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Knights of Art; stories of the Italian painters(Domenico Ghirlandaio)试读：
STORIES OF THE ITALIAN PAINTERS
BY AMY STEEDMAN
AUTHOR OF 'IN GOD'S GARDEN'
ABOUT THIS BOOK
What would we do without our picture-books, I wonder? Before we knew how to read, before even we could speak, we had learned to love them. We shouted with pleasure when we turned the pages and saw the spotted cow standing in the daisy-sprinkled meadow, the foolish-looking old sheep with her gambolling lambs, the wise dog with his friendly eyes. They were all real friends to us.
Then a little later on, when we began to ask for stories about the pictures, how we loved them more and more. There was the little girl in the red cloak talking to the great grey wolf with the wicked eyes; the cottage with the bright pink roses climbing round the lattice-window, out of which jumped a little maid with golden hair, followed by the great big bear, the middle-sized bear, and the tiny bear. Truly those stories were a great joy to us, but we would never have loved them quite so much if we had not known their pictured faces as well.
Do you ever wonder how all these pictures came to be made? They had a beginning, just as everything else had, but the beginning goes so far back that we can scarcely trace it.
Children have not always had picture-books to look at. In the long-ago days such things were not known. Thousands of years ago, far away in Assyria, the Assyrian people learned to make pictures and to carve them out in stone. In Egypt, too, the Egyptians traced pictures upon the walls of their temples and upon the painted mummy-cases of the dead. Then the Greeks made still more beautiful statues and pictures in marble, and called them gods and goddesses, for all this was at a time when the true God was forgotten.
Afterwards, when Christ had come and the people had learned that the pictured gods were not real, they began to think it wicked to make beautiful pictures or carve marble statues. The few pictures that were made were stiff and ugly, the figures were not like real men and women, the animals and trees were very strange-looking things. And instead of making the sky blue as it really was, they made it a chequered pattern of gold. After a time it seemed as if the art of making pictures was going to die out altogether.
Then came the time which is called 'The Renaissance,' a word which means being born again, or a new awakening, when men began to draw real pictures of real things and fill the world with images of beauty.
Now it is the stories of the men of that time, who put new life into Art, that I am going to tell you--men who learned, step by step, to paint the most beautiful pictures that the world possesses.
In telling these stories I have been helped by an old book called The Lives of the Painters, by Giorgio Vasari, who was himself a painter. He took great delight in gathering together all the stories about these artists and writing them down with loving care, so that he shows us real living men, and not merely great names by which the famous pictures are known.
It did not make much difference to us when we were little children whether our pictures were good or bad, as long as the colours were bright and we knew what they meant. But as we grow older and wiser our eyes grow wiser too, and we learn to know what is good and what is poor. Only, just as our tongues must be trained to speak, our hands to work, and our ears to love good music, so our eyes must be taught to see what is beautiful, or we may perhaps pass it carelessly by, and lose a great joy which might be ours.
So now if you learn something about these great artists and their wonderful pictures, it will help your eyes to grow wise. And some day should you visit sunny Italy, where these men lived and worked, you will feel that they are quite old friends. Their pictures will not only be a delight to your eyes, but will teach your heart something deeper and more wonderful than any words can explain.
LIST OF PICTURES
THE RELEASE OF ST. PETER. BY FILIPPO LIPPI,
What a delight it was to draw those rapid strokes and feel the likeness grow beneath his fingers! He was so much interested that he did not notice the crowd that gathered gradually round him, but he worked steadily on until the figure was finished.
Just as the band of monks had stood silent round his first picture in the cloister of the Carmine, so these dark Moors stood still in wonder and amazement gazing upon the bold black figure sketched upon the smooth white wall.
No one had ever seen such a thing in that land before, and it seemed to them that this man must be a dealer in magic. They whispered together, and one went off hurriedly to fetch the captain.
The master, when he came, was as astonished as the men. He could scarcely believe his eyes when he saw a second self drawn upon the wall, more like than his own shadow. This indeed must be no common man; and he ordered that Filippo's chains should be immediately struck off, and that he should be treated with respect and honour.
Nothing now was too good for this man of magic, and before long Filippo was put on board a ship and carried safely back to Italy. They put him ashore at Naples, and for some little time Filippo stayed there painting pictures for the king; but his heart was in his own beloved town, and very soon he returned to Florence.
Perhaps he did not deserve a welcome, but every one was only too delighted to think that the runaway had really returned. Even the prior, though he shook his head, was glad to welcome back the brother whose painting had already brought fame and honour to the convent.
But in spite of all the troubles Filippo had gone through, he still dearly loved the merry world and all its pleasures. For a long time he would paint his saints and angels with all due diligence, and then he would dash down brushes and pencils, leave his paints scattered around, and of he would go for a holiday. Then the work would come to a stand-still, and people must just wait until Filippo should feel inclined to begin again.
The great Cosimo de Medici, who was always the friend of painters, desired above all things that Fra Filippo should paint a picture for him. And what is more, having heard so many tales about the idle ways of this same brother, he was determined that the picture should be painted without any interruptions.
'Fra Filippo shall take no holidays while at work for me,' he said, as he talked the matter over with the prior.
'That may not be so easy as thou thinkest,' said the prior, for he knew Filippo better than did this great Cosimo.
But Cosimo did not see any difficulty in the matter whatever. High in his palace he prepared a room for the painter, and placed there everything he could need. No comfort was lacking, and when Filippo came he was treated as an honoured guest, except for one thing. Whenever the heavy door of his room swung to, there was a grating sound heard, and the key in the lock was turned from outside. So Filippo was really a captive in his handsome prison.
That was all very well for a few days. Filippo laughed as he painted away, and laid on the tender blue of the Virgin's robe, and painted into her eyes the solemn look which he had so often seen on the face of some poor peasant woman as she knelt at prayer. But after a while he grew restless and weary of his work.
'Plague take this great man and his fine manners,' he cried. 'Does he think he can catch a lark and train it to sing in a cage at his bidding? I am weary of saints and angels. I must out to breathe the fresh sweet air of heaven.'
But the key was always turned in the lock and the door was strong. There was the window, but it was high above the street, and the grey walls, built of huge square stones, might well have been intended to enclose a prison rather than a palace.
It was a dark night, and the air felt hot as Filippo leaned out of the window. Scarce a breath stirred the still air, and every sound could be heard distinctly. Far below in the street he could hear the tread of the people's feet, and catch the words of a merry song as a company of boys and girls danced merrily along.
'Flower of the rose,If I've been happy, what matter who knows,'
It was all too tempting; out he must get. Filippo looked round his room, and his eye rested on the bed. With a shout of triumphant delight he ran towards it. First he seized the quilt and tore it into strips, then the blankets, then the sheets.
'Whoever saw a grander rope?' he chuckled to himself as he knotted the ends together.
Quick as thought he tied it to the iron bar that ran across his window, and, squeezing out, he began to climb down, hand over hand, dangling and swinging to and fro. The rope was stout and good, and now he could steady himself by catching his toes in the great iron rings fastened into the wall, until at last he dropped breathless into the street below.
Next day, when Cosimo came to see how the painting went on, he saw indeed the pictures and the brushes, but no painter was there. Quickly he stepped to the open window, and there he saw the dangling rope of sheets, and guessed at once how the bird had flown.
Through the streets they searched for the missing painter, and before long he was found and brought back. Filippo tried to look penitent, but his eyes were dancing with merriment, and Cosimo must needs laugh too.
'After all,' said Filippo, 'my talent is not like a beast of burden, to be driven and beaten into doing its work. It is rather like one of those heavenly visitors whom we willingly entertain when they deign to visit us, but whom we can never force either to come or go at will.'
'Thou art right, friend painter,' answered the great man. 'And when I think how thou and thy talent might have taken wings together, had not the rope held good, I vow I will never seek to keep thee in against thy will again.'
'Then will I work all the more willingly,' answered Filippo.
So with doors open, and freedom to come and go, Filippo no longer wished to escape, but worked with all his heart. The beautiful Madonna and angel were soon finished, and besides he painted a wonderful picture of seven saints with St. John sitting in their midst.
From far and near came requests that Fra Filippo Lippi should paint pictures for different churches and convents. He would much rather have painted the scenes and the people he saw every day, but he remembered the prior's lecture, and still painted only the stories of saints and holy people--the gentle Madonna with her scarlet book of prayers, the dove fluttering near, and the angel messenger with shining wings bearing the lily branch. True, the saints would sometimes look out of his pictures with the faces of some of his friends, but no one seemed to notice that. On the whole his was a happy life, and he was always ready to paint for any one that should ask him.
Many people now were proud to know the famous young painter, but his old companion Fra Diamante was still the friend he loved best. Whenever it was possible they still would work together; so, great was their delight when one day an order came from Prato that they should both go there to paint the walls of San Stefano.
'Good-bye to old Florence for a while,' cried Filippo as they set out merrily together. He looked back as he spoke at the spires and sunbaked roofs, the white marble facade of San Miniato, and the dark cypresses standing clear against the pure warm sky of early spring. 'I am weary of your great men and all your pomp and splendour. Something tells me we shall have a golden time among the good folk of Prato.'
Perhaps it was the springtime that made Filippo so joyous that morning as he rode along the dusty white road.
Spring had come with a glad rush, as she ever comes in Italy, scattering on every side her flowers and favours. From under the dead brown leaves of autumn, violets pushed their heads and perfumed all the air. Under the grey olives the sprouting corn spread its tender green, and the scarlet and purple of the anemones waved spring's banner far and near. It was good to be alive on such a day.
Arrived at Prato, the two painters, with a favourite pupil called Botticelli, worked together diligently, and covered wall after wall with their frescoes. It seemed as if they would never be done, for each church and convent had work awaiting them.
'Truly,' said Filippo one day when he was putting the last touches to a portrait of Fra Diamante, whom he had painted into his picture of the death of St. Stephen, 'I will undertake no more work for a while. It is full time we had a holiday together.'
But even as he spoke a message was brought to him from the good abbess of the convent of Santa Margherita, begging him to come and paint an altarpiece for the sisters' chapel.
'Ah, well, what must be, must be,' he said to Fra Diamante, who stood smiling by. 'I will do what I can to please these holy women, but after that--no more.'
The staid and sober abbess met him at the convent door, and silently led him through the sunny garden, bright with flowers, where the lizards darted to right and left as they walked past the fountain and entered the dim, cool chapel. In a low, sweet voice she told him what they would have him paint, and showed him the space above the high altar where the picture was to be placed.
'Our great desire is that thou shouldst paint for us the Holy Virgin with the Blessed Child on the night of the Nativity,' she said.
The painter seemed to listen, but his attention wandered, and all the time he wished himself back in the sunny garden, where he had seen a fair young face looking through the pink sprays of almond blossoms, while the music of the vesper hymn sounded sweet and clear in his ears.
'I will begin to-morrow,' he said with a start when the low voice of the abbess stopped. 'I will paint the Madonna and Babe as thou desirest.'
So next day the work began. And each time the abbess noiselessly entered the room where the painter was at work and watched the picture grow beneath his hand, she felt more and more sure that she had done right in asking this painter to decorate their beloved chapel.
True, it was said by many that the young artist was but a worldly minded man, not like the blessed Fra Angelico, the heavenly painter of San Marco; but his work was truly wonderful, and his handsome face looked good, even if a somewhat merry smile was ever wont to lurk about his mouth and in his eyes.
Then came a morning when the abbess found Filippo standing idle, with a discontented look upon his face. He was gazing at the unfinished picture, and for a while he did not see that any one had entered the room.
'Is aught amiss?' asked the gentle voice at his side, and Filippo turned and saw the abbess.
'Something indeed seems amiss with my five fingers,' said Filippo, with his quick bright smile. 'Time after time have I tried to paint the face of the Madonna, and each time I must needs paint it out again.'
Then a happy thought came into his mind.
'I have seen a face sometimes as I passed through the convent garden which is exactly what I want,' he cried. 'If thou wouldst but let the maiden sit where I can see her for a few hours each day, I can promise thee that the Madonna will be finished as thou wouldst wish.'
The abbess stood in deep thought for a few minutes, for she was puzzled to know what she should do.
'It is the child Lucrezia,' she thought to herself. 'She who was sent here by her father, the noble Buti of Florence. She is but a novice still, and there can be no harm in allowing her to lend her fair face as a model for Our Lady.'
So she told Filippo it should be as he wished.
It was dull in the convent, and Lucrezia was only too pleased to spend some hours every morning, idly sitting in the great chair, while the young painter talked to her and told her stories while he painted. She counted the hours until it was time to go back, and grew happier each day as the Madonna's face grew more and more beautiful.
Surely there was no one so good or so handsome as this wonderful artist. Lucrezia could not bear to think how dull her life would be when he was gone. Then one day, when it happened that the abbess was called away and they were alone, Filippo told Lucrezia that he loved her and could not live without her; and although she was frightened at first, she soon grew happy, and told him that she was ready to go with him wherever he wished. But what would the good nuns think of it? Would they ever let her go? No; they must think of some other plan.
To-morrow was the great festa of Prato, when all the nuns walked in procession to see the holy centola, or girdle, which the Madonna had given to St. Thomas. Lucrezia must take care to walk on the outside of the procession, and to watch for a touch upon the arm as she passed.
The festa day dawned bright and clear, and all Prato was early astir. Procession after procession wound its way to the church where the relic was to be shown, and the crowd grew denser every moment. Presently came the nuns of Santa Margherita. A figure in the crowd pressed nearer. Lucrezia felt a touch upon her arm, and a strong hand clasped hers. The crowd swayed to and fro, and in an instant the two figures disappeared. No one noticed that the young novice was gone, and before the nuns thought of looking for their charge Lucrezia was on her way to Florence, her horse led by the painter whom she loved, while his good friend Fra Diamante rode beside her.
Then the storm burst. Lucrezia's father was furious, the good nuns were dismayed, and every one shook their heads over this last adventure of the Florentine painter.
But luckily for Filippo, the great Cosimo still stood his friend and helped him through it all. He it was who begged the Pope to allow Fra Filippo to marry Lucrezia (for monks, of course, were never allowed to marry), and the Pope, too, was kind and granted the request, so that all went well.
Now indeed was Lucrezia as happy as the day was long, and when the spring returned once more to Florence, a baby Filippo came with the violets and lilies.
'How wilt thou know us apart if thou callest him Filippo?' asked the proud father.
'Ah, he is such a little one, dear heart,' Lucrezia answered gaily. 'We will call him Filippino, and then there can be no mistake.'
There was no more need now to seek for pleasures out of doors. Filippo painted his pictures and lived his happy home life without seeking any more adventures. His Madonnas grew ever more beautiful, for they were all touched with the beauty that shone from Lucrezia's fair face, and the Infant Christ had ever the smile and the curly golden hair of the baby Filippino.
And by and by a little daughter came to gladden their hearts, and then indeed their cup of joy was full.
'What name shall we give the little maid?' said Filippo.
'Methought thou wouldst have it Lucrezia,' answered the mother.
'There is but one Lucrezia in all the world for me,' he said. 'None other but thee shall bear that name.'
As they talked a knock sounded at the door, and presently the favourite pupil, Sandro, looked in. There was a shout of joy from little Filippino, and the young man lifted the child in his arms and smiled with the look of one who loves children.
'Come, Sandro, and see the little new flower,' said Filippo. 'Is she not as fair as the roses which thou dost so love to paint?'
Then, as the young man looked with interest at the tiny face, Filippo clapped him on the shoulder.
'I have it!' he cried. 'She shall be called after thee, Alessandra. Some day she will be proud to think that she bears thy name.'
For already Filippo knew that this pupil of his would ere long wake the world to new wonder.
The only clouds that hid the sunshine of Lucrezia's life was when Filippo was obliged to leave her for a while and paint his pictures in other towns. She always grew sad when his work in Florence drew to a close, for she never knew where his next work might lie.
'Well,' said Filippo one night as he returned home and caught up little Filippino in his arms, 'the picture for the nuns of San Ambrogio is finished at last! Truly they have saints and angels enough this time--rows upon rows of sweet faces and white lilies. And the sweetest face of all is thine, Saint Lucy, kneeling in front with thy hand beneath the chin of this young cherub.'
'Is it indeed finished so soon?' asked Lucrezia, a wistful note creeping into her voice.
'Ay, and to-morrow I must away to Spoleto to begin my work at the Chapel of Our Lady. But look not so sad, dear heart; before three months are past, by the time the grapes are gathered, I will return.'
But it was sad work parting, though it might only be for three months, and even her little son could not make his mother smile,