HENRY SIMMONS FRIEZE
WITH TWO DIALOGUES ON ART
FROM THE ITALIAN OF
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET, E.G.
All rights reserved.
TO THE SECOND EDITION
THE ' Two Dialogues on Art ' which form the
second part of this volume were published several
years ago among the minor works of Augusto Conti,
now Professor of Philosophy in the University of
Florence, President of the Academy della Crusca,
and author of an important series of works, embrac-
ing the whole field of philosophy. 1
My attention was first called to the sculptor
1 The following are the titles of these works : i, Storia
della Filosofia (History of Philosophy; published also in French);
2, il Bella nel Vero (^Esthetics) ; 3, il Buono nel Vero (Ethics) ;
4, il Vero nel Ordine (Dialectics) ; 5, F Armenia delle Cose
(Cosmology, Anthropology, and Rational Theology) ; 6, Evi-
denza, Amore, e Fede (Evidence, Love, and Faith). Besides
these, some works of an elementary character, including an
Elementary Philosophy (by Conti and Santini) extensively used
in the schools of Italy.
iv PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
Giovanni Dupre by the reading of these Dialogues of
Conti. They constitute in fact a valuable essay on
Art, theoretical and practical ; una cosa stupenda they
are called by some of the Italian critics. Having
translated them into English for the benefit of some
young friends interested in the study of art, and,
looking for some brief account of Dupre's life as an
introduction, I found, what is very rarely found in
the life of an artist, material in his own writings,
abundant and interesting, for the complete portraiture
of his life and character. And thus what was
intended to be a brief introductory notice easily
grew into this 'little volume of Art Biography.
Those who may have the patience to read it
through will find that it is not, as some of the
' book -notices' have assumed, a mere epitome of
Dupre's Ricordi Biografichi ; but a careful study of
his art life, not only from these delightful ' Remi-
niscences,' but also from his posthumous letters and
papers, as well as from notices of him written by his
friends and admirers at the time of his death. The
whole of the last part of the Biography is necessarily
derived from these latter sources.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION v
The book is by no means intended as a substitute
for the Ricordi Biografichi of Dupre, now made
accessible to English and American readers in the
elegant translation of Madame Peruzzi. Indeed, I
should feel well repaid for this humble tribute to the
memory of an eminent Italian sculptor, at once great
in his art, fascinating and instructive as a writer,
and simple and pure in character, if it might lead
to the more general circulation and appreciation of
his own work ; a Book which stands alone as the
autobiography of a modern Italian artist, and may
be said to have formed an era in the art literature
No country, so much visited, is so little known
as the Italy of to-day. Our ' tourists ' hurry through
the museums and galleries, and survey for a moment
the excavated places and remarkable old buildings,
but, as a rule, come away with little or no knowledge
of Italy as it is. And yet its present movement in
all the work of civilisation, whether in politics, in
education, in literature, or art, deserves our interest,
not less than its achievements in ancient and mediaeval
times, and in those of the Renaissance. And it is
vi PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
much to be wished, as far at least as regards its
language, literature, and art, that this land, still
peopled by men of the same blood as Dante and
Michelangelo, might share in some reasonable degree
the attention so exclusively given in those days to
France and Germany.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN,
Introduction The father and mother, Francesco and Vittoria, and
their influence on the character of Giovanni The child's instinct
for art His figures carved in wood for a puppet theatre His
attempts at drawing discountenanced by his father Is put to the
trade of wood-carving Self-teaching in art studies . Page i
A fortunate disappointment Beauty of Giovanni's wood-carving
Bartolini mistakes it for work of the sixteenth century His
wooing and marriage at nineteen . . . Page 1 5
Becomes a sculptor The prize for his first bas-relief announced to his
dying mother The statue of Abel A triumph embittered by the
detraction of jealous rivals A statue too perfect to be thought a
genuine work of art . . . . . Page 26
A friend in need The statue of Cain A new departure in Italian art
Compared with that of the so-called pre-Raphaelites The
Giotto Giovanni is bewildered by learned critics and endangered
by flatterers And displeased with the works he executes under
such influences His studio visited by the Emperor Nicholas
And by a phenomenal genius from America . . Page 42
Comes back to his first love and faith, or to nature, in his statue of
Antonino The brief revolution of '48, and the speedy restoration
of the old government Insomnia, interruption of his work, and
health recovered by a visit to Naples and Rome His faith in
nature confirmed by certain statues of Canova in St. Peter's at
Rome Also by the sight of a living 'Venus of Milo' in the
Trastevere Periods of development or transition in the lives of
artists and poets, as Raphael, Beethoven, Schiller . Page 60
Fruits of his restored faith The Tazza Design for the Wellington
monument A visit to London Gets into trouble with the police
at the Sydenham Palace An art-study in the midst of an English
banquet Ristori, and other Italian friends in London Paris ; the
villa of Rossini Return to Florence The Ferrari monument
The Sappho, and Conti's notice of it Abdication of the Grand
Duke Leopold in 1859, and Dupre's letters to him . Page 77
Florence the capital of Italy Architectural and sculptural adornment
of the old churches Aided by English residents Dupre's bas-
relief of the Triumph of the Cross made for Santa Croce by order
of Sir Francis Sloane The Pieta and the Christ Risen Shattered
health, and a second visit to Naples and Rome The beautiful
form of a Pompeian girl left moulded in the hardened slime of
Vesuvius Art lesson from this Recovery of health At Paris
with his daughter Amalia in 1867 Grand medal of honour
Reception of Napoleon III. at the Tuileries Meets a would-be
patroness Once more at Rossini's villa . . Page 94
Engages to make a portrait bust before knowing the sitter Honour
from his native Siena At the exposition of Vienna in 1873 made
president of the jury on sculpture German music Returning,
completes the monument of Count Cavour Relations to Pius IX.
Death of his daughter Luisina And that of his wife, Maria
Dupre ...... Page 109
Dupre as a writer and critic Papers read and published at the fourth
centennial of Michelangelo's birth in 1875 . . Page 131
Statues of Pope Pius IX., of Victor Emanuel,and of Raimondo Lullo St.
Francis of Assisi modelled in clay Dupre's last sickness, calm and
peaceful death Amalia succeeds to the studio The St. Francis
executed by her in marble, and unveiled at Assisi on the seventh
centennial of the birth of the saint, in October 1882 . Page 145
The Triumph of the Cross .... Page 165
The Pieta and the Christ Risen .... Page 192
INDEX ....... Page 218
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
GIOVANNI DUPRE ..... Frontispiece.
To face page
STATUE OF ABEL. IN THE PITTI PALACE, FLORENCE 36
CANOVA'S MONUMENT TO CLEMENT XIII., OR REZ-
ZONICO. IN ST. PETER'S, ROME ... 67
THE TAZZA, FIRST VIEW. IN THE DUPRE STUDIO . 77
THE TAZZA, SECOND VIEW. IN THE DUPRE STUDIO . 79
THE ANGEL OF THE RESURRECTION, FROM THE FER-
RARI MONUMENT. IN SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE 87
STATUE OF SAPPHO. IN THE DUPRE STUDIO . . 88
BAS-RELIEF OF THE TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS.
ON THE FACADE OF SANTA CROCE, FLORENCE . 94
THE MONUMENT TO COUNT CAVOUR. IN TURIN . 119
MICHELANGELO'S JULIAN DE' MEDICI, WITH THE
FIGURES OF " NIGHT" AND "DAY." IN SAN
LORENZO, FLORENCE . . . . .131
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
To face page
MICHELANGELO'S LORENZO DE' MEDICI, WITH THE
FIGURES OF "DAWN" AND "EVENING." IN
SAN LORENZO, FLORENCE . . . . 136
MONUMENTAL STATUE OF ST. FRANCIS OF Assist.
IN FRONT OF THE CATHEDRAL OF ASSISI . . 158
GROUP OF THE PlETX. IN THE CEMETERY OF SlENA I 92
Introduction The father and mother, Francesco and Vittoria, and
their influence on the character of Giovanni The child's instinct
for art His figures carved in wood for a puppet theatre His
attempts at drawing discountenanced by his father Is put to the
trade of wood-carving Self-teaching in art studies.
IN walking about the old Tuscan town of Siena
you will find on the front of a house in the Via San
Salvadore the following memorial : ' This humble
abode in which was born Giovanni Dupre, honour of
art and of Italy, may teach the sons of the people
what height can be reached by the power of genius
and of will ;' and in Florence, on a house just above
the Fortezza and the grounds of the Pitti Palace, also
this inscription : ' The Municipality of Florence, in
whose council sat Giovanni Dupre, has placed this
memorial on the house in which for twenty years
lived the great sculptor, glory of Italy and of art,
and in which he died on the tenth day of eighteen
hundred and eighty-two.'
The sculptor whose name is thus honoured by
the city of his birth and by that of his adoption, to
whom Italy has justly given a place among the first
of her great artists, also won additional distinction
in the latter years of his life by his valuable con-
tributions to the literature of art. The most notable
of these is the Ricordi Biograficki ; l a volume of
reminiscences written with all the charming simplicity
of the old Italian novelle, and abounding in agreeable
anecdote, in lively sketches of character, and in just
thoughts on art. Besides this autobiography, he
published several articles on art topics ; and these,
together with a selection of his letters, have been
edited since his death by Luigi Venturi, who has
prefaced the volume with a biographical notice of
the deceased sculptor. From the last Italian edition
of the Ricordi, and from the papers and letters
and the biographical memoir published by Venturi,
has been drawn the following account of Dupre's
life and works.
Giovanni Dupre was born at Siena on the ist of
1 An English translation of this book of Dupre by E. M. Peruzzi
was published by Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1884. This translation,
which I find favourably noticed in The Academy, and which was
published several months after my MS. was completed, I have not
March 1817. His father, Francesco Dupre, belonged
to a Sienese family of French descent, once in affluent
circumstances, but by financial reverses suddenly
reduced to poverty. By this misfortune the educa-
tion of Francesco was interrupted, and he was put
to the comparatively humble trade of intaglio or
wood-carving. The change in his prospects and the
want of any genial interest in his calling seem to
have bred in him an habitual despondency, perhaps
increased by an early marriage, the burden of a
large family, and the difficulty of earning a support.
He was good at heart, a constant reader of the
Bible, and scrupulous in religious observances ; but
his temperament was of the kind that derives from
the teachings of the Bible severe and gloomy notions
of religious duty rather than the sweet cheerfulness
and content that are their legitimate end ; and the
child Giovanni was called upon to endure much
hardship from this kind of Puritanical spirit never
losing, however, his reverence for a parent whose
religion he knew to be sincere. Francesco married
Vittoria Lombardi, one of the fairest maidens of
Siena, a city famed for the beauty of its women.
As pure and lovely in spirit as fair in person, she
was known among her townsmen as ' the beautiful
lady ;' and her religious devotion, not less earnest
than that of her husband, but acting upon a more
cheerful spirit, served to increase in her that natural
sweetness and serenity which relieved in some
measure the depression and gloom of a poverty-
stricken house. We think of this brave mother, as
we catch her image from the words of Dupre here
and there in his Ricordi, as a woman sweet and
saintly in character and feature, like one of the
Madonnas that Perugino or Sassoferrato loved to
portray. There was in her piety something so
simple and sincere, and in her treatment of her
children such gentleness mingled with firmness, that
all of them, and Giovanni more than the rest,
received from her an impulse to goodness and virtue.
In him this influence no doubt was so much the
greater as he had inherited from his mother a
remarkably sensitive nature joined with the same
disposition to religious fervour. Indeed, his affection
for her amounted almost to idolatry, and it was
manifested in several incidents of his childhood and
youth, two of which, related in the Ricordi, I will
introduce here, though a little out of the order of
Francesco had found his work as an intagliatore
so unremunerative in Siena that he had removed his
family to Florence, and secured employment in
Pistoia, twenty miles distant. Giovanni, then but
five years old, was destined to learn his father's
AT THE SHOP IN PISTOIA. 5
trade, and so accompanied him to the shop at Pistoia,
where the father and child lived together in a hired
room, now and then spending a Sunday with the family
at Florence. But Francesco not unfrequently made
these visits alone, and left the child behind, to spend
the day and two nights in solitude, dreaming of home
and longing for la mamma. This dreary life con-
tinued for three years. No wonder that natural
feeling became too strong for filial obedience : ' So
once,' says he, ' when I was about seven years old,
I ran away from the house in Pistoia, and made my
way on foot to Florence ; though I knew very well
that I should pay dearly for the kiss and caress of
my mother with a whipping from il babbo. ... In
fact he punished me and took me back with him to
Two years later Francesco once more found work
in his native Siena. Thither he was accompanied
by Giovanni, who was placed in the Academy of
Siena to study drawing, the family remaining as
before in Florence. Here again distance and absence
from home soon became insupportable ; especially as
Francesco had promised to take him home at Easter,
and then for some reason had given up the visit.
On the Saturday morning of Holy Week Giovanni
got up at an early hour and hurried away, expect-
ing with his nine-year-old legs to make a jour-
ney of more than thirty miles in a day. ' Passing
through the Porta Cammollia,' he says, ' with a piece
of bread in his wallet, he started off on the road in
the childish hope of spending the Easter with his
mother.' At the end of twenty miles his strength,
in spite of hope and excitement, gave out, and no
wonder. He sank down by the roadside, and after
a little rose up and dragged himself a short distance
farther. ' Sad thoughts passed through his weary
little head, one after another now of his mother,
now of his father the latter probably seeking him
in vain through all Siena.' A kind peasant family
in a roadside cabin took him in, listened pitifully to
his story, specialmente la donna ; gave him food
and wine, and were preparing his bed for the night,
when a stage coach came rumbling along the highway,
and the driver listening to the account of the boy,
eagerly given by his new friends, needed no further
entreaty, but helped up Giovanni to a place by his
side, and at midnight put him down near the home
of the Dupres at Florence in the Via Toscanella.
He knocked at the door ; his mother came to the
window, knew his voice, and uttered a cry of surprise.
' The rest I cannot describe,' writes Dupre ; ' he who
has a heart can understand all.' The father arrived
the next day full of wrath ; ' but la mamma with
unspeakable affection clasped me in her arms, look-
ing reproachfully at il babbo> without speaking a
word. The stern parent controlled himself, and a
long lecture followed on the duty of obedience, and
of submission to the sacred authority of parents, and
on the weak indulgence and folly of mothers ;
whereupon I asked his forgiveness and all was
This fond devotion of the boy to his mother was
not merely beautiful ; it opened in his young heart
a sympathy which made her religion and piety
lovely and heavenly in his eyes ; and it thus inspired
in him that kindred fervour which gave to him as
an artist the chief element of his power. Sadly
enough for Giovanni, in a few years this best of
mothers was overtaken with blindness ; and only
through description could she imagine and enjoy the
beautiful works of his hands.
Most of the incidents of boyhood recalled by
Dupre relate, of course, to the development of his
gift for art. The very earliest of these shows him
at the shop in Pistoia learning with his childish
hands the use of the tools, wearied with his task-
work of intaglio, and seeking amusement in his first
attempts to shape out ' figures ' in wood. And the
first works of the great sculptor in the way of
statuary were the wooden heads and arms of manikins
for a puppet theatre. Canini, the proprietor of a
show of this kind, like many other stage-managers,
had been left in the lurch by the breaking down of
one of his star actors on the eve of a great sensa-
tional opening ; and he came to his friend Francesco,
the father of Giovanni, in the hope that the important
personage lacking just at the wrong time might be
shaped out that is, as to head and hands by the
poor wood-carver. But Francesco ' could not do it ;
did not know how, had never made a figure.' The
child Giovanni heard the conversation, felt all the
gravity of the situation, ' boldly proposed to make
the wooden head and hands ; and, while Canini
doubted, trembled, and hoped, and il babbo manifested
a certain complacence, set himself to the task, and
that with such good success that this was the most
beautiful personage of the company.' And thus he
was inspired with confidence to renew the whole
dramatic corps (tutti i personaggi). But ' personages '
of a lower order were also needed ; and these were
ducks ; for in this ' grand spectacular drama ' there
was to be an aquatic scene. In making these the
little Giovanni not only manifested his instinct for
art, but also a profound knowledge of hydrostatics.
' I also made some ducks of corkwood, which were
to figure in a pond, and were to be moved about
here and there by means of invisible threads of silk.
It was a delight to see these bestioline, and they
were quite a success with their touch of naturalness ;
because in the court of the house there were real
ducks ; and so I had a chance to copy them from
life. Oh, living nature ! Oh, il vero ! not only
a great help, but the fundamental principle of art.'
No boy ever takes kindly to employment laid on
him as taskwork. On this account the art of mere
decorative carving, though it might under other
circumstances have interested the mind of Giovanni,
became distasteful and irksome ; but this first success
in fashioning with his tiny hands a whole troupe of
actors, the stars, the stock company, and the corps
de ballet, had stirred in him an ambition to attempt
other things outside of his trade. At Prato, where
his father found work for a time, after leaving
Pistoia, Giovanni fell in with a maker and peddler of
painted plaster images ; these caught his fancy, and he
tried to make something similar, but always more life-
like. Then among his father's old pattern-drawings
and other papers, he lighted upon some wonderful
prints representing the building of Solomon's temple,
and also upon a variety of costume pictures ; and
he tried his hand at drawing them. ' My little pate
was full of these images. I first tried to copy the
print that had struck my fancy more than the
others, but I failed ; I wept with disappointment ; I
wept, too, because my father did not look at my
efforts with a friendly eye, thinking them of no use
in the practice of intaglio ; thus I was compelled to
carry on my work in advanced hours, and almost
in secret.' Failing in the ' Solomon's temple,' which
was ' too complicated ' for his untutored hand, he
made a study of some of the costume figures ; and
these he laboured over when his father had gone to
bed and to sleep ; ' and sometimes I, too, fell asleep
over my drawings, and woke up in the dark, to find
the lamp burned out.' This practice, however, kept
up daily and with boyish enthusiasm, gave his hand
freedom of movement, and his eye a nicer dis-
crimination ; so that his drawings at last were made
with few or no corrections. At Prato, as before
at Pistoia, Francesco was in the habit of making
occasional visits to the family in Florence, and of
leaving Giovanni, then about eight years old, to
take care of the shop. ' Yearnings and entreaties
were of no avail ; ' the father persisted in this hard
treatment ; the boy submitted, dried his tears, and
pursued his solitary work. In recalling these bitter
experiences, Dupre says, ' I do not wish to blame
my father, but neither then nor afterwards was I able
to comprehend his way of thinking. . . . However,
this life of hardship, trial, and disappointed yearning
and affection formed my character, gave me the
habit of suffering, of persevering, of obeying, without,
IL MORTICING. 11
however, quenching in me the longings and the affec-
tions that my conscience assured me were good.'
But this discipline came near costing him his
life. What with hard work at the bench, close
study at unseasonable hours, and sadness and home-
sickness, he pined away. He had always been
slender and delicate, and now he became so wasted
that they called him il morticino. A doctor was
called in, and the father was frightened into more
rational treatment. The boy was no longer hurried
up from his bed at daybreak ; milk warm from the
goat was brought to his chamber before rising ; his
diet was improved : he grew rapidly better, and was
no longer il morticino. For the goat that deserved
the chief credit of this resurrection of ' the little
corpse ' ' he retained a feeling, even half a century
afterwards, that he could not well define. 1 When he
had regained health and strength, his mother, with
the consent of Francesco, placed him with two skilful
wood-carvers of Florence, named Ammanati and
Pierecini ; but he had not been with them long
before he attracted the attention of Paolo Sani,
another intagliatore of note, and proprietor of an
extensive business, who proposed that Giovanni
should be sent for a few months to the Academy of
Fine Arts in Siena to study drawing ; with the
understanding that he should then work in the
12 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
establishment of Sani at Florence. Francesco ac-
cepted the offer the more readily, as he was now
himself employed again at Siena, and could have
the boy under his own care while studying there. It
was then that Giovanni was overcome by the tempta-
tion to run away and be with his mother at Easter,
ending in the childish escapade before described.
After this adventure, and after his father's wrath
had cooled, he thought it best that Giovanni's strong
affection for home should be crossed no more, and
he therefore left him with his mother, and returned
to Siena alone. The boy was taken at once into
the employment of Sani, happy to work where he
could live colla mamma.
In his new place he enjoyed comparative freedom
in the exercise of his natural bent. His figures,
carved in wood, rapidly became known for their
remarkable grace and for their lifelike and individual
character an excellence which he attained by pur-
suing, without knowing it, the method of Leonardo
da Vinci ; for he had provided himself with a sketch-
book, and drew off-hand, as he had opportunity,
whatever he found characteristic in the features and
forms of his shopmates and others at first awk-
wardly, but with more perfection by persistent
practice. ' I did not weary, and in time acquired so
much freedom that with a few lines I obtained a
LONGING FOR THE ACADEMY. 13
fair portrait.' Of course, the passion or habit was
not laid off with his working cap and apron. It
kept him busy at home, too, and might have tried
too much the patience even of la bella donna
Vittoria, especially if she had seen the walls of the
kitchen gradually converted into a gallery of char-
coal sketches ; but the poor dear mother was blind.
'La mamma, poverina, era cieca, my father was
away, and I was the oldest of the children, and so
lord of the house.'
He was doing well at the wood-carving, but he
thirsted for something better. He had heard of the
Academy ; he knew it was the place where youth
were taught the arts of painting and sculpture.
' Heavens ! what a glorious thing to be able to
make statues!' He had caught sight of the drawings
of one or two of the fortunate pupils ; they seemed
stupendissimi. He had golden dreams of this great
institution ; its door was the portal of the temple of
fame. Could not his master Sani get him admitted
The poor blind mother, weeping in sympathy
with the pleading of the boy, walked with him to the
shop and begged Sani to use his influence. ' The
Signor Sani (I shall never forget the scene) sternly
fixing his eyes upon me, still more terrible from
behind his great silver -bowed spectacles, made
14 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
answer that " for all the requirements of his trade it
was enough for me to remain in the shop, and be
willing to learn ; nothing more certain. Study in
the Academy ? No ; it would but encourage desires
and hopes never to be satisfied. The poverty of
your family would put it out of the question, even if
you were supposed to have the gifts to carry you
through. Then there is the danger of the com-
panionship." My mother said nothing in reply ;
but in her sightless eyes I saw the inward pain.
She returned home, and I repaired to my work-
A fortunate disappointment Beauty of Giovanni's wood -carving
Bartolini mistakes it for work of the sixteenth century His
wooing and marriage at nineteen.
To Giovanni this was a bitter disappointment, and
moreover a rebuff very hard to put up with. And
yet in the end, as often turns out with seeming
misfortunes, it was infinitely better than would have
been the gratification of his desire. The Academy
of Florence, under the influence then prevailing in
the school of sculpture, would probably have made
him, if he had been admitted to its classes, an
imitator of the ancient masters, with a certain degree
of elegance nothing more. It would have been apt
to dry out all his freshness and repress all originality.
For the Florentine Academy had for some time been
in that unprogressive state to which all academies
are liable ; that, namely, in which individual freedom
is hedged in by traditional canons. Instead of
fostering genial development, it had become a Pro-
crustean bed, effectually bringing all erratic growths
1 6 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
to a dead average. It said to the pupil : Look at the
classical figure not only for your elementary lessons,
but for your guidance through your whole art training
and art career. Even if you employ a living model,
you must correct your copy by reference to the
classical exemplar. If nature differ from the tradi-
tional art, so much the worse for nature. This is
the spirit of classicism : a widely different thing, be
it noted, from the spirit of the classic himself, whether
artist or writer. The ' classic,' so called because he
is genuine and great, and therefore inevitably stands
as an exemplar for all time, unhappily becomes by
that very fact the unconscious and innocent authority
for sundry rules and canons, sometimes found in the
mere accidents of his work, and mistaken for essential
laws. Thus a Homer, a Pheidias, a Bach, or a Mozart,
who should be the inspiration of genius, and an en-
couragement to the free exercise of inborn strength,
is made to stand as a stern giant in the way of all
progress and invention. Thus the very freedom
that in the past created fresh and characteristic
beauties becomes a source of restraint and bondage.
For the academy hunts up and formulates in its
rules the individualities that have sprung from the
exercise of perfect liberty, and by these very rules
makes that liberty for its own pupils impossible.
Thus the school comes to that state of lethargy and
ORIGIN OF ACADEMIC CANONS. 17
dead formality in which there remains not a breath
of living nature or of living beauty. And thus it
remains until, perchance, some irrepressible genius
breaks out into rebellion against its decrees, wins
honour in defiance of its condemnation, works a
reform, and is justified by the world. Then the
staid academy is aroused from its slumber, accepts
'the new school,' makes new canons, and enters
upon another cycle of progress and decay. Such is
history. Such a revolution, and quite a violent one,
was effected in the school of sculpture of the Floren-
tine Academy a few years later by that great,
commanding, and erratic genius, Bartolini. But at
the present moment it was under the incubus of
false classicism ; and it may well have been unfor-
tunate in the end for Giovanni Dupre if wealth or
privilege had given him admission to the enchanted
castle. The department of sculpture was at that
time under the presidency of Stefano Ricci, and its
condition is thus described by Dupre in the Ricordi :
' The school of Ricci was nothing more than a
long and tedious exercise in copying without dis-
crimination the antique statues, good and bad ; and
so much the worse, that even in the studies made
from nature, that is from the nude, antique art was
referred to as the criterion ; the peculiar traits of
ancient statues took precedence of those that nature
1 8 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
had impressed upon the living models. In the
contours they added or retrenched with an assurance
that was even comical ; they enlarged the lateral
muscles of the abdomen, and contracted the lower
part in order to give force and elegance to the figure.
The head, too, so far from following the model, was
diminished in size ; the neck at the same time was
made more muscular ; and so the form as a whole
appeared taller and more robust, but it was not true
to nature ; and if the figures possessed any character,
they were all after one type, and that purely tradi-
tional. This correcting of nature by reducing all
figures derived from living models to conformity with
a uniform type led directly to conventionalism ; and
this track once entered upon, this working from
memory, always keeping in view the pre-existing
type, withdrew the eyes of the artist from nature
itself, and from all its varied beauties ; and in fact
he ceased to care for them nay, rather, he became
suspicious of nature, holding that she was always
defective, and must always be corrected ; that
precisely in this correction lay the secret of art.'
Dupre adds that it was this very extravagance of
servile classicism that led Bartolini, on succeeding to
the place of Ricci, to push things to the other
extreme ; to banish altogether the study of the
antique, and to allow only that of living nature.
BARTOLINPS HUNCHBACK. 19
Bartolini, in order to emphasise his principle, went
so far as to place before the students as their nude
model a hunchback ; for, he said, even deformity, if
living and real, was preferable to the conventional
figures that hitherto had usurped the place of
The outcome of this conflict between the extremes
of conservatism and radicalism was a healthful mean,
and a new and honourable career of art production ;
so that, indeed, Dupre himself, with all his inde-
pendence and all his love for nature, died at last a
professor of the Academy. With him the watch-
word was always ' the beautiful in the real ' (il bello
net vero). As we have seen, the intuition even of
childhood had led him to this path, and the experience
of riper years made this intuition his practical philo-
sophy of art.
Nothing remained for him now as the apprentice
of Sani but to forget his dreams of the Academy
and the glory of being a sculptor, and to apply
himself steadily to his wood-carving the chiselling
of house decorations and of saints and angels. But
this art was not so bad after all ; he learned to love
it, especially the figure-making, and his works soon
became marvels of beauty. Some of them he recalls
in after years, and especially two of them in connec-
tion with his anecdotes of Bartolini. The first of
20 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
these he describes as a small casket, or coffer of wood
designed in the style of the cinquecento. It had been
placed in the art rooms of the brothers Pacetti, by
whom Giovanni was employed at the time, and attrac-
ted the attention, among others, of the Marchioness
Poldi of Milan. The name of the maker had been
purposely suppressed, that the work might be taken
for a genuine ' antique ;' and Dupre in the Ricordi
expresses his regret for having connived at the
deception. As Bartolini was executing for the
Marchioness at this time his group of Astyanax, he
was in the habit of making occasional calls upon her.
During one of these she asked his opinion of the
beautiful wooden casket for sale at Pacetti's. Bar-
tolini praised it highly, and pronounced it one of the
works that Tasso the intagliatore executed after the
design of his friend Benvenuto Cellini. On hearing
this judgment she did not hesitate to buy the work,
though at an extravagant price. A few years after-
wards, when Dupre had suddenly risen to fame as a
sculptor, the Marchioness called at his studio, and
after some inquiries about his past life, and learning
his former trade of wood-carving, told him ' that she
possessed a magnificent work of the famous wood-
carver Tasso, and that this work, though in wood,
was conceived and executed with so much grace and
excellence, that it could be justly called a genuine
MISTAKES OF BARTOLINL 21
work of art ;' adding that these were the very words
of Bartolini. 'The reader can imagine,' says Dupre,
' whether I felt elated with such praise. Partly
because of this, and partly to clear my conscience, I
said, Signora Marchesa, I beg your pardon, but that
work is mine. " No matter," she replied ; " I shall
prize it so much the more." I begged her to say
nothing on the subject to Bartolini.'
The other work was a figure of Christ on the
Cross, executed some time before the casket, but
brought to the notice of Bartolini several years later.
It had come into the possession of a wealthy and
cultivated Florentine gentleman by the name of
Emanuel Fenzi. His house was a favourite evening
resort of literary men and artists, and of Bartolini
and Dupre among the rest. ' One of these evenings,'
says Dupre, 'after dinner, the drawing-room of
Fenzi's house was filled with callers, and alive with
pleasant and varied conversation ; and this, as was
natural, presently turned upon art. Bartolini, in his
ready and somewhat imperious manner, gave various
reasons for asserting that art had reached a stage of
decline ; first on account of lack of enthusiasm in
the people and the nobility for the people had sunk
into a kind of stupor, and the nobility into the dolce
far niente ; next because artists, turning away from
the only right path, the imitation of the beautiful in
22 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
nature, had been led astray by an insane passion for
a chimera which they called the beau ideal ; and
finally because the vices of high and low, not except-
ing the artists themselves, had taken the place of the
virtues of our ancestors ; for apathy, luxury, and
avarice had driven from our beautiful land the old-
fashioned virtues of industry, temperance, modesty,
and liberality ; and he cited from the past various
examples of modesty and temperance. While he
was talking in this strain, Fenzi stepped into the
chamber of his son Orazio, and brought out my
figure of Christ. It had now the look of an antique,
partly on account of the long period since I had
made it, and partly, perhaps, on account of the kisses
so often bestowed upon it by the pious Lady Emilia.
The host held it up before the maestro and said :
" Look at this work." And Bartolini, taking it into
his hands and looking at it attentively, continued in
this wise : " The proof that our old artists were not
less gifted than modest can be seen even in this
work ; for the artist that made it, who was probably
a mere wood -carver, must have been capable of
making a statue such as perhaps no one in our time
' To this Fenzi, smiling, answered : " Excuse me,
but you are labouring under a mistake ; for this is a
modern work, and there is the author of it ;" pointing
PERILS OF YOUTH. 23
to me, as I happened to be entering the room at that
moment. Bartolini put down the Christ and said no
But this scene occurred after Dupre had won his
first laurels, and was already a favourite in cultivated
society. Between this and the apprenticeship at
Sani's there had been an interval of several years,
clouded with much trial ; and to that part of his
story we must return.
Giovanni, now a youth in his nineteenth year,
had come to be the foreman of Sani's establishment,
and a general favourite with his fellows ; true to his
master, kind to his young brothers and sisters, and
full of tender affection for his blind mother. But
he does not claim to have been a saint ; on the
contrary, the somewhat rough comrades with whom
his occupation brought him in contact had already
begun to exercise a dangerous influence upon his
susceptible and impulsive nature. Accident, however,
gave his thoughts a new direction, and saved him.
One day, while at work at his bench, he chanced
to look out from his window when a well -shaped
maidenly figure, plainly and neatly dressed, was
passing along the street with a quiet and modest
step. There was something in her form and gait
that fascinated the eyes of Giovanni. He hoped
and watched to see her pass again, but in vain.
24 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Some time afterwards, when he was attending the
mass at the feast of roses in the church of the
Apostles, in the midst of the devotions he looked up
and saw kneeling opposite him the well-remembered
form. ' Her head was bowed ; the light was a little
dim, and she was in the shade ; but the outline of
her face and the expression were pure and sweet.
I was held as if by enchantment captivated by that
figure in its humble, fixed, and serene attitude.'
It is needless to say where all his thoughts ran
now; 'comrades, suppers, billiards, all were abandoned.'
Afterwards he caught sight of his new love two or
three times in the streets, and followed at discreet
distance : but once ventured so near that the little
lady was startled : and no longer the meek kneeling
saint, but flushed with maidenly indignation, she
says, 'I want no one behind me.' Giovanni faltered
out some apology, he knew not what, but it seemed
to be intelligible to her, for she checked her hurrying
steps long enough to say, ' Go to the house of my
mother, and do not stop me on the street.' ' I
thanked her with my eyes and we parted ; then I
returned to the shop, my heart bounding with joy
He speedily found out her name, Maria Mecocci ;
found out the humble abode where she lived with
her widowed mother, whom Giovanni took a fancy
A HAPPY MARRIAGE. 25
to call by her first name Regina. The youth with
simple ingenuousness, 'his heart speaking,' made
known his desire to become acquainted with mother
and daughter, ' opened his mind and told the whole
story.' Such simple folk know little of formality.
' La Reginaj he continues, ' heard me to the end,
neither pleased nor angry, and only blamed me for
having stopped her daughter in the street ; adding
that she would think of it, but meantime could not
conceal from me her feeling that I seemed too
young.' In short, Giovanni was allowed to call from
time to time ; both mothers came together, and
finding no impediment but youth, put the lover
under probation for a year, at the end of which
period Giovanni and Maria became man and wife.
Becomes a sculptor The prize for his first bas-relief announced to his
dying mother The statue of Abel A triumph embittered by the
detraction of jealous rivals A statue too perfect to be thought a
genuine work of art.
A POOR intagliatore, nineteen years old, the chief
dependence of a poverty-stricken family, adding to
his heavy load by marrying a wife ! Surely no
genius can rise under such a burden ; we shall never
hear of him more. Such would be the natural
conclusion ; such in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred
would be the outcome ; though by no means is an
early marriage unhappy for all that. It may cheat
fame ; but it may also offset the unrest of ambition
by the sweet contentment of a life of industry wholly
domestic. But in the case of young Dupre, aspira-
tion was rather stimulated than repressed. ' Settled
in my new existence, I thought seriously of carrying
into effect and making a reality the dream of my
whole life ; in short, I decided to become a sculptor.'
His father objected, quoting in Latin the sacred
A HARD STRUGGLE. 27
proverb, ' Many are called, but few chosen ;' his
mother, as usual, was in sympathy with his wish ;
his young wife could not see why his present employ-
ment was not good enough ; but when he gave his
reasons, she said, gently smiling, ' It is well.' And
while he still toiled at his bench, and pursued at odd
hours the studies preliminary to the execution of
works in marble, he was comforted and sustained
both by wife and mother. He delights to dwell
upon the virtues of his Maria, his santa donna, as he
often calls her. He ascribes to her counsels and to
her efforts and wise management, his emergence from
poverty, and largely his good success in his artist life.
After many discouragements growing out of the
want of means to provide himself with a studio and
materials, and also the want of time for the extra
labour required in his new art, befriended, however,
by some who understood his remarkable gifts, and
especially encouraged through all the struggle by the
' good Maria,' he succeeded in winning the first prize
of the Academy in 1840. The successful work was
a bas-relief representing the Judgment of Paris. He
had already executed as studies under the direction
of his friend Luigi Magi some small figures and one
or two busts in marble ; but this bas-relief was the
first of his productions that was designed for a
28 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Most sad for Giovanni, at the moment when the
decision of the Academy was announced to him, his
mother was lying at the point of death the dear
blind mother, who had entered so tenderly into his
young aspirations, who had wept with him at the
stern rebuff of Sani, who had listened to his account
of the progress of his work from day to day, ' as she
sat in her quiet corner at home silently spinning,'
and had longed and prayed for his triumph. ' No
sooner had I heard the announcement of the award
than I ran to my mother, whom I had left for a
moment ; and I had some faint hope that on hearing
the joyful news she would revive ; and, indeed, at
my words her face became all radiant, her cheeks
were flushed, her eyes that dimly saw the light
became animated, and seemed to look at me ; then,
stretching out her arms and clasping me to herself,
she said, "Now I am willing to die." She lived a few
days and then expired, comforted with the sacra-
ments of our holy religion.'
Francesco, the father, still survived, now incapaci-
tated for work, spending much of his time seated in
the studio and watching the labour of his son, or
reading the Bible. He was cared for tenderly and
reverently by Giovanni, who describes his last sick-
ness in the pages of the Ricordi. He died of cholera
in the epidemic of 1854.
PRESIDENT MO NT A LVO. 29
The young artist now hoped to get assistance
from the Academy, at least in an indirect way. It
was the custom of the ducal government to furnish
deserving pupils of the Academy with rooms for
studios gratuitously. Though Dupre was not a
student of the Academy, he thought that as a
successful competitor for one of its prizes he might
be also thus favoured. Accordingly he presented
himself to Montalvo, the President, in the hope of
obtaining a good word from that dignitary in favour
of his petition. But he was not kindly received.
' No,' said the Signer President ; ' you have no right
to ask for a studio ; the grace of the Sovereign
grants this only to those who have completed their
studies in the Academy of Fine Arts.' And when
Giovanni added some words by way of arguing the
question, Montalvo flew into a passion, and dismissed
him without further ceremony. However, he re-
tained no ill-will against the President, but always
esteemed him ' a good and excellent gentleman,
though subject to some infirmities.' He recalls an
incident illustrating one of these. Montalvo was
somewhat deficient in artistic discrimination, but at
the same time was ambitious to be thought a critic.
A few months after the above-mentioned interview,
and when Dupre's acknowledged ability made the
President regret the rough reception he had given
30 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
him, he called with a friend at the young sculptor's
studio to look at his new statue, then in progress.
' In matters of art,' says Dupre, ' he was a judge
merely of general effect, but not of details. His
office, however, as director of the royal galleries, and
still more, as President of the Academy of Fine
Arts, made him feel that he must keep up a reputa-
tion for critical taste. What I know at present in
this regard I was not then so well aware of, though
I suspected his weakness from his way of examining
my statue, and from his complimentary remarks,
made up of common phrases, the established
formulas and the jargon of the Academy. But for
fear he might seem to find everything in my statue
perfect, he thought he must point out some defect ;
and it was this : The left ear seemed too far back,
and the space thus left in front of it made the jaw
' I have promised from the beginning, to tell the
truth, and I will tell it, please God, to the end ; and
so I must here confess myself an arrant hypocrite.
Instead of answering honestly: No, it doesn't seem so
to me, but, out of respect for your judgment, I will
examine it again, I replied that he was right, and I
thanked him. And that was not the worst ; when
he favoured me with a second visit, and had hardly
entered the studio, I said : Look at the ear.'
A YOUTHFUL FREAK. 31
' Have you corrected it,' he asked.
' Have you brought it forward ?'
' Certainly ; how do you like it ?'
'Ah, now it is all right'
In his reminiscences Dupre severely reprehends
this deception, and suspects there may have been in
it a little malice ; but it served to win the goodwill
of the President, who continued henceforth his fast
friend and warm admirer. And though the artist
reproaches himself for this wanton freak of his early
years, his readers will be more apt to sympathise
with the mischievous humour of Dupre the youth
than with the moral scruples of Dupre the old man.
The story is similar to that of Michelangelo brushing
the marble dust from the nose of the David, that he
had pretended to file down a little to suit the keen
eye of Soderini ; and it may well be that the history
of other studios, ancient and modern, if all were
known, would reveal similar experiences, or rather
similar experiments. Indeed, something kindred to
this again happened to Dupre himself quite late in
life. He consented on one occasion, after much
entreaty on the part of a certain lady, to make a
portrait bust of one of her relatives whom he had
never seen, and who had died in a foreign land.
With the help of a mask in plaster and of an in-
different photograph, he moulded a portrait in clay ;
and then invited the lady, with any friends she might
wish to bring with her, to come and pass judgment
upon it. The friends, after looking at the portrait a
moment, smiled, declared it a failure, and went away.
The lady, however, remained, and presently remarked
that she was entirely satisfied with it, excepting only
one point. ' I should like to have a little alteration
made in this part of the face (pointing at it with her
finger), if you can do it.'
' But, signora, the features that I find in the
mask are precisely these, and I should be sorry to
make it worse.'
' Pardon me, but I think the change I propose
would make it infinitely better.'
Dupre reflected a moment, and then said : ' Very
well ; I wish you to be satisfied ; but be kind
enough to give me two hours, and you will find
The lady retired, and meantime Dupre occupied
himself with some other work. At the appointed
hour she returned. ' Now look at it,' said he ;
' what do you think of it now ? '
She examined it again and again ; and then with
some hesitation replied :
' What shall I say ? It seems to me now that
the effect was better at first.'
ILLUSIVE JUDGMENT. 33
' Really ? '
' Should I be too unreasonable if I asked you to
make it just as it was before ? '
' No ; I will restore it ; but I must ask you again
the favour of leaving me two hours at liberty.'
Dupre, of course, did nothing, and the lady
returning, and examining the portrait once more,
turned to him delighted, and exclaimed : ' Now it
is right exactly right. I am perfectly satisfied ;
make no other ; just finish this in marble.'
Venturi, who relates this story, says that Dupre
frequently laughed over it, calling it up also as an
example to show how easily we are deceived in
judging of the truth ; and how it happens almost
invariably that one and the same model, placed
before several scholars, is seen by them with different
eyes, and represented in their drawings with very
Giovanni regarded his bas-relief of the Judgment
of Paris merely as a first essay in his new art, and
as a step towards something more nearly approach-
ing to his ideal. We now come to the history of
the Abel, the masterpiece that brought the young
sculptor suddenly before the world as one of the
princes of art.
34 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
He had not yet wholly abandoned his trade of
wood-carving, but by working at it half of his time
he managed to earn a scanty support for his family,
and a few francs daily for the rent of a small studio ;
and also for the purchase of tools and materials, and
what was equally indispensable, for the hire of a
living model. And now the question was, What
should be his subject ? ' I had almost fixed upon
the Dead Christ with the Weeping Mother (a Pietd\
and had begun to turn over in my mind a design
for the composition ; and certainly the Cristo Morto
is, and always will be one of the sublimest themes ;
yet I was not satisfied ; for I preferred to handle a
subject entirely new ; and as I had been a constant
reader of the Bible, very naturally the death of Abel
suggested itself to my mind, and I accepted it with
But the beginning of this new work came near
being the end. ' It was Shrove Tuesday in 1 842,
and all who could and desired were walking up and
down the Corso. I and the model were shut up
in that little studio, and it was a miracle that that
day was not our last. Poor Brina, however, is still
alive, an old man like me, and still serving as a
model in the Academy.'
In brief, while he was studying the nude form
of il povero Brina, the pan of charcoal that he had
CHARCOAL AND ASPHYXIA. 35
kindled to keep the boy comfortable had filled the
little hive of a studio with gas, and both were already
becoming stupefied. ' All at once I saw the model
make a slight movement, fetch a long heavy breath,
while his eyes and the colour of his cheeks were
fast waning. I tried to rush to his help, but my
legs gave way ; I seemed lost, my sight was failing ;
I made an effort to reach the door and fell prostrate.'
But by one desperate effort Giovanni reached the
latch, pulled the door partially open, and was revived
by the current of fresh air. Then he dashed water
in the face of Brina, and ' brought him to.'
Much depended upon the new statue being ready
for the next exposition of the Academy ; and yet
it was quite impossible for poor Giovanni to make
satisfactory progress with the modelling, so long as
the principal part of the day was spent at his old
employment ; while if he devoted all his hours to
the statue, his family must starve. It seemed as if
the fates were against him. But the Florentines
inherit the love of art as well as sympathy with
struggling merit. Not a few of them, and among
these some distinguished citizens, had already become
acquainted with the young artist's works in intaglio
and with his recent bas-relief in marble. These
kind people united in a pledge to contribute monthly
certain sums to make up the amount needed to
36 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
carry him through. ' Thanks to the timely help of
these generous friends,' he says, ' whose names I can
never mention without grateful emotion, my model-
ling now progressed daily in good imitation and
The same friends occasionally dropped into the
On one occasion Bartolini himself was among the
visitors. He spoke approvingly, and also made one
criticism : ' Observe,' said he, ' the face is gentle in
expression, and such as is natural in one who dies
and forgives ; and the parts are generally in keeping
with this sentiment ; only one is discordant the left
hand. Why have you closed that, while the right
is open, and very properly so ?'
' I closed it,' said I, ' for a certain variety.'
' Variety,' answered the maestro, ' is good when
it does not contradict unity ; but you will do well
to open it like the other ; and that is all I have to
Giovanni, however, was eager to hear more. ' And
the imitation, the character, the form ?' he persisted.
' The imitation, the character, and the form,'
answered Bartolini, ' show that you are not of the
The statue was completed in time for the exhi-
bition of September 1842. Giovanni was allowed
THE ABEL UNVEILED. 37
his choice of places in the apartments. Thirty-seven
years later he thus recalls the event : ' When the
exposition was opened people gathered around my
work. The imitation of the truth, the just expres-
sion, the newness and the pathetic nature of the
subject awakened a deep interest The crowd
around it increased from day to day. But (and
here comes the most bitter of all the trials of his
life) it began to be asserted, at first quietly, soon
boldly and openly, that my statue was an imposture ;
that it was not a creation of art, but the mechanical
work of a moulder ; that I was seeking to impose
upon the Academy, masters, scholars, and the public.
It should be thrown out of the exposition ; for it
was dishonestly thrust in there as a work of art,
when in fact it was only a cast made by laying the
soft plaster upon the living form.
' And this misrepresentation, I know not whether
more absurd or malignant, was started among the
artists, and especially the sculptors. At last they
went so far as to strip my model Antonio Petrai,
in order to prove the fraud. He was made to lie
down in the position of the statue, and his body and
limbs were measured in length and breadth with
compasses and strips of paper. Of course, the
measurements did not agree with those of the statue ;
for without any design or thought about it, I had
38 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
made my figure four fingers longer than the body of
the model, and two fingers less across the broadest
part of the back. This amiable experiment was
made in the evening ; and the President, Montalvo,
who accidentally surprised them in the act, was full
of indignation, and in his rebuke did not spare those
professors of the Academy who had taken part in
Dupre was not the first sculptor who had excited
envious suspicion by the very perfection of his work.
The same charge of mechanical copying from the
nude had been brought against Canova himself when
exhibiting his first important work, the Daedalus
and Icarus. Quite recently, too, a young sculptor
of Naples has been subjected to the same suspicion ;
but his defenders have replied that the most delicate
and difficult of all things to imitate, the expression,
namely, of emotion in the countenance, is precisely
that which can by no possibility be obtained from
the process of moulding on the flesh ; and yet this
is the part of the statue in which the Neapolitan
artist, according to the critics who defend him, has
most perfectly represented nature. This, too, might
justly have been one of the arguments in defence of
Dupre at this time, had he and his friends thought
it necessary to meet his base rivals with any proofs at
all. But Bartolini and others who had witnessed
JEALOUS ACADEMICIANS. 39
the progress of the work in the studio, treated the
charges of the Academicians with contempt ; and
Antonio, the model, with whose body they tried to
prove the charge, ' laughed in their faces.' Yet they
had not the manhood to publish to the world the
result of their experimental measurements, and thus
to atone, so far as possible, for the grievous wrong
they had done to the poor young sculptor. Time,
indeed, was sure to repair the mischief; but for a
few months the unhappiness thus brought upon him
and indirectly upon his family was hard to bear.
The praise bestowed upon his work while in progress
at the studio had given assurance of a success that
would establish his reputation and, what at this
time was even more important, bring him profitable
employment. To be sure, he longed for fame, but
not less for the means of lifting his family out of its
wretchedness. And just as his sun was rising, it
was suddenly overcast. No wonder he fell into
despondency, almost despair. But the young wife,
the santa donna, tried to comfort him. ' Non ti
confondere, don't be troubled, don't mind them,
Nanni (this was the diminutive for Giovanni) ; they
are spiteful, because you have done better than they.
Talk they will, and still talk ; and by and by they
will stop talking.'
' Si, si, mia buona Maria, they will stop talking ;
40 GIOVANNI DUPRk.
but meantime they have done me great mischief.
Some one, perhaps, would have ordered the statue
I have learned that but this silly and malicious
babble brings it under suspicion, and my chance
is gone ! I am crippled and bound at the very
moment when I was about to become known, and
might have opened for myself an honourable career.
I know that I shall not be able to make another
statue like this ; not for the lack of will, but how
could I bear the expense ? My wages, I am sure
cannot maintain my family and at the same time
pay for a model, a studio and material, and the
expense of the casting.'
' Be not troubled, Nanni,' again replied la santa
donna, and said no more ; but her eyes sparkled
through her tears.
Strangely enough, the perfection of the Abel sub-
jected it again to the same suspicion when it was
placed in the first French exposition at Paris in 1855.
The jury, with the exception of the Italian member,
the sculptor Calamatta, insisted that a work so true to
nature must have been produced by making a mould
upon the living form itself. But Calamatta earnestly
took up the defence of Dupre, though formerly when
on a visit to his studio in Florence he had sharply
criticised the young sculptor for his naturalism, and
was by no means partial to any that were not of the
AN UNCONSCIOUS VERDICT. 41
Academy. He made it clear to the jury that it was
a genuine work of art ; pointing out those things
in it that never could have been produced by a
mechanical cast, and especially the head and the
expression of the features. Convinced that they had
erred in attributing its exquisite perfection to fraud,
or a kind of stealing from nature, the jury now
awarded to it the gold medal of the first class.
Too perfect to have been created by the free
hand of an artist ! What greater praise could have
been bestowed than this unconscious verdict, first, of
the Florentine Academicians, and, thirteen years
later, of the jury of the French exposition ?
A friend in need The statue of Cain A new departure in Italian art
Compared with that of the so-called pre-Raphaelites The Giotto
Giovanni is bewildered by learned critics and endangered by
flatterers And displeased with the works he executes under such
influences His studio visited by the Emperor Nicholas And by
a phenomenal genius from America.
MEANTIME Dupre was not without the sympathy of
many of his townsmen ; and one of these speedily
came to his relief. ' Without knowing it, I had a
friend a true friend and benefactor the Count
Francesco del Benino. From the time I was a
youth in the shop of Sani, when I worked in
intaglio, and later, when I was with the Pacetti, up
to the beginning of my Abel, for which he was one
of the most liberal contributors, he had not lost
sight of me often calling when I was modelling
the statue, and expressing himself pleased with it,
and certain of my future. Hearing now of the
intrigue and detraction that were striving to put me
down, he was stirred with indignation, and coming
in upon me at the moment of my deepest de-
THE GOOD COUNT BE NINO. 43
spondency, when I knew not what saint to turn to,
with his usual salutation, Sor Giovanni, che fa ? seated
himself in my only chair; then seeing me downcast
in spite of his cheerful good morning, went on to say :
' Come, come, courage, man ! Do you know
how these asses are braying ? They need a sound
beating with a good cudgel. You have no idea, but
I know well what I say. I am often in their studios,
and see and hear the cowardly war they are making
on you. We must not delay, but give them blow
for blow. I have heard one of them no matter
who I have heard one of these noodles say with a
scornful laugh, Yes, he could make the Abel well
enough it was only a reclining figure ; but a
standing one he is not up to ; he will not be able to
do that either this year or next. And the rest
joined in the laugh. This I heard a few moments
ago ; and I have come to tell you that you must
silence these yelping curs. Now, my dear Giovanni,
you must make another statue ; this time one on
foot ; and now, be still you must do it at once.
I know what you want to say I understand it
all and I say, you must leave this studio ;
it is too small for an upright statue ; find an-
other at once ; order the trestles you want ; fix
upon the form of your statue, and the money you
will need. The money I will furnish ; you know
44 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
where I live ; come to me ; put down on paper the
sum you require, with your receipt to it ; and when
you get orders for your works, as you will be sure
to do by and by, and have plenty of funds in hand,
you can repay the amount of the loan. Now be
still ; no thanks at all. In the first place, this shall
not be a gift ; in the second place, I shall get all
the pay I desire in the opportunity you will give me
by and by to laugh in the faces of this miserable
rabble. They are mocking just now not less at me
than you ; for I tell them your Abel is genuine, and
that I have seen you at work upon it. And so you
see, I am an interested party ; for without the cost
of a cent I am getting a revenge that all my money
could not buy. And now, dear Giovanni, a riveder
la ; I expect you to call upon me for all you need ;
be quick, keep up a good heart, and count me your
most sincere friend.'
The good old bachelor Count, of course, had no
idea of receiving any of his money back again ; he
was only smoothing the way over Giovanni's pride.
Dupre hastened home to make the santa donna a
participant in his joyful surprise ; then found and
rented a new studio, hired his model, and purchased
his equipment. What now should be the subject of
his new statue not to be lying down, but ' on
foot'? Naturally the counterpart of the Abel, the
AN IMPERIAL PATRON. 45
conscience-smitten Cain, fleeing in terror from the
scene of his awful deed, dreading the wrath both of
God and man.
Scarcely had he entered upon his new work
when his fortunes began to brighten. Proposals were
made to him for copies of the Abel ; and while
these were pending,, an unlooked-for purchaser
appeared both for the Abel and for the statue of Cain,
now in progress. The Grand Duchess Maria,
daughter of the Emperor Nicholas, and wife of Prince
Leuchtenberg, while visiting Florence, heard of the
Abel and the controversy about it, and called at the
studio to see this remarkable work. Then 'she looked
at the Cain that I had hardly begun, and exchanged
some words with the Prince. Finally the Grand
Duchess, grasping my hand, said : The Abel and the
Cain are mine.' The price received for the Abel
was fifteen hundred scudi, and that to be paid for
the Cain was two thousand.
The first thought of Dupre was to pay his debt
to the good Count del Benino. Accordingly he
presented himself at the residence of his kind patron,
and being received with the usual cheery good
morning, thus made known his purpose : ' Signor
Conte, I have come to make payment of the generous
loan with which you have enabled me to commence
the model of the Cain ; and, thank God, the work
46 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
has excited the interest of the Grand Duchess Maria.'
Then he told the story of the interview, and closed
his speech by saying, ' Your aid, so timely, has been
to me a second life ; without it, who knows what
would have become of me ? While I was speaking,'
he continues, 'the habitual sunshine of the Count's
face faded away ; and when I got through he looked
at me with a perplexed and grieved expression that
I could not understand. " There is time enough for
this," he said at last ; " be in no hurry ; a thousand
things will be needed.'" But when Giovanni persisted
the Count looked still more troubled. Finally he ex-
claimed : ' Leave me, my Giovanni, this satisfaction ;'
and he tore up the receipt and threw the pieces into
' I was mortified,' adds Dupre, ' and was almost
offended ; but I was overcome by the expression of
kindness in the countenance of this good man. He
took my hand and said : " Do not take it ill ; leave
me the consolation of having contributed even in the
least degree to your success, and, as you say, to your
future career ; and I know how honourable that is
destined to be. I have received from you ample
payment ; I have the sweet satisfaction of knowing
that this trifling sum has opened to you a prosperous
future.'" Such a man well deserves a place in the
history of art by the side of the Florentine citizens
THE CAIN. 47
and princes of the fifteenth and sixteenth cen-
The Cain was completed and exhibited a year
after the Abel. The two were repeatedly copied in
marble and bronze ; the first copies in bronze were
ordered by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and are
now in the gallery of the Pitti Palace. To be pro-
perly appreciated they should be seen, as in that
museum, placed side by side ; though the Abel does
not need the contrast so much as its companion
piece. The Abel in his saintly and unresisting
meekness is the type of all martyred victims of un-
righteous violence. He is represented as a youth
just on the verge of manhood, with a face expressive
of the perfect innocence that had been incapable of
an evil thought or of a suspicion of harm. But the
features of Cain, while noble by nature, have become
hardened and brutalised by the indulgence of fierce
passion, and at this moment they are distorted by
the agitation of guilt and fear, as he rushes away
full of terror, and striving to shut out from his eyes
the image of his murdered brother. The new statue,
though the expression of an idea that awakens far
different emotions, was regarded by the critics as
even a greater masterpiece, and a more f remarkable
proof of genius than the Abel. Bartolini pronounced
it a severer test of artistic power and skill. ' Dupre,'
48 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
he remarked, ' had felicitously overcome in this
work difficulties a thousand times greater than in the
Abel.' Andrea Maffei, in a notice of the statue, calls
attention to the remarkable resemblance of Dupre's
conception to that of Lord Byron in his tragedy of
Cain. ' The feeling of terror and remorse,' says he,
' with which the first homicide rushes from the scene
of his crime, has been sculptured by the artist with
the same marvellous power that characterises the
description of the poet.' Yet Dupre had no know-
ledge of the English poet ; he had, like Lord Byron,
fashioned in his mind a fierce image corresponding
to his conception of the character, and he had em-
bodied this image in his statue. With literature,
even that of his own language, he had at this time very
little acquaintance ; though indeed he knew almost
by heart the Bible and the Divina Commedia the
two books that have given their impress to nearly all
of his best and most characteristic works.
These two statues placed Dupre at once in the
front rank of artists. But more than this, they
marked a new era in Italian sculpture : they were
the symbol of a genuine new birth not a ' renais-
sance ' in the ordinary sense ; not a reproduction, or
rather an imitation of the types of art created by a
former age but a new birth fresh from nature her-
self ; for the young sculptor might justly be called
A PRE-RAPHAELITE BY NATURE. 49
in his art a child of nature. He had carefully studied,
it is true, the fundamental principles, and he had
acquired the use of the tools ; but from early child-
hood he had sought in living nature alone the forms,
the features, the movements, and expressions, that
were to be embodied in his statues. From the
influences that favoured the reproduction of classical
types he had been shut off by the very circumstances
of his life ; excluded from the Academy and without
opportunities for regular instruction, he had been
left chiefly to his own impulses and intuitions.
A few years after Dupre had entered upon this
new path, or rather, had found, ' without knowing it,'
the old and true path, a movement in the same
direction, but a conscious and studied movement, a
kind of protest or revolt against the prescription of
the schools, was instituted in the sister art of painting.
This was the so-called pre-Raphaelite movement,
begun in England by certain students of the Royal
Academy who had become restive under the tra-
ditional usages of the school that insisted upon the
examples of Raphael as the absolute canon of art.
In Dupre, however, the preference for nature
was not a conscious revolt or protest against some
false system of teaching ; it was, as we have seen,
original and spontaneous. And here lies the differ-
ence between him and the 'pre-Raphaelites ; ' for
50 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
their very name implied an effort to study and
imitate certain methods and examples of painting
anterior to Raphael ; but Dupre at this time recog-
nised no epochs, and was not conscious of imitating
any master or style. ' Without knowing it,' he had
fallen into the ways of Giotto, of Donatello, and
even of Raphael himself; for these were all close
students of nature, and Raphael not less, nay, even
more than his predecessors ; though seeing, perhaps,
with different eyes, and perhaps, too, with larger
view and deeper insight Had Dupre been admitted
to the Academy, and pursued for a time his studies
there, without losing all independence, perhaps, like
Hunt or Millais, he might have been led by the
yearning for a better way to break loose from time-
honoured methods ; but then, like them, he would
have been obliged to go through the hard process of
casting off habits acquired, and of making himself
natural ; but he had no habits to unlearn, nothing
conventional to correct and reform ; he was under
no necessity of striving to be natural, or of striving
to be like those who were supposed to be natural.
It is true, as we shall presently see, that for a brief
period after the fame of his first works had drawn
many admirers and cultivated critics around him, he
was tempted to give up his first convictions, and to
seek after something which he was made to believe
a more elegant style ; but we shall find that this
temporary lapse only served to make him in the
end more loyal than ever to his first love.
Henceforth he was busily employed. There
were orders for copies of the Abel and Cain, com-
missions for new historical or ideal statues, or for
portrait busts. Gradually, too, pupils and assistants
were gathered about him, and after a few years his
work began to be remunerative ; so that in the end
he had the happiness of seeing his family beyond
the reach of want. His third important statue, the
Giotto, made by the order of the Grand Duchess of
Tuscany, was completed immediately after the Cain,
and was placed among the other statues of historical
personages that adorn the Loggie of the Uffizi.
Up to this time he had worked with an unques-
tioning, we may say, with an unconscious faith in
his own intuitions. But now he had become too
well known to be left shut up alone ; his studio at
once became the resort of scholars and critics. The
rude child of nature was a genius worth teaching ;
they must discourse to him of the philosophy of art.
So the youth was in great danger of being led
astray ; and, of course, he was at the same time in
danger of being perverted by flattery. Some of his
visitors were men of learning and of high charac-
ter, such as Giusti, Thouar, Montazio, Farina, and
52 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Niccolini ; but the diversity of their opinions only
confused Giovanni, though the general drift was in
favour of academic ideas, and tended to shake his
faith in his own natural, simple ways. He knew
nothing about ' the philosophy of art ' or the ' canons
of criticism ; ' but the flippant discourse of these
cultivated gentlemen, full of sounding phrases, either
addressed to him directly, or carried on in his
presence as he plied his work, filled his mind with
'a certain awe ;' and he found his former convictions
yielding to the authority of profound learning. ' Now,
therefore,' says he, ' my little brain began to be
bewildered ; I began to be suspicious of nature, and
to fear her imperfections and her vulgarities.' One
of these distinguished visitors, Giusti, had more
discretion than the rest, and, as Dupre remarked in
later years, might have given a right direction to his
judgment ; but Giusti became impatient of all this
talk ; he feared the effect of criticism, and still more
that of adulation upon the inexperienced mind of
Giovanni ; and he ceased to make his appearance at
the studio. He thought the young man, like many
other young geniuses just coming into view, would be
ruined by the cumbrous learning and fulsome praises
of his new admirers ; and in a letter to a friend he
remarked, ' that Dupre was surrounded with a coterie
of flatterers who were corrupting his mind ; and un-
less he should once more shut himself up in his
studio, as at the first, he would never more produce
anything worthy to be spoken of.' Fortunately his
strength of character and his faith in the principles
with which he had set out, aided by favouring cir-
cumstances, brought him at last safely through these
perils ; and the fears of Giusti were happily disap-
pointed ; but the few statues that he produced under
such untoward influences were less marked in char-
acter or more conventional than the preceding, and
they were looked upon by the artist himself in after
years with always increasing dissatisfaction, and even
with disgust. He speaks of three of them in the
Ricordi and in some of his letters with special irrita-
tion. These were the Piccolomini or Pius II., the
Innocenza, and the Purita. The first was ordered by
his native Siena, partly in memory of the Pope, who
was born there, and partly to honour the young
sculptor himself, whom the Sienese were proud to
call their townsman. The Innocenza and the Purita
were ideal figures of the size of life ; the first came
into the possession of the Grand Duke Constantine
of Russia, and the other was purchased by Prince
Metternich, and placed in the Museum of Vienna.
Many years later Dupre, when attending the ex-
position in that city, came upon his old statue one
day while walking through the museum, and wrote
54 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
to his wife, that ' among the modern statues there, he
had found standing near some works of Canova his
own brutta Puritd.' ' Brutta ' is his favourite word
for a statue that lacks the intelligence, thought, and
individuality that are essential to good art. Of
these three works he writes in the Ricordi : ' The
Pius II., the Innocence, and the Purita are the mirror,
so to speak, in which are reflected those three years
of artistic temptation, when my spirit without faith
and full of doubt was well-nigh smothered.'
And while his mind during those 'years of tempt-
ation ' was more or less mystified by the 'philosophy'
with which his new acquaintances filled the atmo-
sphere of his studio, he was receiving from all parts
of the country eulogistic notices of the press. It is
no wonder he well-nigh lost his head. ' Figure to
yourself, my gentle reader,' he says, 'an inexperi-
enced youth, ardent, enthusiastic, imaginative, just
taking his first steps in art, suddenly hearing it said,
and seeing it blazoned in print, that he has surpassed
all others, that he has begun where they have ended,
that he is born, perhaps, to take the prize from
Grecian chisels, that he is Michelangelo descended
from his pedestal, and ever so much more twaddle of
this kind ; at the same time imagine him placed side
by side with the jealous Maevii, and beset with the
studied and gilded flatteries of worldlings, the more
ELECTED TO THE ACADEMY. 55
dangerous as they are more fascinating in their well-
bred urbanity ; and you will not wonder that he is
turned aside for a time from the right way God's
mercy that he is not hopelessly perverted and ruined.'
The Academy, too, extended to the artist its
patronising hand by giving him a professorship
now that such an appointment was rather an honour
to the institution than an honour and help to him ;
and this connection possibly produced in him a
tendency, unconsciously to himself, to fall in more or
less during these same years with that mannerism
which was abhorrent to his better judgment.
Then, also, there was the pronounced approbation
of the nobility and even of crowned heads ; a thing
that might have dazed even a more mature and less
simple mind. One of these princely personages was
no less than the Emperor Nicholas, at that time the
acknowledged chief among the sovereigns of Europe.
' The Emperor of Russia,' he writes in the Ricordi,
1 passing through Florence, wished to do me the
honour of a visit. I had been expecting him the
whole day ; but in the afternoon, an hour before
nightfall, I dressed myself to leave the studio, not
thinking it possible that he would come at that late
hour. I was just stepping out of the door, when lo,
a confused din, a rumbling of carriages, tramping of
horses ! and I saw the Emperor stop before the
56 GIOVANNI DUPRk.
studio. It was nearly night. I took my resolution ;
before he got down, I hastened to the carriage-step
and said : " Maestd, I am highly honoured by your
visit to my studio ; but I fear your majesty cannot
satisfy your wish to see the Cain, because it is almost
dark, and I should prefer to show the work in a
more favourable light."
' The street was filled by this time with a crowd
of eager spectators, and the studios of all my artist
neighbours were open, while the inmates stood gazing
from the doors ; and meantime the members of the
Emperor's suite thrust their heads from their car-
riage-windows to see why he did not get out, and
with whom he was talking.
' " You are a thousand times right," he said ; " it is
impossible to see well now ; I will return to-morrow
' The next day he returned with all his suite ;
hardly alighted, he asked : " Vous parlez frangais ? "
'"Tres mal, majeste."
' " Ah, well, I speak a little Italian ; we'll talk in
'The Emperor was accompanied by General
Menzikoff, Count Orloff, and others whose names I
do not remember. Hardly within the studio, he
took off his cap to the great wonder of his attend-
ants, who hastened to do likewise ; and he remained
AN EMPEROR IN THE STUDIO. 57
uncovered throughout the interview. His figure
was colossal, and its proportions faultless. He was
at that time of mature age, but looked as if in the
prime of life. In speaking and listening his manner
was earnest, and he seemed interested to learn the
ground of my artistic conceptions.'
Finally he fell into familiar conversation. ' He
manifested a desire to know something about me
besides the studies and works that he was inspecting ;
and I satisfied his curiosity. Nor is it any wonder
that a potentate like him should take an interest in
the particulars of a humble domestic life ; for he
was, as I afterwards learned, a good husband and a
good father. Good husband, good father ! pity he
cannot be called a good sovereign ! The cruel
wrongs he inflicted upon unhappy Poland, especially
in proscribing her religious freedom, and even her
language, a nation's first birthright, are a stain upon
that patriarchal figure not easily washed out.'
With reference to the danger from flattery,
especially with reference to that class of young
artists who have a certain amount of talent, accom-
panied with a kind of stupid conceit which makes
them feel superior to the necessity of learning
anything from observation, Dupre describes a call
with which his studio was honoured, of a widely
different character from the foregoing.
58 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
1 One day a certain gentleman came to see me,
accompanied by a youth who had perhaps a quarter
of a century on his shoulders ; well shaped, with
shoulders broad and a little bent, perhaps on account
of this burden of twenty-five years ; a black
beard, brown complexion, restless eyes, looking all
about without seeing anything. Without seeing
anything, I say, because he bestowed the same
amount of attention upon all objects in my studio
indifferently, whether upon the head of the colossus
of Monte Cavallo that stood on one of my shelves, or
upon my cat, or upon the cast of my Abel, or upon
my work-bench. He did not speak a word of
Italian or of French ; but the person who attended
him, a very proper gentleman in every respect, spoke
for him, or rather advertised him ; for he, the
youth, never opened his mouth, except indeed that
he kept it half-open all the time, even when looking
at the cat ; but he did not utter a syllable. The
very polite companion therefore said : " I beg pardon,
signor professore, for interrupting you a few mo-
ments ; but I could do no less than favour you with
a visit and the acquaintance of this young sculptor
who is on his way to Rome not indeed to perfect
himself there, but to exercise his splendid attainment
in art, so wonderfully illustrative of his genius. And
as he has been born undoubtedly to make his name
AN ART PRODIGY. 59
heard in all the world, I desired to bring him to you
and enable you to know him personally, so that you
may have the opportunity to say hereafter : I have
seen him and have spoken with him."
' I was petrified ; I looked at the youth, and at
the person who had made me this speech ; then I
replied : Pray, tell me, does this gentleman speak,
or, at least, understand Italian ?
'" Oh no, he speaks only English, and he is an
' God be thanked ! I said to myself ; this poor
youth has understood none of this. But the polite
gentleman, mistaking the drift of my inquiry, re-
sumed : " Now I will tell him at once all that I
have said to you ? "
'And he began to spin out in English the
narrative he had spun out to me ; and that genius
of a youth at every phrase said yes with his head,
looking at me, at the bench, and at the cat.'
He comes back to his first love and faith, or to nature, in his statue
of Antonino The brief revolution of '48, and the speedy restora-
tion of the old government Insomnia, interruption of his work,
and health recovered by a visit to Naples and Rome His faith
in nature confirmed by certain statues of Canova in St. Peter's
at Rome Also by the sight of a living ' Venus of Milo ' in the
Trastevere Periods of development or transition in the lives of
artists and poets, as Raphael, Beethoven, Schiller.
THE three years which Giovanni Dupre calls his
years of temptation, the period of trial that most
men of genius or of enthusiasm pass through, their
experience in ' vanity fair ' and the captivity of
' doubting castle,' left him at last unscathed and
free. He points out as the occasion that brought
about his deliverance, the long and persistent, and
finally successful effort to model his next historical
statue in accordance with his first ideas ; to recover
his former ground of 'the beautiful in the natural;'
neither accepting the beau-ideal of the Academy,
nor the rude and minute realism of the other extreme.
This was the statue of Saint Antonino, ordered by
THE REVOLUTION OF '48. 61
the Grand Duchess Maria, and to be placed, like
the Giotto, in the court of the Uffizi. ' This model,'
he says, ' cost me unspeakable fatigue. The subject
demanded character, attitude, and a style altogether
natural, like the statue of Giotto ; but, fearing the
censure of the classicists, I made and unmade it a
thousand ways, not only in the miniature model,
but in that of the full size ; all to no purpose. It is
necessary to be decided secure in the possession
of a fixed idea.' The last of these miniature models
in clay he always preserved as a pleasing reminder
of an eminent musical composer. ' It is precious,'
he says, ' for the bit of wood that supports it, which
is no other than the pen of Giuseppe Verdi.' This
illustrious musician and composer of opera was
a frequent visitor at Dupre's studio when in
Our artist's work was suddenly interrupted by
the revolution of '48. Like all Italians, young and
old, he was stirred with the hope of national liberty ;
especially of deliverance from Austrian domination.
' There was no petition to the government,' he says,
'or representation to the Grand Duke in which I
did not take part. The effect of these agitations
was to withdraw me from my studies and from my
labour in the studio ; and, in a word, there was
much enthusiasm for country, little work, small gain.'
62 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Then he was abandoned by friends, some of whom
blamed him for not proceeding with them to more
violent extremes, others for going too far ; though
what he had done was not disapproved by the
government. Finally, with the departure of the
Grand Duke, who had been a generous patron of
artists, Dupre suffered in common with the rest for
the want of employment But political reaction
soon followed ; Leopold returned to power, and the
Florentine studios were no longer deserted. Had
the change of government effected by the revolu-
tionary movement been permanent, the arts of peace,
though temporarily interrupted, would have speedily
adjusted themselves to the new state of things, and
would have soon recovered from their brief depres-
sion ; but the old dynasty was restored in too short
a time to allow such results to manifest themselves.
Hence the ducal government stands before us in
the amiable attitude of the vindicator of art against
the ruinous influences of revolution.
The rank that Giovanni had now attained as a
sculptor may be inferred from the fact that, on the
death of Bartolini in 1850, he was employed to
finish two of the works of that great master, which
had not only been left incomplete, but scarcely yet
shaped out in the clay. One of these was the
Nymph of the Scorpion, for the Emperor of Russia ;
the other was the Nymph of the Serpent, for the
Marquis Ala-Ponzoni of Milan.
The fortunes of our sculptor had scarcely begun
to smile again when he was overtaken with a malady
that threatened to bring his artistic career, if not his
life, to a premature end ; it was the sudden pros-
tration always to be apprehended from excess of
mental effort and nervous strain : physical exhaus-
tion, vertigo, fearful insomnia, deepening melancholy,
dread of something worse than death. He must
drop the chisel ; absolute rest was prescribed. He
must go away from Florence, attended by the santa
donna and the children. The good Duke Leopold
furnished the means, and Naples was the place
chosen. Change of air, perfect rest, above all,
change of scene, after several months of anxious
suspense, brought back his strength and vigour, and
with them revived hope and cheerfulness.
As it turned out, this dangerous passage ot our
artist's life was the best thing that could have
happened to him ; it removed him for a time from
an atmosphere of aesthetic scholasticism, and it gave
him opportunity to reflect upon his future course,
and to reassure himself of his early convictions.
Especially it gave him occasion on his way home to
Florence, to make a brief sojourn in Rome, where
he found almost by accident that encouragement of
64 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
a high example which the young artist so much
needed to make him feel strong and bold in carrying
out his own ideas and methods. For, believing
that the true way of art was intermediate between
extreme realism and extreme idealism, yet finding
himself pursuing this way almost alone, he could
not but feel occasional misgivings. And it is
noteworthy that the authority which he there dis-
covered, the example that served to confirm his faith
and to make his steps hereafter fearless and firm,
he found in the monumental works of Canova ; the
sculptor whom of all others he had regarded as the
chief of classical idealists ; a devotee of the beau-
ideal. In St. Peter's at Rome there is a work of
Canova's thought by some to be his best, and so
much the more remarkable, because it is one of the
very few sculptural monuments in that vast basilica
that possess any artistic value. This is the well-
known monument executed by Canova in 1792 in
memory of Pope Clement XIII., whose family name
was Rezzonico. While none can fail to be impressed
with its imposing grandeur, and with the beauty of
its lines, and the grace and finish of its parts, but
few visitors bring away any vivid and enduring
recollection of the various figures that adorn it,
excepting only those of the famous 'lions of Canova'
reposing on the pedestal. But in contemplating the
CANOVA TURNED NATURALIST. 65
figure of the Pope, and in comparing it with the
other statues of the monument Dupre discovered,
what the ordinary visitor in his haste and weariness
loses sight of, and what Dupre himself had not
before observed, that this figure is characterised by
a living individuality, while all the others are purely
conventional ; and so in this majestic form, at once
beautiful and natural, coming from the chisel of the
greatest of modern Italian sculptors, he found the
exemplification and the complete justification of his
own cardinal principle, ' the beautiful in the real.'
' The decision,' says he, in recalling this visit, ' that
was destined to end all my uncertainties, came to
me from an idealist, let me say rather, from an
imitator of Grecian art ; through one of his works,
however, that was not inspired by idealism, but by
truth. I was walking about one morning in St.
Peter's, glancing indifferently from one object to
another, when my eyes were arrested by the figure
of Pope Rezzonico. How many times before had I
passed by this grand monument with hardly a look !
But now I noticed for the first time in its form and
attitude, and in its expression of rapt devotion, that
Canova had here manifested a feeling for the imita-
tion of nature at once profound and free from minute
servility. It filled me with surprise, and this so
much the greater, as I had the opportunity of con-
66 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
trasting it with the other figures of the same monu-
ment, all patterned after the antique. This contrast
conveyed to me a lesson that no critical treatise
could have taught ; and at last I seemed to hear a
voice speaking to me from the monument itself in
these words : " See how much effort, how much
skill, Canova has bestowed upon these statues !
and yet they do not speak to your heart like the
supplicating figure of the Pope ; what is this ?
reflect."' And Giovanni did reflect ; and he found
that this great master in most of his works had been
carried away by his prevailing passion for the beau-
ideal ; but in this noble statue of Rezzonico, so
different from the conventionalised figures decorating
the lower part of the monument, he saw Canova's
first love for genuine nature once more, and for a
moment, asserting itself. It was ' a ray of that light
under which the great artist, when still a youth, free
in his inspiration, uncorrupted by theories, precepts,
and praises, had conceived and executed the stupen-
dous group of the Icarus.' In like manner he found
the naturalness of Canova's earlier art reproduced in
his Pius VI. The fresh confidence that the sight of
these works inspired in him he recalled several years
afterwards in a conversation with Augusto Conti, re-
corded by the latter in the second of the Dialogues :
1 But when returning from Naples, where I had spent
CANOVA'S MONUMENT TO CLEMENT XIII.
IN ST. PETER'S.
To face page 67.
ROMANI REDIVIVI. 67
some time in the recovery of my health, I passed
through Rome, I saw in St. Peter's some works of
Canova not statues of finical elegance gotten up
as it were with stays and corsets ; but his Pius VI.
kneeling at the tomb of the Apostles, and his Pope
Rezzonico forms in which genuine nature is
resplendent with eternal ideality ; and feeling now
once more the inspiration of my Abel, I said : Here,
even here is art ! Nor since that moment have I
ever departed from it'
In his rambles about Rome, during this brief
sojourn, looking at every object with an artist's eye,
he thought he saw in the men and women of the
ancient quarters of the city, especially in the
Trastevere, a physical development much more after
the type of the old Greek and Roman statues than
the forms he was wont to see about him in the
streets of Florence. He found also the living
models employed by the Roman artists, for example,
by his friends Minardi and Tenerani, more rotund,
more robust, with better necks and shoulders than
those of Florence. Then he began to think that
perhaps the ancient sculptors had worked more
closely to nature than he had been taught to believe.
But the following incident from the Ricordi shows
that his enthusiasm for his art led him to pursue
these observations on the bodily traits of the des-
68 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
cendants of ancient Rome to a somewhat perilous
' Any one familiar with the population of Rome
must have observed the remarkable difference
between the common people, especially those of
the Trastevere, and the more wealthy and cultivated
classes. The latter are more slender in form, have
a more delicate complexion, and not unfrequently
chestnut-coloured hair. On the contrary, the former
are characterised by dark eyes, hair, and skin, and by
speech and manner rough and blunt. They come
to blows with slight provocation, and blood runs
more readily than tears. It is easy to see in these
people the lineal descendants of the fiery legionaries
who planted their eagles all over the world. The
blood of the women is not different from that of the
men ; and if the latter carry knives in their pockets,
the women wear a stiletto in their hair conspicu-
ous with its silver handle sticking out from the
masses of jet-black braids ; and this weapon they
know how to wield on occasion to the peril of any
poor wight who has even innocently incurred their
While passing through this quarter one Sunday
afternoon by himself, surveying the picturesque
groups of young men and women, and noticing in
the forms of the latter, especially in the well-shaped
A LIVING ' VENUS OF MILO: 69
necks and in the carriage of the head, something
that reminded him of the old statuary, such as the
Minervas, the Polyhymnias, and the rest, he was
struck with wonder by the figure and movement of
one of the young women in particular that seemed
to him the living model of the Venus of Milo.
' There were three maidens,' he says, ' two of them
short, one taller ; the latter walking between the
other two ; she moved with a stately tread as she
chatted with her companions. A huntsman who has
caught sight of a hare, a creditor suddenly falling in
with his debtor, a friend who beholds a friend he
had supposed long dead, give but a feeble idea of
my excitement at the sight of this magnificent
young creature. My dear reader, I do not exagger-
ate in the least ; I seemed to be looking at the
Venus of Milo. The head, the neck, all that was
visible in this girl appeared so much like that statue,
that two drops of water are not more alike. I stood
bewildered ; I turned round to catch another view,
and it would have been well for me if I had been
contented with that ; but once more was not enough ;
and the damsel, who had no idea by a thousand
times what I was trying to find out, or that I was
busy in correcting an aesthetic judgment of immense
importance to art, suddenly stopped, and drawing the
stiletto from her hair, made a step towards me,
exclaiming : " So, Mr. Cockney, you want to let out
some of that bad blood, do you !" I took to my
heels, not minding which way I ran, and reaching my
quarters in safety, told the story to my wife. And
she gently reproached me for not carrying on my
studies with better choice of time and place.'
On the whole, reflecting upon this and many
other living examples, not only in the Trastevere
but in many places besides, and especially when he
remembered that the nude form was everywhere
exposed to the view of Grecian sculptors, our lover
of nature became convinced that the great classical
types of statuary are by no means so entirely ideal
as we fancy them to be, and that the extreme con-
ventionalism to which they have given occasion in
modern art is not justly inferred ; that, on the
contrary, if we were to study nature as scrupulously
as did the Greeks themselves, with attention to things
essential and the omission of indifferent matters of
detail, she would still be the best and safest guide
to the best and highest in art
Dupre reached his home with restored health, and
with all the enthusiasm of his early days ; he was
strengthened by the examples he had discovered
at Rome, and greatly encouraged by the words of
his friend, the veteran Tenerani. Nor did he forget
the classical figure of the warlike damsel of the
A REVIEW OF THE GALLERIES. 71
Trastevere. ' The discovery of that wonderful neck
and head had cured me of the notion that the
ancients had undertaken to reform nature according
to some conceit of their own, wholly ideal and
fanciful.' And the following interpretation which he
now put upon the works of the past is worthy of the
attention of all students of art : ' Before confining
myself once more to the studio, I desired to survey
and study again our monuments of art under the
light of my new conyictions. I made the circuit of
the churches, the palaces, the public and private
galleries, as if I had been a stranger to them ; and
for many reasons I might truly have called myself a
stranger ; for some of them I had never visited at
all, and the few I had seen I had looked at super-
ficially. But from the examination I now made, I
came to perceive clearly that the artists of all periods
had studied the artists before them, and had always,
at the same time, imitated nature ; always selecting
from nature in the first place those traits that corre-
sponded most nearly to the conception of the subject
previously formed in the artist's thought. Hence-
forth my way was plain, lighted up by the rays of
truth. The objects of art I looked at now presented
themselves to me distinctly in their real significance.
Never had the veil that hides the subtle and deep-
lying principles of the beautiful been so completely
72 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
withdrawn ; I felt myself calm, contented, and strong.'
And so as the result of groping about during
these latter years in the dimness of art scholasticism,
and as the end of the struggle between straight-
forward instinct and bewildering authority, Giovanni
Dupre the man discovered logically what Giovanni
the boy had known intuitively that art is, after all,
but the best in nature, and that the artist has only
to follow her leading with simple docility. For in
the kingdom of art it is also true, that except one
become as a little child, he can by no means enter
therein. To this truth, when each recurring cycle of
conventional art or of false classicism has had its
day, men must ever return.
In the course of this new survey of the galleries
of Florence, before settling down to his work, a
singular incident revealed to our artist in a startling
manner what the public had understood to be the
terrible nature of his recent malady.
' I was in the gallery of the Pitti Palace one day,
and passing through the hall where the statues of
Cain and Abel had been placed, I saw a young man
copying the latter in crayon. He appeared to be
a foreigner, and I wished to assure myself of this
by speaking to him. I also felt pleased to see
him at work on a statue of mine, and I thought
this enjoyment would be enhanced by a little talk
A FEARFUL PERIL PAST. 73
with him ; a feeling quite excusable, certainly, in
a young artist. Therefore, stepping up to him, I
'"Are you pleased with that statue?"
' " Out, beaucoup ; and it is for that reason I am
' Seeing that he did not know me, I continued :
' " It seems to be a modern work ; is it not ?"
' " Certainly ; so modern that the author is still
living, though one might say he is dead."
' " What ! I don't understand ; how can one call
him dead if he is still living ? " And I could hardly
keep down the wonder and emotion that these
strange words excited in me.
' " Indeed," he replied, " the fact is very sad, and it
is spoken of with a certain hesitation ; but it seems
the poor young artist, so young, and so brave "
'"Eh, bien!" I exclaimed, interrupting his words.
' " It seems he is becoming insane."
' This was a fearful shock ; I remained speechless.
His words reminded me that in the course of my
sickness I had often dreaded the loss of my reason,
but I had not dreamed that others entertained any
But this peril was happily over, and with it the
mist of uncertainty that had so long befogged his
pathway. In short, he was rid of the temptation to
74 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
become somebody else instead of Giovanni Dupre.
His confidence was restored, his sight was clear, and
he returned to his studio with all the ardour of his
Those who have written the lives of men of
genius have sometimes found in them certain stages
of development that have led to the division of
their biographies into characteristic periods. Marked
examples are Raphael and Beethoven, in whose lives
three such stages are very easily distinguishable ;
for they both started off at the first with ideas and
characteristics derived more or less from the great
masters of the day, but soon manifested the force of
an independent and creative power, and finally
mounted clear of all traditions, and discovered an
individuality all their own. In this respect Raphael
and Beethoven are remarkably similar ; the one in
his first works following the types of Perugino, the
other those of Mozart ; the one passing from his
first paintings of the Umbrian school, through a
second period or one of transition, to that of the
Cartoons, the Sistine Madonna, and the Transfigura-
tion ; the other not less rapidly from the first
Sonatas and the Septuor, to the Appassionata, and
the Pastoral and Choral Symphonies. The life of
Schiller, too, is marked by kindred changes, but he
did not leave them to be traced out by his biog-
STAGES IN THE ARTISTS CAREER. 75
raphers alone ; we find them clearly defined and
accounted for by the poet himself. His first stage
of authorship produced quite spontaneously the
Robbers, the Fiesco, and the Don Carlos ; but he
then fell into philosophising over the aesthetic of
Kant, and this led him to self-watching. Then he
became hampered by too much criticism of his own
work, and by the inner consciousness of his own
mental processes ; ' seeing himself create and form ;
watching the play of inspiration, while his fancy
knew that she was not without witnesses of her
own operations, and no longer moved with equal
freedom.' 1 His only hope now was that he might
ultimately ' advance so far that art should become
a second nature, and that imagination then would
regain her former freedom, and submit to none
but voluntary limitations.' 2 And so in fact he
worked out his way to that third and last period
of the creation of the Wallenstein and the Maid of
Something analogous to this we find in the life of
Dupre, especially in his 'period of temptation ;' but
the conditions that produced these kindred results
were widely different. A man of his education, or
want of education, could not be disturbed, like
Schiller, with Kantian speculations about the
2s Life of Schiller. 2 Ibid.
aesthetic ground of the beautiful, nor shaken in
his simple faith by any misgivings from within ; his
temptation, as we have seen, came wholly from
without ; it was the trembling before human
To face page 77.
Fruits of his restored faith The Tazza Design for the Wellington
monument A visit to London Gets into trouble with the police
at the Sydenham Palace An art -study in the midst of an English
banquet Ristori, and other Italian friends in London Paris ;
at the villa of Rossini Return to Florence The Ferrari monu-
ment The Sappho, and Conti's notice of it Abdication of the
Grand Duke Leopold in 1859, and Dupre's letters to him.
IN the Ricordi Dupre dwells upon comparatively
few of the works that he now produced in rapid
succession. The first of those that he has thought
it worth while to mention, and one that well
illustrates the restored life and vigour of the artist,
is the so-called ' Tazza.' The commission for this
work was given by the Grand Duke Leopold, and
was the last received by Dupre from that unfortunate
sovereign before his abdication in 1859. It took
its designation from a colossal Egyptian tazza, or
vase of porphyry, which it was designed to support
as a pedestal. This antique Tazza. was found among
the ruins of Rome more than four centuries ago,
and was afterwards presented by Pope Clement VII.
78 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
to Cosmo de' Medici. It thus became one of the
treasures inherited by the ducal family of Tuscany,
and was finally placed in the gallery of the Pitti
Palace. The design of Dupre was a series of
allegorical figures typifying the strange wanderings
of the Tazza from the ancient home of the Pharaohs
to the palace of the Medici at Florence. They are
grouped around a cylindrical shaft resting upon a
quadrangular plinth. ' The vase,' says Dupre, ' once
adorned the garden of the Pharaohs ; it had been
carried by the conquering Romans with the other
spoils of Egypt to the eternal city ; then it had
descended to the papal government, and now, at
last, was one of the art treasures of Tuscany. To
represent this history, I imagined four groups
symbolising Thebes with the Genius of building,
imperial Rome with the Genius of conquest, papal
Rome with the Genius of religion, and Tuscany with
the Genius of art.' The figure that personifies
Thebes is conceived as sadly contemplating her
grand monuments and past glories, suggested by
the broken compass in the hands of the Genius.
Imperial Rome crowned with oak leaves, and wearing
a lion's skin, grasps the fasces, while her Genius bears
a spear and a fire-brand ; papal Rome wears the
triple tiara and the sacerdotal robes, and the accom-
panying Genius holds a cross resting upon the
ALLEGORICAL DESIGNS. 79
ground, and tramples upon a serpent ; Tuscany
bears a sceptre in one hand, and in the other the
Palladium of the arts ; and her Genius holds in his
hand garlands of laurel as the rewards of merit, and
rests upon a cippus containing the symbols of poetry,
painting, sculpture, architecture, and music. The
olive leaves are the sign of peace that fosters the arts.
This was the first of those allegorical designs,
full of thought and beauty, that became characteristic
of Dupre. One of these, completed about the same
period in plaster, but unfortunately not preserved,
was that of a proposed monument to the Duke
of Wellington. The British government had thrown
open the competition for the plan of this monument
to foreign artists, and Dupre among other Italian
sculptors was induced to enter the lists. Here, too,
he indulged his taste for allegory by placing at the
corners of the lower base four figures representing
respectively Military and Political Science, Temper-
ance, and Fortitude ; on the higher base was the
statue of Wellington attended by Victory and Peace.
The commissioners finally gave the preference to the
design of a native sculptor, Mr. A. G. Stephens,
whose work now stands in St. Paul's Cathedral ; yet
Dupre was honoured with a first premium.
In order to exhibit the casts made for this work
he visited London. He had never before seen the
8o GIOVANNI DUPR&.
world beyond the Alps, and, indeed, but little of
Italy itself. Some of his experiences in London
and Paris are given in his letters, and some are
recalled in the Ricordi. The taste of the English
in art he found less simple, severe, and pure than he
had been led to expect ; but he found much to
admire and study in the galleries and museums, and
he was filled with wonder at the munificent provision
made for the public in the way of parks and places
for popular recreation, and, of course, at the vastness
of London itself. ' No one, even of those who were
born there, has seen the whole of it ; not even the
oldest of the hack -drivers.' The Kew Gardens,
which he describes in a letter to Amalia, and he
takes care to inform her that the name is pronounced
' Chiu,' he thinks more extensive and beautiful
than the Cascine of Florence. At Hampton Court
he finds the visitors more interested in the sumptuous
furniture of the royal chambers than in the master-
pieces of painting. Of these the most important
were Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar and the Cartoons
of Raphael (since then removed to the Kensington
Museum). ' He who has not seen these Cartoons,'
says Dupre, ' has no idea of the power of Raphael in
that grand and bold style which was first introduced
At the Sydenham Palace his constitutional im-
pulsiveness betrayed him for a moment into difficulty.
Among the numerous copies of ancient and modern
statues, illustrating the history of sculpture, he
suddenly came upon his own first work. ' I knew/
says he, ' that this must be the copy of the Abel in
plaster made for Papi, and kept in his possession
until a casting had been taken from it in bronze ; and
when I saw it among these masterpieces as one of
the examples of modern art, I felt a certain degree
of complacency, which I hope is pardonable. But
this satisfaction was not a little disturbed when I
discovered a broken finger on the left hand in-
correctly restored not only clumsy but deformed ;
for the workman had made the last joint too short.
Exasperated by the sight of that ugly joint, I
gave it a rap with my cane, and it fell to the ground.
Ill-luck would have it that one of the guards was in
sight, and he immediately took me into custody.'
The culprit artist was taken forthwith to the com-
missioner of the palace, before whom he endeavoured
to defend himself in French, which the officer under-
stood imperfectly and spoke still worse. Dupre
urged that the finger had been awkwardly mended,
that it was in fact a botch, and that it ought to be
broken off; finally, he was ready to pay for another.
All would not do ; he was on the point of being put
into the guard-house.
82 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
' Then,' he continues, ' I was forced to make
myself known. At first he was not ready to accept
my declaration ; his look seemed to say : " That's
a strange story cannot be I don't believe it."
Thereupon he replied, " The fact that you are the
author, even granting you to be so, gave you no
right to do what you have done ; but we will see at
once whether it is true. If you are the maker of
the statue, replace the finger." This was enough ;
I was inwardly amused with the judgment of this
new Solomon, as simple as just. Finding a young
plaster-worker in the palace, and giving him direc-
tions, while doing a little of the work myself, I
made good the damage. So ended this adventure,
that reminded me of the tavern proverb, He must
pay that breaks the crockery.'
Of course, many of the ways of the English
seemed strange to our untravelled sculptor ; among
other things, the toasts and after-dinner speeches at
public banquets. He attended one of these, over
which Lord Derby presided, and understanding
hardly a word of English, he could only guess by
the eye the meaning of what he saw and heard
except that his young friend William, or ' Mino '
Spence, gave him now and then an explanation.
As everywhere his art was with him, so even here
he was making a study of the noble figure and
A PUBLIC DINNER. 83
bearing of an officer of the East Indian army who
had risen to a toast. This gentleman, a colonel in
the service, had noticed with alarm the signs of a
speedy revolt in India, and was persuaded that it
could only be averted by an immediate change in the
policy of the government ; and he seized this oppor-
tunity of an after-dinner speech to impress his fears
upon the ministry, and to give timely warning. But
while reprehending the errors of the colonial admini-
stration, he made mention several times of her
Majesty the Queen a gross violation of the English
sense of propriety, that elicited overwhelming cries of
disapprobation. ' With us,' said Mino Spence, in ex-
plaining the scene to the wondering artist, ' whatever
the question may be, no one ever names the Queen.
Neither the grave import of the officer's statements,
nor his denunciation, so damaging to the government,
would in the least have touched our sensitive fibre,
had he not been wanting so much in tact and
prudence as to make allusions to her Majesty.' And
so, because her Majesty was mentioned, though with
entire respect and reverence, the warning of the
stranger was drowned amidst indignant clamours.
' But,' says Dupre, ' in five short months from the
day when this poor Indian colonel tried to make
known the truth, demonstrating the existing evils
and their consequences, and suggesting the remedy,
84 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
the telegraph announced the revolt (of '57), the
peril of the English, and the cry for help.'
That, however, which dwelt in the mind of the
artist was the striking figure of the man, and his
unruffled calmness in the midst of this storm of
indignation. ' That form left in me a feeling of
profound admiration ; and even to this day I see
that grand figure standing there in all its masculine
tranquillity.' And if any one should object that the
description of such incidents is out of place in the
reminiscences of a sculptor, he has an answer : ' The
essential thing that we require and that we regard
as beautiful and precious in a work of art, is the
just expression of the affections and emotions in the
different characters we are to represent. This pro-
priety of expression is sought for in vain in our
hired models. The model serves for all that is
external attitude, proportions, physical traits, beauty
of form but it cannot give us the turn of the head,
the glance of the eye, the curl of the lip, the dilat-
ing of the nostrils, and the thousand other signs of
mental conflict For such involuntary manifestations
of feeling the artist must be on the watch amidst
the scenes of real life.'
He was never quite happy away from Florence ;
but in London his home-sickness, his longing, as
he says in his letters, ' to return to his beautiful
ITALIANS IN LONDON. 85
Florence, his family, his studio,' was alleviated by
the presence there of many Italian friends whom he
had become familiar with at home. Besides the
Tuscan minister at London, Count Piero Guicciar-
dini, and other persons of rank, there were many
Italian artists of note, including the sculptors Fedi,
Monti, and Marrochetti ; and there were Ristori and
Piccolomini among the brilliant representatives of
the stage, the former with her Mary Stuart awaken-
ing a new and almost unprecedented enthusiasm
for the tragic drama, and the latter fascinating the
London public with her Traviata ; ' in short, a
veritable colony of Italians.'
At Paris also, on the way home, he found many
Italian friends. Chief among these was the veteran
composer Rossini, who had in former years been
much in Florence, and had there become attached
to the young sculptor ; indeed Rossini had been the
first to announce to Dupre the success of his Abel
at the Paris exposition of 1855. Rossini had long
ago given up the labour of composing, and was
passing a delightful old age at his home in the
Parisian suburb of Passy, in the midst of an admiring
circle of artists and literary friends ; free from all
ambition, and taking warmly by the hand every
youthful genius whom he found struggling for recog-
nition. Verdi's Sicilian Vespers had been recently
presented on the Parisian stage, and of course had
not escaped rough handling on the part of musical
critics. Dupre was with Rossini one day at dinner,
and, as usual, many callers dropped in from time
to time in the evening ; among them two young
acquaintances of the old maestro whom Dupre
took to be musicians. Passing by Madame Olimpia
with a brief salutation, they at once asked the host
if he had read the criticism on Verdi's last opera
in the Revue des Deux Mondes ; and they quoted
some passages of the savage article, with the notion
often entertained by people of small calibre, that
strictures on a competitor for fame would be agree-
able to one who had already won his laurels. ( But,'
says Dupre, ' Rossini interrupted them with these
words : " That is no way to write a criticism on
Verdi ; that is not the right kind of ink for him ; I
can only laugh at it. For my part I should like to
find any composer who could write as well ; but as
none has yet put in an appearance, we must be
satisfied with the music of Verdi, and we must
applaud him (and the old man made a show of clap-
ping his hands) when he does well, and counsel him
as a brother where we think he could do better."
In saying this he manifested no little irritation,
evidently provoked that they should have tried to
lead him into some remark in the hostile spirit
THE ANGEL OF THE RESURRECTION.
FROM THE FERRARI MONUMENT. IN SAN LORENZO.
To face page 87.
THE FERRARI MONUMENT. 87
of the review. Thereupon he turned the conversa-
Dupre became associated with Rossini a few
years later as a member of the French Institute,
and, on the death of the great composer in 1 868,
was chosen to succeed him as corresponding mem-
ber the highest honour bestowed upon foreigners
by the Institute of France.
The first work undertaken by our artist after his
return to Florence was that which is known as
the Ferrari Monument, made in honour of Bertha,
wife of Count Ferrari Corbelli, and placed in the
Church of San Lorenzo. It consists of a base and
an urn or sarcophagus, above which are the figures
of Modesty and Charity, characteristic virtues of the
deceased Countess, and between them the Angel of
the Resurrection bearing her spirit to heaven.
While employed on this monument he also
modelled the statue of Sappho, which he sub-
sequently copied in marble and exhibited at the
Florentine Academy in 1 863 ; a work which Augusto
Conti has made the subject of one of the articles in
his volume entitled Tilings of Art and History.
The description and interpretation given in this
article are characterised by the author's wonted
acuteness and precision. 'Works of art,' he says,
' first lead us to their inner idea, and in turn the
88 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
idea makes us perceive the manner in which it has
generated out of itself the external form. The
statue of Dupre reveals to us at the first glance a
young woman overwhelmed with an immense
sorrow ; calm, nevertheless, and self-possessed in the
very security of despair. This you see in her
posture as she sits in total abandonment, with her
head inclined, with a fixed gaze, and with an ex-
pression on the brow and in the lips and eyes of
unutterable sadness. The lineaments are those that
we habitually associate with the Grecian face, espe-
cially the outline of the nose and forehead not
absolutely straight (for this is a kind of mannerism
that is false to nature), but nearly straight. The
fashion of the tunic and mantle, thrown round the
middle of the figure, also indicates that she is a
Greek. By her side rests a lyre with broken strings,
a sign that the instrument is forgotten in the anguish
that possesses her soul. She is therefore a Greek
poetess. Where, now, is she seated ? On a cliff by
the seashore ; and her eyes look out upon the
waves. Then, the garments thrown off from the
shoulders, as if to leave the movements of the body
free from all restraint, lead us to divine that she is
about to spring from the rock. No doubt it is
Sappho. So clear is the indication of the subject
that it cannot be mistaken for any other ; every one,
SAPPHO IN DESPAIR.
To face page 88.
even of moderate intelligence, can understand what is
represented prime excellence in a work of art.' The
artist's idea, therefore, was the love, the despair, and
the suicide of Sappho. And how did he proceed
from this idea to his particular conception and out-
ward expression of it ? He must select a moment
at once well known by tradition and propitious to
his art. This could not be, as it might have been,
perhaps, in painting, the fatal leap itself an action
incompatible with the conditions of statuary but it
must be, to resume the words of Conti, ' the moment
just prior to that action ; when Sappho, firmly re-
solved and ready for death, yet lingers an instant on
the threshold of life, to give one thought of tender
anguish to the dear and terrible image that at once
holds her to the world and impels her to leave it.'
The negligence, self-forgetfulness, and utter abandon-
ment expressed in the whole figure, in every member
and in every detail, are in perfect keeping with this
motive. It is the unity characteristic of true art.
The execution and handling are not less admir-
able than the artistic form, and the work in all its
parts bears the impress of a hand free from all the
trammels of prescriptive usage. ' The breast, the
torso, the shoulders, arms, hands, and feet, and finally
the face, exhibit no trace of mannerism or, as we now
say, conventionalism ; they show us that the artist is
90 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
a disciple of beautiful nature ; in Dante's words, the
master turned pupil (discente il maestro}'
After Dupre had modelled the Sappho, and long
before he had made the marble copy which elicited
the above critical notice of Conti, occurred the great
national crisis that ended in the abdication of the
Grand Duke Leopold II. This event could not be
otherwise than unfortunate, for a moment, at least, to
the Florentine artists who had been so generously
patronised by the ducal government, and particularly
to Dupre, however much he may have rejoiced in the
deliverance of his country from Austrian rule, and in
the near prospect of a union of the states of Italy.
That the immediate disadvantage to him in his
personal interests was very great, can be inferred
from the account he gives us of the commissions
that he had just then received from the Grand Duke.
One of these was to design and superintend the
decoration of a chapel of the Madonna in Leghorn,
and to execute himself the sculptural work that he
might introduce into the general plan, while he was
to choose and direct all the artists he might need to
carry out the architectural and pictorial parts of his
design. Besides this, the Duke had ordered from
him monuments to his father Ferdinand III., his
brother, his sister, and several deceased children.
These were to be placed in one of the chapels of
THE GRAND DUKE LEOPOLD. 91
San Lorenzo. The designs prepared by our artist
for all these works, and also for the decoration of the
chapel in which the family monuments were to be
erected, had already been accepted by Leopold, and
their execution ordered, when, says Dupre, 'the 2/th
of April 1859, foreseen by many, unexpected by
few, came upon us, and brought all these plans to
nothing.' The aged Leopold on his abdication
retired to Austria, where he died in 1870.
Ingratitude is impossible in a nature like Dupre's ;
in fact, that sensibility which is an essential element
of the character of a truly great artist can hardly
fail to show itself in all the relations of life
especially to make him keenly alive to favours
received, and true to those who have helped him in
dark hours. Such a man cannot be a mere courtier
of sunshiny days, 'fleeing with the faithless crowd
when fortune deserts the house ;' such, at any rate,
was not Dupre to the Grand Duke Leopold. While
he accepted like all other patriotic Italians the great
political change that made Italy a united kingdom,
he did not forget his personal obligation to the de-
throned Sovereign, nor lose any opportunity of
avowing his admiration and love for a Prince who
had been devoted to the welfare of his subjects,
liberal in the patronage of art, and full of kindness
for Dupre in his early trials. There are two letters
92 GIOVANNI DUPRk,
of our artist written to Leopold when residing in
Vienna, soon after his abdication, from which I give
the following passages expressing his undying attach-
ment both to the Grand Duke and to his Duchess,
Maria : ' At the end of the honoured letter of your
Highness you say that you would be happy if it
were allowed you to employ my hand in some work
that would do honour to our country. This wish of
yours has affected me with lively emotion, and has
at once reminded me of the many labours with which
I have been commissioned by your Highness the
Abel, the Cain, the pedestal of the Tazza, that of the
Tavola, 1 and others. But my memory does not stop
there ; I recall the deplorable state of health to
which I was reduced in '53 a condition which
without the succour given by your Highness would
undoubtedly have led to my death even by the
confession of the physicians questioned by me after
my recovery. The memory of that time and of that
peril makes me look upon your help as help from
the Lord, who had ordained that I should still live ;
and all the other works that I have made since that
recovery, even these can be said to have been made
by virtue of your kindness. I desire your Highness
to believe that this thought always abides in me,
1 A table of Florentine mosaic, called the ' Table of the Muses,' for
which Dupre had made a pedestal ornamented with figures in bronze.
THE GRAND DUCHESS MARIA. 93
whatever work I am ending, whatever new work I
am beginning ; because I am conscious that your
generous aid, rendered at that moment, is always the
cause, humanly speaking, of every work of mine!'
And of Leopold's wife, who had come to his help
earlier than Leopold himself, he writes : ' I beg to
extend my respectful greeting to the Grand Duchess.
It was she who ordered from me the Giotto at a
moment when I was in great difficulty the moment
of the famous criticism upon my Abel, which aimed
to place the work of my hand on a level with that of
a common moulder. It was a blow ruthlessly struck
at my reputation, though the truth broke its force,
or rather turned it back on my assailants. But yet
at that time there were not wanting some who gave
credit to the story. And just then the Grand
Duchess had the courage to order from me the
Florence the capital of Italy Architectural and sculptural adorn-
ment of the old churches Aided by English residents Dupre's
bas-relief of the Triumph of the Cross made for Santa Croce by
order of Sir Francis Sloane The Pieta and the Christ Risen
Shattered health, and a second visit to Naples and Rome The
beautiful form of a Pompeian girl left moulded in the hardened
slime of Vesuvius Art lesson from this -Recovery of health
At Paris with his daughter Amalia in 1867 Grand medal of
honour Reception of Napoleon III. at the Tuileries Meets a
would-be patroness Once more at Rossini's villa.
THE interruption to the arts of peace occasioned
by the events of "59' was after all but moment-
ary, and perhaps no city had so little cause for com-
plaint as Florence ; for it became for several years
the capital of the new kingdom of Italy, and its
local interests received a powerful impulse from the
relations it thus assumed to the court, the parlia-
ment, and the country at large. Art, of course, was
not suffered to languish, nor could Dupre, now the
foremost of Florentine sculptors, be left unoccupied.
It happened, too, that an enterprise was just then on
foot that called for the exercise of his art in a sphere
OLD UNFINISHED CHURCHES. 95
which he preferred to all others. The restoration of
the architectural monuments of Italy, so long exposed
to the injuries of time and violence, and the completion
of those that have stood for centuries unfinished, have
of late years deeply interested not only the Italian
municipalities, but also the many English residents
of the country. One enterprise of this kind in
Florence was the building of the fagade of Santa
Croce, or Church of the Holy Cross, completed
according to the plans of the architect Niccola Matas
in 1863 ; and another, that of the Cathedral or
Duomo, the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore, begun
in 1867 by the late Emilio de Fabris, and still in
progress. Both of these grand edifices, as well as
the Church of San Lorenzo, had stood for centuries
with their principal fronts ' in the rough,' unfinished,
unsightly, and in painful contrast to the beauty of
The new fronts were so designed as to call for a
great number of sculptural works either in the
form of bas-reliefs or statues, and thus afforded to
the sculptors of Italy an opportunity of associating
their art and their names with two of the most
venerable architectural monuments of Europe. In
the sculptural designs for both buildings the chief
place was given to Dupre. To him were assigned
the colossal figures of the Virgin, to be placed in the
96 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
tabernacles above the central portals of the two
churches, and also several of the historical statues
for the niches in the fagade of the Cathedral. The
Madonna for the Cathedral, and the other statues he
was expected to make for that building, he did not
live to execute ; but in 1860, soon after the abdica-
tion of Leopold, he commenced the work for Santa
Croce. The figure of the Virgin for the fagade he
modelled as the Madonna addolorata, the weeping
mother of Christ. When he had finished the model,
and before he had put his hands to the marble, he
was solicited by an English gentleman, Sir Francis
Sloane, a member of the building commission, and
the most generous contributor to its funds, to furnish
also the works in bas-relief embraced in the design
of the same fagade. There were to be three of these,
one over each of the portals. Dupre was unwilling
to undertake the whole series, but he consented to
make the central and principal one, and to super-
intend the execution of the other two, if they should
be assigned to his former pupils Sarrocchi and
Zocchi ; a proposition which Sir Francis readily
accepted. The subjects of the three were selected
with reference to the name of the church ; that of
Sarrocchi was the Discovery of the Cross, by Saint
Helena ; that of Zocchi, Constantine's Vision of the
Cross ; and that of Dupre, The Triumph of the Cross.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS. 97
On such a theme our artist was at home ; his
inbred religious feeling and his reverent admiration
for those whom he regarded as the heroes of
Christianity, a sentiment fostered in his mind by the
habitual reading of Dante, could find here full and
free expression. He says : ' The Triumph of the
Cross seemed to me a subject that must be repre-
sented in sculpture by historical and typical person-
ages that had been won and subdued by its divine
love.' Starting off with this idea, he has found
expression for it in an assemblage of figures, historical
and allegorical, which in arrangement, form, and
attitude, in harmony of lines, in unity of thought, in
nobility of character, in beauty and sublimity of
general effect, has never been surpassed in modern
art. He has left in the Ricordi his own interpreta-
tion of the design ; substantially the same which
he gave in the course of familiar conversations to
Augusto Conti, and which the latter has introduced
into his first Dialogue as the basis of his profound
remarks on the underlying principles of art. Here
it will only be necessary to give a brief summary of
the artist's description.
The cross appears in the upper part of the field,
emitting rays of light, and surrounded with adoring
angels ; the kneeling angel, on the mountain -top
below the cloud, is the symbol of intercessory prayer,
98 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
or of petitions ascending to God, and of His grace
communicated to men. On the right is a group made
up of the figures of St. Paul, prostrate under the
light of the cross ; St. Thomas Aquinas offering
his book of the Summa ; Heraclius, Emperor of the
eastern empire, whom tradition represents to have
recovered the cross from the Persians ; Constantine,
drawing his sword, ready to fight under the new
banner ; lastly, the Countess Matilda and, at the
extreme right, Mary Magdalene. The group on the
left consists of five figures : St. Augustine, wearing
the episcopal mitre ; then Charlemagne, bearing the
globe and the sword ; next, the poet Dante ; at the
end St. Francis of Assisi ; and, in the rear, the
figure of a Christian martyr, over whose head appears
a palm as the token of martyrdom. These two
principal groups are brought into artistic connec-
tion by two exceedingly interesting figures, the
one on the left, a barbarian just coming under the
influence of the cross, and the one in the centre, a
slave set free ; the two representing respectively the
deliverance of the world from barbarism and from
slavery under the benign and sure, though gradual,
working of Christianity. Such are the characters
that in the mind of Dupre best represented the
glory of the cross. What forms, what expression,
what purity, what individuality, diversity, unity !
DEVOTIONAL ART. 99
We discover at once in this grand bas-relief the
same fervour of devotion that inspired the works of
Masaccio and Fra Angelico, combined with the
breadth of treatment and the depth of meaning that
characterise the art of the Raphaelitic age. To be
properly appreciated, indeed, it must be looked at,
just like the works of those earlier centuries, from the
religious standpoint of the artist, born and bred not
only in the bosom of the papal church, but in Italy,
the centre and home of the papacy. Hence he
naturally singles out as the historical representatives
of the progress and development of Christian civilisa-
tion, chiefly those personages who have been con-
spicuous not merely in the Christian world at large,
but especially in their relation to the history of Rome
and of Italy.
The Triumph of the Cross was soon followed by
two works of a kindred nature, reflecting still more
perfectly, if possible, the devotional spirit of the
earlier periods of the renaissance. These were the
Pieta and the Risen Christ ; the first made for a
mortuary chapel in Siena, the other for a similar
chapel in Buti. Dupre was unwilling for the present
to take any new commissions ; and he had good
reason. Most of the works he had undertaken
during the last five years were still on his hands, and
in different stages of progress, from the crayon
ioo GIOVANNI DUPR&.
sketch to the final copy in marble ; his thoughts
were running upon them by night as well as by day,
and at last, in the winter of 1863, he found himself
prostrated by the same nervous malady that had
overtaken him ten years before. Again he resorted
with his family to Naples, and with the same happy
result. Withdrawal from the excitement of the
studio, the balmy atmosphere, and the cheerful life of
Naples, solicitous attentions of his artist friends, and
the tender offices of his own family, soon lifted him
out of this state of depression. Meantime one of the
figures upon which he had been long engaged, and
one only, haunted him even here. This was the
mourning mother of Christ in the group of the Pieta,
the head of which he had left in the studio just
formed in clay. ' This alone of all,' he says, ' came
up before me as in a vision ;' and he writes in reply
to the Marquis Ruspoli, who had visited the studio
in Dupre's absence : ' You say that the head of the
Madonna moved you to tears, and I am not
surprised ; I myself have wept in making it, and it
is impossible that my emotion should not be trans-
ferred to a heart like yours. I confess to you, this
work has cost me much and intense feeling ; so that
scarcely a day passes that I do not see it in my
mind. The Madonna I saw before making it, just
as I have made it.'
IN POMPEII. 101
He now once more visited Pompeii, but this time
with Fiorelli, the eminent scholar and engineer, who
had lately taken charge of the excavations, and was
conducting the work with great energy, and with
very interesting results. And, singularly enough, our
artist found here, as he thought, new ground for his
belief in Grecian naturalism ; and it was in the
beautiful form of one of the casts that Fiorelli had
obtained by running plaster in the moulds left by
skeletons in the hardened mixture of volcanic ashes
and mud. Four of these had been made from a
group of two men and two women recently found.
In a letter to Venturi, after speaking of the rest,
Dupre says, ' The younger of the women has a form
so beautiful, and feet so small and graceful, that we
can no longer be permitted to say that Greek statues
were absolutely ideal. No again and again, no
they selected ; and they knew how to portray nature
with breadth and simplicity.' Here was confirmation
of the faith inspired ten years before by that living
and lively example in the Trastevere at Rome ; but
here at Pompeii our sculptor could stand before the
silent form of this poor maiden of eighteen hundred
years ago, and study it at his leisure with no fear of
her resentment or of any keen stiletto.
After a rest of about two months he returned to
Florence, stopping at Rome a few days on the way.
102 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Of course he went to the Vatican ; but thoughtful
inspection of the masterpieces there was a little too
' trying ' for an invalid, or rather, a convalescent ;
therefore he determined to look at them this time,
as he says, 'English fashion;' meaning, no doubt,
the manner of sight-seeing practised by the average
English and American tourist, with a guide-book in
hand, checking each capital article as fast as it is
' done,' as if verifying the items of a bill of sale.
Accordingly Giovanni walked through the halls in
the tourist manner, and found his brain entirely
untasked. In a letter from Rome he says to
Venturi : ' I am better, I repeat it, but I find that
any close attention to things of art affects me
unpleasantly. The other day I undertook to spend
some time in the halls of the Vatican and in the
Sistine Chapel, and those masterpieces occasioned
me severe pain in the head, trembling, and nervous
agitation. Thereupon I made up my mind to look
at these wonders of art all' Inglese, rather than in
my own way. I enjoy them less, to be sure, but I
escape the pain ; that is all.'
His next letter is dated from the studio in
Florence, where, he says, he has resumed his work
with the feeling almost of a new man, as he looks
upon that statue which he had abandoned in such a
state of deep despondency. 'That Madonna's head
PARIS IN 1867. 103
which, when I left it, seemed to be grieving also for
me, appeared to me now to express so well the
mourning Madonna that I made no alteration in it ;
it remained, and is such as I left it, when I was
tortured with that fearful, insupportable confusion
and rumbling that crazed my head. My cheeks were
wet with tears of love and gratitude before that head
of clay, and full of confidence I entered again upon
my labours. My thoughts went back to the days of
my suffering, when the fear of losing my reason
filled me with dread, and when I did not care to
look at my children and my dear wife ; and these
memories increased the joy I felt in the conscious-
ness of my present condition, and I thanked the
Lord from the depth of my heart.'
The Tazza, the Triumph of the Cross, the Pieta,
and the Risen Christ were the works chosen by
Dupre to represent his studio at the French exposi-
tion of 1867. On this occasion he made a second
visit to Paris, taking with him his daughter Amalia,
who also had become favourably known through her
graceful works in sculpture. This was the first of
the great world expositions that Dupre had visited ;
six years later he was present also at the similar
exposition of Vienna. In both he served as one of
the jury on sculpture, and in the latter as president
of the jury. His opinion of the worth of such
104 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
gigantic displays of art and industry was somewhat
in advance of public sentiment. The vast accumula-
tion of objects of every conceivable kind, from all
countries, forcing upon our attention ' all that
human knowledge and ingenuity have invented from
Adam down,' the ever-moving stream of the many-
tongued multitude, bewilder the sight and the brain ;
' the senses are overwhelmed ; our eyes lose all
power of discernment, and the mind is afloat in a
boundless sea. Confusion and weariness unfit us for
intelligent observation ; we cease to be even amused.'
Dupre very justly thinks that such surroundings are
especially unfavourable to the study and the proper
estimate of works of art. ' At first we look at them
one by one;' but soon .discouraged, 'we take them
two by two,' and so on. 'World expositions are
great fairs, great markets ; for the advancement of
the fine arts they serve no good purpose whatever ;
they vitiate art, vitiate the public taste.'
And this judgment was not at all the outcome
of disappointed hopes, or of wounded pride. An
unsuccessful exhibitor might very naturally have
said something like this in the bitterness of defeat ;
but Dupre received at the Paris exposition of 1867
the highest of all the honours bestowed upon the
Italian sculptors. The number of pieces of statuary
exhibited was upwards of six hundred, chiefly from
A GRAND MEDAL. 105
France, Bavaria, Prussia, Austria, and Italy. The
premiums were only thirty-six, and of these, six went
to Italy ; to Dupre was awarded the grand medal of
honour. He had believed that the eminent sculptor
Vela, of Milan, would win this distinction, and said
in one of his letters to his family, ' It seems certain
that one of the grand medals will be given to my
friend Vela, and he certainly deserves it ; the other
three, perhaps, will be awarded to France and
Prussia.' But there was a potent influence at work
in favour of Dupre, that neither he nor his com-
petitors had reckoned upon. His children at home
were praying to the Virgin in behalf of babbo. Of
this he was assured by his daughter Beppina in one
of her letters, and babbo in his answer says, 'Mia
cara Beppina, I am just now from the sitting of the
jury, and hasten at once to answer your sweet letter.
It is true that the Napoleon I. of Vela is a beautiful
statue ; there is always a crowd around it, and conse-
quently everybody said it would get the highest award,
and I have given him my vote ; but the public, and I,
and you, my dear Beppina, were wrong ; for the first
premium has come to me to me, tuo padre! Vela
received two votes besides mine. You see, mia cara
figlia, how the Holy Virgin has heard your prayer.'
While attending a reception of Napoleon III.,
given at the Tuileries in honour of the foreign
visitors at the exposition, our artist took part in a
scene that proved him a very ill -trained courtier.
To make his reader understand the incident, he is
obliged to premise the following occurrence of an
earlier date : The Princess Matilda, sister of Jerome
Bonaparte, had often visited the studio of the young
sculptor in the days of his poverty, and had taken
much of his time in sitting for a portrait statue ; but
just before her divorce from Prince Demidoff, she
had hurried away from Florence, promising Dupre
either to return and resume the sittings, or to com-
pensate him for the labour already performed. The
artist, however, had heard nothing further from the
lady, though he had sent to her as a present and as
a delicate reminder, some time after her departure
for Paris, a statuette copy of one of his works. But
this courtesy on his part had elicited no word of
acknowledgment ; and for twelve years she had
ignored his existence. But now the sculptor had
become conspicuous enough to be recognised even
by princely eyes. ' I was presented by our Minister
Nigra to the Emperor, who had upon his arm the
Princess Matilda. As soon as she caught sight of
me she said, " Ah, we have known each other for a
long time!" Now I, calling to mind her shabby
treatment of me, made a show of not knowing any-
thing at all about her ; and the Emperor with his
ROSSINI AND DOR. 107
sleepy eyes gazed upon me with an expression that
seemed to mean either that he thought me wonder-
fully forgetful or a wonderful simpleton. The Prin-
cess passed on without giving me another look.'
Once more he enjoyed for a few days the society
of Rossini and his friends. The old composer was
still overflowing with melody, and even now he
occasionally entertained his visitors with something
new. ' He gave musical evenings,' Dupre writes,
' and sometimes sat at the piano himself and accom-
panied his unpublished romances. I recall two of
singular beauty, one of them touchingly sad in the
subject and words as well as the notes : it was a
father robbed of his child, the lament, full of pathos
and tenderness, ending every strophe : " Ah, who,
who, hath found my child ?" The words, I was told,
were from the Roman poet Castellani. The other
was a brilliant aria, bold and full of fire, a burst of
passionate love, with a Tyrolese refrain ; and it was
sung by that most imaginative genius Gustave Dore.
Such,' he continues, ' were the elegant reunions,
fruitful, instructive, full of life and sweetness, from
which one returned with the mind more elevated
and the heart more glowing ; but, oh! ' In a few
short months that charming circle was dissolved by
the death of the illustrious maestro ; and how few
of those who were wont to assemble there are still
io8 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
surviving ! Rossini's villa, too, at Passy stands now
a ghastly ruin, shattered by the cannon of the
besiegers and the besieged of 1870.
This was the painful thought, no doubt, that cut
short the sentence.
Engages to make a portrait bust before knowing the sitter Honour
from his native Siena At the exposition of Vienna in 1873 made
president of the jury on sculpture German music Returning,
completes the monument of Count Cavour Relations to Pius IX.
Death of his daughter Luisina And that of his wife, Maria.
AFTER an absence of only a few weeks at the ex-
position, the artist was again in his studio, where,
however, the work was never intermitted even when
the master was abroad. Monumental, ideal, or
portrait statuary was always in progress under the
hands of his assistants. Like other sculptors he
was often employed in making portrait busts or
statues while executing works of a higher order.
Some of these he mentions in the Ricordi, and
one in particular was made under such peculiar
circumstances that he gives a full account of it.
In fact it was the bust of a personage hated by
all patriotic Italians, not excepting Dupre himself
which most likely he would not have under-
taken, unless he had found himself involved in a
no GIOVANNI DUPR&.
promise to do it before he had learned the name of
' One day a gentleman asked to speak with me.
He was about sixty years old, tall and spare, with
very deep-set eyes, heavy and shaggy eyebrows, and
long moustaches ; he was quick in movement and
proud in bearing. His features had that marked
individuality which instantly catches the eye of an
artist, and inspires him with the desire of making
them a study. This s ignore says to me :
' " Would it be agreeable to you to make my
' " Yes," I reply.
' " How many sittings will be necessary for the
' " Six, or eight, or more, according to their length."
' " When can you begin ? "
' " The first of next week."
' " Very well ; I will be with you Monday at
' " At nine in the morning, if not inconvenient."
' " Addio, till Monday. Do you know who I am ?"
' " I have not that honour."
' " I am Marshal Haynau."
' He went away, and there was I ! Should I say
that I felt pleased on hearing that name I should
be false to myself; and yet the remarkable character
of that face, the curiosity to learn by conversation
something of the savageness and ferocity of such a
man, and, last of all, the engagement I had made,
would not permit me to give up the work. I need
not say how much censure it called forth from my
friends, and still more from those who were not
my friends. His talk with me at the sittings made
him appear to be a man without fierce passion or
savage cruelty, though severe in military discipline,
and inexorable in the punishment of rebel soldiers.
Of such punishments he made no secret. The
names of the Hungarian generals and civilians he had
ordered to be shot he mentioned to me with as much
indifference as if it had been the most natural thing
in the world ; and when I reproached him for such
inhumanity, he replied that nothing else could pos-
sibly be done with rebels, and that if he had acted
otherwise he would himself have been punished.
But when I charged him with the cruel treatment of
women and children, and of all sorts of harmless
persons, accounts of which I had seen in the news-
papers, he denied it altogether, and also added the
following anecdote, the truth of which, of course, I
cannot vouch for : When he gained his victory at
Pesth, and had in his hands the chiefs of the revolu-
tion, a council of war condemned them all to death.
Among them were the Archbishop of Pesth and the
ii2 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Count Karoli. Haynau was clothed with supreme
authority as the. after ego, and consequently had no
need of the Emperor's sanction. The Archbishop,
however, as well as Karoli, had powerful adherents
and friends at Vienna, who brought their influence to
bear so effectually that just one hour before the
appointed time of the execution their pardon came
from the Emperor. But as the Marshal believed
them, on account of their rank, to be the most
guilty of all, and thought it unjust to spare them
and sacrifice the others, he had all the prisoners
summoned before him, and announcing to the two
fortunate ones the imperial pardon, added these
words : " It is my conviction, by reason of the evi-
dence in my hands, which has been examined by the
council of war, that the Archbishop and the Count
Karoli are the most guilty of you all ; but since our
most gracious Sovereign has saved them from the
penalty they have deserved, it is not just that the
less guilty should suffer it ; therefore, in virtue of
the power of the alter ego with which I am invested, I
grant life and pardon to you all." ' Dupre says he
has preserved in this narrative the very words of
The Austrian Marshal urged him, when the bust
had been finished, to execute a full-length statue
also ; but the artist declined to make any further
MEMORIAL BUSTS. 113
contribution to the immortality of such a man.
What he had already done was repugnant to his
patriotism, though not to his artistic spirit. Of
course his motive was not understood, and his
reputation as an Italian citizen, for the time, was
somewhat prejudiced ; yet he found zealous defenders,
and among them the painter Bezzuoli. ' An artist,'
said the latter, in vindication of Dupre, ' when
making a portrait, deals with his art, not with
politics. If the person whose likeness is sculptured
is a villain, he remains a villain, portrait or no
portrait. Such are Tiberius and Nero, and other
beasts like them, whose statues, nevertheless, are a
delight to the eye.' The remark of Bezzuoli has
reference to such portraits as the magnificent sitting
statue of Tiberius in the Vatican.
Not long after Dupre's second visit to Paris, the
municipal council of Siena employed Tito Sarrocchi,
his old pupil, to execute a bust of his former master.
Another was made some time afterwards by Amalia
Dupre for the church in the parish of Onda where
the sculptor was born. Underneath the former was
placed this inscription : ' To Giovanni Dupre, of
Siena, who has added to the glories of Italian art by
the wonders of his chisel, and new and immortal glory
to the city of Siena : XII July MDCCCLXVII.'
By such acts and expressions Italian cities mani-
ii4 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
fest the generous estimate put upon their great
artists, and thus they furnish incentives to art
At Vienna in 1873 Italian sculptors exhibited
two hundred and fifteen statues. At this exposition
Dupre, as before remarked, was made president of
the jury on sculpture, and he took advantage of his
authority to call the members frequently together,
and to have their report ready at an early day ; for
he had very soon tired of ' that perfect Babel,' and
was impatient to be at home again, and in the
studio. The labour of the jury was greatly increased
by the bad arrangement of the statuary ; not being
brought together at one point in a common depart-
ment of art, but scattered about through the vast
area of ' the world show,' amongst the different
nationalities. So much the more time and self-
sacrifice, therefore, were required on the part of the
commissioners, and so much greater was the difficulty
of keeping them at work. ' You may be sure,' he
writes to his daughters, ' I have made these gentle-
men trot about. As you may easily imagine, some
of them are bent on amusement, and would gladly
spin out the examination for many days, making
frequent excursions, and having a good time ; but I
have been rather hard on them. No, signori, I
said ; we are here on this business, and it must be
GERMAN MUSIC. 115
brought to an end promptly ; this done, as much
rest and pleasure as you wish.'
Now and then he found relief from the labours of
the commission in the grateful and solemn quiet of
the Cathedral, and especially in the singing he heard
there. Never before had he known anything about
German music its rich and varied harmonies and
its wonderful execution. His letters contain many
expressions of the new emotion of delight awakened
in him by a kind of music which, he says, was 'a
revelation.' To his family he writes : ' My dearest
ones, I have been to the mass at St. Stephen's,
which is the Cathedral, a fine church, Gothic, of
course, a little smaller than our Duomo. Before,
during, and after the mass there were hymns sung
with organ accompaniment alone, but more perfect
than I can express musica stupenda sad and
sweet, too few choir singers, but accompanied by
the whole people in a subdued voice. It seemed to
me like the sighing of angels, tender and loving.
Music so beautiful, and sung with such deep and
thoughtful devotion, is a thing of heaven ; and I
could almost say, the most spiritual of the arts, the
most direct and lively manifestation of the divine
essence. Never before have I heard this kind of
music or this kind of singing.' And not less wonder-
ful did he find the perfection to which the Germans
u6 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
had brought the execution of operatic and orchestral
music. During his visit the Lohengrin of Wagner was
produced, and he attended the performance. Here,
too, he gained new ideas of the capabilities of musical
art. ' The harmony of sounds is something deeper,
more ultimate, more mysterious than the harmony of
lines and colours. As the harmonious relation or
affinity of external things that constitutes the beauti-
ful pertains not only to their material nature but still
more to the spirit that breathes from within, there-
fore the beauty that emanates from the divine har-
mony of sound has a more subtle and living quality,
because in this the soul manifests itself directly and
without any intervening material veil. Our mind is
drawn to it by a strong impulse of affection, because
the mind is also a part of immortal beauty, and has
an irresistible longing to be united with it.' He clearly
grasps the truth that the several arts of the beautiful
have one common source in our spiritual nature, that
they stand on the same ground and are one in
essence ; and he suspects, that if there be any
difference in excellence, the highest, as being the
most spiritual, is music. Strange that so many
learned and elaborate histories of art should contain
not a chapter, not a word on the art which is the
purest, highest, and most enduring of all.
A few weeks after his return from Vienna, Dupre
THE CAVOUR MONUMENT. 117
completed a work upon which he had been employed
more or less constantly during the last eight years.
This was the monument to Count Cavour, erected at
Turin, and unveiled in November 1873 the most
elaborate and imposing of all his works. Many
artists had presented designs for this monument in
the competition invited by the national commis-
sioners ; but Dupre had not been one of the number ;
in fact, when the designs first offered had all been
rejected, he had been appointed as one of a new jury
to decide upon a second competition ; but when this
also failed to secure any satisfactory plan, the com-
mission invited Dupre himself to design and execute
the monument according to his own judgment, ' leav-
ing him free to determine its size, the treatment
of the subject, the material to be employed, and the
place where it should stand.'
He had several reasons for declining : ' First,
because a subject of entirely political significance was
difficult and foreign to his nature and to his studies;
then, because it seemed to him a delicate matter to
accept the work, as he had been one of the judges in
the competition ; finally, because the plan presented
by Vela (which Dupre had voted for on the jury)
seemed to him good enough. But,' says he, 'my
refusal and my reasons for it were not sufficient to
prevent their urging me persistently to undertake
u8 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
the task ; which, indeed, while it involved difficulties
of treatment great and even hazardous, at the same
time afforded an opportunity for distinction that
seldom occurs, and that might well have tempted
artists of higher expectations than I had been wont
to cherish. However, I should have persisted in my
refusal, if a gentle and most noble lady had not
added her personal entreaties, touching also upon
certain family ties and affections, that always find in
me an echo of assent.' In his letter finally accepting
the commission he expresses the hope ' that he may
conceive a monument that will at once possess beauty
of form, and speak to the multitudes the language of
liberty and of national honour, while commemorating
the services and the achievements of the great states-
He asked eight years for the completion of the
work, and found in the end that this long period,
while other engagements were pending, was barely
sufficient. The expense was provided for by the
contributions of the provinces of the new and united
Italy, as an expression of the admiration and grati-
tude felt by the whole country for its great statesman
The following explanation of the design is sub-
stantially that which is given by the sculptor himself
in the Ricordi : Cavour is represented standing
THE MONUMENT TO COUNT CAVOUR. IN Tu:
To face page 119.
THE CAVOUR MONUMENT. 119
enveloped in his funeral robes, as if prepared for
death ; manifesting in his calm and cheerful counten-
ance the consciousness that his life-work is well ended.
In his left hand he holds a scroll on which are
visible the words of his famous motto : Libera chiesa
in liber o stato (a free church in a free state) ; and
the right hand rests on the figure of Italy, who is
lifting herself from her prostrate position and pre-
senting the civic crown to her deliverer. In her
look and movement there is a mingling of gratitude
and of tender anxiety. Resting on the lower base
are several allegorical figures. In front is the
personification of Right just rising from the earth,
with one hand resting upon a broken yoke, and the
other drawn back and ready to strike. His lion-
skin garment is a symbol of the strength inherent in
a righteous cause. In the rear is Duty crowned
with olive, to signify that public office faithfully
discharged secures the national peace. This figure
rests upon a rock which is sculptured with bas-reliefs
typifying, as characteristic duties of government, the
punishment of crime, the rewarding of civil virtues,
and the fostering of industry. The group on the
right flank of the pedestal consists of three figures
Statesmanship, with the Genius of Diplomacy and
the Genius of Revolution ; the former holding up to
view the treaties of 1815, and the latter threaten-
120 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
ing to hurl the torch. In the corresponding group
on the left flank, the principal figure represents
Independence wearing the Roman helmet, and in
the act of casting away the broken chain of foreign
despotism ; while she holds tightly clasped the
Genius of the Provinces, at whose feet lies the ring
of captivity. The Genius standing on her left side
represents Italian Unity, crowned with a wreath of
oak leaves, and supporting the fasces, or bundle of
rods, as the symbol of union and strength. On the
panels of the lower base are two bas-reliefs in
bronze ; one representing the return of the Sardinian
troops from the Crimea ; for it was through the
policy of Cavour that Sardinia took part with
England and France in the Crimean campaigns
against Russia ; the other, the congress of Paris of
1856, where, for the first time, and that through the
influence and in the person of Cavour, the voice of
Italy was heard in the great councils of the European
powers. On the front is the inscription : ' To
Camillo Cavour, born in Turin the tenth of August
1810, died the sixth of June 1861 ;' on the right,
over the figure of Statesmanship, ' Prudent Audacity;'
on the left, over that of Independence, ' Italy made
free;' on the panel in the rear, 'The Italians,
Turin leading on ' the last in allusion to the fact
that the citizens of Turin took the initiative among
the Italian cities in raising the fund for the erection
of the monument.
No work of this kind, however beautiful, escapes
criticism, especially on the part of contemporaries.
The strictures made upon this were directed chiefly,
as it would seem from the letters of Dupre, against
the nude statues in the two groups on the pedestal.
But he says in a letter to Giuseppe Martinengo,
' The nudity of my statues cannot awaken in the
least any improper feeling. Entirely nude are only
two Geniuses conceived to be of about the age of
seven years ; and the attitude and expression of
these children are wholly foreign to any suggestion
of impurity.' Among those who made such criticisms
was Dupre's intimate friend Conti, who had made a
similar objection to the nude child of Charity in the
Ferrari monument. He did not differ from Dupre
so much on the general question of the use of nude
figures as on the proper subject and place for their
employment. His opinions on questions of art were
highly valued by Dupre, who calls them ' profound
and conscientious,' and they were always accepted
by the artist, even when they took the form of
strictures, in the friendly spirit in which they were
given. And, indeed, this was the disposition of our
artist towards all candid and discriminating criticism
of his own works ; for he was not at all ' thin-
122 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
skinned.' On the question of the nude, we find in
the Ricordi such observations as we might expect
from Dupre's simple good sense, and such as are
perfectly exemplified in his own works. ' It is not
the nudity of figures that gives offence to modesty ;
if that were so, we should be obliged to condemn
nearly all the works of Michelangelo ;' no, it is
' their conception, their expression, their attitude ; in
a word, the mind, the idea, the inner state of the
artist, while he works.' And so ' figures that are
completely draped, even a nun like the saint Teresa
of Bernini, may bear the impress of sensuality,' and
on the other hand, ' a wholly nude statue, like the
Capitoline Venus, may fill the beholder with a
sentiment of reverent admiration.'
Dupre's own impression of the merit of this
monument he gives in the Ricordi, when describing
a visit to Turin in company with Amalia seven
years after it was erected. Having contemplated it
some time in silence, he turned to her and said, ' I
am satisfied with this work ; and, believe me, it is a
very difficult thing for an artist to look at one of
his productions after an intervening period of time,
without finding anything to correct.' Some time
afterwards, on a journey from Florence to Milan, the
sculptor and his daughter happened to be in the
same car with two strangers who were conversing
PIUS THE NINTH. 123
upon matters of literature and art One of them
turned out to be a distinguished professor and con-
tributor to the reviews. After speaking of several
monuments recently erected, he said, ' For example,
that of Cavour at Turin.' . . . Dupre, dreading on
Amalia's account as well as his own some unpleasant
criticism of his work, at once interrupted him by
saying, ' Excuse me, sir ; that monument is a
work of mine.' But the professor without the least
embarrassment replied, ' That matters not ; I can
proceed with my remarks.' And with perfect com-
posure, and without change of tone, a fact that
proved the sincerity of his words, he praised the
composition, the beauty of the figures, the style,
the harmony of the lines, and in short held it up
as an example of grand monumental sculpture.
' This,' says Venturi, in relating the incident, ' was
for Dupre one of the greatest consolations of his
It is a curious fact, and one that illustrates the
peculiar state of Italian politics at this time, that
Dupre, who had been hitherto a special favourite of
Pius IX., incurred his displeasure on account of this
Cavour monument to such a degree, indeed, that
he would not vouchsafe to the artist a sitting for a
portrait bust which the Marquis del Monte desired
him to make for the Cathedral of Florence. When
i2 4 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
the Marquis requested the favour of a sitting with-
out giving the name of the proposed sculptor, his
Holiness expressed himself perfectly willing : ' but
when,' says Dupre, ' he heard my name, he per-
emptorily refused ; for he did not wish that I should
make his portrait, because I had made the monu-
ment of Cavour. To tell the truth,' he continues,
' this kind of censure on the part of the Pope was
not pleasant to me.' And he wrote a letter to one
of the papal secretaries, protesting against such
illiberality, a part of which, he thinks, was read by
his Holiness ; for, as the following passage shows,
he gave Dupre and his daughter a very friendly
reception some time afterwards, when they were
passing through Rome on their way to the exposi-
tion at Naples in 1877. 'He turned to me
benignantly and said : " Dear Dupre, what beautiful
works are you making now ?" I, who do not
usually find myself embarrassed in speaking to any
one, was now completely tongue-tied, and could not
make out to articulate two words ; and the poor,
saintly old man, to relieve my hesitation, continued :
" I feel for you ; political changes, rumours of war>
distract the mind of the artist, and, moreover, are
inimical to the development of his genius." Then
turning to my daughter he said : " And you too, my
brave sculptress, I give my blessing to you and at
MONUMENT TO LUIS IN A. 125
the same time to your father." It was peculiarly
affecting to hear for the last time that kindly voice.
My heart told me it would soon be heard no more ;
and, indeed, hardly eight months later he died, a few
days after the King (Victor Emanuel), to whom he
had sent his benediction.'
It was while the Cavour monument was in pro-
gress, and a year before it was completed, that
Dupre lost his youngest daughter, Luisina. She
died at the age of twenty-two. Of this sore bereave-
ment he writes in the Ricordi ; 'This affliction that
God was pleased to bring upon us broke down my
self-confidence, spread a veil of sadness over my
family, shattered the health, and perhaps hastened
the departure of my loved Maria. Ah, most mighty
God of Israel, lover of faithful souls, look upon the
trial of thy servant !' It was naturally his first
thought to erect a worthy monument to his lost
Angioletto Luisina. This he would have done
himself, ' had grief permitted,' but the father's hand
was unequal to the task ; it was undertaken by
Amalia. 5 The memory of this sweet and beautiful
daughter has been immortalised by the monument
designed and executed by her loving sister Amalia,
and put up in the family chapel at Fiesole. In a
niche, on a level with the pavement, stands a
sepulchral urn, and reposing upon it as if in peaceful
126 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
sleep, holding a crucifix upon her breast, is sculptured
the form of the dear sister. The figure is of the
size of life. That poor Amalia suffered much in
executing her sad task every one can understand
and none better than I ; and I tried to dissuade her
from the painful duty she had imposed upon herself ;
but her tender devotion to the memory of the lost
Luisina whispered to her heart, perhaps, that in this
offering of her art her grief would find its sweetest
Three years later the mother of this amiable
family, la buonissima Maria, la santa donna, was laid
to rest with Luisina. The artist, again heart-stricken,
writes a few days afterwards to his sympathising
friend, the Marquis of Capponi : ' I am a poor way-
farer, wearied and disheartened on the journey I
have still to travel before I can join my sweet
companion. I am not alone I have my two
children with me, and I am striving for courage to
bear the hardship that remains. The memory of my
loved one, who for almost forty years has kept me
good companionship with her spirit, gentle, simple,
right, weighs heavy upon my heart, and keeps me
in tears ; and but for the sight of my children I
should also be forced to cry out : It is enough, O
Lord ; take now my life, because I have no more
strength than my fathers had.' And to the Countess
DEATH OF MARIA. 127
of Baiveri : ' God has ordered it thus ; may His
heavenly will be ever fulfilled. The blow that has
smitten us is terrible, the wound deep, and hard to
bear ; but out of grief love is born ; because the
anguish of grief finds vent in tears, and by tears our
poor hearts are softened and purified. I thank you
for your sweet words ; and with you I thank my
good, gentle, dear Marietta, who one day said to me,
" God is good ! Happy they that love Him, for they
shall find consolation." And I look for consolation,
while asking with my whole heart for grace to love
Him and serve Him worthily.'
Without knowing the earnest nature of Dupre,
incapable as it was of affected sentiment, we might
mistake these sad words for the usual utterances of
fervid, but often momentary grief, not countenanced,
perhaps, by the previous history of the husband and
wife ; but his was no common and evanescent sorrow ;
he mourned for one whose life had become a part of
his own. Here are some words addressed to her in
a letter from Turin a year and a half before her
death : ' My dear wife, when I reflect that I owe in
great part my not ill-success in art to you, because
if I had had a suspicious, or vain or worldly wife,
my artist career would have been difficult, hindered,
or, perhaps, altogether defeated, I cannot but bless
and thank the Lord for His favour to me in uniting me
128 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
to you, and in giving you to me, and in filling my
heart with grateful love and esteem for you. This
love of thirty-eight years has been strengthened by
the memory of our common suffering, endured by
you with constancy and patience ; strengthened, too,
by my respect for your virtue and by your affection
for me and for our offspring ; by your wise discretion
in the management of the household, and by your
example of purity and modesty, which have been a
school for our children, and, thanks to God, have
greatly profited them.'
Life affords nothing more beautiful than a family
perfectly one in love and sympathy ; nothing more
sad than such a family invaded at last, and broken
up by death ; when ' the tender bonds of the house-
hold are dissolved for ever, and she who had been
the mother of the house now dwells in the shadow-
land.' Henceforth our poor artist can only look
back with regret and vain longing upon the past,
fraught with memories the more tender because
made up so much of suffering mingled with felicity.
' Oh, how time has changed everything ! ' he writes in
a letter to Signora Felice Ciantelli. 'What a charm-
ing resort, and that not long ago, was my beautiful
villa of San Giovanni ! There I had around me,
with Amalia and Beppina, my dear sweet Luisina,
and the sainted companion who had shared the toils
THE BLESSING OF WORK. 129
and pains of my youthful days ; who left me at the
moment when I had secured for her a happy and
tranquil repose. But God granted to her a rest that
is far better.'
His studio, his art, his ambition, the life that has
hitherto seemed full of meaning, are now for a time
utterly vapid, unsatisfying, and dreary. Amalia, too,
sits in ' sad, mute monotony of woe ; prostrated in
strength, without courage or will.' It was fortunate
however, for both father and daughter that the
demands of the studio would not suffer them to
remain long in this helpless despondency. Mind
and hand were soon compelled to be busy again
upon the interrupted work ; and thought, becoming
insensibly interested in their beautiful art, was with-
drawn from the contemplation of their bereavement ;
and thus the benign necessity of things, as usual,
allayed the pain and healed the wound, though it
could not bring back the joy. The sculptor placed
a medallion portrait of his wife on the wall of the
chapel opposite to the tomb of Luisina, intending to
erect a monument to her at a later day, corre-
sponding to that of the deceased daughter. On the
medallion he sculptured a twig of oak leaves : a
symbol of the fortitude exhibited by Maria Dupre
through all the trials of her life ; and underneath the
portrait he inscribed these words, simple and sett-
130 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
tentious, like the sepulchral inscriptions of the old
Romans themselves : ' A good wife and mother, for
that she loved and feared God : lived sixty years,
and died the twentieth of May 1875 : sculptured by
the husband weeping and praying.'
It was about this time that our artist was made a
Knight and Counsellor of the Civil Order of Savoy.
His election to the Institute of France has already
been mentioned. Many other public honours at
various times were conferred upon him, both at home
and abroad ; he was a Knight of the Tuscan Order
of Merit and of the Legion of Honour of France, an
Officer of the Brazilian Order of the Rose, Com-
mendatore of the Crown of Italy, and of several
other Orders, Associate of the Roman Academy of
Saint Luke, and of the other principal Italian and
TOMB OF GIUILANO DE' MEDICI, YOUNGER SON OF LORENZO IL MAONIFICO,
In lit Ktw Sacrilly of Sal Lima, flarmt
To face page 131.
Dupre as a writer and critic Papers read and published at the fourth
centennial of the birth of Michelangelo in 1875.
IN September 1875 Florence celebrated with great
enthusiasm and splendour the fourth centennial of
the birthday of Michelangelo. Among the many
observances of the day there was a grand assembly
in the aula of the ancient senate house, consisting of
the members of the Academy of Fine Arts and of
the Academy della Crusca, with many distinguished
citizens and literary men. The Presidents of the
two Academies, Emilio de Fabris and Augusto Conti,
pronounced discourses, one on Michelangelo as an
architect, the other upon his merits as a philosopher,
poet, and citizen ; and Giovanni Dupre read an
address upon Michelangelo the sculptor. This was
a new role for Dupre, and when invited to under-
take it, he had shrunk at first with natural timidity
from a task so formidable to one who had never
opened his lips in a public assembly ; however, on
second thought, he ' threw together with the pen
132 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
some few ideas, and gave them to his friend Luigi
Venturi to read.' Encouraged by the latter, he
ventured to appear with the other speakers on this
occasion. Overcoming the well-known tremor of
the first moment, he became at once self-possessed,
and ' read his discourse better than he had read it
before to Amalia.' In fact, it was greeted with
such hearty applause that the modest speaker was
overwhelmed with surprise. And he was still more
astonished when in a few days he found it noticed
by the press throughout the country in terms of
unmeasured praise ; so that the artist remarks in a
letter to Venturi, ' that he has received more com-
mendation for these few words than for many of the
statues upon which he had exhausted his strength.'
It was the interest manifested by the public in this
essay that suggested to him the first thought of
doing something for art by writing his reminiscences.
He writes to Giovanni Cozza of Perugia : ' It is a
curious thing that these words, I do not say im-
provised, for that would be untrue, but certainly
not studied, should have attracted general appro-
bation, and especially that of literary men. I am
amazed and at the same time happy over it ; and
perhaps circumstances will induce me to go on, and
to leave some ideas about art, and some facts con-
cerning myself for the instruction of future young
AN ARTIST CRITIC. 133
artists.' And these words give us the motive of
Connected with the same centennial a memorial
volume was published, made up of articles on the
life and works of Michelangelo, contributed by
several distinguished writers. One of these papers
was furnished by Dupre. It was a notice of the
celebrated sculptural monuments in the New Sac-
risty of the Church of San Lorenzo at Florence,
executed by Michelangelo in memory of Julian de'
Medici, Duke of Nemours, and of Lorenzo de'
Medici, Duke of Urbino ; one the brother and the
other the nephew of Leo X., by whose request they
were made. This paper and the discourse above
referred to are both contained in the volume of
Dupre's Scritti MinorL Both productions are
marked by such clear insight and by such freshness
and vigour as to make us regret that the author was
not called upon to exercise his latent gift for art
criticism at an earlier day. None can see so dis-
tinctly in art as they whose knowledge comes, in part
at least, from the practice of it. To them more
clearly than to others is the intention of the artist
visible in his creations ; for they have in mind their
own mental processes and struggles, and they, too,
from their own experience can understand better
than others the treatment necessitated by the nature
134 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
of each subject, the advantages seized upon, the diffi-
culties overcome, the merits and defects of execution.
Thus, what the literary critic can scarcely more than
guess at, the artist critic, looking at the works of
kindred artists, past or present, with the eye of
kindred experience, can interpret almost as if it were
the offspring of his own thought. He undertook the
paper on the Medicean monuments of Michelangelo
with the same hesitating modesty as the discourse
delivered before the two Academies. ' But,' says he,
'I thought to myself, how many times have I spoken
of the works of that godlike man with my fellow-
artists, with my friends, and above all, as it was my
duty to do, with my pupils ? And why could I not
recall those words, now that we were renewing our
memory and love of him, and our admiration for his
immortal works ? For the utterance of truth we
require not much fatigue and study a little courage
is all we need and I accepted the task.'
From these two articles, so bright, so apprecia-
tive, so full of reverence for that noble spirit and
mighty genius, I will quote in form or in substance
some characteristic passages that will fully justify to
the reader the lively interest they awakened in
Italian circles of art and literature.
Dupre, in speaking of the statues of Julian and
Lorenzo, naturally gave a thought to the question
THE MED1CEAN SCULPTURES. 135
that has puzzled so many, why a sculptor like
Michelangelo, ' a lover of his country's institutions,
and a man of austere nature,' should have consented
to take as subjects of his chisel these two unworthy
descendants of his early friend Lorenzo the Magni-
ficent ; two personages not only of little historical
significance, but also far from possessing any claim
to the respect of a patriotic Florentine. ' But,' says
Dupre (and it reminds us of his defence of his
portrait bust of Marshal Haynau), 'whoever will
keep in mind the love that every artist has for his
art, that even an ungrateful theme may be attractive
from an objective point of view, or from its form,
and that without forfeiting his dignity and honour,
he can embody a thought that may reveal and
satisfy his own soul, will cease to be surprised at
this seeming inconsistency, and, on the contrary,
will learn to esteem the man and admire the artist.'
The two monuments are placed on opposite
sides of the New Sacristy, in the Church of San
Lorenzo. They are similar in design : each consists
of a funeral urn of sufficient dimensions to support
two colossal figures reclining upon the top; those on
one of the urns representing Day and Night, on the
other, Dawn and Twilight. Above these, in niches
recessed in the wall, are seated the marble statues of
the two Dukes, Julian and Lorenzo. The latter has
136 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
become known the world over as il Pensiero, or il
Pensieroso, Thought, or the Thoughtful ; ' and,' says
Dupre, ' in the attitude of complete abstraction, in
the profound meditative look, in the shadowy gloom
enveloping, as it were, that whole figure, there is
thought indeed ; but it is of trouble, of torture, as of
one at war with himself. Lorenzo has forfeited the
joy of friendship that animates the soul ; old and
trustful comrades, deceived and wronged, have fled,
and have left him alone with his guilty conscience ;
and it is well ; the just penalty of ingratitude is
remorse. This it is that Michelangelo has sculptured
here with the divine hand of the philosopher, the
Christian, and the artist.' The Pensiero is over the
urn on which repose the forms of Dawn and Twilight.
Over those of Day and Night is placed the statue of
Julian. ' The figure of the Duke of Nemours,' Dupre
continues, 'with its expression of tranquil dignity,
with half-averted look, gazing into distance, seems to
think of the evanescence of life and the emptiness of
human hopes.' Kindred to this is the idea conveyed
by the allegorical figures of Day and Night, Dawn and
Twilight ; all conspiring to impress one sole thought
the brevity of life and the flitting career of human
greatness. And in them all is visible at the same
time the struggle and fretting of the soul of the
sculptor himself. These wonderful sculptures, in
TOMB OF LORENZO DE 1 MEDICI (IL I'EI
r* Uu Nnj Satriity of San Lorcnto, Hot
To face page 136.
which the grandest in art was subsidised to perpetu-
ate the fame of two very commonplace characters,
remain, in fact, enduring monuments of the great-
ness of the artist himself; 'and perhaps this Lorenzo
and this Julian would be names quite unknown, if
Michelangelo had not made them illustrious by the
splendid monuments of San Lorenzo.'
In the address before the Academies Dupre
characterises Michelangelo as ' a sculptor absolutely
original, terribly severe in conception and form.'
His art was in keeping with his spirit and life ;
' he thought, lived, and worked almost solitary in
the midst of his contemporaries, who were in great
part pagans in their studies and habits.' A rough
verdict upon the age of the Medici, in which Dupre,
I scarcely need remark, by no means stands alone.
It has been said of Michelangelo, in allusion to
his gifts as a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet,
that he was a man of four minds or of fourfold
genius ; and yet everywhere, according to the judg-
ment of Dupre, even in painting and architecture,
nay, even in poetry, his conceptions are distinctively
plastic. In whatever art either choice or necessity
has led him to embody his thought, he always
reveals more or less the characteristic traits of the
sculptor. ' The stupendous composition of the Last
Judgment is like an immense work in relief, sculp-
138 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
tured upon a fearfully sombre and mystic background,
illuminated here and there with an indescribable
light.' The figures and groups of the sublime vision
seem to have been moulded by the plastic hand, or
to have been incised with the chisel. So with the
grand designs on the vault of the Sistine Chapel,
particularly the Jeremiah, the Delphic Sibyl, and the
group of the creation of man ; for these would be
even more beautiful if worked out in relief. Colour
with Michelangelo was mainly light and shade, giving
the harmonious effects that are characteristic of
Not less in architecture also is manifested his
predilection for sculptural types. While adapting
to his purposes the general principles and leading
forms of the classical style, he rejects all that seems
to him inconsistent with severe simplicity ; pre-
ferring ' Dantesque chiseling to Vergilian colouring.'
Finally, we have even in his poems, according to
the fancy of Dupre, 'the physiognomy of the sculptor ;'
for in these also can be perceived an ' austerity of
conception,' a certain bold directness of style, brief
and incisive, like his strokes upon the marble. ' As
an example,' he says, ' may suffice the famous stanza
of four lines on his statue of Night.'
The lines referred to by Dupre are those com-
posed by Michelangelo in reply to the verses of
STATUE OF NIGHT. 139
Gianbattista Strozzi playing upon the sculptor's
' La Notte che tu vedi in si dolci atti
Dormire, fu da un Angelo scolpita
In questo sasso ; e perch dorme, ha vita ;
Destala, se no'l credi, e parleratti.'
' The Night thou see'st thus sleeping quietly,
Was in this marble by an Angel wrought ;
She sweetly sleeps, and still with life is fraught ;
Believ'st thou not ? speak, and she'll speak to thee.'
But the stern sculptor saw not in his Night the
sweet sleep of a quiet mind ; it was rather the sleep
that would fain seek oblivion of the country's shame ;
of the wrongs brought upon her in part by these very
Medici, unworthy scions of a noble house, whose
character he hates, though his hand has chiseled
their portraits. Therefore in the spirit of a re-
publican and of a patriot, who has been fighting
in vain for the liberty of Florence, he puts into the
lips of his Night, as a reply, and as a rebuke to
Strozzi, these words, so full of his own blunt im-
petuosity, struck off, as it were, with hammer and
' Grato m'e '1 sonno, e piu 1'esser di sasso !
Mentre che '1 danno e la vergogna dura ;
Non veder, non sentir m'e gran ventura,
Pero non mi destar ; deh parla basso.'
140 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
' I'm glad to sleep, thrice glad to be of stone !
While all is lost, and but dishonour reigns,
Not see, not feel, sole happiness remains ;
So wake me not ; ah, speak in lowest tone.'
And what was the secret of his power ? It was,
as Dupre thinks, the marvellous blending in his
spirit of an unconquerable will with the purest and
deepest affection. That nature, fierce and untamable,
so gigantic in conception, in execution so impetuous,
was yet tender and susceptible in the relations of
domestic life ; and it was capable of love purely
intellectual, such as his attachment to Vittoria
Colonna. Men like him know nothing of merely
emotional sentiment, ' the stagnant and dead water,'
says Dupre, ' that vitiates our nature and swamps all
manliness.' In Michelangelo 'strong love and strong
will produced a character at once benignant and
powerful.' He was like David, that Bible hero
whom he has chosen as the subject of one of his
noblest creations. ' The youthful son of Jesse, the
kind and gentle shepherd, David, became the in-
vincible soldier, saviour of his people, king and
prophet, and yet, in the midst of his greatness, gave
utterance to those tender words : " And I weep for
thee, Jonathan, my brother, beautiful above all men,
and more lovely than the loveliness of maidens ; as
a mother loves her only son, so did I love thee."'
SUBLIME FAULTS. 141
So this most ungentle of all artists, the fierce
sculptor of the Medicean colossi, this wild man, this
'terrible man,' as Pope Julius calls him, who habitually
shunned society, nevertheless had a place in his heart
for the truest love and friendship ; and he not only
loved the Marchioness Vittoria Colonna as he alone
could love, but he sat whole nights by the sick-bed of
his servant Urbino, and after his death, ' wrote in his
memory words of such tenderness, that we know not
whether more to love the man or to admire the
artist.' And 'these two forces,' these two elements
of character, earnest love and invincible purpose,
made him Michelangelo.
But in all his admiration of the great master
Dupre is not blind to his defects. Of the colossal
figures of the Medicean monuments he observes :
' As to their artistic merit I must say, though with
a feeling of profound reverence, that their herculean
forms have undoubtedly a forced expression and a
distorted movement.' And yet even this fault he is
compelled in some measure to justify: 'Their ex-
travagance, however, while overstepping the bounds
of common nature and the reach of ordinary
imagination, is penetrated with a marvellous and
inexpressible beauty. The two elements are here
inseparable ; for without this very exaggeration the
work would no longer appear, what in truth it is,
i 4 2 GIOVANNI DUPRk.
terribly sublime.' And further : ' It has been said
that Michelangelo has done more harm than good
to art by misleading his imitators ; but this he
himself foresaw and feared, and he did not hesitate
to say so. Imitation was, and is an error ; it is a
path by which we cannot arrive at true art, while
in it we lose art's most precious attribute, originality.
In the morally good, imitation is necessary, for the
good is absolute ; but in the beautiful it is not so,
because this in its infinite diversity manifests itself in
the most varied modes, according to the gifts of the
one who admires and feels it.'
The picture of Michelangelo at work is not un-
familiar to most readers, but Dupre imparts to it
new animation and interest. ' Impatient to realise
the conceptions once vividly formed in his imagina-
tion, he could not brook the delay of the usual
methods. He trod ways unknown, disdaining the
ordinary processes of the art. He made no models
in plaster, nor employed the three points of breadth,
length, and depth ; a system even at that time
understood, though never regarded by him. But
having completed his miniature model of clay, he
placed it before him near the block of marble and
his living model, and having ascertained the extreme
points, he contemplated thoughtfully that stony
mass in which his statue lay hid ; then marking the
MICHELANGELO AT WORK. 143
chief lines of the contour with charcoal, he took his
chisel in hand, and assailing the solid block with
rapid blows, chipped off the surface. The scales
darted off like hailstones ; the chisel struck fire, and
each stroke was attended with the hard-fetched
breath. Then a brief pause ; a quick glance at all
sides of his clay model and of the marble. It
seemed as if with every deep-drawn breath the
sculptor were breathing life into the hard material ;
and as the marble insensibly grew into the image of
his thought, his fervour became more glowing, and
the conception in his fancy more luminous. Each
day he returned to the work with the same ardour,
with the same clearness of vision, with the same
tenacity ; and at length with strokes more deliberate
and cautious, though with not less decision, he plied
the several tools of his .art, the dog-tooth, the chisel,
and file, in rounding the surfaces, moulding the parts,
giving expression to the features and life to the eyes.
The marble seemed to acknowledge the power of its
conqueror, and, yielding little by little, to unveil itself
in the form determined by his will. Such was Michel-
angelo in his practical method of sculpture, one of
fearful boldness and danger, never ventured upon
before or after.
' Yet at times a cloud of sadness overshadowed
the joy of victory. Was it the consciousness of a
144 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
higher and more vivid conception, constantly pursued,
and not yet attained ? Or was it that the fiery
impatience of the sculptor, driving the steel into the
viscera of the marble, had pushed it beyond the
proper bound, and mutilated the form he had
desired to see unprisoned from the stone, all pure
and intact? Perhaps both the one and the other.
' As for me,' says Dupre in conclusion, ' leaving
criticism to others, I will say this only : that the gen-
eration which can penetrate with the mental eye the
depth of thought in Michelangelo, is, perhaps, yet
unborn. Towards the works of that great artist each
one must direct his eyes with whatever power he may
possess ; Buonarroti fixed his own upon the eternal
light, and catching a ray from this, tranfused it into
his immortal creations. The conceited and envious
with their arrogant and vain hostility will renew in
him the suffering of Prometheus ; but his heart is
restored from day to day, for he has in himself that
which cannot die ; the divine spark of the beautiful
in union with the good. The malignant cannot
endure to behold it ; for the eagle, secure and joyous,
fixes his look upon the sun, while the bats and owls
are blinded by its rays.'
Statues of Pope Pius IX., of Victor Emanuel, and of Raimondo
Lullo St. Francis of Assisi modelled in clay Dupre's last
sickness, calm and peaceful death Amalia succeeds to the
studio The St. Francis executed by her in marble, and
unveiled at Assisi on the seventh centennial of the birth of the
saint, in October 1882.
THE last three years of the life of Dupre were
not less busily employed than those of which he
has left an account in the Ricordi. Amalia was ever
at his side, and from the hand both of the sculptor
and of his daughter continually went forth new
contributions to the art treasures of Italy. Work
for a livelihood had long ceased to be a necessity.
Financially our artist had prospered to such a
degree that his fortune, compared with the poverty
of those early days, when he was forced to beg a
few lire to obtain the materials for finishing his Abel,
might be called even princely. No longer dwelling
in a wretched tenement, nor confined to an insuffi-
cient studio, he owned, besides his permanent residence
in the Costa di San Giorgio, another house in the
146 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Via Pinti, a villa in the Pergole, near Fiesole, and
also the elegant Medicean Villa di Lappeggi ; while
his work was carried on in a studio of almost
palatial dimensions, and peopled with copies of the
statuary that had in all these years come forth from
In these last years he executed a statue of Pope
Pius IX. for the Cathedral of Piacenza, one of Victor
Emanuel, erected in the principal square of Trapani,
in Sicily, and an ideal historical statue of Raimondo
Lullo for a chapel in the island of Majorca. He
had also engaged (as above mentioned) to execute
a colossal figure of the Madonna for the new front of
the Cathedral of Florence, and he longed to complete
this work in honour of the Virgin of the Lily, the
' Queen of Florence,' for the adornment of the
church which forms the chief architectural monument
of the city ; but his desire was not destined to be
The last work which he moulded with his own
hands was the statue of St. Francis. The authorities
of the diocese of Assisi had determined to honour
the memory of the saint on the seventh centennial
of his birth, the 1st of October 1882, by erecting a
statue of him, at least an ideal one, in front of the
Cathedral of Assisi. The interior of this venerable
Basilica had been adorned more than five centuries
THE LAST STATUE. 147
before with the great frescoes of Giotto, depicting
the life of St. Francis. There, too, the poet Dante
had often stood by to watch the progress of the
work, as his friend brought to view with his magic
pencil, one after another, the scenes of that holy life.
It was fitting that a sculptor should now be chosen
worthiest of all to be the follower of Giotto. The
invitation was given to Dupre. No subject could have
been proposed to him more congenial to his taste and
his habits of thought. The preference for religious
themes, manifested at the beginning of his career,
had been confirmed by advancing years, and especi-
ally by his recent sorrows. Besides this, he had
learned in the habitual reading of Dante to look
upon Francis of Assisi as the purest reformer and
the most Christian of all Christians of the mediaeval
times ; and for this reason he had placed him
among the typical figures in his Triumph of the
Cross. The attractiveness of the subject, therefore,
did not permit him to hesitate. In his reply to the
authorities he says : ' I am most happy that the
commission has thought of me ; not so much on
account of what little talent I may possess as for
the love I bear to religious art.' He at once entered
upon the studies that he thought necessary to make
the statue worthy of such an exalted character and
of such a place.
148 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Francis of Assisi was in the thirteenth century
the representative of that spirit of reform which,
from time to time, and at epochs more or less
distant, has been called forth not more by the
corruption of the church than by the insolence of
the powerful, and the degradation of the poor. ' In
an age,' says Luigi Venturi, ' intoxicated with riches
and with sensual pleasures, he suddenly came forth
to preach poverty and self-denial ; and in the times
of Ezzelino and Frederick II., while Italy was dis-
tracted and lacerated by bloody factions, he made
himself the herald of a gospel of charity and good
will, proclaimed without the help of rhetorical phrase
or of secular learning. He laboured effectively for
the emancipation of the serfs of the soil, at that time
still in bondage, and founded an order to which he
gave the name of the Minorites, kindred to the
popular institution of the Communes, so much hated
by the feudal nobility ; and this order he established
upon a basis hitherto unknown that of fraternity
and love. He commended and enforced his divine
teachings by his own example of absolute self-denial,
long-suffering, and devoted benevolence ; everywhere
seeking to calm the fury of hostile factions, and
bring all men to councils of peace. Pax vobiscum
was always the beginning of discourse with him and
his barefooted disciples, wherever they wandered in
DANTE AND ST. FRANCIS. 149
Europe, in Egypt, or in Syria. When he sent them
forth he said : " My sons, scatter yourselves through
the world, and proclaim peace to all men ! "'
Dante in the eleventh book of the Paradise sings
of St. Francis as ' the sun that had risen upon the
world, and even when not distant from his rising
had begun to bless the earth ;' for in the prime of
life he had abandoned his hopes of worldly advance-
ment for the sake of doing his work of charity. ' He
had wedded himself to poverty as to his bride
whom no other had chosen as companion since the
Holy One who had not where to lay His head had
passed from His state of self-humiliation to His
heavenly glory.' To the poet in his vision the saint
'was like a seraph in the glowing fervour of devotion,'
and ' his marvellous life was worthy to be sung in the
Dupre perfected his model of the statue in clay,
and completed the plaster cast, but did not live to
execute it in marble. He had already found a
block of excellent quality. In a letter dated Easter
1 88 1 he writes to Andrea Ulli, Vicar-General of
Assisi : ' I have found beautiful marble for the San
Francesco ; it will have a good effect in that sweet
piazzetta of San Rufino, with the dark wall of the
church as a background, under that clear sky, in that
subdued light, in that sacred silence.' Those who
ISO GIOVANNI DUPR&.
saw the cast when finished by Dupre, were struck
with the fitness of the features and expression to
represent the Saviour Himself. One day when this
was remarked by two visitors from Assisi, he replied
'that it had made the same impression upon others ;'
and one of them adding ' that this work would be a
triumph for him, and a new glory for Assisi,' he
said : ' Who knows that this may not be my last ?'
It was only a few days later that he was overtaken
by those acute paroxysms of pain in the abdomen
that soon terminated fatally. He writes to Mon-
signore Andrea Ulli, that he is recovering from the
second of these attacks. ' The doctor has no longer
any doubt of my getting well, and we hope that in
a few days he will let me return to my studio. But
how much have I suffered ! doubly suffered in being
deprived of my most delightful occupation. This is
all my joy, all my life. What a happy day it will
be for me when I can place my feet once more in
my studio, and resume my work and my Francesco !'
He seemed to have regained his health, and was
enjoying once more his art and the society of his
friends, when on the New Year's Day of 1882 his
disorder returned with increased violence, and on the
loth he expired.
During the last hours his two surviving daughters,
Amalia and Beppina, were by his side. Inspired
THE LAST WORDS. 151
with a faith that was clearer as his end drew near,
he spoke of his approaching death with a certainty
that filled their poor hearts with dread. ' Father,'
exclaimed Amalia, 'it cannot be so!' 'Thou
knowest not, my child,' he replied, ' what can be seen
by the mind of one who suffers.' After receiving
the sacrament from the hands of the Archbishop of
Florence, and joining earnestly in the last prayers,
turning to Amalia, he said : 'It is the hour, thou
knowest, I have been preparing for even from the
death of Luisina and thy mother. O cara Ltiisina,
cara Maria, soon shall I see you again !' Then
thinking of the statue of the Virgin he had hoped to
finish for the Duomo, he added : ' I only regret that
1 shall not make the Madonna.' 'Thou hast made
it,' replied Amalia, ' so beautiful ! the Addolorata
for Santa Croce.' Placing his hand lovingly upon
her head, he answered, ' Yes, but I desired to make
her as queen of Florence.' At the last moment
Augusto Conti, kneeling at the bedside, began to
repeat the prayer, ' Our Father, who art in heaven ;'
and the dying sculptor took up the words and
accompanied him to the end ; then added fervently,
' Our Father ; yes, yes, our Father,' and spoke no
Seldom has the death of any one called forth
such deep and universal regret. Giovanni Dupre
152 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
had outlived all envy, triumphed over all detraction,
placed himself at the head of his profession, made
himself dear to his countrymen, and his art a part of
their national glory. ' Multitudes,' says Venturi,
' flocked to the door of his house, bewailing their
irretrievable loss ; mourning the amiable maestro,
the steadfast friend, kind adviser, generous benefactor.
At the sad announcement all Italy was moved.
Senators, deputies, nobles, literary men, scientists,
artists, together with the humble classes, by a
common impulse of devoted affection, united in
performing the last obsequies to the deceased, and
in following his remains to the church. 5 Funeral
solemnities in honour of the dead artist were
celebrated not only in Florence, but also in Siena,
Fiesole, Antella, and Agnone. His body was
finally deposited in the family chapel at Fiesole,
where Amalia and Beppina have placed over his
tomb a marble copy of his own group of the
' It is not an artist, but an art that dies to-day ;
great art, the art of beautiful lines and of pure
inspirations.' These words of one of the leading
journals of Florence briefly express the sentiment
that was echoed from the newspaper press and from
the periodicals of the whole country ; and it had
already been uttered by the Roman poet Girolamo
LAST HONOURS. 153
Buonazia in a sonnet written at the very moment
when the spirit of the great sculptor was passing
away. On the Qth of January, when Dupre was
dying, and at the hour when the news was tele-
graphed to Rome, it happened that the Italian
Court and Parliament, and many of the citizens of
Rome and of Italy were assembled in the Pantheon
or ' Rotonda ' to celebrate with funeral solemnities
the anniversary of the death of Victor Emanuel ; for
the body of the late King rests in that ancient
sanctuary. Buonazia, deeply impressed with the sad
coincidence, and despondent in regard to the future
of his country, under the shadow of the gloomy
forebodings suggested by the occasion, wrote these
' E nato alia memoria ed al dolore
Questo giorno funesto ; e 1'ampie volte
Delia Rotonda ingombra un sacro orrore
Fra le ghirlande di gramaglia avvolte.
Cadono i grandi, e al bacio del Signore
Si affrettan per la pura aura disciolte
L'anime elette ; a noi resta 1'errore
E il vacillare delle mente stolte.
Cadono ad uno ad uno ; e la novella
Eta non sente la stagion nemica,
Che 1'opre e gli esemplari alti cancella.
Tu cadi d'arte e di virtude antica
Immacolato esempio ; e sorge quella
Che nelF orgia gavazza arte impudica.'
154 GIOVANNI DUPRk.
This day was destined to sad memory
And grief; now gloom and solemn dread pervade
The vast Rotunda's depths of vaulted shade,
And twined with black hang wreaths of victory.
Our great are falling ; through the pure air fly
Their chosen spirits, free, and swift conveyed
Up to the embrace of God ; their work is laid
On us, in error wavering helplessly.
Yes, one by one they fall, and we unwise,
A new age, see not ills by which undone
Are their examples high and grand emprise.
And thou, of art and ancient worth the one
Example pure, dost fall ; and now will rise
The art that shameless joys in sense alone.
Happily, this forecast of evil, so far, at least, as
the future of Italy is concerned, does not seem
destined to be fulfilled ; on the contrary, the new
and united Italy is daily gaining strength and
stability ; but it was natural that such a scene, and
the memory it awakened of the recent loss of the
King, on whom the hope of the nation had so long
rested, should excite new fears in the mind of the
poet and of the whole mourning assembly ; and
the announcement just then that another ' elect
spirit ' was taking its flight could not but deepen
the dark thoughts of the hour.
Giovanni Dupre, as we have seen, had been the
champion of the art that is at once realistic, beautiful,
and pure ; and he had earnestly opposed the tendency
HIS PLACE IN ART. 155
of his contemporaries to the realism that is either
gross or meretricious. The sentiment of his motto,
so often repeated, il bello net vero, had never ceased
to control his conceptions and to guide his hand.
The influence of his living voice and example, and
that which of late he had begun to exercise so
effectively with his pen, was now to be lost ; but
what he has contributed to the great sum of art
creation cannot be lost ; and if, as the poet fears,
art shall be led by vicious times and fashions into
strange and false ways, such works as Dupre's, in
common with those of all true artists, ancient and
modern, will still point it to the right path, and,
sooner or later, bring it back again to good aims
In his career of forty years our artist produced
about a hundred works in statuary and relief, besides
a considerable number of busts and statuettes. His
studio in Florence, filled with the original casts of
most of these productions, remains, like that of
Schwanthaler in Munich, a monument and witness
of the achievements of his remarkable life ; but,
unlike the silent studio of Schwanthaler, long given
up to the past and to memory, that of Dupre has
been inherited by one who has taken up lovingly the
chisel of the departed sculptor. Amalia Dupre has
worked out with her own hand the designs he left
unfinished, and is adding to these from time to time
new works of her own, not unworthy of such com-
It was many days after his death before Amalia
could summon resolution to open the doors of the
place where it seemed that she must still see the
dear form and hear the familiar voice. Accompanied
by tender friends, she moved about for a time
through the desolated apartments, not restraining
tears. In a few days, finding herself calm enough
to resume the work, she completed what little had
been left undone on the statue of Raimondo Lullo ;
then she began to execute in marble the St. Francis,
which her father had perfectly moulded in plaster.
She wrote to Andrea Ulli : ' I have returned to the
studio without my father ; the Lord has given me
strength ; I have looked at the St. Francis ; I have
given the finishing touches to a statue * nearly com-
pleted by my father, on which, always so kind, he
felt pleased to have me help him. And I shall
complete the St. Francis, the last model my father
made. I cannot tell you how much the figure is
admired by every one. I shall finish it entirely with
my own hand, and with the help of God I hope to give
to the marble the life and expression of the model.
My father will pray for me and aid me from above.'
1 Raimondo Lullo.
THE ST. FRANCIS UNVEILED. 157
On the ist of October 1882, the seventh
centennial of the birth of St. Francis, this last
work of Giovanni Dupre was unveiled at Assisi.
Augusto Conti in fitting and eloquent words pro-
nounced the inaugural address, commemorating at
once the virtues of the mediaeval reformer and the
genius of the lamented sculptor. To judge properly
of this statue, and to appreciate its extreme sim-
plicity, we must keep in mind that the sculptor
aimed at no idealisation of the Saint but rather to
present him as the plain monk, in the costume that
he himself had worn and prescribed to his followers
To have made him otherwise would have been a
violation both of history and of good art. And so,
says Venturi, ' there stands the mendicant (il poverello)
of Assisi, habited in the coarse wool, having his loins
girt about with the humble cord, his head shaven, in-
clined a little to one side, with downcast eyes, with
lips half -closed and seeming to breathe forth a
prayer ; while the feet are brought together nearly
parallel, the indication of gentleness and modesty,
and the arms are crossed with the open palms upon
the breast. The arms and hands thus folded are
the characteristic sign of the Franciscan order, and
Dupre, in seizing upon this trait, has rendered it
impossible for the figure to be mistaken for that of
any other personage. Now the invention of this
158 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
attitude, so simple, may seem easy, just like that
of Brunellesco in making the egg stand on end ;
but it is precisely the kind of easy thing that reveals
a genius ; it is the simplicity that is found in truth.'
It was well that the last statue from the hand of
Dupre, who had always and earnestly read Dante,
and worked in the spirit of Giotto, should have been
made in honour of the saintly personage whom Dante
had immortalised in verse, and Giotto in painting;
and that it should be placed on the spot where these
two walked and communed together. At Assisi,
with the memory of St. Francis, will abide that of
the three who have glorified his name in poetry,
painting, and sculpture : Dante, Giotto, and Dupre.
ST. FRANCIS. IN FRONT OF THE CATHEDRAL OF ASSIST.
To face page 158
THOUGHTS ON ART
FROM CONTI TO DUPRE.
DEAR DUPRE I have undertaken to write about
certain works of yours that seemed to me marvels of
art. Strange task for me, you will say; and, in-
deed, it was not easy. But I said to myself, many
times have we talked together, Dupre and I, as well
of art in general as of his own works in particular ;
could I not therefore recall these conversations, and
make a dialogue that should bring them into a kind
of dramatic unity ? In this way I should more easily
avoid the prevailing error of dwelling upon general
ideas, and of never descending to particulars, or
rather, of never ascending from the specific to the
general, and the contrary ; for this transition from
one to the other a good method requires, and in a
living dialogue it is actually secured. And I should
also avoid another fault : I should not assume on
my own authority to say things either not understood,
or partially obscured amidst remote abstractions ;
for you yourself have talked to me of your art, and
I should aim to put into your mouth again your own
1 62 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
observations. This seemed to me best, and this I
have attempted. Yet one doubt remained : May I
not have failed to give the thoughts of Dupre with
exactness and truth ? Therefore it occurred to me
that I ought to send these dialogues to you for your
perusal and approbation, before I offered them to
the public. ' This is a delicate matter,' you will say ;
'do you wish me to approve of my own praises, if, as
I surmise, you have here and there given place to
them ?' But, dear Giovanni, that concerns me, not
you. I desire you only to say whether I have
represented your actual thoughts, and have brought
forward facts of real importance. And so I beg you,
without any regard to the praises I may have be-
stowed upon your works, or to the interchange of
courtesies, simply to answer these questions : Is that
which I say of art, in your judgment, true or false ?
And where do you think I have erred, and where hit
the mark ? With your consent I will publish your
reply, and my readers will trust to you rather than
to me. May you love me as I love you, and live
MONTUI, NEAR FLORENCE,
FROM DupRfe TO CONTI.
MY DEAR CONTI I have read the dialogues
you have written on my poor works, and as you
desire me to give my opinion without stopping to
protest against the praises you bestow upon me,
have your wish, and my heartfelt thanks as well.
The things, then, that you say in discoursing upon
art are true ; and you make me, poor ignorant
mortal, much too fine a figure. Again I thank
you ; and if you choose to publish these lines, do it
by all means, and be assured of the affection of your
most loving friend,
THE TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS.
Amico. In your studio at every step we come to
Dupre. I am glad you find anything to ap-
Amico. Here, as we enter your own apartment,
lies the Abel. Ah ! what a statue ; so delicately
moulded in every part ; how innocent and lovely
beautiful, yet in its beauty what strength and
vigour ! In the features there is a look of grief and
pity ; not a trace of fear or anger ; and in the body
itself, cast naked on the ground, there is an ex-
pression of chaste meekness and modesty.
Dupre. Meekness and forgiveness are precisely
what I aimed to express in the murdered Abel, who
is the type of Jesus and of all the saints. Do you
know the correction suggested to me by Bartolini ?
Amico. What was it?
Dupre. Before I sculptured the statue in marble,
1 66 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
I showed Bartolini this plaster model. Now do you
observe the seam on the right arm ?
Dupre. Though habitually slow to praise, he did
praise the statue in few words, but emphatically.
And yet, pointing to the right hand of the Abel, he
made a certain gesture ; and I said : I understand, I
will make the change.
Amico. And what did he find to criticise ?
Dupre. That hand was clenched, as if in a
paroxysm of pain or anger, not in keeping with the
gentleness of Abel. Therefore I cut off the hand
and wrist, and put on another which is open and
passive, as of one in peaceful sleep. At the same
time I slackened in due proportion the muscles and
tendons of the arm.
Amico. So true is it that every work of art is
pervaded in all its parts by one controlling idea, like
the air in the pipes of an organ ; and from this it
takes its whole form and character. But let us look
at the bas-relief, so generously ordered from you by
Sir Francis Sloane for the front of Santa Croce, and
which, I am told, is now finished.
Dupre. As the Triumph of the Cross is to be
placed in the open air, I have given it the last
touches out yonder in the court ; we will go and
look at it there.
THE SUBJECT AND IDEA. 167
Amico. Wonderful ! A poem written in marble !
Dupre. Something grand indeed I aimed to
make it ; and if I have only succeeded, it is all I
Amico. I should like to learn from you the idea
that flashed upon your mind, and how you went on
working out the thought in its parts and as a whole ;
thus you would teach me in your own person as an
artist the process of art creation, which, indeed,
must be the same, excepting difference of material,
in all the beautiful arts.
Dupre. The idea came to me from the subject,
nor can it ever come from any other source.
Dupre. But some, lacking knowledge or talent,
make compositions or figures that say nothing which
the subject required them to say ; others, loving
novelty or striking effects, torture the subject for
thoughts or representations ingenious or strange, or
wholly unessential, to make their admirers exclaim :
Oh ! who would have thought of that ? How
original ! But I think ' bread should always be
called bread,' and that a subject should always be
made to say that which it is in fact, and be re-
presented in its inmost and essential nature.
Amico. No doubt you are right.
Dupre. Thus, while these task their invention to
1 68 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
make a show of novelty, the true artist is content
if the thing seems natural or born of itself, and
so obvious that all men seem capable of invent-
Amico. But yet, few do actually invent, because
invention requires the gift and the habit of fixing
the mind on the inner qualities of things ; though,
indeed, when once a truth has been ascertained by
any one, all men, following his lead, easily recognise
it ; then it seems easy.
Dupre. Yes, it is easy to draw the water when
the well has been dug.
Amico. Simple truth in works of art seems easy,
because it is nature ; the strange and unusual, pro-
duced by the caprice of fancy, astonishes the multi-
tude, as if difficult of achievement ; but, on the
contrary, all such things are easy for every one. It
is easier to draw a crooked line than a straight one,
to paint a hideous than a beautiful person, to make
a caricature than a portrait ; and to adhere to the
just bound is always more difficult than to come
short or to go beyond ; thus universally, the irregular
is- easier than the regular, because the rule is simple
and one, whereas the ways of violating it are many ;
and the rule is nature. Observe that in literature
the same holds true ; and in the sciences also,
where a simple truth simply stated costs us more
WHAT THE CROSS SUGGESTS.
time, and is worth far more, than a web-work of
Dupre. I think so too. But now, coming to your
question about the bas-relief, this is what I said to
myself: The subject given to me is the Triumph of
the Cross ; to represent, that is, the power of Christi-
anity. It will be my task, therefore, to indicate in
sculpture the effects of this power that have been
most wonderful, or rather, most visible and most
universal. Such is the generic and controlling idea
of my subject.
Amico. That is true. It remained for you then
to determine these effects, and to select from them
those that were best adapted to your theme and to
Dupre. I went back in thought through the
history of the church, and chose events and person-
ages that seemed to me the most universal types
both of the evils overcome by the cross and of the
blessings created by it : on the one side, the errors,
vices, and miseries that are coming to an end ; on the
other, the knowledge, the virtues, and the consolations
that are springing up in the light of Christ.
Amico. What simplicity !
Dupre. This, if you think of it, suggested spon-
taneously an arrangement of the bas-relief at once
clear and well-disposed, and hence the most beautiful.
170 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
Dupre. At the top, the cross in its triumph,
towering over all ; in the lower part, those who have
submitted themselves to the cross, and who symbolise
Amico. Excellent ! Thus to the true responds
the beautiful, and internal order unfolds itself in
Dupre. Yes ; and on the other hand, the external
conditions of art suggest to you things involved in
your subject, and therefore beautiful.
Amico. So in good writers the ideas determine
the words ; then the necessity of seeking words
brings about a better disposition of the ideas, and
even suggests new ones.
Dupre. For instance, the space between the lower
part of the design and the cross was unoccupied ;
and there in the centre I placed the Angel of Prayer,
the messenger of peace between God and men.
Amico. Thus the intermediate space, uniting the
extremes, became a symbol of union.
Diipre. The figures, again, that occupy the ground
beneath the cross, I thought best to arrange in two
groups, united by a lower figure in the middle, so
that the two, each with an outline verging towards
the centre, might form a kind of semicircle ; thus
the arrangement becomes distinct, broad, and at the
INDIVIDUAL IMAGES. 171
same time pleasing to the eye ; giving the impression
of repose and sublimity, but without monotony ;
while by contrast.it renders more conspicuous the
highest point of the composition, that is the cross,
around the base of which this semicircle forms a kind
of corona. Now observe, the general idea in my
mind suggested to my fancy this indefinite image of
the whole, before I could arrive at the more specific
ideas ; then these, springing up in their turn, created
the individual images.
Amico. What ideas ? Pray explain.
Dupre. As to the top of the bas-relief, I reflected
that the bare cross al9ne would not satisfy either the
mind or the eye. I set myself, therefore, to consider
the mystery of the cross ; and thence sprang up
thoughts and images in abundance. Jesus, the God-
man, is figured by the winding curve of clouds that
pass around the shaft of the cross, veiling the eternal
nature of the Word. Toward this, six angels, three
on either side, direct their gaze in rapt devotion.
These represent the heavenly host contemplating the
mysteries of redemption. From the cross itself
shoot rays of glory, bathing those angelic forms in
light, and falling upon the groups below ; for the
Word is the light that illuminates every mind, and
scatters darkness from the earth. Finally, under the
cross an angel kneels upon a rock with one knee,
172 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
while he clasps the other with his arms and hands,
bowing his head with meek devotion and with an
expression of sadness ; thus representing in his
person all the sorrows and all the supplications of
the ; world ; and while uniting men to God by
prayer, uniting also by his bowed and curving form,
both to our thought and to our sight, the upper and
lower members of the composition.
Amico. Beauty is the radiance of truth, said
Plato ; and here it is.
Dupre. Observe, also, the long and slender forms
of the worshipping angels, suggestive of their
spiritual nature, which is not burdened with the
weight of terrestrial bodies.
Amico. Well thought of. Things that transcend
the human are fitly represented by images more
ideal ; which, however, should not fail to speak to
the senses, and to appear probable. The improbable,
as, for example, the sphinxes and other eastern
myths, may speak, perhaps, to our intelligence, even
if unpleasing to our taste ; and I have said perhaps,
because that which departs from beauty is deformity,
generally violating our intelligence and denoting
error ; like some hermaphrodite gods of Asia and
Greece. But go on, if you please.
Dupre. First, on the right, is St. Augustine, who
represents the wisdom of the fathers ; then comes
REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTERS. 173
Charlemagne, with the unsheathed sword held in one
hand and resting firmly against his shoulder, while
the other hand holds the globe surmounted by a
cross ; all this to show not only the unity of the
Christian empire (first created by the Popes in order
to harmonise the discords of the world, and after-
wards sung by Dante 1 ), but still more to symbolise
the mission of Christianity, which fashions, and must
continue to fashion, states and laws in conformity
with itself, bringing in its train justice and charity.
Amico. What majesty, what an aspect of com-
mand ! How nobly conceived are , the form and
posture, indicating firmness, security, and vigour !
Then, again, what strength of character, what depth
of thought in the shape of the mouth and the firmly-
compressed lips, and in the eyebrows cast down with
a look of profound repose !
Dupre. Between the figures of St. Augustine and
Charlemagne appears the head of a martyr (notice
the palm) ; and this one stands for all martyrs that
have been, or ever shall be. I cannot tell you
whether I thought of it before, but now I perceive
that the martyr comes in well between Christian
learning and imperial authority ; for by dying, and by
teaching others to suffer death, Christ, the Captain of
the martyrs, secured the triumph of truth and justice.
1 Paradise, vi. 94.
174 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Amico. Well have you said you cannot tell ; for
when a subject has been well thought out, the
spontaneous and rapid connection of ideas and
images brings with itself certain beautiful impres-
sions of which the artist either has no consciousness,
or so little that he can give no account of them.
But the secret of this lies in having reflected upon
the subject ; otherwise, ideas cannot spring up one
from another in this spontaneous manner, just as
there can be no echo where there is no first sound.
As for the rest, your martyr exhibits suffering in his
countenance, and hope in his upturned eyes. But
what name has he ?
Dupre. You may give him a name after your
own fancy ; as when they find in the catacombs at
Rome the bones of a Christian, accompanied with a
martyr's emblems, they baptize him anew with a
name to suit themselves.
Amico. You mean, I see, that this martyr of
yours is the individual image of a general idea ; and
you have expressed it more plainly in saying that
he stands both for himself and for all martyrs.
Dupre. Again, between Charlemagne and the
poor l monk of Assisi, is Dante.
Amico. That group is divine!
1 Dante, Paradise, xi. 69. St. Francis and his followers took a
vow of perpetual poverty.
DANTE AND ST. FRANCIS. 175
Dnpre. Charlemagne reminded me of Dante, who
loved the empire for bringing peace to the world,
and especially to Italy ; l Dante reminded me of
St. Francis, whom he celebrated as one of the princes
of Providence, 2 ordained to guide the Bride of
Christ ; thus Dante rises between the imperial power
and the church, distinct but not separate, and he
typifies their union. Dante should not be omitted
from my bas-relief, because he is the chief of
Christian poets, and because in the third part of his
poem is described the triumph of Christ, 3 and ' for
the gathering of this harvest,' he says, ' every sphere
of heaven circles round.'
Amico. You are at home with Dante.
Dupre. I have said to you before now, I think,
that often, when I have laid aside the chisel, I read
the Divina Commedia. Observe, Dante stands there
not only in place of all Christian poets, but of all
Christian literature, or, rather, of all Christian art.
There beneath his mantle are hid poets and artists ;
and under its outer border I, too, find a hiding-
Amico. I am glad you have made your Dante
thoughtful, not morose ; and that, while you preserve
the traditional features, you do not follow the custom
of giving to him that distorted, old woman's face,
1 Paradise, vi. 94. 2 lb. ix. 35. 3 Ib. xxiii. 19.
i 7 6
not found in the original portraits, but due to the
exaggerations of a later age.
Dupre, Doesn't it seem to you that St. Francis,
clasping his hands and fixing his eyes in love and
devotion on the cross, appears, as Dante calls him, 1
' all seraphic in ardour ' ?
Amico. And I am glad, too, that you have
preserved the thin and meagre visage, sharp-featured,
plain and sorrowful, that painters and sculptors from
age to age have given him. It is proper that the
arts of design should observe this rule ; just as the
poets who understand their art, whether in poetry or
in the drama, never change anything essential in the
facts of history or tradition. Thus the reader or the
spectator recognises at once things already familiar ;
and it gives him pleasure to see them present before
him, invested, as it were, with new life by the
imagination of the artist.
Dupre. And this rule is the more reasonable,
because it does not preclude invention ; for that
consists not in the introduction of things absolutely
new, but in clothing them with our own ideas and
fancies, and thus through the creative activity of
thought endowing with new life that which had been
lying in memory passive and unquickened. The
work of poets and artists seems to me kindred
1 Paradise, xi. 37.
ARTISTIC ASSIMILATION. 177
to the operation of the soul in the human face ; this
of itself has no expression, and remains physically
always the same ; but the affections and thoughts
of the mind change it without cessation ; not other-
wise the artist breathes into the images received from
the external world his own ideas and his own
affections, giving them life and action. Thus that
St. Francis of mine bears a general resemblance
to every other, but yet it is mine, because in the
composition I have given it a meaning of my own,
and a corresponding action.
Amico. So it is. Observe, too, the man who
reads a story, and images to himself events, per-
sons, and places according to the narrative, is an
artist more or less. But let us go on. The re-
maining figure of the group, almost nude, with
stalwart limbs, in a kneeling posture, resting his
strong arm on a club, and looking at the cross with
a countenance at once wild and gentle, indicating
fierceness just subdued, seems to me to represent a
DuprL He is, indeed, one who has lived outside
of the pale of civilisation, and now contemplating
the cross is redeemed by its power from his former
state. The mediaeval emperor, poet, and saint made
me think of the barbarians whose condition was
ameliorated by Christianity ; neither could I think of
178 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
any triumph more deserving to be called a triumph
than this, nor, as I believe, have men ever beheld its
equal. I desired that the mute figure of my bar-
barian should say to every beholder : Without
Christianity either civilisation does not exist or it
perishes. This is the general idea ; my statue says
it in a determinate and living form.
Amico. And you know how to make it say this,
because upon your head also the cross has thrown
Dupre. A certain lady of rank asked of me some
design for her album. I drew the figure of a cross,
and under it wrote : Ave crux, salve spes unica !
Amico. His limbs look like iron ; the muscles,
however, are not swollen, knotted, all in action at
once, and against nature ; a fault that Michel-
angelo's imitators, and even better artists, would
scarcely know how to shun. One would say that
the light of Christ is already humanising even his
rude limbs. Their bold action contrasts them
wonderfully with those of that other figure, placed in
the middle between the groups that occupy the right
and left of the bas-relief. His form is soft and
delicate ; slightly emaciated, and not without a trace
of suffering a lovely figure, and of perfect beauty !
not inferior to your Abel. The nude form gives
no offence, because with your Christian feeling you
THE NUDE. 179
have imparted to it a spiritual significance that con-
trols the senses of every one who looks at it.
Corporeal beauty, to you as to him who made it, is
a symbol of the mind. Therefore our thought, not
resting upon it, penetrates beyond.
Dupre. I have been censured because in my
Ferrari monument in San Lorenzo the body of the
youth is almost nude.
Amico. Bear it patiently, Giovanni. In that
instance the critics are right. If the statue of the
mother at his side could speak, she would say to her
son : Cover your shame. This utterance of the
people tells the whole ; especially for sacred places.
As for the rest, ' who makes not, errs not.'
Dupre. I erred in not considering that sculptors
do not see with the same eyes as other men.
Amico. Returning to the beautiful statue in the
centre, it seems to me like a slave that does not yet
feel sure of his freedom, though his manacles are
broken, and with mingled joy and pain he is lifting
himself from the rock where he lay.
Dupre. My idea was to place side by side the
victory over barbarism and the emancipation of the
Amico. Yes ; for Christian brotherhood brought
about the life of civilised society, and, with the
advancement of this, also liberty.
i8o GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Dupre. Moreover, since Christianity, calling
slavery an error and an evil, teaches that ' the truth
makes us free,' I conceived of the emancipated
slave as a type of the deliverance of man in every
sense, both as to the body and the soul ; and he is
placed there in the middle of the bas-relief to give
the composition unity both of thought and of out-
ward form. I wished, also, that his countenance
should express at once his past suffering and his
present joy ; then, as he lifts himself slowly to a
sitting posture, irresolutely and with a look of pain,
he symbolises the transition from slavery to freedom ;
and moreover, his eyes are turned upwards toward
the cross, while the right arm props up the still
languid frame, and the other falls listlessly at his
Ainico. To represent a state of feeling that blends
together two different conditions, one preceding the
other that is, two series of affections, more or less
remote is a thing difficult even in speech, but it is
still more difficult in artistic design, which is fixed
and unchangeable ; yet precisely this is the gift of
the great masters. They know how to bring many
thoughts into small compass, and thus to follow
nature for she exhibits to us the passions for the
most part in the mixed and transitional state, and
seldom pure and sharply defined, as, for example,
VULGAR EXTREMES. 181
perfect joy or perfect woe but artists of only
average capacity prefer the most violent passions,
and of these even the extreme manifestations ; and,
not content with this, they exaggerate them still
further by the extravagances of art, of all things in
the world the easiest and cheapest, the most un-
natural and ungraceful, and the most repugnant to
good sense ; and they call this sublime.
Dupre. Just so ; and I think the design should
show the order of kindred emotions ; for this gives
beauty. Moreover, one affection passing into another
is a movement that breeds grace of expression.
Neither can I endure exaggeration and excess ; for
they are the spasmodic effort either of ill-regulated
force or of weak imbecility, and they can only end
in deformity. But do you not ask me what names
I have given to the slave and to the barbarian ?
Amico. No, indeed ; I asked that question in
regard to the martyr, because among the martyrs
there may have been one well known to history,
whom you might have chosen as a type of martyr-
dom ; but it could not well be thus among barbarians
Dupre. And yet, one of our learned scholars, not
an artist indeed, thought I was wrong in placing
these ' allegorical ' figures among the personages of
1 82 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Amico. And what was your answer?
Dupre. I replied that they were not allegories.
Amico. And you were entirely right Allegories
are abstractions embodied in images more or less
analogous to truth, but in themselves impossible ; as
if a sculptor should symbolise barbarism or slavery
by the figure of a woman ; a kind of representation,
by the way, which is cold and unnatural, especially
in connection with matters of history ; even in poetry,
to say nothing of fine art, it is best to deal with
allegory cautiously; employing it only to a limited
extent, and in forms consistent with the subject and
the context. But your case is different ; you invent
conceptions of things which may have been, or may
be, in actuality ; as, for example, a man in servitude,
or a man outside of civilisation. The arts of the
beautiful always represent universal ideas, but this
through individual images ; names are given to
these either by history or tradition, if, indeed, there
are any names illustrious enough to call up before
us a whole order of facts and events ; as, for instance,
Dante in place of all Christian poets ; but if such a
name fail us, either because unknown, or not fitted
to our subject (Attila, for example, would not do for
your bas-relief), then the artist invents the figure of
an angel, a man, or some other being, to serve as the
individual representative of a class ; a slave among
THE LEFT-HAND GROUP. 183
slaves, a savage among savages, an angel among
angels, and so on.
Dupre. You enter completely into my thought.
Amico. Accordingly there is no essential differ-
ence, so far as relates to art, between the personages
that the artist takes from history and those of his
own invention ; for they all alike symbolise as
individuals some universal idea ; but the first have
characteristics fixed by history and represented by
their very names, while to the second the artist him-
self attributes characteristics pertaining to certain
classes of men, or growing out of certain conditions
Dupre. Thus it is. But let us proceed. I had
now to invent the left-hand portion of the bas-relief,
and to arrange it with grace and dignity. Memory
supplied me with many conceptions ; but I chose
St. Paul, that figure nearest to the slave, then St.
Thomas Aquinas, kneeling and offering to Christ his
book of the Summa ; next to them, the Emperors
Heraclius and Constantine ; and finally, the penitent
Mary Magdalene and the Countess Matilda.
Amico. I understand, of course, that you were
obliged to make some choice, and that among many
others, these characters were the most conspicuous
in your thoughts ; but I should like to know your
1 84 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
Dupre. You see St. Paul prostrate on his face in
the attitude of adoration ; an attitude that calls to
our minds his falling from his horse while persecuting
the Christians, the overpowering light and the voice
of Christ bringing him into subjection to the cross.
Between St. Paul and the Christian Emperors is St.
Thomas Aquinas ; for it was fitting that the ' Doctor
of the Doctors ' should appear in the bas-relief not
less than Augustine, the ' Father of the Fathers ;' and
so much the more, as St. Thomas narrated to Dante
in Paradise 'the wonderful life' of Francis, the
saint of poverty; 1 and placed here opposite to each
other they typify the two most remarkable of the
mendicant orders. 2 Besides, I gained in artistic
effect by placing St. Thomas at this point ; for, as
it was proper to represent him kneeling in the act of
offering his book, between St. Paul on one side
prostrate upon the ground, and the two Emperors
standing on the other side, I was thus able to give
the whole group a pleasing inclination, rendered still
more agreeable to the eye by the posture of Heraclius,
who bows his head in meditation, while his left hand
supports his face and beard.
Amico. Nor did your subject require the strict
order of history ; hence, you could intermingle
different periods of time.
1 Paradise, xi. 2 The Franciscans and Dominicans.
CONSTANTINE AND HERACLIUS. 185
Dupre. Constantine as an armed warrior, bold
and confident, looks at the cross as if even now he
heard issuing from it : WITH THIS SIGN SHALT THOU
Amico. What prompt and resolute decision in the
face and in the arching breast ! What energy and
force of bodily frame ! Like your own art, he is
Dupre. Constantine represents conquered pagan-
ism, as Paul conquered Judaism.
Amico. Conquered ; but the Roman unity thus
transformed itself into a union of charity, and the
Hebrew priesthood into a universal apostleship.
Thus the conquered became conquerors with Christ.
Dupre. And these facts you will find impersonated
in Heraclius, who conveyed the cross from Jerusalem
to Rome, where, as the ensign of redemption, it
succeeded to the ensign of conquest.
Amico. Such doubtless is the truth.
Dupre. But my work could not be called complete
without showing the influence of Christianity on the
condition of woman ; how it has given to her sex a
new dignity and a purer beauty.
Amico. That would have been to leave out the
sweetest flower of Christian civilisation.
Dupre. I did not think it proper to place here
the Madonna as one of a group, and as only equal
1 86 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
to the rest ; I chose rather the Magdalene and
Matilda one of them a subject dear to the painter
and sculptor, the other a favourite of Dante Alighieri.
Amico. Well, I see in general what led you to
think of these two names ; but now explain to me
more fully your reasons.
Dupre. The Magdalene is a splendid example
of a woman raised by Christianity from a life of
sensuality to a life purely spiritual ; Matilda, on the
other hand, if we accept tradition, is an example of
lifelong virgin purity.
Amico. And so you made Matilda with features
not prominent and bold, but expressive of purity,
delicacy, and sweetness, with a form slender, or
rather, light and ethereal, as if not encumbering the
spirit, and with eyes cast down in chaste humility,
while she prays silently with clasped hands in almost
childlike simplicity ; yet I see in her a woman of
earnest thought and of firm resolve ; not without a
loving nature, though without passion. In your
Magdalene, the beautiful, arms, the well-turned feet,
and the fair breast still suggest her former life of
pleasure, and she bows her penitent face as if not
yet at rest, and shrinks in an attitude of timidity and
confusion behind the virgin Matilda, as if desiring
that our eyes should rest only on that form of purity
THE MAGDALENE AND MATILDA. 187
Dupre. Precisely so. The Magdalene also fur-
nished me with an example of ardent love for
Christ, Matilda for the church of Christ and its
Pontiffs. It has been remarked that I have glorified
the woman who gave to the Popes their temporal
power, and that those who are opposed to this might
therefore feel unfriendly to the illustrious Countess
and to her sculptor.
A mico. And what do you say to that ?
Dupre. I say that the passions, and, above all,
those of political parties confound everything ; for
in all questions they exaggerate the interest of one
side and forget the other.
Amico. I understand ; you had it in mind that
the Germans of that period were aiming to bring
Italy and the church into vassalage ; assuming to
bestow the ring upon her bishops, the triple crown
upon her Popes, and to subject Christendom to the
yoke of despotic Germany ; and that it was the great
Italian Countess who drove the invaders from Italy,
and who increased the possessions of the papacy in
order to guarantee its liberties against the Suabian
dominion ; lo, that is Matilda, of whom every one
should be more ready to speak evil than we of
Dupre. I neither admit nor deny the imputation ;
I only say, I thought to glorify in Matilda the
1 88 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
liberty of the church, and, with that, the liberty of
Amico. Bravo ! Bold thinkers look at things
from above, and therefore get a commanding view.
And so we come back to the subject in its unity ;
for the cross in its triumph will give us freedom
a unity that you have maintained amidst so much
variety. Both of them, indeed, I discover in the
style of your work, where, never losing sight of your
central thought, you have nevertheless characterised
different periods of time by diversity of art, suggested
at once by the personages you represent and by the
ideas they symbolise.
Dupre. A learned critic who discusses art without
a true feeling for it, might see here a confusion or
agglomeration of styles ; but I have sought to be
universal, as Leonardo wished painters to be ; and
you have made me happy by noticing that feature.
The change of style that art passes through in
different periods proceeds from the essential nature
of things, provided those periods and their art are
not corrupt ; and hence, as I thought upon the
personages of my bas-relief, my fancy called up
their faces, their attitudes, their movement and
bearing, as you now see them ; and if the angels
with their long and slender forms resemble those of
Angelico, that comes from the fact that he drew
CHRONOLOGICAL STYLES. 189
them with such spiritual truthfulness ; if Charle-
magne, Dante, the friar of Assisi, Matilda, and
Aquinas remind you of the fourteenth century,
though I tried to be somewhat more delicate, it is
because the simplicity of the art of that century
corresponded to the simple grandeur of these char-
acters ; if Constantine is fashioned in a Roman style,
he was actually a Roman ; if in the Magdalene are
united the traits both of Oriental and Hellenic beauty,
it is because I thought of the luxurious woman of
Magdala becoming a penitent in a Grecian colony.
But the barbarian Christianised and the slave set
free are suggestive of the present times, because in
our own day chiefly has human benevolence been
active in the emancipation of the slave and the civili-
sation of the savage. I believe, however, that I
myself am present in every figure, because I have
not made one mark on the clay, or one stroke on
the marble, without first seeing clearly every image
contained in the idea of my subject, and without
comparing this image with its counterpart in the
living book of nature.
Amico. As every piano has its own peculiar tone,
but yields to the touch of the player vast and varied
harmonies in proportion to the delicacy of its
mechanism and the number of its strings, so every
artist has his peculiar spirit and temperament,
yet derives from other minds and from external
things so many more conceptions of beauty as he
has in himself greater capacity, and greater power
Dupre. Now we will go in ; the sun already
strikes over the wall of the court, and might be
Amico. And I must no longer interrupt your
work. I will walk about in the other rooms and
look at your later statues. But I must say one
thing more, and it may serve as the conclusion of
your own observations : It is characteristic of you to
impart to all of your figures and to all their move-
ments a significance that carries our thoughts beyond
that which we see with the eye : the figures are
single, but their meaning is universal ; so that each
of them can be called a symbol, which, as Dante
would say, has both a historical or literal sense,
and a spiritual sense. Therefore, you are far
removed from those who aim merely to model a
statue, but have no regard to an inner meaning ;
such are common or plebeian artists. At the same
time you are equally removed from those who
exhaust their ingenuity in striving to make every
line express something strange and far-fetched ;
' The Italians avoid exposure to the mid-day sun, as it is supposed
to cause fever.
THE ARTIST OF HUMANITY. 191
needing indeed a glossary to explain their childish
riddles. Such artistic exquisites form a school of
mutual admirers and a would-be nobility in art. But
he who utters in the language of beauty thoughts
of truth and reality so as to be understood by all
men, and who is in sympathy with actual life and
genuine culture, this one is the artist of humanity.
And I have in mind not the sculptor alone, but
every true artist, whether poet, musician, painter, or
Dupre. I am not so learned as to be carried away
with the passion for misty allegories, nor, thank God,
so ignorant as not to perceive that a statue possess-
ing mere external beauty is a dumb effigy, like a
woman of beautiful form and feature without sense
Dupre. When my work is ended, you know, I
take a turn outside of Florence. Could you not
bear me company to-day; especially as Amalia
does not go with me ?
Amico. Why is not your gentle sculptress with you ?
Dupre. She has some duties at home to-day with
my other daughters.
Amico. That is well ; art does not remove a
woman from her proper work. Yes, I'll come and
take the walk with you.
THE PIETA AND THE CHRIST RISEN.
WE were walking on the hills of Bellosguardo
towards the close of day. It was the sweet season
of the year when the cherries are turning red amidst
the green leafage ; the sparrows were chirping on the
elm trees, the swallows and the skylarks floating
gaily in the air, and the flowers of the white bryony,
the wild rose, and the hawthorn, were breathing from
the hedgerows a delightful fragrance.
Amico. I have looked again and again at your
Pieta and your Christ Risen, and I could not take
my eyes from them. How did you learn, my Dupre,
to invent such beautiful things ?
Dupre. How do I know ?
Amico. And who should know, then ?
Dupre. Grant that they are beautiful, as you say ;
and as I desired them to be, and hope they are ;
yet, I assure you, the secret of my success I know
INVENTION A MYSTERY. 193
only in part ; in great part I do not understand
Amico. How is that ?
Dupre. I know perfectly well the principles that
guide me, and the methods of my art ; but how
certain thoughts and their images arise in my mind,
this to me is a mystery ; just as no one can tell, as
I think, the inner virtue that causes the flowers of
the wild plum to burst forth in such beauty. I will
add also, that it would be impossible for me, perhaps,
too, for you, to draw the proper line between that
which comes from nature and that which is supplied
by art. At any rate it seems to me that nature
without art would remain dry and thorny, like the
plum-tree without spring-time.
Amico. I think so too. Thus, the water-springs
well up from the ground, but the engineer makes the
canals through which they irrigate the lands. But I
was speaking of those beautiful statues. Oh ! what
holy sorrow in that Madonna of yours, resting upon
one knee, and holding upon the other the body of
Christ just lifted down from the cross ; she clasps
Him with a mother's tenderness, resting her face
upon His head, while in her eyes and lips there is an
expression of longing, as if she would fain bring Him
back to life. And the Christ, so pure and marvel-
lously beautiful, I have always before my eyes. Did
194 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
you find any living model for this rare perfec-
Dupre. Beautiful, of gentle nature, and with no
rude mind ; he had a religious feeling, and when I
gave him a moment for rest, he took up a book.
But by a strange and sad fortune, just when I had
come to the most beautiful part of the work, he
died. It was extremely difficult for me to find any
one resembling him, and I was aided more by
Amico. So you try to find living models adapted
to the subject.
Dupre. I always instruct my scholars to choose
models so adapted. It is not enough to find those
that are beautiful ; for no one form of beauty can be
appropriated to every subject ; you might as well
attempt to form the word earth out of the letters
that spell water.
Amico. I remember (and I relate it to you,
because you have none of the petty jealousy of or-
dinary artists) how Fedi told me that he had looked
a long time in vain for some one to represent the
ferocious beauty of Pyrrhus in the Rape of Polyxena.
At length he saw one morning a milkman from
Lucca with such a fierce look in his eyes and in his
whole countenance, that he exclaimed : ' Here is my
Pyrrhus!' Accordingly he begged the milkman to
THE ' MODEL' AND THE IDEA. 195
stand for his model, and the youth consented. Now
it so happened, that when Fedi was working the clay
to form the head of Pyrrhus, he saw on the head of
this youth a large ugly scar, which, on questioning
him, he learned had been left by the knife of an
assailant in a fight at Lucca, occasioned by a love
affair. You know very well the savageness of those
bloodthirsty boys of Lucca, and their jealousies.
Dupre. Strange accident ! But do you think it
possible for me or Fedi, or any one else, to find in
models the precise idea we wish to represent, in the
same manner as we find in certain letters of the
alphabet the words necessary for the expression of
this or that thing ?
Amico. I do not believe it, and for three good
reasons : first, that men are continually changing in
look and attitude, making it necessary to catch
instantly in their transition the motions of the body
and the expressions of the face ; nor is it possible to
reproduce them at pleasure ; so that Leonardo
advised that they should be noted down at every
opportunity in a sketch-book carried for the purpose;
secondly, as in nature no two things are exactly
alike, though similar, so nothing external can exactly
coincide with our idea and its corresponding image,
although something may approximate to it more or
less ; for while the image is formed in us from the
196 GIOVANNI DUPRk.
affinity of the senses for nature, and therefore re-
sembles nature, yet it is afterwards modified and
completed by the active working of the mind, and
according to our particular states of feeling ; just as
the word God y whoever pronounces it, is always the
same, yet varies in sound with different voices and
emotions ; finally, while the invention of the artist is
something specific or individual, yet, as you said this
morning, it signifies something universal ; so that the
ideal conception of the artist, through indefinite
universality, tends to the infinite, and, as you would
say, to that excellence which in this world you do
Dupre. It is exactly so. But do you believe, as
one might infer from your last remark, that human
art surpasses all beauty of nature, that is, the art of
Amico. I am in doubt.
Dupre. For my part, I believe that art does not,
nor ever can make anything better than nature ;
indeed, that it would be great arrogance and vanity
to believe it possible. So thought Bartolini, and he
was right. On beholding the beauty of certain
bodies or certain parts of the body, the true artist
is overwhelmed with a feeling of dismay ; he is
tempted to throw away palette or chisel. But it is
especially through the eyes and the lineaments of the
THE TRUE VALUE OF l MODELS.' 197
face, and in the smile and in the minutest movements
of the body, that nature manifests, as with an electric
flash, the thoughts and affections of the soul ; and it
is this wonderful power of nature that the artist
despairs of emulating.
Amico. I have in mind an incident of my youth,
One day I entered the studio of Bartolini when he
was sculpturing an arm after that of a lovely young
girl sitting as his model. Looking at the statue, I
ventured to say : Questi son capo lav ori ; l and he,
fastening his eyes on the arm of the girl, and not
looking up at me, replied : Questi son capogiri? But
therefore, my dear friend, how comes it that the
artist does not simply repeat nature, but aims rather
to surpass her by selecting the best points of several
natural objects, and adding to these something of his
Dupre. If he added nothing of his own he would
be a servile copyist, not an inventor. It seems to
me, however, you have answered your own question.
Amico. How so ?
Dupre. Have you not said that the artist contem-
plates an idea of his own and an image corresponding
thereto, with which the objects of outward nature
never exactly coincide?
1 These are head-pieces, or masterpieces.
2 These are head-sivims, or, these give me the vertigo.
198 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
Amico. Yes ; and you said I was right.
Dupre. Very well ; now the artist does not, and
cannot surpass nature in any absolute sense, but only
in relation to his own idea ; for of this idea nature is
never an adequate symbol, and we must seek one
more precisely and more vividly expressive of our
thought. Thus the Helen of Zeuxis, 1 which he
painted by selecting from several women the most
beautiful of their individual traits, was not more
beautiful, perhaps, than any one of them in perfection
of form ; for in a beautiful body the parts have a
mutual and natural adaptation which makes each of
them indispensable to the completeness of the whole ;
yet the figure was new and more beautiful in this,
that it alone completely expressed the conception of
the artist ; and this perfect harmony of idea, con-
ception, and design is something wonderful in art ; a
shadow of the creative power of the Deity. Besides,
the accidental defects that we not seldom find in
nature, and that are made conspicuous by their con-
nection and contrast with the entire body to which
they pertain, as, for instance, when the eyes are too
large for the face, the artist can leave out, select-
ing instead the perfections which are appropriate
to the idea of his subject. Finally, ideal excellence,
while not surpassing the works of creation, imparts,
1 Pliny, Natural History, xxxv. 9.
A HELP TO IMAGINATION. 199
nevertheless, to visible forms the deeper meaning
that we find here within ourselves, and makes even
natural things suggest to us the supernatural.
Amico. So that the figure designed by the
sculptor is always different from the living model,
though one alone be employed.
Dupre. Always. When I made the Abel, I
modelled it entirely from a youth of great beauty.
When I had finished the statue to my satisfaction
certain critics said it was only a casting taken from
the living model, 1 and no invention. Then, before
giving me any hint of their purpose, they sent for
the model. They measured him and found his
proportions very different from those of the statue.
So, also, in the Jesus of the Pieta you see the model
and yet you do not
Amico. Of what service then is the model?
Dupre. It aids in the development of our original
idea. Thus, when I was engaged by the Marquis
Ruspoli to make the Pieta for the Campo Santo of
the Misericordia in Siena, I said : The Son of God
crucified and dead, the mother mourning for Him,
these are the two grand thoughts of my subject ;
two, but virtually forming only one. This idea, as
it occurred to me, called up in my mind the image of
1 They said it was moulded mechanically by laying plaster on the
surface of the living model. See page 37.
the group, though a little confused ; then I made that
first small model in clay, as you have seen it ; a
painter would have made a sketch. Now, for my
large group in clay suppose I had not sought living
models, and those as nearly like my idea as possible ;
what would have been the result? I should have
depended on experience ; that is, I should have
fashioned the parts one by one with the aid of
memory, recalling the composition of the human
body. But this memory always deals in general
ideas, and is incapable of bringing before our eyes
the delicate workmanship of living nature in produc-
ing the plastic flexibility of the muscles and the
flesh, exquisitely varied and soft, and above all, in the
harmonious transition from one member to another,
and from the curve of one line to another. But
those who depend on practice and memory either
become hard and cold, or adopt certain conventional
features that are immutable and almost geometrical ;
such, for example, as the oval faces of the sculptor
who works out his artificial imitations of Greek
statues according to the rules of the Academy,
without looking to the Parthenon itself, where the
grand Pheidias, in those times that were not yet
degenerate, freely chiseled his statues under the
guidance of the nude forms of Athenian youth
continually moving around him. Thus the living
COPYING AND IMITATION. 201
model stands before us as an example not for copy-
ing, but for imitation.
Amico. What do you mean by ' imitation '?
Dupre. Observe : one man is similar to another,
and yet he is also different. Is it not so ?
Dupre. Therefore every man is an imitation of
the common idea of man, but no one is a copy of
another. Sons who resemble their fathers are
imitations, not portraits.
Amico. That is true.
Dupre. In like manner there comes to the artist
from the idea of the subject an image that at once
resembles and does not resemble real things ; hence
his work on one side must be compared with real
things, that it may be made to resemble them in fact ;
but, on the other hand, we should keep our thoughts
fixed on our idea, that the work may also preserve
its diversity from real things. This is why we can
profit by the use of several models ; the unity of
our work is in the idea.
Amico. Singular power of the idea to combine in
unity imitations of outward things with new images
of the mind !
Dupre. It seems almost a miracle. You would
say that the eye itself surveys the real form of the
living model through the medium of a mental image,
and into this transforms the reality. For example,
when Bartolini was sculpturing the Nymph that is
now seen in the gardens of San Donato, one of his
pupils saw him looking intently at the feet of a girl
standing as his model. Her feet were not small,
and yet he was making those of his statue very small
and delicate ; so that the scholar said : Signer
maestro, those feet are not these ; and yet Bartolini
maintained that he was imitating these and no others.
Amico. Why, how could that be ?
Dupre. The nude example placed before his
eyes enabled him to observe the actual formation
that nature gives to the feet ; but his inner thought
then worked out of itself its own conception and its
Amico. In short, you artists seek in the real to
discover the ideal.
Dupre. Exactly so : and then we are able to
avoid on the one side the insipid or purely conven-
tional art of the idealist, and, on the other, the
servility of the realist, who copies everything, even
deformity. I have had to guard against these two
extremes with the utmost care, because we sail
between opposing seas. Bartolini, hating the rules
of the Academy, which required as the fixed type
of every figure that Jthe eyes should be almond-
shaped, the brows always arching, the nose always
THE STUDY OF NATURE. 203
straight, lips of the traditional angle, forehead low,
eyes near together, cheeks and chin oval, was wont
to say : ' Nay, rather than design from the plaster
casts of the Academy, let scholars copy from the
life, even if it must be from a hunchback.' But
Bartolini often said that he did not mean by
such remarks to countenance a crude and untaught
imitation of nature, but simply to insist upon the
earnest study of it ; for even by her deformities she
teaches more than can be learned from the Academy,
so long as it adheres to purely artificial types. He
added, also, that, while art must indeed imitate
nature, yet she must keep the reins in hand. There
are some, however, who will not understand his
principle, either through their animosity towards him,
or because of their fanaticism for ' reality.' To
me, though never a student in the Academy,
and wont in early days to sit at the bench as a
humble woodcarver, it appeared clearer than the
sun that art is learned in the book of God, and that
this book cannot be read without an inner light ;
and there came to me an impulse, an idea, a what
shall I say? a fancy to sculpture the Abel. I
found a model, I worked with a will, and the Abel
pleased. Abstract fictions or servile copies to me
were equally distasteful ; but as yet I had no definite
principles of art fixed in my mind. Then it was
204 GIOVANNI DUPRE.
that I read certain essays on the ideal by Giuseppe
Arcangeli, and these for a time led my thoughts
astray ; for I believed that I too must shut up the
volume of nature, and design everything from the
plaster casts and the antique. Then for several
years I was as one dead ; and I worked out statues
of the approved fashion, wherein no one recognised
me, nor did I know myself. But returning from
Naples, where I had spent some time for my health,
I stopped at Rome, and there in St. Peter's I saw
some statues of Canova, not finished with excessive
nicety, and, so to speak, laced and corseted, but
such as that of Pius VI. kneeling at the tomb of the
Apostles, and that of Pope Rezzonico : figures wherein
the truest nature is resplendent with eternal ideality.
And then, coming to myself, and feeling once more
my earlier impulses and the inspiration of my Abel,
I said: 'This, ay, this is art!' And never have I
abandoned it again.
Amico. Then you gave free course to the fountains
of your soul, that so long had seemed dried up, and
in the short period since then you have shown that
fertility of invention which has given us the Tazza,
the Sappho, the Children with the Grapes, 1 the Ferrari
Monument, the Dead Christ, 2 the Christ Risen, the
1 Two Bacchini, or figures of the infant Bacchus, in an allegorical
group called the Cryptogam. 2 The Pieta.
PROPER ART-TRAINING. 205
Christ Triumphant, 1 the Mossotti Monument, 2 and
many besides. To be a true artist, therefore, as I
gather from your observations, and from your ex-
perience, it is necessary to prepare the mind with
long study and meditation, so that it may attain
correct and luminous ideas of various subjects ; then,
to cultivate the imagination by the observation of
nature, so that it may form appropriate concep-
tions, and to aid it also by the use of living models
adapted to the chosen theme ; finally, to imitate
nature under the direction and control of the pre-
Dupre. And also to have an earnest love for
the chosen subject, and to keep the thoughts upon it
day and night ; if you would not have obscure ideas,
a cold imagination, and an art producing mummies
instead of living statues. You can add, moreover,
the study of the great masters, to learn how they
proceeded in imitating nature, the common teacher ;
in other words, the masters as our teachers, not our
models ; for these are found in nature alone. It
was thus that I was instructed by the statues of
Canova, and by the example and the words of
Bartolini ; and this is the more necessary, as every
art has its particular rules ; for example, of per-
i The Triumph of the Cross.
2 To the late astronomer, Mossotti of Pisa.
206 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
spective, of modelling in clay, of working marble,
and the like, all handed down by tradition.
Amico. Perfectly true, and your words have im-
pressed upon me with remarkable force the great
power and importance of feeling and passion ; con-
fessed, indeed, in words by every one, though few
recognise it in practice ; so that, indeed, science, art,
and life are either without impulses, or else receive
them from foreign objects.
Dupre. What do you mean by ' foreign ' ?
Amico. Foreign to that which one has in view.
In the aesthetic arts, what is the aim ? the beautiful ;
in the sciences ? the true ; in life, whether public or
private ? the good. Every irrelevant affection is a
foreign impulse, not pertaining to our chief aim,
therefore leading us astray ; as, for example, the
popular fashion, the criticism of the schools, and
various other extraneous influences.
Dupre. I will say also, that if this sentiment of
love for the subject does not fully possess and, as it
were, flood the soul of the artist, his works have but
little significance ; for a moderate degree of feeling
may suffice to make us enjoy the works of others,
but to enjoy and to create are very different. To
create works of originality and power demands a
degree of feeling which is forced by its own impulse
to outward expression. You feel as if the thought
THE POWER OF LOVE. 207
of your work were consuming you ; no rest comes to
your brain, until you are able to seize upon a clear
idea and to design the essential parts ; then your
work itself catches the ardour of your soul, and it
inflames in turn those who behold it. Often, indeed,
do these words of Dante come into my mind :
' . . . Love by virtue fired,
If only its pure flame shine outwardly,
In others ever kindles answering love.' 1
Amico. You have said that the artist is consumed
by the thought of his work ; and you have felt it.
Ah ! give some time to rest.
Dupre. I find much rest in music, when I hear it.
But to end what I desired to say, the attention fixed
upon the work you have in hand sets in secret
motion all the powers of the mind, and produces
sooner or later, yet always by a sudden inspiration,
the image you have sought for ; the mental image
in which outward and sensible forms take on a new
aspect. This secret labour is unremitted even in
sleep ; and this sometimes on singular and most
unexpected occasions startles us with the sudden
revelation of the new image. I will mention an
incident to you which, whenever I recall it, almost
Acceso da virtu sempr' altri accese,
Purche la fiamma paresse fuore. Purgatory, xxii. 10.
208 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
makes me tremble. I had been long meditating
upon the Pieta, and was working out a small model
of it which did not satisfy my idea ; lines distorted,
no repose, too artificial, too studied ; and then I
began to work out the idea again from the beginning,
and was worried and consumed as if a nail were
fastened in my head. One day in summer, after
dinner, when reclining upon the sofa reading a
newspaper, I fell asleep ; and lo, I seemed to see,
what I had long sought in vain, my Pieta ; Jesus
stretched upon the ground sustained upon the knee
of the Madonna, His right arm resting upon her,
the left hanging down, His head inclined gently upon
His breast, while the Madonna was bending over
Him with that look of unutterable woe. I woke up,
and found myself lying exactly like the Christ : I
ran to my studio and instantly made the new model.
I tremble to think how this design, so simple, after
I had in vain tried to find it by art and by long
study, came to me almost of itself.
Amico. But you had prepared your mind by long
application to your art; thus the notion, which, in
falling asleep, you had retained of your own reclining
form awakened in you, in some vague manner, the
image appropriate to your subject. Spontaneity and
meditation make the artist.
DuprL And I have many times noticed that after
SIMPLICITY OF GOOD ART. 209
changing again and again, and still feeling dissatisfied,
then the final stroke that gives content would seem
to be the one that ought to have been the very first,
because it is more simple than any other.
Amico. Thus, also, in writers, it is the form of the
greatest simplicity and brevity that commends itself
at last ; and the more mature authors write with
more simplicity than beginners. Nor can it be
otherwise, because the beautiful arts use signs, that
is, words or lines or musical notes ; signs of a thought
that becomes the more luminous the more it is
meditated ; and when completely meditated, then
most correct is its sign ; that is, most appropriate,
definite, clear ; neither too much nor too little in a
word, the most simple. Moreover, when art is in its
glory, the signs are few, the meaning rich ; when art
is corrupt, there is poverty of sense with multitude
of signs. He who has something to say does not
lose himself in a multitude of unmeaning words, lines,
notes, or compliments. Compare, if you choose, the
seventeenth century with the sixteenth, or, better still,
with the fifteenth, and you will see.
Dupre. Certainly great thoughts are a great power
that makes much with little. Lessen the substance
and you increase the show. Thus it is in all things.
Amico. But now that we touch upon signs,
another thought occurs to me.
Dupre. What is that ?
Amico. You have shown me that the real and the
ideal are so reciprocally united that the artist beholds
his idea in the real, and transmutes the real into his
idea. The idea, however, is that which is essential,
the thing signified; the mental image and the
external design are signs of the idea ; just as your
statue of the Risen Christ is not the actual Christ,
but rather the image or a sign of the Christ ; a word,
as it were, that indicates the Word-made man.
Dupre. Very true.
Amico. Because signs speak to the senses, they
must be taken from the sensible and real ; as
language from the living utterance of the voice,
musical notes from the tones determined by acoustic
laws, artistic designs from natural forms ; so much
the more as the affinity between the aspects and
qualities of sensible things and certain thoughts and
feelings of the soul has been taught us by nature.
We see, therefore, the necessity of a careful observa-
tion and imitation of natural things ; hence, also, the
necessity of keeping within the bounds that nature
prescribes, and of not violating the natural conditions
of art ; as if any one should attempt to make music
express precisely the ideas that are conveyed by
words, or as if the sculptor should trespass on the
sphere of the painter, and the contrary. But, again,
THE UNESSENTIAL. 211
signs, inasmuch as they are expressive of ideas, ought
to be subsidiary to the idea rather than to the out-
ward reality ; hence, they should be in kind and in
force such as the idea requires for its effective
presentation, not necessarily such in every particular
as the types which are found in nature itself; thus
the distant and azure -tinted mountains, or water
gently winding through green meadows, or an oak
standing upon the brow of a precipice, say more to
me than a landscape copied with minute exactness ;
thus, also, a few lines of a beautiful form are more
suggestive than the niceties of a petty and drudging
imitation, a simple attitude more than strained and
difficult gestures, a popular love-song more than the
learned music whose every strain resembles a laboured
sentence, and whose every note seeks to imitate
some object, or to express some thought ; in
literature, also, a line of Dante says more to me than
a whole poem of the present day. Indeed, it seems
to me the utter corruption and ruin of the art of our
times that its chief aim is sensation.
Dupre. It makes that its aim, because it is barren
of living ideas.
Dupre. Yes, ideas all alive with love.
Amico. Blessed is he who possesses them ;
because the idea of the subject we have to handle
serves in every theme and in every art as the
measure of the whole work ; serves as the measure,
because from it, as from an initial unit or funda-
mental formula, are evolved conceptions, sentiments,
images, form, and style. An artist destitute of
thoughts and ideas is like a hod-carrier with a title
of nobility, and like one who would learn to write
without knowing how to read.
Dupre. Or like one who speaks with loud voice
and chance gestures, and knows not what he is
talking about. Never can it be said too often how
essential it is for the artist to fasten his thoughts
firmly upon the controlling idea. My last experience
of this was in the Dead Christ ; for the mouth but
I have said too much already about my own works ;
and it is not my wont.
Amico. Go on, I pray you ; for in thus opening
yourself to me, you give me proof of your friendship.
But your observations upon art recall in a very agree-
able manner something I have read in Xenophon.
He describes a pleasant dialogue between Parrhasius
and Socrates, in which the latter taught that painters
in representing a perfect human form should make it
express not only external but internal beauty ; and
thus that they should avoid the fault of the Grecian
artists after the time of Pheidias in making their
figures graceful, but without any soul. Now in turn
THE CONTROLLING IDEA. 213
you, a Christian sculptor, are teaching me, a disciple
of Socrates, what is the soul of art.
Dupre. Not to have any strife in courtesy, I will
hurry on. The mouth of the Christ, then, ought to
express the gentleness of the lamb ; and yet I could
not find a model that gave me such a sweet and pure
expression, while inclining his head towards the
breast ; on the contrary, the act of forcing the chin
downwards made the lips project and thus look
quite harsh and unsightly. You would not believe
how many experiments I made on this feature, how
many times I changed it ; for, on the one side, I
had to avoid that ugly protuberance of the lips, and
on the other, a strained and unnatural expression ;
at last, however, I hit upon the form which the idea
required, and was satisfied ; and I have reason to
believe that others are content with it too. Again,
the body of the Dead Christ should give the impres-
sion that a living soul had dwelt therein, and would
speedily return ; therefore, it should seem to be
nearly like a body in sleep, though forsaken of the
living spirit ; the limbs not too rigid, though im-
movable ; and in the feet must not be too strongly
represented the folding or bending back that is usual
in paroxysms of agony and the chill of death.
Amico. And that is quite right.
Dupre. This obedience to the idea, that is
2i 4 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
constantly expanding and growing more luminous
in the mind, makes every touch, when we approach
the end of the work, every addition or correction, a
new creation ; because it completes the expression
of our idea, or is the perfecting of it. That being
attained, we do not add to the work a superficial
polish, and seek to gratify a taste for empty show ;
it is enough that our meaning is fully manifested
manifested through the medium of a figure that
breathes and speaks from the countenance, from the
hands, from the feet, from the carriage of the person,
from the hair, and even from every fold of the
drapery ; speaks only one thought, but one of rich
variety ; so when a living person makes any gesture
or movement, his whole body and all that covers it
conform to the action, each thing in its own way,
and harmonise with it
Amico. Good rules for every art ; nor is the file
of literary criticism any different. Not observing
that the perfection of writing is to say a thing in
the clearest manner possible, he who has regard
chiefly to the prettiness of words often begins with
one thought, and, changing his phrases again and
again, comes at last without perceiving it to some-
thing quite different, or even directly opposite.
Dupre. You are right ; so also in our art, the
living model may lead us away from the idea, if, in
EXTERNAL CONDITIONS. 215
the temptation to imitate every natural beauty, we
no longer keep our attention fixed upon that which
pertains exclusively to our subject. And what is
the consequence ? The work does not turn out
beautiful, whatever elegance it may possess ; not
beautiful, because everything is not in harmony with
the object or idea of the work. You writers may be
led away by the love of a phrase, we artists by a
certain external elegance. For example, I closed
the right hand of my Christ Risen, so as to make it
different from the left ; then I perceived that the
Christ ought to open both the arms and the hands,
as if showing to men in His rising the hope of their
own resurrection, and of being received to His bosom.
However, it cannot be denied that the arts are subject
to certain material necessities, the observation of
which is an advantage. Thus, again, I represented
the arms of the Risen Christ at first raised upwards ;
but then reflecting that this would interfere with the
view of the head when looked at from the sides of
the statue, for it was to be placed by Signer Filippi
in a circular temple at Buti, I lowered the arms as if
in the act of loving welcome.
Amico. It would seem that the external conditions
of art must sometimes require of you to depart from
Dupre. No, it is not so ; for these conditions
216 GIOVANNI DUPR&.
always result in giving it a better rendering, and,
therefore, a more spiritual beauty ; thus to conceal
the head of the Christ is contrary to the object of
the statue, and also to the idea of redemption. I
will tell you another thing ; the necessity of making
the Christ with the arms let downwards led me to
consider better the subject as a whole ; because an
important part of a statue cannot be altered without
leading to the alteration of nearly the whole, in order
to preserve the unity of the subject. In its first
form, the Christ was exultant, elevated above the
ground, His arms raised in triumph, the face turned
toward heaven, the hair loose and flowing. But
reflecting again upon my subject, I perceived that
the idea was not brought out clearly, because it was
not apparent whether the statue represented the
ascension or the resurrection ; and reflecting still
further, I saw that the face turned upward was too
much diminished or shortened to one looking from
below. Then I gently inclined the face, thus
bringing it into accord with the action of the arms
and hands ; I adjusted the hair, reduced the arching
of the breast, and placed under the feet the shelving
rock of the sepulchre, so that the Christ, while
standing still, is also on the point of moving.
Amico. Divine statue !
Dupre. And here, my friend, is the chief difficulty :
REPOSE AND MOTION. 217
to represent at once repose and motion repose
which depends upon a natural posture of the figure,
and which gives it an appearance of stability, while,
at the same time, it suggests movement ; for it is a
principle of nature that every movement has its
spring in something fixed and firm, and that which
is firm manifests its power by movement ; the muscles
of the body, for this reason, are never all distended
at one moment.
Amico. Thus in beautiful speech the thought
moves on, but always in calm security. A beautiful
style is movement and repose. Thought hurries
along animated by feeling ; but thought and feeling
are controlled by firm and tranquil reason.
Dupre. Thus should it be. But now we are
coming into Florence. Let us change the subject.
ABEL, statue of, 33, 34, 40, 42,
45, 47, 72, 81, 92, 165, 199.
Ala-Ponzoni, Marquis, of Milan,63.
Amalia, see Dupre.
Ammanati, intagliatore, 1 1 .
Angel of the Resurrection, 87.
Antonino, statue of, 60.
Arcangeli, Giuseppe, 204.
BAIVERI, Countess, 127.
Bartolini, sculptor, 17, 18, 19, 20,
21, 22, 36, 38, 47, 62, 165,
Beppina, see Dupre.
Bezzuoli, painter, 113.
Bichi-Ruspoli, Marquis, 100, 199.
Brina, one of Dupre's models, 34,
Buonazia, Girolamo, poet, 153.
CAIN, statue of, 45, 47, 51, 56,
Calamatta, sculptor, 40.
Canova, 38, 54, 64, 65, 66, 204.
Capponi, Marquis, 126.
Cavour, monument of, 117, 121,
Charlemagne, 98, 173.
Christ Dead, see Pieta.
Christ Risen, 99, 103, 192, 210,
Ciantelli, Signora Felice, 128.
Clement XIII. (Rezzonico), monu-
ment of, 64.
Constantine, Grand Duke of
Constantine, Roman Emperor, 98,
Conti, Augusto, 66, 87, 89, 90,
97, 121, 131, 162, 163.
DANTE, 90, 98, 147, 149, 158,
i73 !75. !82, 207.
David, statue of, by Michelangelo,
De Fabris, Emilio, 95, 131.
Del Benino, Count, 42, 45.
Del Monte, Marquis, 123.
Demidoff, Princess Matilda, 106.
Derby, Lord, 82.
Dore, Gustave, 107.
Dupre, Amalia, 80, 103, 122, 125,
128, 129, 145, 150, 152, 155,
Dupre, Giuseppina or Beppina,
105, 128, 150, 152.
Dupre, Maria, 24, 25, 27, 39, 125,
Dupre, Vittoria (Lombardi), 3, 28.
FEDI, sculptor, 85, 194.
Fenzi, Emanuel, 21.
Ferrari monument, 87, 121, 204.
Filippi monument, see Christ
Fra Angelico, 99.
GIOTTO, 50, 51, 61, 93, 147, 158.
Giusti, Florentine poet, 52.
Grand Duchess of Tuscany, see
Grand Duke, Leopold II., 47, 62,
63, 77. 90, 91, 92.
Guicciardini, Count, 85.
HAYNAU, Marshal, no, 111,112,
Heraclius, Emperor, 98, 183.
Hunt, Holman, 50.
JULIAN DE' MEDICI, statue of, by
Michelangelo, 133, 134, 137.
KAROLI, Count, 112.
LEOPOLD II., see Grand Duke.
Leuchtenberg, Prince, 45.
Lorenzo de' Medici, statue of, by
Michelangelo, 133, 134, 137.
MAFFEI, Andrea, 48.
Magi, Luigi, 27.
Maria Antoinette, Grand Duchess
of Tuscany, 45, 51, 61, 92.
Maria, Grand Duchess of Russia,
Marrocchetti, sculptor, 85.
Matas, Niccola, architect, 95.
Matilda, Countess, 98, 183, 186.
Matilda, Princess, see Demidoff.
Metternich, Prince, 53.
Michelangelo, 54, 80, 122, 131,
133, 135, 136, 137, 138, 142,
Millais, John Everett, 50.
Montalvo, 29, 30, 38.
Monti, sculptor, 85.
NAPOLEON III., 105, 106.
Nicholas, Emperor of Russia, 55,
56, 57, 62.
Nigra, Minister to France, 106.
ORLOFF, Count, 56.
PACETTI brothers, 20, 42.
Petrai, Antonio, one of Dupre's
models, 37, 39.
Pheidias, 200, 212.
Piccolomini, Marietta, 85.
Pierecini, intagliatore, 1 1 .
Pieta, group of the, 34, 99, 100,
103, 192, 199, 204, 208.
Pius VI., Canova's statue of, 66,
Pius IX., 123, 146.
Poldi, Marchioness, of Milan, 20.
RAIMONDO LULLO, statue of, 146,
Raphael, 49, 50, 74, 80.
Rezzonico, Carlo, see Clement
Ricci, sculptor, 17, 18.
Ristori, tragedienne, 85.
Rossini, 85, 86, 87, 107.
Rossini, Madame Olimpia, 86.
Ruspoli, see Bichi-Ruspoli.
SANI, intagliatore, 13, 19, 28, 42.
Sappho, statue of, 87, 88, 89, 90,
Sarrocchi, sculptor, 96, 113.
St. Augustine, 98, 173.
St. Francis of Assisi, 98, 146,
148, 149, 156, 157, 158, 174,
St. Paul, 98, 183, 184.
St. Thomas Aquinas, 98, 183, 184.
Sloane, Sir Francis, 96, 166.
TASSO, intagliatore, 20.
Tazza, marble group of the, 77,
78, 79, 92, 103, 204.
Tenerani, sculptor, 67, 70.
Triumph of the Cross, bas-relief,
96, 97, 98, 99, 103, 147, 165,
ULLI, Andrea, 149, 150, 156.
VELA, sculptor, 105, 117.
Venturi, Luigi, 2, 33, 101, 102,
123, 132, 148, 151, 152, 157.
Verdi, composer, 61, 85.
Victor Emanuel, 125, 146, 153.
Vittoria Colonna, Marchioness,
WAGNER, composer, 116.
Wellington, Duke of, monument
Zocchi, sculptor, 96.
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