Page images
PDF
EPUB

splendid, that must hurt the eye of those who are accustomed to that perfect exactness in finishing which prevails in English houses. The glass of the windows of some palaces is divided into little square panes, which are joined together by lead; and the floors of all are so very indifferently laid, that you often feel a loose brick shaking under your feet as you walk through the finest apartments.

The most precious ornaments of the palaces are the paintings, particularly those of the celebrated masters which this city had the honour of producing. Raphael is generally allowed to have excelled all painters in the sublimity of his ideas, the grouping of his figures, the beauty of his heads, the elegance of his forms, and the correctness of his outlines; yet, in the opinion of some, he has oftener imitated those noble ideas of beauty, transmitted to us by the Greek sculptors, than what he saw, or could observe, in nature. Those who hold this opinion assert, that the best masters of the Lombard school studied, with equal assiduity, the elegance of the antique statues, and the simplicity of nature; and from this combined attention to both, with geniuses less sublime, and not so universal, as that of the Roman painter, they have produced works equal, if not superior in some respects, to his. In all this, I beg you may keep in your remembrance, that I am not affecting to give any opinion of my own, but merely repeating the sentiments of others.

Next to Rome itself, there is, perhaps, no town in the world so rich in paintings as Bologna. The churches and palaces, besides many admired pieces by other masters, are full of the works of the great masters who were natives of this city. I must not lead you among those masterpieces; it is not for so poor a judge as I am to point the peculiar excellences of the Caraccis, Dominichino, Albano, or compare the energy of Guercino's pencil with the grace of Guido's. With regard to the last, I shall venture to say, that the graceful air of his young men, the elegant forms, and mild persuasive devotion, of his Madonas ; the art with which, to all the inviting love. liness of female features, he joins all the gentleness and modesty which belong to the female character, are the peculiar excellences of this charming painter.

It requires no knowledge in the art of painting, no connoisseurship, to discover those beauties in the works of Guido; all who have eyes, and a heart, must see and feel them.' But the picture more admired than all the rest, and considered, by the judges, as his masterpiece, owes its eminence to a different kind of merit ; it can claim none from any of the circumstances above enumerated. The piece I mean is in the Sampieri palace, and distinguished by a silk curtain, which hangs before it. The subject is, the repentance of St. Peter, and consists of two figures, that of the saint who weeps, and a young apostle who endeavours to comfort him. The only picture at Bologna, which can dispute celebrity with this, is that of St. Cecilia, in the church of St. Georgio in Monte. This picture is greatly praised by Mr. Addison, and is reckoned one of Raphael's capital pieces. If I had nothing else to convince me that I had no judgment in painting, this would be sufficient. I have examined it over and over with great attention, and a real desire of discovering its superlative merit ; and I have the mortification to find, that I cannot perceive it. After this confession, I presume you will not desire to hear any thing farther from me on the subject of painting.

I.ETTER XXIX.

Ancona. In our way from Bologna to this place, we passed through Ravenna, a disagreeable town, though at one period the seat of empire ; for, after Attila had left Italy, Valentinian chose Ravenna, in preference to Rome, for his residence, that he might always be ready to repel the Huns and other barbarians, who poured from the banks of the Danube, and prevent their penetrating into Italy. The same reason afterwards induced Theodoric, king of

the Ostrogoths, to keep his court at this city of Ravenna, after he had defeated and killed Odoacer, and assumed the title of king of Rome. The ruins of his palace and his tomb now form part of the antiquities of Ravenna ; among which I shall not detain you a moment, but proceed to the river of Pisatello, the famous Rubicon, which lies between this town and Rimini, and was the ancient boundary between Italy and Cisalpine Gaul. No Roman, returning to Rome, could pass in arms beyond this, without being deemed an enemy to his country. The small town of Cesenate is situated near this brook, and the inhabitants value themselves not a little upon their vicinity to so celebrated a neighbour. But the people of Rimini have had the malice to endeavour to deprive them of this satisfaction : they affirm, that the rivulet Lusa, which is farther removed from Cesenate, and nearer to themselves, is the true Rubicon. I have considered this controversy with all the attention it merits; and I am of opinion, that the pretensions of Pisatello, which is also called Rugone, are the best founded. That you may not suspect my being influenced in my judgment by any motives but those of justice, I beg leave to inform you, that it is a matter of no importance to me which of the rivers is the real Rubicon, for we had the honour of passing both in our way to Rimini.

What Suetonius mentions concerning Cæsar's hesita: . tion when he arrived at the banks of this river, does not agree with what the historian says a little before. Quidam putant captum imperii consuetudine, pensitatisque suis et inimicorum viribus, usum occasione rapiendæ dominationis, quam ætate prima concupisset. And this, he adds, was the opinion of Cicero, who says, that Cæsar had often in his mouth this verse.

Nam si violandum est jus, regnandi gratia

Violandum est, aliis rebus pietatem colas. It is most probable, that Cæsar took his resolution to cross the Rubicon as soon as Antony and Curio arrived in his camp, and afforded him a plausible pretext, by in

forming him and the army of the violent manner in which they had been driven from Rome by the consul Lentulus and the adherents of Pompey. As for the phantom, which Suetonius informs'us determined the dictator while he was yet in hesitation, we may either consider it entirely as a fiction, or as a scene previously arranged by himself to encourage his army, who may be supposed to have had scruples in disobeying a decree of the senate; which declared those persons sacrilegious and parricides, devoting them at the same time to the infernal gods, who should pass over this river in arms. Cæsar was not of a character to be disturbed with religious scruples; he never delayed an enterprise, we are told, on account of unfavourable omens. Ne religione quidem ulla a qu incepto absterritus unquam vel retardatus est. Quum immolanti aufugisset hostia, profectionem adversus Scipionem et Jubam non distulit, &c. &c.

This hesitation, therefore, which is mentioned both by Suetonius and Plutarch, has no resemblance with the ambitious and decisive character of Julius Cæsar ; the picture which Lucan has drawn of him has much more spirit, and in all probability more likeness.

Cæsar ut adversam superato gurgite ripam,
Attigit, Hesperiæ vetitis et constitit arvis,
Hic, ait, hic pacem, temerataque jura relinquo ;
Te, Fortuna, sequor ; procul hinc jam fædera sunto.
Credidimus fatis, utendum est judice bello.
Sic fatus, noctis tenebris rapit agmina ductor
Impiger, et torto Ballaris verbere fundæ
Ocyor, et missa Parthi post terga sagitta ;

Vicini que minax invadit Ariminum Though Rimini is in a state of great decay, there are some monuments of antiquity worthy the attention of the curious traveller. It is the ancient Ariminum, the first town of which Cæsar took possession after passing the Rubicon. In the market-place there is a kind of stone pedestal, with an inscriprion, declaring, that on it Cæsar had stood and liarangued his army; but the authenticity of this is not ascertained to the satisfaction of antiqua, pians.

7

We next passed through Pesaro, a very agreeable town, better built and paved than the other towns we have seen on the Adriatic shore. In the market-place there is a handsome fountain, and a statue of Pope Urban VIII, in a sitting posture. In the churches of this town there are some pictures by Baroccio, a painter, whose works some people esteem very highly, and who is thought to have imị. tated the manner of Raphael and the tints of Correggio, not without success. He lived about the middle of the six: teenth century, and his colours seem to have improved by time. I say, seem; for, in reality, all colours lose by time; but the operation of sun and air on pictures bringing all the colours to a kind of unison, occasions what is call. ed Harmony, and is thought an improvement on some pictures. This road, along the Adriatic coast, is extreme ly pleasant. From Pesaro we proceeded to Fano, a little town, of nearly the same size, but more populous. Įt derives its name from a temple of Fortune, [Fanum For. tunæ), which stood here in the time of the Romans. All the towns of Italy, however religious they may be, are proud of their connections with those celebrated heathens. An image of the goddess Fortune is erected on the foun, tain in the market-place, and the inhabitants shew some ruins, which they pretend belong to the ancient temple of Fortune ; but what cannot be disputed, are the ruins of a triumphal arch in white marble, erected in honour of Augustus, and which was greatly damaged by the artillery of Pope Paul II, when he besieged this town in the year 1463. The churches of this town are adorned with some excellent pictures; there is one particularly in the cathedral church, by Guercino, which is much admired. The subject is the marriage of Joseph: it consists of three principal figures ; the high priest, Joseph, and the Virgin.

A few miles beyond Fano, we crossed the river Metro, where Claudius Nero, the Roman consul, defeated Asdrubal, the brother of Hannibal. This was, perhaps, the most important victory that ever was gained by a Roman general; for, had Asdrubal been victorious, or been able

« PreviousContinue »