not challenging comparison. The " David " is also colossalj and displays the anatoniical excellencies for which this great artist's works are distinguished to fine advantage. These statues have been standing there at the portal to Palazzo Vecchio from 1506, and have been the quiet witnesses of some exciting events. Crossing now the intervening street we are confronted by a whole gallery of splendid works in bronze and niarble, oc cupying the steps and pórtico, called the Loggia dei Lauzi, whero they are constan tly in view and accessible to the passing observer. Standing at the base of the two columns between which the steps ascend are two splendid lions in white marble, of most perfect life-like resemblance. One of these is an antique oi Greek workmanship, and brought from Rome by one of the Medicis. Upon the platform of the Loggia we find thegroup of Ajax bearing off the body of Patroclus, either a Greek work restored or an excellent copy ; of Hercules slaying the Centaur, a Very fine group, by Bologna ; of the Bape of Polyxena, a moro modern work by Fedi, a group of thfee figures - tlie son of Achules bearing aloft in his hands the struggling priflcess, and another female prostrated beneath his feet, and forms a noble work of art ; Perseus holding the Medusa head, a production of that matchless workor in bronzo, Cellini, with a base also by his hand, on which are a number of beautiful statuettes anc reliefs,illustrating the fino oíd niytholog ical story ; a Judith, bj' Donaielld, bear in one hand the head of Hoíafernes, i ulso a romarkably fine w'o'rk iri bronze, o 1443. Hyinbalical figures occüpy niches and represent the cardinal and the theo i logieal Virtu'Jë ; and iiear the rear s-til tand siï draped Vestals of Greek sculj ure. It is a high commendiitioa to tbe ublic regard lor works of such great ralue that they can be thus exposed in a joggia uuprotected f rom conimon intruion without danger of being defaced er njuredBnt we cari wait tía longer to soo that vorld of beauty which' is known to lie in .hat vast gallery which, like a prodigious etter U, extends frffm the Piazza down .o the Arno, acrcM the open colonnade ind back again aboTe tha postoSice to ;he Signiori. Happily in this generous itv the strangor ís Töry little perplcxed vith questions of formality, or even of rees, to secure admission to neariy every lesirable collection or place of resort. - Co all, or neariy all, withoat any restricción, except sometimes as to particular lays and hours, the stranger goes as freey as tho citizen, and a few soldi for takng charge of umbrellas or wraps is all the expense for dstys or weeks of refiüed ïnjoyment. The ñrst visit to a lar$e gal[ery is always one of greatest relláb, be3ause of the eager anticipation 'which runs in advance of fruition, as well as the fresh bloom of noyelty which never ippears after the first gight is Over. t) epositing our umbrella at tbe entranCe, we iscended the long and spacious gallery to the upper floor, passing some unimportint statues at the landirgs and in the first vestibule busts of the Medici family, by whoin the gallery was founded aml enlarged, bronze statues of Silenus witb the infant Baochus, and of Mars and ba reliëfs from Eome, representing festivals, &c. In the second vestibule the most interesting objects were the very beautiful horse in white marble, which is supposed tjhave formed a portion of the celebrated antique group of ÏTiobe, diseovered at Eome in 168:5. The figure is scsircely more than ten hands in height, but is admirably poised upon the hind feet, without support in front, and is as perfect as if but just from the chisel of the artist; the wild boar, though a most uncanny subject of art, is here sculptured by.some ancient Greek in excellent verisimilitude, and with such minute perfection of finish that one feels involuntary admiration. - And even more life-like and beautiful are the two dogs which sit by the passage with such charining naturalness that one could almost expect them to coine forward if called. lleally those were cunning hands who fashioned some of these breathing marbles. A corridor is next entered extending noarly the entire length of the gallery - in all oyer 1,100 feet, and about 2ó in wiatn. xne ceiiing ot tnis extenaea space is adorned with a continuous series af mythological paintingR by Poccetti. - The portraits of over 500 iUustrious personages extend along the walla just below the ceiiing, and the whole remaining space on the wall opposite the windows is covered with paintings of every style and variety of merit, while on either side arranged an almost endless suecession of ancient statues, busts, reliëfs, and sar cophagi. This general reference to the contenta or rather triple corridor explains the utter impossibility of giving even a catalogue, much less a description. It would, however, be impossible to pass evr so hurriedly without pausing before a ew too beautiftll to be overlooked - Among these may be named " The Tabernacle," by Fra Angélico da Piesoli, A. ). 1455 - so-called because it is so formed upon hinged a framework that it con titutes a picture upon the exterior, and eing then opened like the wings of an a'.tar, the interior is also painted. The exterior of this tabernacle has on it St. Mark and St. Peter, and centrally on the nterior of each compartment, St. Mark, Tohn the Baptist and a Madonna. But ts great beauty conaists in the comparatively narrow border around these, in which are represented angels of an inoomparably sweet beauty playing upon musical instrumehts. Artists were con stantly engaged in copying these angel igures upon a gold ground, as in the orginal, and soiiie of their copies were of rare excellence. An " Annunciation," by Bronzino, 1567, in two paintings, the anel in one and the Virgin in the otherj notwithstanding this separation, forms a very expressive and beautiful representa tion of this favorite theuie among artists. A " Magdalen," by Allori, 1GOO; and the sume subject by Cavedone, 1660, are both very fine.


Old News
Michigan Argus