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From The Westminster Review.
|Shakspeare, or Milton; but even the secondary order of genius, if the term be admissi
Die Frauen in die Kunstgeschichte. Von ble, is somewhat rare. At first sight this Ernst Guhl. Berlin. 1858.
may appear extraordinary. The profession VOLUMES have been written on the long- of the painter would seem, in many respects, disputed point, whether the mental powers peculiarly fitted for woman. It demands no of woman be equal to those of man. Wo-sacrifice of maiden modesty, or of matronly men, say the defenders of the present system reserve. It leads her into no scenes of noisy of things, have opened no new vistas in the revelry or unseemly license. It does not realms of thought; with a few brilliant ex-force her to stand up to be stared at, comceptions, they have produced nothing really mented on, clapped or hissed by a crowded great in art, science, or literature; and an and often unmannered audience, who forget exception does not form the rule. What the woman in the artist. It leaves her, durthey have not achieved during the course of ing a great portion of her time at least, beeighteen centuries, they are not likely to neath the protecting shelter of her home, achieve in the nineteenth. It is all very well beside her own quiet fireside, in the midst of to talk of difficulties educational, &c.; but those who love her, and those whom she genius is repressed by none of these. It loves. But, on the other hand, to attain works out its own way to the light; it wants high eminence it demands the entire devotion no artificial aid or stimulus. Women, re- of a life. It entails a toil and study severe, ply their champions, have never yet had continuous, and unbroken. fair play. Cramped in every direction-superficially and imperfectly trained-isolated from that free and genial communion with the minds of those who have already attained high intellectual eminence, which is so essential to the development of the faculties, and the formation of the taste-excluded from all share in lofty and ennobling pursuits-confined to the narrow though sacred sphere of domestic duties, or engaged in the follies and vanities of fashionable life, and alternating between the cooking of a dinner and the cut of a sleeve her natural capabilities have been stifled and frittered away without having enjoyed the possibility of attaining their full and legitimate growth. The social and political inferiority in which she has hitherto been held, cannot fail, they maintain, to have acted in a depressing manner on her intellectual nature, whatever its original force and vigor. In both these arguments there is a certain degree of plausibility. Perhaps the truth lies between the two.
No inspiration alone, however brilliant, will constitute the artist. The hand as well as the mind must be trained and exercised; and this requires perpetual and uniform effort. Besides, there is the knowledge of anatomy, which popular prejudice deprives woman of the means of acquiring—unless, like Rosa Bonheur, she abdicates for awhile the costume and delicate habits of her own sex., Possibly, also, although this admits of question, there may be a want of creative power. Still the names of Elizabeth Sirani, Maria Robusti, Angelica Kauffmann, Lavinia Fontana, and Rosa Bonheur, sufficiently attest that in this domain, as in every other, woman, if she does not rise to the very pin❘nacle of greatness, may at least attain excellence of no common order.
The little work before us, which has acquired considerable popularity and success in Ger- . many, is not, like most productions of the Teutonic mind, a philosophical disquisition. It makes no pretensions to great depth of thought, or originality of views; but it is valuable to all who are interested in the development and progress of woman in the domain of art; for it brings together every instance of female proficiency and genius the
Remembering the reigns of our own Queen Bess, of Catherine of Russia, of Isabel of Castile, and Maria Theresa of Austria, it really seems rather difficult to deny woman's aptitude for the sphere of political life; while a long list of celebrities, dead and liv-author has been able to collect. and seeks. by ing, attest her claim to no unworthy niche in the temple of literary fame. In art, it must be owned, her success is more questionable. Not only have we no female Raphael, or Michel Angelo, as we have no female Homer,
pointing out the success which women have already achieved, to demonstrate what they may yet accomplish.
Of painting among the Greeks we know but little. Architecture and statuary present
sufficient monuments to allow of our forming | essentially Christian, and therefore it is but a tolerably correct estimate of the perfection reasonable to suppose that Christian art, in they had attained. Despite the ravages of its palmy days, may have surpassed that of a time, and of barbarians ancient and modern, land in which they were unknown. enough of the Parthenon remains to hand Though the ancient Greeks embodied both down the fame of an Ictinus, a Callicratus, sculpture and painting under a female form, and a Phydias, to admiring posterity. But few women handled either the pencil or the what is left of Apelles and Zeuxis ? The few chisel. Indeed, considering the ignorance relics of ancient painting which have sur- and seclusion in which all "respectable" vived the lapse of ages and the hand of the women were systematically held, it is not spoiler, all date from the time of the Roman without considerable astonishment that on the Empire; and neither the frescoes discovered beneath the baths of Titus, the decorations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, nor even the two or three cabinet pictures found beneath the buried city, can be admitted as fair specimens of Grecian painting in its zenith.
So far, however, as we have any evidence whatever on the subject, it would seem of later growth than sculpture. Pliny tells us that when the latter had reached its culminating point, the former was still in its infancy; that before Appolodorus no artist was worth remembering. But, at the same time, he mentions the productions of the great masters with as much admiration as the. Jupiter of Phydias.
very threshold of art, we discover a woman's name-that of Kora, daughter to one Dibutades, a native of Corinth. Pliny relates that in her fond desire to retain some memorial of her lover, from whom she was about to be parted for ever, she sketched his portrait from the shadow thrown by his profile on the wall; that from this her father modelled it in clay, and thus produced the first portrait in relief that had ever appeared. The story, whether true or false, is at least both graceful and probable. From the days of Kora down to those of Quintus Masys, how often has love been the best instructor!
found in Pompeii, and now in the studio of Naples, "A Mother Superintending the Toilet of her Daughters." Pliny tells us that the portraits of a well-known dancer, Acisthenes, and of a conjuror, Theodorus, executed by her hand, were much admired.
Besides Kora, Pliny makes mention of Timarata, one of whose pictures he had himAre we, then, to believe that in painting, as self seen at Ephesus. In the time of Alexin sculpture, we are still at so vast a distance ander the Great, we find the names of several from the ancients ? That the "Last Supper" female artists-Cirene, Aristarite, and Caof Leonardo da Vinci, the "Madonna di San lypso; the latter, who was celebrated as a Sisto" of Raphael, the "Virgin" of a Correg-painter de genre, has been supposed-with gio or a Murillo, would sink into nothingness how much truth it is difficult to say-to be beside the "Penelope and Jupiter " of Zeuxis, the author of that charming little picture the "Venus Anadyone" of Apelles, the "Bacchus and Ariadne" of Aristides? Such a deduction appears to us by no means a necessary one. There may be reasons why, in sculpture, we should still remain behind the Greeks, while in the sister art we may excel their happiest efforts. In the former, grace, beauty, symmetry of proportion, form, and feature, are the principal essentials of success; and where are these to be found in such perfection as beneath the glowing skies of Greece-among that people who carried their sense of the beautiful to the highest degree to which it has ever been carried by mortals? But in painting, other elements necessarily mingle-feelings and emotions of an order more complex, more varied: lovenot in its sensual, but in its purer, holier signification; devotion-such as no Jupiter or Apollo could inspire. These elements were
In Roman annals we discover but one female artist, and she was of Hellenic origin
Laya, who lived about one hundred years before Christ-although the comparative liberty allowed to women among the soldierpeople might have afforded them, one would think, greater opportunity for the development of their artistic powers. But, in the first place, we must remember that art was not with the Romans, as with the Greeks, an essential element of existence. During the best and most glorious epochs of the Republic it was neglected or despised, and its cultivation is associated with the decline of that
mighty power which had planted its trium-beautiful, from the gem-like brilliancy of the phant banners alike on the burning sands of coloring, the ever-changing tints, and the ex Africa and the rude shores of Britain. quisite finish-and in these the delicate touch and graceful taste of woman particularly fitted her to excel. Eighty years before the appearance of Cimabue, or even of André del Candia, we find Agnes, abbess of Quedlinberg, celebrated as a miniature-painter; and more than one specimen yet extant attests her patience and her skill.
The cultivators of this charming art were divided into two classes,-miniaturists, properly so called; and miniature caligraphists. It was the province of the first to color the histories and arabesques, and to lay on the gold and silver ornaments. The second wrote the book, and the initial letters so frequently traced in red, blue, and gold; these were called "Pulchri Scriptores," or fair writers. Painting of this description was peculiarly a religious occupation. It was well suited for the peaceful and secluded life of the convent or the monastery. It required none of the intimate acquaintance with the passions of the human heart, with the busy scenes of life, so essential to pther and higher forms of art. Yet it was not only in this branch that the monastic orders distinguished themselves. The Frati Humiliati were celebrated for their skill in painting on glass; while the recluses of Mont Casino and their abbot, Bertire, made themselves conspicuous for their superiority in miniature-painting.
Of Laya's history little has reached us; but from what few details we can gather, it appears that she excelled in female portraits, and may be regarded as the precursor of all miniature-painters of modern times. Pliny to whom we are indebted for these particulars, adds, that her works were most highly valued, and that, devoting herself solely to her art, she lived and died in single blessedness. During the first seven centuries which followed the destruction of the Roman Empire, we hear of no female painter. Art, indeed, was never totally extinct, as is evident from some Byzantine relics, and from the mosaics discovered in the convents and cemeteries of Rome, Venice, and Pisa, many of which date from the fifth century. But not only had its peculiar characteristic of glorious beauty completely disappeared, but that characteristic, associated as it was with the recollection of Paganism, had become abhorrent to Christianity. The heathens had adorned their Joves and their Apollos with every accessory of grace and majesty their glowing and poetic fancy could devise. The Saviour of the Nazarines, it was supposed, must therefore be represented devoid of all outward comeliness, according to the literal interpretation of the prophet's memorable description. Gradually, however, as the triumph of the new faith became wider and more secure, these preju- Disgusted by the corruption which gradudices gave way to that love of the beautiful ally crept into monastic institutions, we are implanted in the human mind. In the eighth too apt to forget the debt we owe them for century, a papal bull came to the aid of St. preserving at least the germ of thought, amid Jerome, St. Augustin, and St. Ambrose, and the deadly blight which had fallen upon it in decided that the Redeemer should hencefor-the rest of the world. In the midst of the ward be arrayed in every attribute of divine | deluge of barbarism, the monasteries were the beauty with which the hand of the painter ark of refuge. While peers and princes, could invest him. This, indeed, was not knights and squires, were systematically enmuch. Art had sunk to the lowest depths of degradation; one branch alone, that of miniature-painting upon parchment, was cultivated with tolerable success. It had flourished among the Greeks and Romans, and from the comparative ease and facility with which it was carried on, soon became the peculiar and constant occupation of monks and anchorites. Manuscripts and religious works were deemed incomplete unless adorned by illuminations; defective as they were in many of the essentials of art, particularly in perspective, these illuminations, or miniatures, are still extremely
gaged in fighting, robbing, and plundering' the monks were occupied in inventions (the fruit of which we still enjoy); in constructing those glorious cathedrals, the pride of our own and other lands; in tracing upon canvas some of the masterpieces of art; in copying the works of antiquity, which would otherwise probably have been lost for ever; and in keeping alive the sacred fire of literature. The names of Roger Bacon, Padre Alessandro, of Angelico da Fiesole, Fra Bartolomeo, and so many others, ought surely to exempt the monks of olden days from the universal charge
of ignorance and laziness so systematically | von Steinbach who, in the cathedral of Strasand indiscriminately brought against them. bourg, has reared to his memory so glorious As to the nuns, they, too, were not idle. and so enduring a monument. From early They were largely employed in illuminating childhood Sabina displayed considerable taland copying manuscripts and missals. They ent for modelling, and it was to her that her managed extensive lands belonging to the father entrusted much of the ornamental part convent; they tended the sick and the poor; of his stupendous undertaking. Few, as they many of them, as we shall see hereafter, ex- pause before the groups on the portal of the celled in painting; and the recluses of one southern aisle, and admire their grace and convent at least,-that of the Dominican sis- beauty, as we have so often admired them, ters, founded 1292, at Florence, were among imagine that they are the work of a girl of the earliest and most zealous encouragers of twenty. These groups represent allegorically the art of printing. the Christian and the Jewish Church,-in the In 1476, Fra Domenico da Pistoya, and Fra former, the figures are stately and graceful; Pietro da Pisa, the spiritual directors of the the diadem on their brows, the cross in their convent, established a printing press within its right hands; in the left, the holy wafer and walls, the nuns served as compositors, and cup. The latter are bowed down with shame many works of considerable value issued from and sorrow, their countenances sad and mournthis press between 1476 and 1484, when Bartolomeo da Pistoya dying, the nuns ceased their labors.
ful, holding in their hands a broken arrow, and the shattered relics of the tablets of the law. "In this work," says our author, "all that is beautiful and superhuman in the sculp ture of the Middle Ages may be said to be embodied; it seems as though these elements needed a female hand to attain that purity and depth of feeling which lends this group so peculiar a charm." On one of the scrolls held by the Apostle John are the following lines in Latin :
"May the grace of God fall to thy share,
Whose hands have formed my image out of this hard stone."
Miniature-painting and illuminating continued to flourish during the whole of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. Even celebrated artists did not disdain them. Dante mentions two in particular, who must have enjoyed considerable renown, for he introduces them in his "Purgatorio " as expiating through suffering their pride and their success on earth. Painters were in the habit of attaching a gradis, or small longitudinal margin, to their pictures, on which they used to paint passages from the lives of the saints who formed the subject of their work. Many Tradition adds that, by the command of the may be seen in the exquisite creations of Fra archbishop, Sabina herself attended to see Angelico da Fiesole. At the commencement the statues deposited in their destined niches, of the sixteenth century, miniature-painting began to decline. Almost unnoticed, engraving had usurped its place; but the miniatures of this period are superior to all which precede them, combining vigor and correctness of design, and chiaroscuro, with the exquisite expression, the delicate touch, the bright and glowing coloring of former productions. Among the most distinguished names of those with whom its history closed, we again find that of a woman, a Dominican sister, Plautilla Nelli, daughter to a Florentine patrician, and pupil to Fra Bartolomeo. Vasari mentions her in his second edition of "Storia di Pittura."
In 1405 we discover in Germany what must be regarded as a rara avis among the female sex,-a sculptor, and of no mean eminence, Sabina von Steinbach, daughter to that Erwin
that the prelate, followed by all his priests, came forth to meet her, and placed upon her brow a garland of laurel, consecrated by his own hand. That this tradition was long pretty generally believed, is evident from an old painting of no great merit we have our selves seen at Strasbourg, in which Sabina is represented kneeling at the feet of the arch bishop, receiving his blessing and the precious wreath.
The commencement of the fifteenth cen tury, so important in the history of humanity, so peculiarly marked by mental activity, is somewhat barren in female artists, and indeed in female genius altogether, in comparison, at least, with the succeeding ages. The change which had come over the world with in the last hundred years had acted no les unfavorably on the intellectual of progress
the sex, than on its social position. In the painting, brought about so great and momen-
evident from the work of Carl von Mander, the earliest historian of Flemish art, who calls her "a gifted Minerva," and adds, that, like her prototype, she scorned the bands of Hymen.
Somewhat later, in the depths of a peaceful convent in Nuremberg, a second Margaritha wiled away the silent hours in copying and illuminating religious works. Eight folio volumes, we are assured, were traced and adorned by the hands of this pious and indefatigable nun. Ere turning to another age, we must linger a moment to contemplate two female artists of some importance. In the Pinacothek of Bologna, among the many stiff, quaint, and strange-looking productions of the fourteenth and fifteen centuries, is a picture of St. Ursula, which to the pure, calm, holy expression peculiar to the works of the early masters, unites a grace and even correctness of drawing not a little unusual at that period. This is attributed to Catarina Vigri, a noble maiden, native of Bologna, born in 1403, who ended her days in virgin sanctity in the Convent of Capo di Christo,
So far as art was concerned, the fifteenth century, the earlier part especially, was peculiarly unfitted to foster or develope female talent. Art was gradually discarding that deal and superhuman character which had formed at once the charm and the weakness of the middle ages. New and more extended perspectives had opened to its view. It was a period of perpetual and wearisome, though fruitful, toil. The correct anatomy of the human form began to supersede the conven- where her grave, and many works by her tional style hitherto universally adopted. Earthly passions, mingled emotions which had found no place in the religious productions of an earlier age, in the pure and serene compositions of Angelico da Fiesole, in the solemn and dignified figures of Fra Bartolomeo, were now to be re-produced upon the canvas. All this necessitated severe study-its marvellous powers. study under difficulties too great, too repulsive, to admit of many females coming forward to share them. It is therefore with the more pleasure that we hail the advent of the few women who, subduing every obstacle, distinguished themselves during this important period. The best known of these is Margaritha von Eck, sister to Huberto Jan von Eck, who, by the introduction of oil
hand, are yet pointed out to the curious visitor. Among these is an infant Jesus, long held in such peculiar veneration that it was presented to the sick to kiss, with the firm conviction that all whose lips approached the canvas would be restored to health; and many are the miracles adduced in proof of
Onorata Rudiano wielded at once the painter's pencil and the warrior's sword. She is quite a personage of romance, and we are surprised that she has never figured in novel or poetry. In her 23rd year, she had already attained so great a reputation for artistic skill that Gabrino Fondolo, tyrant of Cremona, committed to her care the adornment of his palace. Onorata would willingly have de-`