Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

The Italian Mediaeval Wood Sculptors by T. Adolphus Trollope

1876

More or less during the whole of this century, and ever more during the recent years of it, the love of art, especially in what have been called the "industrial" manifestations of it, has been becoming a passion in Germany and in France, as well as in England and America. Museums for the collection and preservation of the works produced by the artists of those centuries which were the palmy days of art have been established in all these countries, and private amateurs have vied with them in enriching their respective countries with specimens of all the many kinds of art-industry which remain to us from those times when religion encouraged and surrounded itself with the beautiful and the cultivation of the beautiful was a religion. And it is mainly—indeed, almost entirely—to Italy that the lovers and admirers of mediæval art come in search of those remains of it which, it is hoped, will be (or rather are being) the means of producing a second art renaissance. The quantity of objects, more or less genuinely representing the mediæval art in all its many branches, which has been carried out of Italy within the last quarter of a century is something perfectly astounding, and far exceeds what any one would believe who has not remained in Italy long enough to observe the process. A considerable portion, no doubt, of the articles thus carried home with them by the lovers of art has consisted of modern imitations of ancient workmanship, but the quantity of genuine mediæval articles—pottery in its various kinds, furniture, carving in wood, in marble, in stone and in ivory, lace, bronzes, embroidery, metal-work, brocaded stuffs, etc.—has been so enormous as to reveal in a very striking manner the extraordinary wealth of the country in the days when it was the mistress of Europe in civilization, and the all-pervading love of the beautiful which caused so very large a portion of that wealth to be expended for the gratification of a refined taste.

Before proceeding to the more special subject of this article—certain interesting and recently-discovered notices of some of the most famous of the old carvers in wood—it may be well to say a word or two on the subject of the commerce in imitations of the mediæval works so extensively carried on in Italy. Of course, a trade based on deception is in every way to be condemned and regretted. It is not only immoral, but it generates demoralization. But it is to be observed that in very many cases—especially in those branches where art-industry approaches the most nearly to art proper—the artist or artisan who produced the works in question has neither co-operated with the fraud we are speaking of, nor has worked with any view to the perpetration of such by others. In the next place, it is to be noted that the mortification and humiliation which many purchasers are conscious of when it is brought home to them that they have been taken in, and have purchased as old that which is in truth of recent production, may well be spared to them. I do not mean, of course, as regards the money they may have been cheated of, but as regards the slight put upon their own connoisseurship. The art of imitating the old works in question has been brought to such a pitch of perfection that it needs a very special education of the eye and large practice to detect the imposture. A circumstance occurred a few years ago at Florence which curiously illustrates both the facts I have mentioned—the frequent innocence of the producer of the imitation and the extreme difficulty of detecting the modern origin of the work. The facts are very little known, because it was the interest of many persons to misrepresent and conceal them. They ought, nevertheless, to be known, and I do not see any good reason why I should not tell them here. A young man at Florence of the name of Bastianini—it must be at least ten years ago now, or perhaps more—of very humble origin had shown a remarkable talent for modeling busts in terra-cotta. Having formed his taste for himself, not by means of any academical teaching, but by imbuing his mind with the examples of mediæval art which meet the eye on all sides in his native city, his works assumed quite naturally the manner and style of the artists who (in more or less direct line) were his ancestors. One day it happened to him to see a man—he was a common workman in the tobacco manufactory—whose head struck him as specially marked by the old Florentine mediæval type and as a remarkably good subject for a characteristic bust. From this man he made a terra-cotta bust which few could have pronounced to be other than a cinque-cento work, and a very fine one. Bastianini, then quite unknown and much in need of wherewithal to live, sold this bust as the work of his hands to a speculative dealer for, if I remember rightly, five hundred francs. The man who bought it carried it to a dealer in antiquities—a very well-known man in Florence whose name I could give were it of any interest to do so—and proposed to sell it to him for a large sum. Eventually, a bargain was struck on this basis: The dealer, with perfect knowledge of the origin and authorship of the work, was to pay one thousand francs for the bust, and to pay the seller another thousand if and whenever he, the dealer, should succeed in reselling it for more than a certain price named. Thereupon, in accordance with the usual practice in such cases, the bust disappeared from sight. It was stored in the secret repositories of the antiquario till the circumstances attending its creation should be a little forgotten, and dust and dirt should have corrected the brand-new rawness of its surface, ready to be produced with much mystery as a recent trouvaille when a likely purchaser should loom over the Apennine which encircles "gentile Firenze." In due time, one of the largest and brightest of those comets whose return is so accurately calculated and eagerly expected by the Florentine dealers in ancient art made his appearance in the Tuscan sky—no less than a buyer for the Louvre. Those were the halcyon days of the Empire, and money was plenty. Poor Bastianini's bust was brought out with all due mystery, duly admired by the infallible French connoisseur, and eventually purchased by him for the imperial collection for, I think, five thousand francs—at all events, for a sum sufficiently large to give the man who had bought the bust from the poor artist the right to demand his supplementary payment. He did so. But the greed of the dealer prevailed over his prudence, and he refused to give his accomplice in the fraud the promised share in the plunder. Of course that ensued which might have been expected. The defrauded rogue "split." The bust sold to the Frenchman was easily identified with that which Bastianini had made, and which had been known to all artistic Florence, and the authorities at the Louvre were duly certified by many a loud-tongued informer that they had been gulled. The information, as is usually the case with information of the kind, came too late to be of service to the buyers, but not too late to give them serious annoyance. The bust had been exhibited at the Louvre in a prominent place; it had excited considerable notice; none of the savants presiding over that establishment had conceived the smallest suspicion of its genuineness; and it was excessively disagreeable to have to admit that they had all been deceived by a work made the other day by an unknown Florentine artist. It was so disagreeable that the gentlemen in question had not the courage to face the truth. They pooh-poohed their informants, professed to adhere without a doubt to their own first opinions, and the bust, to the great amusement of all the Florentine art-world, remained in its place of honor at the Louvre, exhibited as a cinque-cento terra-cotta for a long time after all Florence was perfectly cognizant of its real history, and after the young artist had produced three or four other busts all equally marked by unmistakable cinque-cento characteristics. One of these was a really remarkable bust of Savonarola, which may be seen any day in the (now public) gallery of St. Mark's at Florence. The original teterrima causa belli has, I believe, disappeared from the Louvre Gallery. Poor Bastianini died shortly afterward, and it is due to his memory and undoubtedly great talent that it should be distinctly understood that from first to last he was no party to or profiter by the frauds to which his special talent had given rise.

To return, however, to what I was saying about that large portion of the works of art and art-industry every year exported from Italy, mainly by individual buyers for the gratification of their own taste, which consists of imitations. It may be remarked, especially as regards the objects belonging to the latter category, that these imitations, if bought as such, are not undesirable purchases. In many instances, particularly in those of iron- and bronze-work, intarsia, and carving in wood, the modern Italian artists, who began as imitators, have attained a degree of excellence which entitles them to take rank as the founders of a new artistic renaissance, while their familiarity with cinque-cento art and the loving study of it have led them to produce work in each of the above-named branches which is calculated to improve the taste of both workers and purchasers in countries beyond the Alps. As regards metal-work, whether in iron or bronze, avowedly modern, but of the true cinque-cento type and style, the amateur would do well to visit the foundries and workshops of Venice; for intarsia he may go to Milan; for wood-carving to Florence, Siena and Perugia; to the last also for intarsia. He will find in Perugia work both in carving and intarsia on which he might spend his money very much more advantageously than in buying second-rate bits of really old wood-work, or indeed any such bits as he is at all likely to meet with. And it is not surprising that the little Umbrian hill-city should have become a special home for this particular branch of art; for it contains some of the most remarkable works of the kind extant, the product of some of the most renowned masters of the craft in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is a mistake to suppose, as many persons do, that the fine works of this kind which we still admire were the product of men who were considered in their day as mere artisans, and whose names were not known beyond the boundaries of their native provinces. They were recognized as true artists, whose names were known from one end of the Peninsula to the other, and who were sent for from distant cities to execute works of importance. In many cases their names have perished: in more they are unknown to the present generation of art-lovers—caruerunt quia vate sacro. And in some cases—as a very notable instance, to be mentioned presently, will show in a remarkable manner—the higher portion of the merit which was wholly their own—the conception of their designs, with all the grace of fancy and cultured knowledge of the principles of the beautiful which it implies—has been assigned to others to whom the modern world has exclusively given the title of artists. But the increased and still increasing attention which the world is paying to all the details and all the branches of cinque-cento art—to good purpose, for it is due to it that we have emerged or are emerging from the eighteenth-century depths of ugliness in all our surroundings—has induced the useful Dryasdusts, whose nature and function it is to burrow in corporation and conventual muniment-rooms and the like promising covers, to search out with a very considerable degree of success a mass of facts, not only as to the real authorship of the work in question, but curiously illustrative of the status these artists held and the manner in which they lived and worked. Among the principal of these archive-hunters is the learned Professor Adam Rossi, the corporation librarian at Perugia, and it is mainly to his researches that the facts I am about to lay before the reader are due.

One of the finest specimens of cinque-cento wood-work extant in Italy—perhaps I might safely say the finest—is the choir of the monastic church of St. Peter at Perugia. The monks of St. Peter were Benedictines of Monte Cassino, and, like most of the families of that order, they were very wealthy and were liberal patrons of art. On the 9th of April, 1525, having determined to refit the choir of their church in a magnificent manner, they came to an agreement with a master-carpenter of Perugia for the execution of the work, and a detailed contract was signed by the parties. (I have called this cinque-cento work, and it will be observed that it was executed in the sixteenth century. It may be necessary, therefore, to explain to those who are unacquainted with the Italian mode of speaking in this respect that the Italians always speak of what we should call the fourteenth century as the "trecento," what we should call the fifteenth, as the "quattrecento," and so on. The period at which art in all its branches culminated in Italy was, in our language, the sixteenth century.)

Maestro Bernardino di Luca, the artist with whom the convent contracted for the fitting of the choir, is styled in the instrument legnaiuolo (a "carpenter"). And no doubt Maestro Bernardino—or "Bino," for short, as he is called in the instrument when once at the beginning he has been named formally at full length—practiced all the more ordinary business of his trade. But there must have been carpenters and carpenters, as to the present day there are painters and painters, the same word indicating the calling of a Landseer and of a house-painter. This simple modesty of designation was a characteristic of the epoch. We find sculptors whose works are to the present day admired and studied as masterpieces styling themselves simply "stone-cutters." The contract is a long document, consisting of twenty-one clauses, the greater number of which are occupied with the most minute and detailed specification of the work to be done. It is to be executed "according to the model made by the said Bino, changing it or keeping it as it is according to the will of the fathers" (the monks of St. Peter's), "so as not to change the form and substance of the model." The prices agreed to be paid for each stall in the choir, with its arch above it, is ten golden ducats, which, allowing for the change in the value of the precious metals, may be considered to be about equal to three hundred and seventy-five dollars at the present day. The price does not seem by any means a small one. But Signor Rossi's researches have elsewhere shown that it is a mistake to suppose that the renowned professors of any branch of art were poorly paid in those days. The very reverse was the case. It would not be interesting to the reader to give him the details of the work which Maestro Bino bound himself to execute, but some of the stipulations must be mentioned, because they curiously illustrate the life of the times. The convent is to furnish all the wood—that which is required for the work itself, as well as all that may be needed, planks, scaffolding and the like, for the putting of it in its place. "Item. We give him rooms to work in and to sleep in and to cook in, as well as beds furnished with bedclothes. Item. Maestro Bino binds himself not to undertake any other work till the choir is wholly finished and put up, and he engages to do all the work within the walls of the convent. He is bound to keep four men at work under him, and more if necessary." The work is to be completed within two years should no impediment intervene by death or grave and manifest illness. The convent undertakes to furnish money from time to time as needed for the pay of the journeymen, and fifty ducats beforehand for the hiring of assistants and other necessary expenses.

Maestro Bino went to work at once, and on the 15th of that same April had from the convent what seems the very large sum of ten florins and eight soldi for glue. But, after all, this Maestro Bernardino di Luca was not the author of the exquisite carvings which people go to Perugia to look at at the present day. A very "grave and manifest infirmity" did intervene to prevent the execution of the work, for on the 19th of the following August, Maestro Bino discharged his workmen on account of the plague, which had begun to devastate Perugia; and there is reason to think that the maestro himself perished by it, for after that last entry the name of Bernardino di Luca vanishes into the abyss of darkness, and is no more heard of, and shortly afterward we find the convent entering into a new bargain with another maestro for the execution of the work. This was Maestro Stefano de Antoniolo da Zambelli of Bergamo, who agreed with the monks in July, 1533, to execute the required works in the choir for the price of thirty golden crowns each stall. It will be observed that this price is about fifty per cent. higher than that for which Maestro Bino had contracted to do the work, which is an indication of the then rapidly-falling value of the precious metals. But this increased price was still insufficient, for on the 17th of July, 1534, the monks enter into an amended contract with Maestro Stefano, in which the terms of the original contract are rehearsed, and it is then declared that Maestro Stefano having shown and proved to the abbot's satisfaction that those terms could not stand, and that he should be greatly the loser by the bargain, and it being by no means the wish of the fathers that Maestro Stefano should be deprived of a fair reward for his work, but rather that he should make a suitable profit by the job, it was now agreed that the maestro should undertake to labor uninterruptedly and with all possible diligence, that the convent should find all materials and tools, and should maintain Maestro Stefano and his wife and a journeyman, and should pay sixty golden crowns a year as long as the work was in progress. Further, the convent undertakes to pay half a golden crown monthly to the wife of the said Maestro Stefano, "on the understanding that the said wife of the maestro shall serve and cook and wash clothes for all the family engaged on the work of the choir;" and further, half a golden crown monthly to the journeyman. Under this arrangement it was of course the interest of the convent that the work should be completed as quickly as possible. And we find, accordingly, the abbot commissioning Antonio of Florence to carve six of the backs of the stalls; Battista of Bologna and Ambrose, a Frenchman, to carve the reading-desk; and Fra Damiano of Bergamo, who was then at Bologna, to execute the four sculptures in bas-relief which adorn the door. This Fra Damiano, who signs himself on his work "Fr. Damianus de Bergamo, Ordinis Predicatorum," seems to have been a brother of the principal artist, Maestro Stefano. But a curious peep at the manners of that time is afforded by the fact of a professed monk working for hire as a wood-carver. The main portion of the work, however, and the general design, were due to Maestro Stefano da Zambelli of Bergamo, and just two years and half from the signing of the contract the work was completed and signed in intarsia, as we see it to this day, "Hoc opus fecit Mr. Stephanus di Bergamo."

For a long time it was supposed that the very beautiful designs for the entirety and for each detail of this noble work was due to Raphael. The guide-books all copied the statement one after the other; and they were indeed excusable in doing so, for the large and magnificent folio which was published at Rome by the abbot and monks in 1845, containing engravings of every detail of the celebrated carvings, declares on the title-page that the work was executed "by Stefano da Bergamo after the designs of Raffaelle Santi di Urbino." The celebrated and learned Montfaucon, who was a member of the same order, seems to have been the first who made this mistaken statement. Once made on such authority, it was accepted and repeated without further investigation till the undeniable evidence of the archives of the convent, dragged to light from under the dust of centuries by the industry of Professor Rossi, showed that in truth the conception and design, as well as the execution, of this beautiful masterpiece, which has for so long been thought worthy of Raphael, was the work of the "carpenter, Maestro Stefano da Bergamo."

I do not believe that it is any longer possible to obtain a complete copy of the above-mentioned work. Many years ago I found the separate sheets of it lying about in the sacristy in a manner which gave one a vivid idea of the reckless carelessness which is so marked a characteristic of Italians. Bundles of the different plates, some containing forty or fifty copies, some twenty or so, and some not more than four or five, were thrust into cupboards with wax candles for the altar, tattered choir-books and old candlesticks. And here was the whole remaining stock of the work! I was at that time able, by the exercise of much patience, trouble and persuasion with the old sacristan—who seemed to consider the sale of the plates a very insufficient recompense for the trouble of looking for them—to get together a complete copy of the work; but when I was there the other day not more than twenty of the plates out of nearly twice that number were to be found. In the mean time, however, a complete set of photographs of every portion of the sculpture has been made in a smaller size, but sufficiently large to give a very satisfactory representation of the extreme beauty and elegance of the work. It is indeed impossible to doubt that this Master Stephen of Bergamo, the carpenter, whose wife was to have half a crown a month for doing the washing and cooking for all the family living in the rooms assigned to them in the monastery for a workshop and living-rooms, was a man of education and culture, and in every sense of the word an artist. The difference between his social position and that of any artist of corresponding eminence in our day would seem to consist wholly in that greater degree of personal and material luxury which civilization and increased wealth have brought with them. The payment which he was to receive for his year's work, besides having been maintained, lodged and fed at the cost of the monastery during the time, may, I take it, be considered equivalent to about twenty-two thousand five hundred dollars.

In 1494, on the 5th of April, Maestro Mariotto di Paola, "called Torzuolo," contracts with the canons of the cathedral to make a range of cupboards in the sacristy. Such masses of wood-work, very frequently richly carved and ornamented, are found in the sacristies of most of the larger churches in Italy. They generally consist of a range of deep drawers below, up to about the height of an ordinary table, and above this a series of cupboards reaching to the ceiling of the apartment, so much less deep than the drawers as to leave a large space of table on the top of the latter. The drawers are used mainly for the keeping of the sacred vestments; the table for the spreading out of such of these as are about to be or have just been used; and the cupboards above for the holding of all the treasures of the church—chalices for the altar, monstrances for the exposition of the sacrament, reliquaries of all sorts of shapes and sizes for the preservation of the relics of saints, ornamental candlesticks, and such like. In the richer and more important churches these objects are generally of the precious metals, and frequently richly adorned with gems, so that the amount of treasure stored in these repositories is often very considerable. Sometimes such a range of wood-work as has been described will be found filling one side only of the sacristy, but in many cases it runs round the whole apartment. And this piece of ecclesiastical furniture therefore presented a great field for the taste and ingenuity of the old maestri in wood-carving to exhibit their skill both in design and in execution. At the Benedictine monastery of St. Peter, of the choir of which we have been speaking, this fitting up of the sacristy had been done previously; and it is accordingly much less rich in carving than the work in the choir. But some of the doors of the cupboards are still more preciously ornamented by some very finely-painted heads from the hand of the great Perugino.

Such as it is, however, this sacristy at St. Peter's was handsome enough to excite the emulation of the canons of the cathedral, for the contract made with Maestro Mariotto—who was nicknamed Torzuolo—specifies that the work is to be entirely of walnut wood, after the fashion of the sacristy at St. Peter's, and is to be executed "in the manner of a good, loyal and expert master." It is to be all done by his own hand, or at least in his presence and under his superintendence. The work is to be completed in one year, and the canons are to pay for it at the rate of ten florins every square braccio, Florentine measure. This was in 1494; and it will here again be observed that the price, as compared with that to be paid to Maestro Stefano by the monks of St. Peter's for their choir, even fully allowing for the greater richness of the latter, indicates the very rapid alteration in the value of money which took place at the beginning of the sixteenth century. But the canons, it would seem, were very careful hands at a bargain, for we find that it is provided in the contract that when the work shall have been completed it shall be examined by two experts, and that if it shall be found to be worth less than the price named, Maestro Torzuolo shall receive so much less; but that if it shall be found by the said experts and appraisers to be worth more, the maestro shall stand to his bargain and not receive more than the price named—an agreement which is frequently found in the contracts made about that period. When the work was completed it was accordingly examined and appraised by Maestro Mattia of Reggio and Maestro Pietro of Florence. The latter was brought from Città di Castello, a little city in the Apennines some twenty-five miles distant, express for the purpose. We do not find any statement of their award. But it would seem that Maestro Torzuolo did not keep to his contract in one respect, but was as unpunctual as the carpenters of the present generation, for the above experts were not called to appraise the work till the year 1497.

Maestro Pietro of Florence was evidently a man at the head of his profession, for at Città di Castello, when he was summoned to Perugia to appraise the work of Maestro Torzuolo, he was engaged in making for the canons there a wooden ceiling for the nave of their church, which was, by a contract dated 1499, to be ornamented with large roses similar to the ornamentation of the ceiling of the council-hall in the Palazzo Vecchio at Florence; giving us thus another indication of the degree of general interest and attention which these works excited in those days. The communication between city and city was difficult and comparatively unfrequent, yet the fame of any fine work of the sort we are talking of evidently not only reached far and wide among other cities, but forthwith excited their rivalry and led to the production of other chefs-d'oeuvre. Maestro Pietro was to receive for the ceiling of the nave at Città di Castello no less a sum than five hundred golden ducats, equal to at least seventeen thousand five hundred dollars at the present day. We find him also employed as architect to direct the construction of a cupola of the church of Calcinaio. This carpenter was, then, an architect also; and Professor Rossi remarks that it is by no means the only case of the kind.

Maestro Mattia, the other expert called to appraise the work done by Maestro Torzuolo for the canons of the cathedral of Perugia, was already well and favorably known in that city, for he had been employed in 1495 to appraise some work which had been done for the choir of the monks of St. Lorenzo; in that same year we find him executing some very elaborate work for the convent of St. Augustine; and on the 20th of December there was read at a meeting of the municipal council a petition from Maestro Mattia to be admitted to the freedom of the city of Perugia; which request the masters of the guilds, "taking into consideration the industry, the mode of life and the moral character" of the petitioner, were pleased to grant, on the condition that he, together with two other persons admitted to citizenship at the same time, should make a present to the corporation of a silver dish and forty pounds' weight of copper money, and, further, that he should give the masters and treasurers of his own guild a dinner.

The notices which Professor Rossi has collected from the various collections of archives explored by him show in a remarkable manner how much the best patron of art and artists in those days was the Church. By far the greatest number of the contracts cited are made by ecclesiastics, either monks or collegiate bodies of canons or the like, for the ornamentation of their churches and sacristies. The next best patrons are the different trade-guilds of the cities. Each of these had its place of meeting for the priori—masters or wardens, as we should say, of the company—and many of them a contiguous chapel. The sort of furniture needed for these places was generally a range of seats running round the principal room, a back of wainscoting behind them, a kind of pulpit for those who addressed the meeting, a raised and prominent seat for the "consuls" of the guild, and a large table or writing-desk for the transaction of business. All this, as will be readily perceived, afforded fine opportunities for the display of rich carvings and intarsia; and there was much rivalry between the guilds in the splendor and adornment of their places of meeting. Some of these works still remain intact, as in the case of the meeting-room and chapel of the company of exchange-brokers, which is celebrated wherever art is valued for the magnificent frescoes by Perugino which adorn the upper part of the walls above the wood-work. I think, however, that the Church was more liberal and magnificent in her orders. I have seen much fine wood-work in the different guild-halls and town-halls in various cities of Italy, but in no lay building, not even in wealthy and magnificent Venice itself, with all the splendor of its ducal palace and its Scuole, have I ever seen anything of the kind at all comparable to the wood-work in the choirs of the monastery of St. Peter at Perugia and of the cathedral at Siena. There is in the cathedral of Bergamo some intarsia, perhaps the finest things extant in that special description of work, but for carving the choirs I have mentioned are pre-eminent.

But there are a great number of beautiful works of this sort lurking in places where the traveler, however eager a lover of art, would hardly think of looking for them. The central districts of Italy are full of such. There is in the mountains to the south of Perugia, overhanging the valley of the Tiber, a little city, the very name of which will probably be new to many even of those who have traveled much in Italy. Still less likely is it that they have ever been at Todi, for that is the name of the place I am alluding to. It lies high and bleak among the Apennines, and possesses nothing to attract the wanderer save some notable remains of mediæval art which strikingly show how universal, how ubiquitous, art and artists were in those halcyon days. Todi has, moreover, the misfortune of being situated on no line of railway, and of not being on the way to any of the great modern centres. It is, therefore, completely out of the modern world, and nobody knows anything about it save a few lovers of ancient art, who will not be beat in their explorations by want of communications and bad hostelries. But the little hill-city possesses two churches, whose choirs well deserve a visit by the admirers of cinque-cento wood-work, I have mentioned it here, however, mainly because one of these, the choir of the cathedral, offers not so much in what may still be seen there, as in its records, a very curious example of the spirit of anti-ecclesiastical freethinking which was widely spread at that time through the artist-world, whose best patron was the Church. I mentioned some months ago, in the pages of this Magazine, some curious facts showing the real sentiments of the great Perugino on this subject while he was painting Madonnas and miracles for his ecclesiastical patrons. And the following singular extract from the archives of the cathedral church of Todi may be added to what was there written as a proof of the somewhat unexpected fact. The wood-work of the choir was begun by Maestro Antonio Bencivieni of Mercatello, in the duchy of Urbino, and was completed in 1530 by his son Sebastian, who finished his work by inserting in it a singularly haughty inscription in intarsia. The Latin of the original may be Englished thus: "Begun by the art and genius of Anto Bencivieni of Mercatello. This work was finished by his son Sebastian.  Having kept faith and maintained his honor, he did enough." The worthy canons, however, discovered just one and forty years afterward that Maestro Sebastiano had done somewhat too much. For he had on the fourth stall, counting from the bishop's seat, on the right-hand side of the choir, inserted amid the ornamentation certain Latin words, inscribed over a carving of three vases intended to represent reliquaries, which may be translated thus: Over the first vase, "The shadow of the ass ridden by our Lord;" over the second, "The feet of the Blessed Virgin as she ascended into heaven;" over the third, "Relics of the Holy Trinity." These strange inscriptions remained where Maestro Sebastiano had so audaciously placed them till the May of 1571. At that date we find a record in the cathedral archives which, after rehearsing the words in question, and describing the position of them, proceeds: "Which words, placed there and written scandalously, and in a certain sort derisive of the veneration for holy relics, and in contempt of the Christian religion, the very reverend canons" (So-and-So—names rehearsed) "ordered to be removed and entirely canceled, so that they should no longer be seen or read." Can it be supposed that this very extraordinary inscription in a choir frequented daily by the canons of the church had entirely escaped notice for more than forty years? Surely this is impossible. Should we not rather see in the fact that the chapter of 1530 noticed the mocking words with probably a shrug and a smile, whereas the chapter of 1571 took care that they were removed, an interesting and curious commentary on the change which the intervening years had brought about in the spirit of the Church, and another unexpected indication of the difference between the Church of the worldly, pagan-minded Clement VII. and that of the energetic, earnest bigot Pius IV. That such a difference existed we know full well, but this passage of the Todi archives is a very curious proof of it.

T. ADOLPHUS TROLLOPE.