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What genius disclosed all these wonders to thee? All the fair
images in the world seem to have sprung forward to meet thee, and to
throw themselves lovingly into thy arms. How joyous was the
gathering when smiling angels held thy palette, and sublime spirits
stood before thy inward vision in all their splendor as models! Let
no one think he has seen Italy, let no one think he has learnt the
lofty secrets of art, until he has seen thee and thy Cathedral at
Parma, O Correggio!--Ludwig Tieck
There is no moment that comes to mortals so charged with peace and
precious joy as the moment of reconciliation. If the angels ever
attend us, they are surely present then. The ineffable joy of
forgiving and being forgiven forms an ecstacy that well might arouse
the envy of the gods. How well the theologians have understood this!
Very often, no doubt, their psychology has been more experimental
than scientific--but it is effective. They plunge the candidate into
a gloom of horror, guilt and despair; and then when he is thoroughly
prostrated--submerged--they lift him out and up into the light, and
the thought of reconciliation possesses him.
He has made peace with his Maker!
That is to say, he has made peace with himself--peace with his
fellowmen. He is intent on reparation; he wishes to forgive every
one. He sings, he dances, he leaps into the air, clasps his hands in
joy, embraces those nearest him, and calls aloud, "Glory to God!
Glory to God!" It is the moment of reconciliation. Yet there is a
finer temperament than that of the "new convert," and his moment of
joy is one of silence--sacred silence.
In the Parma Gallery is the painting entitled, "The Day," the
masterpiece of Correggio. The picture shows the Madonna, Saint
Jerome, Saint John and the Christ-child. A second woman is shown in
the picture. This woman is usually referred to as Magdalene, and to
me she is the most important figure in it. She may lack a little of
the ethereal beauty of the Madonna, but the humanness of the pose,
the tenderness and subtle joy of it, shows you that she is a woman
indeed, a woman the artist loved--he wanted to paint her picture,
and Saint Jerome, the Madonna and the Christ-child are only excuses.
John Ruskin, good and great, but with prejudices that matched his
genius, declared this picture "immoral in its suggestiveness." It is
so splendidly, superbly human that he could not appreciate it. Yet
this figure of which he complains is draped from neck to ankle--the
bare feet are shown--but the attitude is sweetly, tenderly modest.
The woman, half-reclining, leans her face over and allows her cheek,
very gently, to press against that of the Christ-child. Absolute
relaxation is shown, perfect trust--no tension, no anxiety, no
passion--only a stillness and rest, a gratitude and subdued peace
that are beyond speech. The woman is so happy that she can not
speak, so full of joy that she dare not express it, and a barely
perceptible tear-stain upon her cheek suggests that this peace has
not always been. She has found her Savior--she is His and He is
It is the moment of reconciliation.
The Renaissance came as a great burst of divine light, after a
thousand years of lurid night. The iron heel of Imperial Rome had
ground individuality into the mire. Unceasing war, endless
bloodshed, slavery without limit, and rampant bestiality had stalked
back and forth across Europe. Insanity, uncertainty, drudgery and
crouching want were the portion of the many. In such a soil neither
art, literature nor religion can prosper.
But now the Church had turned her face against disorder, and was
offering her rewards for excellence and beauty. Gradually there came
a feeling of safety--something approaching security. Throughout
Italy, beautiful, stately churches were being built; in all the
little principalities, palaces were erected; architecture became a
science. The churches and palaces were decorated with pictures,
statues filled the niches, memorials to great ones gone were erected
in the public squares. It was a time of reconciliation--peace was
more popular than war--and where men did go to war, they always
apologized for it by explaining that they fought simply to obtain
Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo and Botticelli were doing their
splendid work--work palpitating with the joy of life, and yet upon
it was the tinge of sorrow, the scars of battles fought, the tear-
stains that told of troubles gone. Yet the general atmosphere was
one of blitheness, joyous life and gratitude for existence. Men
seemed to have gotten rid of a great burden; they stood erect, they
breathed deeply, and looking around them, were surprised to perceive
that life was really beautiful, and God was good.
In such an attitude of mind they reached out friendly hands toward
each other. Poets sang; musicians played; painters painted, and
sculptors carved. Universities sprang into being--schools were
everywhere. The gloom was dispelled even from the monasteries. The
monks ate three meals a day--sometimes four or five. They went a-
visiting. Wine flowed, and music was heard where music was never
heard before. Instead of the solemn processional, there were
Barnabee steps seen on stone floors--steps that looked like
ecclesiastical fandango. The rope girdles were let out a trifle,
flagellations ceased, vigils relaxed, and in many instances the
coarse horsehair garments were replaced with soft, flowing robes,
tied with red, blue or yellow sashes of silk and satin. The earth
was beautiful, men were kind, women were gracious, God was good, and
His children should be happy--these were the things preached from
Paganism had got grafted on to Christianity, and the only branches
that were bearing fruit were the pagan branches. The old spirit of
Greece had come back, romping, laughing in the glorious Italian
sunshine. Everything had an Attic flavor. The sky was never so blue,
the yellow moonlight never before cast such soft, mysterious
shadows, the air was full of perfume, and you had but to stop and
listen any time and anywhere to hear the pipes o' Pan.
When Time turned the corner into the Sixteenth Century, the tide of
the Renaissance was at its full. The mortification of the
monasteries, as we have seen, had given place to a spirit of
feasting--good things were for use. The thought was contagious, and
although the Paulian idea of women keeping silence in all due
subjection has ever been a favorite one with masculine man, yet the
fact is that in the matter of manners and morals men and women are
never far apart--there is a constant transference of thought,
feeling and action. I do not know why this is. I merely know that it
is so. Some have counted sex a mistake on the part of God; but the
safer view is for us to conclude that whatever is, is good; some
things are better than others, but all are good. That is what they
thought during the Renaissance. So convent life lost its austerity,
and as the Council of Trent had not yet issued its stern orders
commanding asceticism, prayers were occasionally offered accompanied
by syncopated music.
The blooming daughters of great houses were consigned to convents on
slight excuse. "To a nunnery go, and quickly, too," was an order
often given and followed with alacrity. Married women, worn with
many cares, often went into "retreat"; girls tired of society's
whirl; those wrung with hopeless passion; unmanageable wives; all
who had fed on the husks of satiety; those who had incurred the
displeasure of parents or kinsmen, or were deserted, forlorn and
undone, all these found rest in the convents--provided they had the
money to pay. Those without money or influential friends simply
labored as servants and scullions. Rich women contracted the
"Convent Habit"; this was about the same thing as our present
dalliance known as the "Sanitarium Bacillus"--which only those with
a goodly bank-balance can afford to indulge. The poor, then as now,
had a sufficient panacea for trouble: they kept their nerves beneath
their clothes by work; they had to grin and bear it--at least they
had to bear it.
In almost every town that lined the great Emilian Highway, that
splendid road laid out by the Consul Marcus Emilius, 83 B. C., from
Rimini and Piacenza, there were convents of high and low degree--
some fashionable, some plain, and some veritable palaces, rich in
art and full of all that makes for luxury. These convents were at
once a prison, a hospital, a sanitarium, a workshop, a school and a
religious retreat. The day was divided up into periods for devotion,
work and recreation, and the discipline was on a sliding scale
matching the mood of the Abbess in charge, all modified by the
prevailing spirit of the inmates. But the thought that life was good
was rife, and this thought got over every convent-wall, stole
through the garden-walks, crept softly in at every grated window,
and filled each suppliant's cell with its sweet, amorous presence.
Yes, life is good, God is good! He wants His children to be happy!
The white clouds chase each other across the blue dome of heaven,
the birds in the azaleas and in the orange-trees twitter, build
nests and play hide-and-seek the livelong day. The balmy air is
flavored with health, healing and good-cheer.
Life in a convent had many advantages and benefits. Women were
taught to sew and work miracles with the needle; they made lace,
illumined missals, wove tapestries, tended the flowers, read from
books, listened to lectures, and spent certain hours in silence and
meditation. To a great degree the convents were founded on science
and a just knowledge of human needs. There were "orders" and degrees
that fitted every temperament and condition.
But the humble garb of a nun never yet changed the woman's heart
that beats beneath--she is a woman still.
Every night could be heard the tinkle of guitars beneath bedroom-
windows, notes were passed up on forked sticks, and missives freshly
kissed by warm lips were dropped down through lattices; secret
messengers came with letters, and now and again rope ladders were in
demand; while not far away, there were always priests who did a
thriving business in the specialty of Gretna Green.
Every sanitarium, every great hotel, every public institution--every
family, I was going to say--has two lives: the placid moving life
that the public knows, and the throbbing, pulsing life of plot and
counterplot--the life that goes on beneath the surface. It is the
same with the human body--how bright and calm the eye, how smooth
and soft the skin, how warm and beautiful this rose-mesh of flesh!
But beneath there is a seething struggle between the forces of life
and the disintegration--and eventually nothing succeeds but failure.
Every convent was a hotbed of gossip, jealousy, hate and seething
strife; and now and again there came a miniature explosion that the
outside world heard and translated with emendations to suit.
Rivalry was rife, competition lined the corridors, and discontent
sat glum or rustled uneasily in each stone cell. Some of the inmates
brought pictures, busts and ornaments to embellish their rooms.
Friends from the outside world sent presents; the cavalier who
played the guitar beneath the window varied his entertainment by
gifts; flowers filled the beautiful vases, and these blossoms were
replaced ere they withered, so as to show that true love never dies.
Monks from neighboring monasteries preached sermons or gave
lectures; skilled musicians came, and sang or played the organ;
noblemen visited the place to examine the works of art, or to see
fair maids on business, or consult the Abbess on matters spiritual.
Often these visitors were pressed to remain, and then receptions
were held and modest fetes given and banquets tendered. At intervals
there were fairs, when the products made by the marriage of the hand
and brain of the fair workers were exhibited and sold.
So life, though in a convent, was life, and even death and
disintegration are forms of life--and all life is good.
The Donna Giovanni Piacenza was appointed Abbess of San Paola
Convent, Parma, in Fifteen Hundred Seven. The Abbess was the
daughter of the nobleman Marco. Donna Giovanni was a woman of marked
mental ability; she had a genius for management; a wise sense of
diplomacy; and withal was an artist by nature and instinct.
The Convent of San Paola was one of the richest and most popular in
The man to whose influence the Abbess owed most in securing her the
appointment was the Cavaliere Scipione, a lawyer and man of affairs,
married to the sister of the Abbess.
As a token of esteem and by way of sisterly reciprocity, the Abbess
soon after her appointment called the Cavaliere Scipione to the
position of Legal Adviser and Custodian of the Convent Funds. Before
this the business of the institution had been looked after by the
Garimberti family; and the Garimberti now refusing to relinquish
their office, Scipione took affairs into his own hands and ran the
chief offender through with his sword. Scipione found refuge in the
Convent, and the officers of the law hammered on the gates for
admission, and hammered in vain.
Parma was split into two factions--those who favored the Abbess
Giovanni and those who opposed her.
Once at midnight the gates were broken down and the place searched,
for hiding cavaliers, by the Governor of the city and his cohorts,
to the great consternation of the nuns.
But time is the great healer, and hate left alone is shortlived, and
dies a natural death. The Abbess was wise in her management, and
with the advice and assistance of Scipione, the place prospered.
Visitors came, delegations passed that way, great prelates gave
their blessing, and the citizens of Parma became proud of the
Convent of San Paola.
Some of the nuns were rich in their own right, and some of these had
their rooms frescoed by local artists to suit their fancies.
Strictly religious pictures were not much in vogue with the inmates
--they got their religion at the chapel. Mythology and the things
that symbolized life and love were the fashion. On one door was a
flaming heart pierced by an arrow, and beneath in Italian was the
motto, "Love while you may." Other mottoes about the place were,
"Eat, drink and be merry"; "Laugh and be glad." These mottoes
revealed the prevailing spirit.
Some of the staid citizens of Parma sent petitions to Pope Julius
demanding that the decree of strict cloistration be enforced against
the nuns. But Julius sort of reveled in life himself, and the art
spirit shown by the Abbess was quite to his liking. Later, Leo the
Tenth was importuned to curb the festive spirit of the place, but he
shelved the matter by sending along a fatherly letter of advice and
About this time we find the Abbess and her Legal Adviser planning a
scheme of decoration that should win the admiration or envy--or
both--of every art-lover in the Emilia. The young man, Antonio
Allegri, from Correggio should do the work. They had met him at the
house of Veronica Gambara, and they knew that any one Veronica
recommended must be worthy of confidence. Veronica said the youth
had sublime talent--it must be so. His name, Allegri, meant joy, and
his work was charged with all his name implied. He was sent for, and
he came--walking the forty miles from Correggio to Parma with his
painter's kit on his back.
He was short of stature, smooth-faced and looked like a good-natured
country bumpkin in his peasant garb, all decorated with dust. He was
modest, half-shy, and the nuns who peered at him from behind the
arras as he walked down the hallway of the Convent caused his
countenance to run the chromatic scale.
He was sorry he came, and if he could have gotten away without
disgrace he surely would have started straight back for Correggio.
He had never been so far away from home before, and although he did
not know it he was never to get farther away in his life. Venice and
Titian were to the east a hundred miles; Milan and Leonardo were to
the north about the same distance; Florence and Michelangelo were
south ninety miles; Rome and Raphael were one hundred sixty miles
beyond; and he was never to see any of these. But the boy shed no
tears over that; it is quite possible that he never heard of any of
these names just mentioned, save that of Leonardo. None loomed large
as they do now--there were painters everywhere, just as Boston
Common is full of poets. Veronica Gambara had told him of Leonardo--
we know that--and described in glowing words and with an enthusiasm
that was contagious how the chief marks of Leonardo's wonderful
style lay in the way he painted hands, hair and eyes. The Leonardo
hands were delicate, long of finger, expressive and full of life;
the hair was wavy, fluffy, sun-glossed, and it seemed as if you
could stroke it, and it would give off magnetic sparks; but
Leonardo's best feature was the eye--the large, full-orbed eye that
looked down so that you really never saw the eye, only the lid, and
the long lashes upon which a tear might glisten. Antonio listened to
Veronica with open mouth, drinking it all in, and then he sighed and
said, "I am a painter, too." He set to work, fired with the thought
of doing what Leonardo had done--hands, hair and eyes--beautiful
hands, beautiful hair, beautiful eyes! Then these things he worked
upon, only he never placed the glistening tear upon the long lash,
because there were no tears upon his own lashes. He had never known
sorrow, trouble, disappointment or defeat.
The specialty of Allegri was "putti"--tumbling, tumultuous, tricksy
putti. These cherubs symboled the joy of life, and when Allegri
wished to sign his name, he drew a cherub. He had come up out of a
family that had little and expected nothing. Then he needed so
little--his wants were few. If he went away from home on little
journeys, he stopped with peasants along the way and made merry with
the children and outlined a chubby cherub on the cottage-wall, to
the delight of everybody; and in the morning was sent on his way
with blessings, Godspeeds, and urgent invitations to come again.
Smiles and good-cheer, a little music and the ability to do things,
when accompanied by a becoming modesty, are current coin the round
world over. Tired earth is quite willing to pay for being amused.
The Abbess Giovanni showed Antonio about the Convent, and he saw
what had already been done. He was appreciative, but talked little.
The Abbess liked the youth. He suggested possibilities--he might
really become the great painter that the enthusiastic Veronica
prophesied he would some day be.
The Abbess gave up one of her own rooms for his accommodation,
brought him water for a bath, and at supper sat him at the table at
her own right hand.
"And about the frescos?" asked the Abbess.
"Yes, the frescos--your room shall be done first. I will begin the
work in the morning," replied Antonio. The confidence of the youth
made the Abbess smile.
Many of our finest flowers are merely transplanted weeds.
Transplantation often works wonders in men. When Fate lifted Antonio
Allegri out of the little village of Correggio and set him down in
the city of Parma, a great change came over him. The wealth, beauty
and freer atmosphere of the place caused the tendrils of his
imagination to reach out into a richer soil, and the result was such
blossoms of beauty, so gorgeous in form and color, that men have not
yet ceased to marvel.
The Convent of San Paola is a sacred shrine for art-lovers--they
come from the round world over, just to see the ceiling in that one
room--the room of the Abbess Giovanni, where Antonio Allegri, the
young man from Correggio, first placed his scaffolds in Parma.
The village of Correggio is quite off the beaten track of travel.
You will have to look five times on the map before you can find it.
It is now only a village, and in the year Fourteen Hundred Ninety-
four, when Antonio Allegri was born and Cristoforo Colombo, the
Genoese, was discovering continents, it was little better than a
hamlet. It had a church, a convent, a palace where dwelt the
Corregghesi--the Lords of Correggio--and stretching around the
square, where stood the church, were long, low, stone cottages,
whitewashed, with trellises of climbing flowers. Back of these
cottages were little gardens where the peas, lentils, leeks and
parsley laughed a harvest. There were flowers, flowers everywhere--
none was too poor to have flowers. Flowers are a strictly sex
product and symbol the joy of life; and where there are no flowers,
there is little love. Lovers give flowers--and they are enough--and
if you do not love flowers, they will refuse to blossom for you. "If
I had but two loaves of bread, I'd sell one of them and buy white
hyacinths to feed my soul"--that was said by a man who loved this
world, no less than the next. Do not defame this world--she is the
mother that feeds you, and she supplies you not only bread, but
white hyacinths to feed your soul.
On market-day in every Italian town four hundred years ago, just as
now, the country women brought big baskets of vegetables and also
baskets of flowers. And you will see in those markets, if you
observe, that the people who buy vegetables usually buy sprays of
mignonette, bunches of violets, roses upon which the dew yet
sparkles, or white hyacinths. Loaves alone are not quite enough--we
want also the bread of life, and the bread of life is love, and
didn't I say that flowers symbol love?
And I have noted this, in those old markets: often the pile of
flowers that repose by the basket of fruit or vegetables is to give
away to the customers as tokens of good-will. I remember visiting
the market at Parma one day and buying some cherries, and the old
woman who took my money picked up a little spray of hyacinth and
pinned it to my coat, quite as a matter of course. The next day I
went back and bought figs, and got a big moss-rose as a premium. The
peculiar brand of Italian that I spoke was unintelligible to the old
woman, and I am very sure that I could not understand her, yet the
white hyacinths and the moss-rose made all plain. That was five
years ago, but if I should go back to Parma tomorrow, I would go
straight to the Market-Place, and I know that my old friend would
reach out a brown calloused hand to give me welcome, and the
choicest rose in her basket would be mine--the heart understands.
That spirit of mutual giving was the true spirit of the Renaissance,
and in the forepart of the Sixteenth Century it was at its fullest
flower. Men gave the beauty that was in them, and Vasari tells of
how at Correggio the peasants, who had nothing else to give, each
Sunday brought flowers and piled them high at the feet of the
There were painters and sculptors at the village of Correggio then;
great men in their day, no doubt, but lost now to us in the maze of
years. And there was, too, a little court of beauty and learning,
presided over by Veronica Gambara. Veronica was a lover of art and
literature, and a poet of no mean quality. Antonio Allegri, the son
of the village baker, was a welcome visitor at her house. The boy
used to help the decorators at the church, and had picked up a
little knowledge of art. That is all you want--an entrance into the
Kingdom of Art, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Veronica appreciated the boy because he appreciated art, and great
lady that she was, she appreciated him because he appreciated her.
Nothing so warms the cockles of a teacher's heart as appreciation in
a pupil. The intellect of the village swung around Veronica Gambara.
Visitors of note used to come from Bologna and Ferrara just to hear
Veronica read her poems, and to talk over together the things they
all loved. At these conferences Antonio was often present. He was
eighteen, perhaps, when his sketches were first shown at Veronica's
little court of art and letters. He had taken lessons from the local
painters, and visiting artists gave him the benefit of advice and
criticism. Then Veronica had many engravings and various copies of
good pictures. The boy was immersed in beauty, and all he did he did
for Veronica Gambara. She was no longer young--she surely was old
enough to have been the boy's mother, and this was well. Such a love
as this is spiritualized under the right conditions, and works
itself up into art, where otherwise it might go dancing down the
wanton winds and spend itself in folly.
Antonio painted for Veronica. All good things are done for some one
else, and then after a while a standard of excellence is formed, and
the artist works to please himself. But paradoxically, he still
works for others--the singer sings for those who hear, the writer
writes for those who understand, and the painter paints for those
who would paint just such pictures as he, if they could. Antonio
painted just such pictures as Veronica liked--she fixed the standard
and he worked up to it.
And who then could possibly have foretold that the work of the
baker's boy would rescue the place from oblivion, so that anywhere
where the word is mentioned, "Correggio" should mean the boy Antonio
Allegri, and not the village nor the wide domain of the Corregghesi!
The distinguishing feature of Correggio's work is his "putti." He
delighted in these well-fed, unspanked and needlessly healthy
cherubs. These rollicksome, frolicsome, dimpled boy babies--and that
they are boys is a fact which I trust will not be denied--he has
Paul Veronese brings in his omnipresent dog--in every "Veronese,"
there he is, waiting quietly for his master. Even at the
"Assumption" he sits in one corner, about to bark at the angels. The
dog obtrudes until you reach a point where you do not recognize a
"Veronese" without the dog--then you are grateful for the dog, and
surely would scorn a "Veronese" minus the canine attachment. We
demand at least one dog, as our legal and inborn right, with every
So, too, we claim the cherubs of Correggio as our own. They are so
oblivious of clothes, so beautifully indifferent to the proprieties,
so delightfully self-sufficient! They have no parents; they are
mostly of one size, and are all of one gender. They hide behind the
folds of every apostle's cloak, peer into the Magdalen's jar of
precious ointment, cling to the leg of Saint Joseph, make faces at
Saint Bernard, attend in a body at the "Annunciation"--as if it were
any of their business--hover everywhere at the "Betrothal," and look
on wonderingly from the rafters, or make fun of the Wise Men in the
They invade the inner Courts of Heaven, and are so in the way that
Saint Peter falls over them, much to their amusement. They seat
themselves astride of clouds, some fall off, to the great delight of
their mates, and still others give their friends a boost over
shadows that are in the way.
I said they had no parents--they surely have a father, and he is
Correggio; but they are all in sore need of a mother's care.
I believe it was Schiller who once intimated that it took two to
love anything into being. But Correggio seems to have performed the
task of conjuring forth these putti all alone; yet it is quite
possible that Veronica Gambara helped him. That he loved them is
very sure--only love could have made them manifest. This man was a
lover of children, otherwise he could not have loved putti, for he
sympathized with all their baby pranks, and sorrows as well.
One cherub bumps his head against a cloud and straightway lifts a
howl that must have echoed all through Paradise. His mouth is open
to its utmost limit; tears start from between his closed eyes, which
he gouges with chubby fists, and his whole face is distorted in
intense pigmy wrath. One might really feel awfully sorry for him
were it not for the fact that he sticks out one foot trying to kick
a playfellow who evidently hadn't a thing to do with the accident.
He's a bad, naughty cherub--that is what he is, and he deserves to
have his obtrusive anatomy stung, just a little, with the back of a
hairbrush, for his own good.
This same cherub appears in other places, once blowing a horn in
another's ear; and again he is tickling a sleeping brother's foot
with a straw. These putti play all the tricks that real babies do,
and besides have a goodly list of "stunts" of their own. One thing
is sure, to Correggio heaven would not be heaven without putti; and
the chief difference that I see between putti and sure-enough babies
is, that putti require no care and babies do.
Then putti are practical and useful--they hold up scrolls, tie back
draperies, carry pictures, point out great folks, feed birds, and in
one instance Correggio has ten of them leading a dog out to
execution. They carry the train of the Virgin, assist the Apostles,
act as ushers, occasionally pass the poorbox, make wreaths and
crowns--but, I am sorry to say, sometimes get into unseemly scuffles
for first place.
They have no wings, yet they soar and fly like English sparrows.
They are not troubled with nerv. pros. or introspection. What they
feed upon is uncertain, but sure it is that they are well nourished.
A putti needs nothing, not even approbation.
In the dome of the Cathedral at Parma, there is a regular flight of
them to help on the Ascension. They mix in everywhere, riding on
clouds, clinging to robes, perching on the shoulders of Apostles--
everywhere thick in the flight and helping on that glorious
anabasis. Away, away they go--movement--movement everywhere--right
up into the blue dome of Heaven! As you look up at that most
magnificent picture, a tinge of sorrow comes over you--the putti are
all going away, and what if they should never come back!
A little girl I know once went with her Mamma to visit the Cathedral
at Parma. Mother and daughter stood in silent awe for a space,
looking up at that cloud of vanishing forms. At last the little girl
turned to her mother and said, "Mamma, did you ever see so many bare
legs in all the born days of your life?"
Some years ago in a lecture John La Farge said that the world had
produced only seven painters that deserved to rank in the first
class, and one of these is Correggio. The speaker did not name the
other six; and although requested to do so, smilingly declined,
saying that he preferred to allow each auditor to complete the list
One person present made out this list of seven Immortals, and passed
the list to Edmund Russell, seated near, for comments. This is the
list: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Titian, Rembrandt, Correggio,
Mr. Russell approved the selection, but added a note claiming the
privilege to change and substitute names from time to time as his
mood might prompt. This seems to me like a very sensible verdict.
"Who is your favorite author?" is a question that is often asked.
Just as if any one author ever got first place in the mind of a
strong man and stuck there! Authors jostle each other for first
place in our hearts. We may have Emerson periods and Browning
periods, when they alone minister to us; and so also pictures, like
music, make their appeals to mood.
This peaceful, beautiful May day, as I write this at my cabin in the
woods, Correggio seems to me truly one of the world's marvelous men.
He is near, very dear, and yet before him I would stand silent and
He did his work and held his peace. He was simple, modest,
unobtrusive and unpretentious. He was so big that he never knew the
greatness of his work, any more than the author of Hamlet knew the
immensity of his.
Correggio was never more than a day's journey from home--he toiled
in obscurity and did work so grand that it made its final appeal
only to the future. He never painted his own portrait, and no one
else seemed to consider him worth while; his income was barely
sufficient for his wants. He was so big that following fast upon his
life came a lamentable decline in art: his personality being so
great that his son and a goodly flock of disciples tried to paint
just like him. All originality faded out of the fabric of their
lives, and they were only cheap, tawdry and dispirited imitators.
That is one of the penalties which Nature exacts when she vouchsafes
a great man to earth--all others are condemned to insipidity. They
are whipped, dispirited and undone, and spontaneity dies a-borning.
No man should try to do another man's work. Note the anatomical
inanities of Bernini in his attempts to out-Angelo Michelangelo.
In this "rushing-in" business, keep out, or you may count as one
Correggio struck thirteen because he was himself, and was to a great
degree even ignorant and indifferent to what the world was doing. He
was filled with the joy of life; and with no furtive eye on the
future, and no distracting fears concerning the present, he did his
work and did it the best he could. He worked to please himself,
cultivated the artistic conscience--scorning to create a single
figure that did not spring into life because it must. All of his
pictures are born of this spirit.
Good old Guido of Parma, afar from home, once asked, with tear-
filled eyes, of a recent visitor there--"And tell me, you saw the
Cathedral and the Convent of San Paola--and are not the cherubs of
Master Correggio grown to be men yet?"
It is only life and love that give love and life. Correggio gave us
both out of the fulness of a full heart. And growing weary when
scarce forty years of age, he passed out into the Silence, but his
work is ours.
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