THE reader must not suppose that these brief notes give anything like an adequate idea of the way in which pictures in such a gallery as the Louvre ought to be studied. My object in these Guides being mainly to open a door, that the tourist himself may enter and look about him carefully, I have given first this connected account of all the rooms in chronological order, for the use of those whose time is very limited, and who desire to go through the collection seriatim. But for the benefit of others, who can afford to pay many successive visits, I will now take one or two particular pictures in detail, suggesting what seem to me the best and most fruitful ways in which to study them. Try for yourself after-wards to fill in a similar scheme, as far as you can, for most of the finest works in this gallery.
I will begin with No. 251, in the Salle des Primitifs, Mantegna’s beautiful and glowing Madonna della Vittoria. And I take Mantegna first, because (among other reasons) he is a painter who can be fairly well studied by means of the pictures in this gallery alone, without any large reference to his remaining works in Italy or elsewhere.
Now, first, who and what was Mantegna, and what place does he fill in the history of art in Italy ? Well, he was a Paduan painter, born in 1431, died in 1506, about the time when Raphael was painting the Belle Jardinière, in this collection. He was a contemporary and brother-in-law of Giovanni and Gentile Bellini : and if you compare his work with that of the two Bellinis, even as very inadequately represented here, you will see that their art has much in common, that they stood at about the same level of historical evolution, and painted in the same careful, precise, and accurate manner of the second half of the fifteenth century. Contrast them, on the one hand, with their immediate predecessors, such as Filippo Lippi and Benozzo Gozzoli (juniors by roughly about twenty years), in order to mark the advance they made on the art of those who went just before them ; and compare them, on the other hand, with their immediate successors, such as Raphael, and even their more advanced contemporaries, like I.ionardo, in order to see what place they fill in the development of painting.
Again, Mantegna was a pupil of Squarcione of Padua, who practically founded the Paduan school. Now, Squarcione had travelled in Greece and formed a collection of antiques, from which his pupils made drawings and studies. Also Donatello (the great Florentine sculptor of the early Renaissance, of whose work you can find some beautiful examples in the Renaissance sculpture rooms of this museum) had executed several bronzes in the church of Sant’ Antonio, the great local saint of Padua ; and these likewise Mantegna studied ; so that much of his work bears traces of the influence of sculpture, and especially of bas-relief. He is particularly fond of introducing reliefs, festoons of fruit or flowers, and classical detail into the accessories of his pictures : and these peculiarities are well marked in the Mars and Venus, the Crucifixion, and the Madonna della Vittoria in this collection. Compare all these closely with one another till you think you have formed a fair idea of Mantegna’s powerful drawing, strong realism, love of the antique, solemnity and dignity, clear-cut style, and perfect mastery of anatomy and technique. Notice his delicate, careful, conscientious workman-ship ; the precision and perfection of his hands and feet ; the joy with which he lingers over classical costume and the painting of armour. Everything is sharp and defined as in the air of Italy, yet never hard, or crude, or angular. Observe, also, the sculpture-like folds of his carefully arranged draperies, and his love for shot colours and melting tints on metal or marble. The St. Michael in this picture, and the Roman soldiers in the Crucifixion, are admirable examples of this tone in his colouring. If you wished to characterise Mantegna in a single phrase, however, you might fairly say he was the most sculpturesque of painters.
As to date, the Crucifixion (in the Salon Carré), which formed one piece only of the predella or series of small pictures at the base of the great Madonna in the church of San Zeno at Verona, is the earliest example of Mantegna’s work here. It displays the delicate and exquisite finish of his youthful period, but it is much more mediæval in tone has far less freedom and conscious artistic powerthan the Ma-donna della Vittoria, which belongs to the latest epoch of the great painter’s development. Observe the early severity of the figures in the Crucifixion, and the firmness of the drawing : each personage stands out with statuesque distinctness. But note, too, that at this early stage, Mantegna’s expression of emotion was still inadequate : in his striving to be powerful, he overdid the passions, sometimes almost to the verge of grotesqueness. On the other hand, do not overlook the dramatic force of the picture, as shown, for example, in the vivid contrast between the anguish of the Madonna, with her attendant St. John, etc., and the callous carelessness of the soldiers casting lots for the Redeemer’s raiment. The Mars and Venus, once more, of his middle period, represents an intermediate stage between the two styles. What is meant by a predella, again, you can see by looking at Fra Angelico’s Coronation of the Virgin, and other similar pictures in this room, the little figures of St. Dominic and his miracles, beneath the main altar-piece, being examples of this adjunct. The Crucifixion formed the central picture of three such minor episodes : the Agony in the Garden and the Ascension, to right and left of it, are now in the Museum at Tours. Napoleon I. had carried off the entire work from Verona ; at the Restoration, the Madonna was returned to San Zeno, but the three pieces of the predella were retained in France and thus distributed. If you go to Tours or Verona, recollect the connection of the various fragments.
Next, what was the occasion for painting this Madonna della Vittoria? You will remember that in 1494, Charles VIII. of France, invited by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, invaded North Italy, and conquered a large part of it, including Florence, Pisa, and Rome itself. Marching then on Naples, the boy king achieved a further success, which turned his own head and that of his army. (Read up all this episode in any good French history.) But Venice, trembling for her supremacy, formed a league against him ; and soon after, all Italy, alarmed at his success, coalesced to repel the invader. The little republics united their forces under Giovanni Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, and met Charles, on the 6th of July, 1495, at the pass of Fornova, on the Taro. The French king, it is true, forced his way through the hostile army, and made good his retreat : but the allies, though baffled, claimed the victory, and as a matter of fact, Charles immediately concluded a treaty of peace and returned to Lyons. In commemoration of this event, the Marquis Gonzaga in gratitude erected a church at Mantua as a votive offering to the Madonna, and dedicated it under the name of Santa Maria della Vittoria.
At that time, and for some years previously, Mantegna had been in the service of the Gonzaga family at Mantua, where he lived for the greater part of his artistic life. In the castello of that town, he executed several frescoes, illustrating domestic events in the history of the Gonzagas, which are still among the most interesting objects to be visited in Mantua. It was natural, therefore, that he should be invited by Giovanni Francesco Gonzaga to paint the altar-piece for the high altar of the church to commemorate this victory. The picture must have been finished about the year 1498 or 1500. It stood in the building for which it was painted till Napoleon I. brought it from Italy to Paris, where it has ever since remained.
These circumstances sufficiently explain the collection of saints who figure in the picture. In the centre is the Madonna of Victory herself, to whom Gonzaga vowed the church in case he should be successful. She is enthroned, as usual. The garlands of flowers and fruit, and the coral over her head, are favourite accessories with Mantegna : they occur again in the (much earlier) Madonna at San Zeno, Verona, of which the Crucifixion here formed part of the predella. The figures of Adam and Eve, in imitation of relief, on the pedestal, are thoroughly characteristic of Mantegna’s style, and recall the Paduan school of Squarcione, and the master’s dependence on the work of Donatello. The overloading of the picture with flowers, festoons, and architectural decoration is also a Paduan feature of the same school: it comes out equally in the works of Carlo Crivelli not well seen in this collection. On his knees in the foreground is Gonzaga himself, with his villainous Italian Renaissance face, as of a man who would try to bribe Our Lady with presents. And indeed Our Lady stretches out her friendly hand towards him, as if to assure him of favour and victory. Notice that the marquis wears his armour : he is giving thanks, as it were, on the field of battle.
As often with Mantegna, the minor characters and saints are fuller of life than the two central divine personages : his Madonnas have frequently a tendency to be insipid. On the left of the picture, flanking the Virgin, stands St. Michael the Archangel, the “warrior of God,” as representing the idea that the Lord of Hosts fought on the side of the Italian confederacy. This beautiful figure, clad in refulgent heavenly armour, is one of the noblest and loveliest that Mantegna ever painted. Compare it with the two St. Michaels by Raphael, the early one in the Long Gallery, the later in the Salon Carré : note the general similarity of type, with the divergence in treatment. A little behind, again half seen, stands St. Andrew, who was both Andrea Mantegna’s own namesake, and also one of the patrons of Mantua. He has an important church dedicated in his honour in that town, a Renaissance church, by Leon Battista Alberti : and in this church of his patron, Mantegna himself is buried. For the altar-piece of this same church, which he had doubtless selected beforehand for his own last resting-place, the great artist also painted a representation of the risen Saviour, with St. Andrew holding the cross of his martyrdom on one side, and St. Longinus (of whom more shortly) with his spear on the other. Thus there was every reason both why St. Andrew should be represented in a picture painted for the Marquis of Mantua, and why he should more particularly appear in a work by Andrea Mantegna. As one of the patron saints of town and painter, he naturally had his share in the thanksgiving for the victory. His features in this picture, and in the one at Mantua, are closely similar. Mantegna, indeed, imitated an older type, which he made his own, and reproduced like a portrait. Note that St. Andrew bears a cross as his symbol.
On the other side of the Madonna, St. Elizabeth kneels in the foreground, representing, I think, the patron saint of the marchesa, Gonzaga’s wife, who was Isabella d’Este, sister of Duke Alfonso of Ferrara. (Isabella and Elisabeth are always regarded as variants of the same name.) Now in the chapel of St. Longinus, in the church of St. Andrea at Mantua, aforesaid, where Mantegna is buried, he also painted a Madonna, with this same St. Elizabeth, holding the infant St. John Baptist, while the child Christ blesses him : no doubt a votive offering from Isabella. Here again we have a type of St. Elizabeth repeated in this picture. Behind St. Elizabeth stands the exquisitely wistful St. George, the patron saint of the Venetian territory, representing the part borne by Venice and her dependencies in the war of expulsion ; the patron receives the thanks of his faithful votaries. (Mrs. Jameson thinks this figure is St. Maurice, another military saint, and patron of Mantua ; comparison with various St. Georges and St. Maurices, else-where, makes me disagree with her. Besides, St. George’s lance is often broken, as here ; you can note it so in the Raphael of the Long Gallery.) In the background stands St. Longinus, a Roman soldier, distinguishable by his lance and antique helmet. According to tradition, Longinus was the centurion who pierced the side of Christ : you see him so in the famous Rubens (called the Coup de Lance) at Antwerp, and in almost every mediæval Crucifixion or Calvary. (Look out for him in future.) When he saw the wonders which accompanied the Passion, we are told in Scripture that he exclaimed, ” Truly this man was the Son of God.” Later legend made him be converted, after being afflicted with sudden blindness, and undergo a singular voluntary martyrdom. His relics were brought to Mantua in the eleventh century, and he has ever since been the chief patron saint of that city. Mantegna painted him often, and sometimes made a type of him. In the picture already described in the chapel of St. Longinus, he answers, as here, to St. Andrew, and wears a classical costume, on which the painter has lavished his usual care and minute accuracy of drawing. Notice him also in the foreground of Mantegna’s Crucifixion in the Salon Carré, bearing his spear, where, however, the type is not followed as usual. Thus not one of the characters grouped around the Madonna in this exquisite picture is without its full relevancy and meaning.
Do not overlook, in this military votive offering, the preponderance of soldier saints, and their appearance under arms, to commemorate the victory.
Observe also the way in which St. George and St. Michael hold the Madonna’s mantle, so as to enclose or embrace Gonzaga and his wife’s patroness, St. Elizabeth. This is a symbol of the Madonna’s protection : in what is called a a Madonna della Misericordia, Our Lady’s robe thus shelters numerous votaries. So, at Cluny, you will find a sculptured St. Ursula (in Room VI) sheltering under her mantle as many of the eleven thousand virgins as the sculptor could manage,as she also does in the Memling at Bruges.
On the aesthetic side, note once more the marked distinction which Mantegna draws between the historical portrait of the kneeling Gonzaga a most ruthless ruffianand the ideal figures of saints by whom he is surrounded. Remark, again, the angelic sweetness of the round-faced St. Michael, contrasted with the purely human look of longing and strife, and the guarded purity in the countenance of the St. George, who almost foreshadows Burne-Jones and Rossetti. Observe, too, how this romantic saint serves as a foil to the practical Roman Longinus, with his honest and sober face, and his soldierly sense of duty. Study the melting tones of colour throughout, and contrast the simple devotional calm of this religious work with the rapidity and movement of the mundane Mars and Venus beside it. Do not overlook a single detail: every hand and foot, every surface of metal, every fruit and flower is worthy of attention.
As always, I have only tried here to explain this picture, not to make you admire it. But the longer you look at it the more you will be charmed by its wonderful colour, its poetic grace, and the exquisite beauty of its drawing and composition.
Now, still in the same connection, go on into the Long Gallery, and look, near Andrea del Sarto’s Holy Family, at a mannered and theatrical picture of the Nativity by Giulio Romano. This is not a Nativity simple, but one with selected saints looking on ; it was painted for the altar-piece of the altar of the chapel of St. Longinus in Sant’ Andrea at Mantua, the same in which Mantegna had earlier painted the Longinus pictures noted above. The central portion of this altar-piece consists of a tolerably conventional Nativity, with the adoring shepherds, Raphaelised by Giulio Romano (who was Raphael’s favourite pupil) in accordance with the ideas of the early sixteenth century. (It is interesting to note, by the way, the nature of these modifications.) In the background is the herald angel appearing to the shepherds : this scene, prior in time to the other, was often so represented in the same picture or carving ; look out for it elsewhere, and also for such non-contemporaneous episodes in general. But the attendant saints, to right and left, looking on at the sacred scene, are St. John the Evangelist (known by his chalice and serpent) and St. Longinus. The last named holds in his hands a crystal vase, a pyx or reliquary, containing the sacred blood of Christ, which Longinus caught as it fell, and which was brought with the rest of the relics to Mantua, and pre-served in the very chapel for which this picture was intended. Compare this dull Longinus with the two by Mantegna in this collection ; and when you visit Mantua, remember that these pictures came from these two churches. By thus interweaving your facts, you will get a far clearer conception in the end of the connection of art than you can possibly do if you regard the various works in pure isolation.
But what was Giulio Romano doing at Mantua ? After Raphael’s death, his pupils were dispersed ; and this his favourite follower settled down in the service of Duke Federigo Gonzaga (the first duke, the earlier lords were marquises), for whom he decorated the Palazzo del Te, with its grotesque Titans. Primaticcio and Niccolo dell’ Abbate, pupils again of Giulio’s, were educated at Mantua, and afterward summoned by François Ier to France, where they became the founders of the school of Fontainebleau. They thus passed on the Raphaelesque traditions into the French capital. It is partly for this reason that I have selected for my first examples this particular Mantuan group of paintings, in order that you may realise the close inter-action of French and Italian politics, and the continuity of the Italian with the French Renaissance.
It is worth while, too, to inquire how the different pictures came into this collection. The Madonna della Vittoria, we saw, was brought as a trophy of war from Italy by Napoleon. The Giulio Romano, after hanging for some time in the chapel at Mantua, for which it was painted, was shortly annexed by the Duke of Mantua, who sold it to Charles I. of England. That king formed a noble collection of Italian and Flemish works, which, after his execution, was sold by the Commonwealth for a very small price to a dealer named Jabach, who in his turn disposed of most of the pictures to Louis XIV. ; they formed the nucleus of the Louvre collection. Look out for these works of which Puri-tan England thus deprived herself, and see how considerable a portion they form of the earlier treasures of this gallery.
Lastly, return once more to the Mantegnas in the Salle des Primitifs, and notice that the so-called Parnassus, that is to say, the Mars and Venus discovered by Vulcan, as well as the Vices conquered by Wisdom, and the companion pieces by Perugino and Costa, were all painted for Isabella d’Este-Gonzaga, to decorate her boudoir at Mantua. Of these works, I think Mantegna’s are the oldest, and struck the keynote for figures and treatment. For after Mantegna’s death, the Ferrarese painter, Costa, was invited from Isabella’s home to become court-painter at Mantua, and the Perugino is one in that master’s latest manner, most tinged with the Renaissance. Giulio Romano, again, succeeded Costa. If you will now compare Mantegna’s two works in this series with his others in this gallery, you will be able to form a clearer conception of his admirable fancy, his unvarying grace, and his perfect mastery of execution : while if you contrast them with those by the two contemporary artists, the Umbrian Perugino and the Ferrarese Costa, you will be enabled to observe what was the common note of these early Renaissance masters, and what their distinctive individual characteristics. In particular, you may notice in these works, when looked at side by side with those of earlier painters, the enormous advance Mantegna had made in anatomy and in perspective. He is the scientific painter of Upper Italy, as Lionardo is the scientific painter of Florence.
These four pictures again made their way to the Louvre by a different route. They were captured at the sack of Mantua in 163o, and originally came to France to decorate the château of Cardinal Richelieu.
Once more, Duke Alfonso d’Este, Isabella’s brother, is the person whom you see in the portrait by Titian in the Salon Carré, together with his mistress Laura Dianti, painted about 1520. Familiarity with such facts alone can give you any adequate idea of the extraordinary rapidity in the development of art and the modernisation of Italy in the sixteenth century.
For my next example I will take a quite obscure and unnoticed picture, also in the Salle des Primitifs, Giovanni Massone’s altar-piece in three compartments, number 261.
Savona is an unimportant little town between Nice and Genoa, chiefly noteworthy at the present day as the junction for a branch line to Turin. But in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it was a flourishing place, which gave employment to many distinguished Piedmontese and Lombard artists, the most famous of whom were Foppa and Brea. It also gave birth to two famous popes, Sixtus IV. and Julius IT., the latter of whom is familiar to most of us from the magnificent portrait by Raphael, three replicas of which exist, in the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace in Florence, and in the National Gallery in London. Sixtus IV. erected for himself a superb sepulchral chapel in his native town of Savona : go and see it, if you pass by there, as well as the modern statue of the pope erected by his fellow citizens. From that chapel this picture, by an otherwise unknown artist, has been abstracted and brought here. We know its author merely by the signature he has placed on a cartellino or strip of paper in the picture itself : Joh[ann]es Mazonus de Alex[andri]a pinxit, showing that he was born in the Piedmontese town of Alessandria. For the rest, he is a mere name to us.
The picture itself, by no means a master-piece, has in its centre the Nativity, designed in the usual conventional fashion, and in a some-what antiquated Lombard style. The Madonna and St. Joseph have very solid halos ; the action takes place in a ruined temple, as often, symbolising the triumph of Christianity over heathendom. In the background are a landscape, and some pleasing accessories. But the lateral subjects give it greater interest. In the compartment to the left stands St. Francis of Assisi, in his usual brown Franciscan robe, as protector of Sixtus IV., who kneels beside him. Notice this way of marking the name of a donor, for the pope was Cardinal Francesco della Rovere. Observe, too, the stigmata, as far as visible, and compare this much later figure of St. Francis with those in the picture by Giotto and its two imitators. On the right stands a second Franciscan saint, also in the coarse brown garb of his order, the same in whose church Andrea Mantegna studied Donatello, and whom we have seen more than once during our Parisian excursions holding in his arms the infant Christ, St. Antony of Padua. He lays his arms on the shoulder of a second votary, the Cardinal della Rovere, afterward the stern and formidable pope, Julius H. If you know the National Gallery and the Vatican, see whether you can recognise an earlier stage of the same features which occurs in the famous portrait, and also in the figure of the pope, borne on the shoulders of his stalwart attend-ants into the temple at Jerusalem, in a corner of the famous fresco of the Expulsion of Heliodorus.
Recollect, again, that it was for the tomb of this same Pope Julius II. that Michael Angelo produced the two so-called Fettered Slaves, which you have seen or will see in the Renaissance sculpture room of this collection.
Weave your knowledge together in this way, till it forms a connected whole, which enables you far better to understand and appreciate.
I call your special attention to this picture, among other things, for its historical rather than its artistic value. But I want you also to realise that the man who was painted in this rude and antiquated style in his middle age was painted again in his declining years by Raphael at the summit of his powers, and was a patron of the mighty Michael Angelo at the zenith of his development. This will help to impress upon you better than anything else the necessity for carefully noting chronology, and will also supply a needed caution that you must not regard any work as necessarily early on no better ground than because it is comparatively archaic in style and treatment.
Next inspect the two little companion pictures of St. George and St. Michael by Raphael, on the right wall of the first compartment in the Long Gallery. These two small works are rare examples of Raphael’s very earliest pre-Peruginesque manner. Morelli has shown that the great painter was first of all a pupil of Timoteo Viti at Urbino, his native town. If you have not visited Bologna and Milan, however, this will tell you little, for nowhere else can you see Timoteo to any great advantage ; and I may observe here that the best time to visit the Louvre is after you have been in Italy, where you ought to have formed a clear conception of the various masters and their relations to one another. But you can see at least, on the face of them, that these two simple and graceful little works are quite different in style and manner even from the ” Belle Jardinière,” and certainly very unlike the much later St. Margaret which hangs close by them. They are still comparatively mediæval in tone : they have a definiteness and clearness of outline which contrasts strongly with the softer melting tones of Raphael’s later work ; they show as yet no tinge of the affected prettinesses which he learned from Perugino, still less of his latter Florentine and Roman manners. They are painted on the back of a chess or draught board, and were produced for Duke Guidobaldo of Urbino about the year 1500.
Look first at the St. George. The subject here is the Combat with the Dragon ; and Raphael, in representing it, has strictly followed the conventional arrangement of earlier painters. No earlier picture for comparison with his treatment exists in this gallery, though there are plenty elsewhere ; but if you will look down-stairs at the majolica relief of the same subject in the Della Robbia room of the Renaissance sculpture gallery, you will see how closely Raphael’s work corresponds with earlier representations of the same pretty myth. As you will now have learned, there is always a regular way to envisage every stock subject : whoever produced a Combat of St. George with the dragon was compelled by custom and the expectations of his patron to include these various elements, a St. George in armour, on horseback, the horse usually white, as here ; a wounded dragon, most often to the right ; the princess running away in terror in the distance, or at least crouching abjectly. There is a Tintoretto of this subject, indeed, in the National Gallery, where some critics have blamed the great Venetian painter for making the princess look away in terror, instead of turning with gratitude to thank her brave preserver. But the conventional representation demanded that the princess should flee or cower : people were accustomed to that treatment of the theme, and expected always to see it repeated. It was their notion of a St. George. We must set down a great deal in early art to this sense of expectation on the part of patrons. Tintoretto, who came much later than Raphael, after the mighty Renaissance painters had accustomed the world to put up with, or even to look for, novelty of composition, often ventured very largely to depart from traditional motives. In his picture, therefore, the princess occupies the foreground, a most revolutionary proceeding, while the action itself is relegated somewhat to the middle distance. But if you compare the three representations of this scene to be found in the Louvre, this picture and the two reliefs by Della Robbia and Michel Colombe respectively, you will see that the princess in earlier times is always represented quite small in the distance, and is usually running away, or at best kneeling with clasped hands in abject terror.
In the Raphael, the dragon is already wounded, but he has broken the saint’s lance, with part of which he is transfixed, while the remainder lies in fragments on the ground be-behind him. St. George, on his prancing steed, is drawing his sword to finish off the monster. In the Michel Colombe, on the other hand, (down-stairs in the French Renaissance sculpture), the dragon is biting at the lance, which explains why it is broken here, and also why the St. George in Mantegna’s Madonna holds a broken shaft as his emblem or symbol. Ob-serve, however, that while the French sculptor, with questionable taste, makes the dragon occupy the larger part of the field, so as some-what to dwarf St. George and his steed, the Italian sculptor, and still more the Italian painter, have shown greater tact in treating the dragon as a comparative accessory, and concentrating attention upon the militant saint, combating with spiritual arms the evil demon. In this picture, as Mrs. Jameson well observes, the conception is on the whole serenely allegorical and religious in spirit. But Raphael himself painted a second St. George, at a later date, for the Duke of Urbino to present to Henry VII. of England. In this other picture, which is now in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, St. George is treated rather as the patron saint of England than as the champion of right, to mark which fact he wears the Order of the Garter round his knee, with its familiar motto. As champion of England, he is rushing on the monster with fiery energy : the picture is in this case more military than spiritual. The moment chosen is the one where he is just transfixing the dragon with his lance ; the rescued princess is here again in the background.
Note once more that these various works are pictures of the combat of St. George with the dragon. In devotional pictures of the Ma-donna, St. George frequently stands by Our Lady’s side, in accordance with the wishes of the particular donor, as patron saint of that person himself, or of his town or family. In Venetian pictures, as we have seen, he is very frequent, being one of the patron saints of Venice, and more particularly of the Venetian army and the conquered territory. You will find it interesting, after you have finished the examination of the two Raphaels, to go round the devotional Italian pictures in the Salle des Primitifs, the Long Gallery, and the Salon Carré, in order to note his various appearances. He is usually marked by his lance and his armour : the absence of wings (a point not always noticed by beginners) will enable you at once to dis-criminate him from St. Michael, as man from angel. The more you learn to look out for such recurrences of saints, and to account for the reasons for their appearance, the more will you understand and enjoy picture galleries, and the more will you throw yourself into the devotional mediaeval atmosphere which produced such pictures.
Now turn to the second little Raphael. This represents the closely cognate subject of St. Michael and the Dragon, the angelic as op-posed to the human counterpart. The two ideas are at bottom identical, the power of good overcoming evil ; the true faith combating heathendom. It is a world-wide myth, occurring in many forms, as Horus and Typhon, as Perseus, as Bellerophon. Hence Michael and George, the superhuman and the human soldier of right, often balance one another, as in these two pictures : you have seen them doing so already in the Madonna della Vittoria ; look out for them elsewhere in this conjunction. Both are knights ; both are in armour ; but one is a man and the other an angel. In this second little picture, St. Michael is seen, clad in his usual gorgeous mail, treading on the neck of the dragon and menacing it with his sword. The dark and lurid landscape in the background contains many fearful forms of uncertain monsters : condemned souls are plagued in it by demons, while a flaming town flares murkily toward heaven in the far distance, the details being taken, as in many such works, from Dante’s Inferno. Or rather, they and the Inferno represent the same old traditional view of Hades. (The figures weighed down with leaden cowls are the hypocrites, while the thieves are tormented by a plague of serpents.) Close comparison of these two little works will give you a good idea of Raphael’s earliest Urbino manner. This fantastic picture, how-ever, though full of imagination, is by no means so pleasing as the dainty St. George beside it.
Go straight from this combat to the Great St. Michael, also by Raphael, in the Salon Carré. It bears the date 1518. Pope Leo X. commissioned Raphael to paint this picture as a a present for François Ier : the painter to whom he left the choice of subject chose St. Michael, the military patron of France, and of the Order of which the king was Grand Master. (You will find a bronze bust of François, wearing the collar and pendant of St. Michael, in the Renaissance sculpture.) He chose it also, no doubt, because it enabled him to show his increased mastery over life and action. This great and noble picture, one of the finest as regards dramatic rapidity ever painted by Raphael, is celebrated for the instantaneous effect of its movement. (Compare the demoniac boy in the Transfiguration at the Vatican.) The warrior archangel has just swooped down through the air, and, hovering on poised wings, is caught in the very act of setting one foot lightly on the demon’s shoulder. The dragon, writhing, tries in vain to lift his head and turn on his conqueror. The noble serenity of the archangel’s face, the perfect grace of his form and attitude, the brilliant panoply of his celestial armour, the sheen of his wings, the light tresses of his hair floating outward behind him (as of one who has traversed space on wings of lightning), cannot fail to be remarked by every spectator. This is Raphael in the fulness of his knowledge and power, yet far less interesting to the lover of sacred art than the boy Raphael of Urbino, the dreamy Raphael of the Sposalizio at Milan, the tender Raphael of the Gran Duca at Florence, or of the Belle Jardinière in this same apartment. Notice that with the progress of Renaissance feeling the demon is now no longer a dragon, but a half-human figure, with horns and serpent tail, and swarthy red in colour. He is so foreshortened as not to take up any large space in the composition, which is mainly filled by the victorious figure of the triumphant archangel. The more classical armour bespeaks the High Renaissance. The longer you compare these two extreme phases of Raphael’s art, the more will you note points of advance between them, technical advance, counterbalanced by moral and spiritual retrogression.
End by comparing this St. Michael with Mantegna’s, and with the playful Lionardesque arch-angel in the ” Vierge aux balances,” the last point in the degeneracy of a celestial conception.
Raphael is one of the painters who can best be studied at the Louvre, with comparatively little need for aid from elsewhere.