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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

150               A Painter's Views

as low as possible, so as to save doing more country details
than could be helped. As for the little landscape there is,
let the reader compare it with any of the examples by Bellini,
Basaiti, or even Cima da Conegliano, which may be found in
the same or the adjoining rooms.

How, then, did Raffaelle get his reputation ? It may be
answered, How did Virgil get his ? or Dante ? or Bacon ? or
Plato ? or Mendelssohn ? or a score of others who not only
get the public ear but keep it sometimes for centuries?
How did Guido, Guercino and Domenichino get their repu-
tations ? A hundred years ago these men were held as hardly
inferior to Raffaelle himself. They had a couple of hundred
years or so of triumph—why so much ? And if so much,
why not more ? If we begin asking questions, we may ask
why anything at all ? Populus vult decipi is the only answer,
and nine men out of ten will follow on with et decipiatur. The
immediate question, however, is not how Raffaelle came by
his reputation but whether, having got it, he will continue
to hold it now that we have a fair amount of his work at the
National Gallery.

I grant that the general effect of the picture if looked at
as a mere piece of decoration is agreeable, but I have seen
many a picture which though not bearing consideration as a
serious work yet looked well from a purely decorative stand-
point. I believe, however, that at least half of those who
sit gazing before this Ansidei Raffaelle by the half-hour at
a time do so rather that they may be seen than see; half,
again, of the remaining half come because they are made to
do so, the rest see rather what they bring with them and
put into the picture than what the picture puts into them.

And then there is the charm of mere age. Any Italian
picture of the early part of the sixteenth century, even though
by a worse painter than Raffaelle, can hardly fail to call up
in us a solemn, old-world feeling, as though we had stumbled
unexpectedly on some holy, peaceful survivors of an age
long gone by, when the struggle was not so fierce and the
world was a sweeter, happier place than we now find it,
when men and women were comelier, and we should like to
have lived among them, to have been golden-hued as they,
to have done as they did; we dream of what might have
been if our lines had been cast in more pleasant places—