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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

282     Material for a Projected Sequel

At Pienza

At Pienza, after having seen the Museum with a custode
whom I photoed as being more like death, though in excellent
health and spirits, than any one I ever saw, I was taken to the
leading college for young ladies, the Conservatorio di S. Carlo,
under the direction of Signora (or Signorina, I do not know
which) Cesira Carletti, to see the wonderful Viale of the
twelfth or thirteenth century given to Pienza by Pope ^Eneas
Sylvius Piccolomini (Pius II) and stolen a few years since, but
recovered. Signora Carletti was copying parts of it in needle-
work, nor can I think that the original was ever better than
the parts which she had already done. The work would take
weeks or even months to examine with any fullness, and
volumes to describe. It is as prodigal of labour, design and
colour as nature herself is. In fact it is one of those things
that nature has a right to do but not art. It fatigues one to
look at it or think upon it and, bathos though it be to say so,
it won the first prize at the Exhibitions of Ecclesiastical Art
Work held a few years ago at Rome and at Siena. It has taken
Signora Carletti months to do even the little she has done, but
that little must be seen to be believed, for no words can do
justice to it.

Having seen the Viale, I was shown round the whole es-
tablishment, and can imagine nothing better ordered. I was
taken over the dormitories—very nice and comfortable—and,
finally, not without being much abashed, into the room where
the young ladies were engaged upon needlework. It reminded
me of nothing so much as of the Education of the Virgin
Chapel at Oropa.* I was taken to each young lady and did
my best to acquit myself properly in praising her beautiful
work but, beautiful as the work of one and all was, it could not
compare with that of Signora Carletti. I asked her if she
could not get some of the young ladies to help her in the less
important parts of her work, but she said she preferred doing
it all herself. They all looked well and happy and as though
they were well cared for, as I am sure they are.

Then Signora Carletti took me to the top of the house to
show me the meteorological room of which she is superin-

* See "A Medieval Girl School " in Essays on Life, Art <S> Science