Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

tion between the ordinary books, printed entirely from engraved wooden blocks, and the specimens of typography in its advanced state; and it is thus described by our author. '

“ This work, like the Biblia Pauperum," and the “ Book of Canticles,” is of a small folio size, and is printed on one side of the paper only. There are four or five editions of it, in whicb the cuts are not copied from each other, 'as in four of the editions of the Biblia Pauperum, and the two editions of the Book of Canticles,) but taken off from the same engraved blocks; besides two or three editions published several years later, as it is supposed, in Germany, with figures designed and engraved in a much ruder style. I shall speak principally of the two editions I have seen; in the one of which ihe text is in the Latin, in the other in the Dutch language.

“ The Latin edition is comprised in thirty-one sheets and a half, divided, according to Heineken, into five quires, or gatherings. The first gathering is only of five leaves, and contains a sort of intro. duction to the work descriptive of its contents; the second, the third, and the fourth gatherings, have each of them fourteen leaves; and the fifth has sixteen leaves; making in all sixty-three leaves. This edition is, by most writers, considered the first; but its priority is by no means certain, as I shall hereafter shew.

“ Io the Dutch edition, the introduction only occupies four leaves; and consequently there are only sixty-two leaves in the whole.

“ After the introduction, in both these editions, the remaining fifty-eight leaves are ornamented at top by wooden cuts of an oblong form, each of them divided in the middle by a slight Gothic figure into two compartments; so that each cut contains two designs. These designs, for the most part, represent stories of the Old or New Testament; but the subjects of some of them are taken from the passages of profave history, which the author of the work thought typical of the events recorded in sacred writ. Each subject lias underneath it a short Latin inscription, engraved on the same block, independent of the text, which is printed in two columns, and occupies the remainder of the page. The cuts are taken off like those of the true block-books already described, by means of friction, with a brown tint in disteinper.” (p. 154.)

“ Iu the ancient manuscripts of the Speculum Salvationis, where they are entire, the work is composed of a preface and furty-five chapters in prose Latin, with rhythmical terminations to the lines.

“ The preface contains a short account of the contents of the chapters. In each chapter, one principal subject is proposed; but three others, which the author considered allusive to the principal subject, are afterwards introduced. The subjects, for the most part, are taken from the Bible, or from the traditional history of the church; but some of them are selected from profane history. The three last chapters have, each of them, eight subjects. Thus Heipeker informs us, that, in the illuminated manuscripts of this work, he invariably found that every chapter was ornamented with two

paintings, each divided into two compartments, and containing two subjects; except the last three chapters, which bad each of them four paintings, or eight subjects. The work therefore, when complete, should contain the designs of one hundred aud ninety-two subjects; whereas the first printed editions of the Speculum have only fifty-eight cuts, or one hundred and sixteen designs.” (p. 156.)

The fourth chapter introduces the subject of chalcography, or metal-plate engraving; and the author observes, that, although the ancients were accustomed to use stamps of metal for the purpose of impressing wax, clay, and other substances capable of indentation, yet that they appear to have been wholly unacquainted with the art of taking impressions from those convex surfaces with ink, or with any other tint, on paper or parchment. Mr. Ottley proceeds.

“ Still greater obstacles opposed themselves to the invention of the art of taking impressions on paper from engraved plates of metal: for, as in these the strokes of the engraving are concave, and apparently out of the reach of pressure from any flat surface like paper, they could never have been thought calculated for such a purpose until accident discovered that they were so. Notwithstanding, therefore, that the art of engraving figures and other objects with the burin upon plates of metal, as matters of taste and orna. ment, continued to be practised without interruption, from the most remote periods of antiquity until the time when it was discovered that such engravings were capable of being printed on paper, it is perhaps less a subject for our surprise that so many ages elapsed before that discovery was made, than of our gratulation that it took place at all.

" That a species of engraving on metal, every way fitted for impression, was used by the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Romans, is, indeed, a fact which the monuments of antiquity, preserved in our museums, place beyond a doubt. The engraved figures, found on so many of the ancient pateras, might be printed, were it not for the projecting borders by which they are generally surrounded. Mr. Strutt, in his Dictionary of the Engravers, has given the copy of an engraved plate of very remote antiquity, which is preserved in the British Museum, and is supposed by him to have been originally part of a sheath of a sword, or dagger. Five figures -perbaps intended to describe the rape of Uelen-are represented upon it in outline: they are executed with the graver; and as the surface of the plate is flat, it might, as Mr. Strutt observes, even now be printed by the ordinary method used in taking the impressions of copper plates, were not the metal apparently too fragile to endure the furce of the press.

In the 15th century, “a species of handicraft was much practised by the goldsmiths throughout Italy, but especially at Florence, termed • working in niello. This mode of workmanship, which fell into

neglect in the 16th century, was used in the decoration of plate destined for sacred purposes; as chalices, reliquaries, and paxes; also on the hilts of swords, the handles of knives and forks, and on clasps and other female ornaments. It was likewise frequently adopted in small cabinets, made of ebony, which, here and there, were ornamented with little statues of silver, and plates of the same metal, * worked in niello,' with figures, with historical representations, or with arabesques." (p. 262.)

The author extracts from Vasari (who, he says, has sometimes not been improperly styled the Herodotus of modern art) the subsequent process in niello. ,

“ The way of making works of this kind is, first, to design the intended subject with a point of steel upon the silver, which must be of an even and smooth surface, and then to engrave it with the burin-an instrument which is made of a square rod of iron, cut at the end, from one angle to the other angle opposite, obliquely; so that being very sharp, and cutting, as it were, on both sides, its point runs along with great ease, and the artist is enabled to engrave with it most delicately. With this instrument all things are done which are engraved upon plates of metal, whether with the intention of filling the work afterwards with niello, or of leaving it empty, according to the will of the artist.

“ When, therefore, he has engraved and finished his work with the burin, he takes silver and lead, and mixing them together on the fire, makes of them a composition, which is of a black colour, very brittle, and, when melted, of a nature to run with great nicety into the work. This composition is then bruised very fine, and laid upon the engraved plate of silver, which it is necessary should be quite clean; the plate is then placed near a fire of green wood; when, by means of a pair of bellows, the flame is blown upon the niello, which being dissolved by the heat, runs about till it has filled all the engraved curve made by the burin. Afterwards, when the silver is cold, the superfluous part of the composition is scraped off, or worn away by degrees by a pumice-stone; and lastly, the work is rubbed by the hand, or with a piece of leather, until the true surface appears, and every thing is polished.

“ In this mode of workmanship, Maso Fineguerra, of Florence, was a most admirable artist, as may be seen in certain paxes by his hand, worked in niello, in the church of St. Giovanni at Florence, which are justly deemed astonishing productions.

“ From this kind of engraving was derived the art of chalcography, by means of which we now see so many prints by Italian and German artists throughout Italy; for as those who worked in silver, before they filled their engravings with niello, took impressions of them with earth, over which they poured liquid sulphur; so the printers discovered the way of taking off impressions from copperplates with a press, as we see them do in these days.” (p. 264.) : It will have been seen, from the title-page, that our author attributes the invention of chalcography to Maso (Tommaso) Finiguerra; and he says, that the impressions which he was accustomed to take from his engravings on silver were of two kinds: the one cast out of earthen moulds in sulphur, the other printed on paper from the plate itself, by the means of a roller.

In this division of the work we have a long discussion, in order to shew that the discovery of producing impressions on paper, was made by the artist we have just named ; and it is supposed to have occurred not later than 1440. Of the proofs taken by Finiguerra on paper, we have two beautiful specimens from originals; the one in the posses. sion of Mr. Ottley, and the other in the National Institute (as it was lately called) at Paris. The former is thus described :

“ It represents the Madonna seated on a magnificent throne, with the infant Saviour on her lap; on each side of her is an angel standing, with a lily in his hand, the emblem of virginity, awaiting ber commands; behind are six other angels, three on each side of the throne, seated on benches, and playing on musical instruments; and above are four more of those celestial attendants, and six cherubim. On the plane beneath are six female saints, amongst whom S. Ca. tharine is distinguished by ber wheel, S.Clara by her monastic habit, S. Mary Magdalen by her long hair and the vase of ointment, S. Lucia by her eyes in the dish, and S. Agnes by her lamb; the whole forming, in a space of little more than four incles in height by three in width, a composition of no less than thirty figures. This little picture (for 1 may so term it) is semicircular at top, and is bounded by a rich frame studded with precious stones. On each side is a pilaster of the Corinthian order, supporting a frieze, or cornice, the upper of which was perbaps unfinished at the time the artist took this proof; and in the two spandles over the arch of the picture, is introduced the Annunciation of the Virgin. The lower part of the architectural decoration, where it is possible there may have been an inscription, is wanting.” (p. 305.)

The other is a discovery by Zani on his visit to Paris in Nov. 1797. The subject is the Coronation of the Virgin, called also the Assumption, and the figures are exquisitely beautiful. The grouping of each is of the same kind, and, as far as we can presume to judge on such a subject, both have the appearance of being executed with equal talent, and by the same artist.

It is in the fifth chapter observed, that, although Finiguerra appears to have first discovered the practicability of

taking the impressions of his works of niello some years before the middle of the fifteenth century, it was not until about 1460, that the real importance of his discovery was appreciated, or that plates of larger dimensions began to be executed for the express purpose of multiplying the impressions of engravings for publication. That the burin itself had been employed in executing engravings upon. plate not intended to be finished afterwards with niello, is evident from the words of Vasari, wbere, after describing it, he says expressly, “ with this instrument all things are done which are engraved upon plates of metal, whether to fill the work afterwards with niello, or to leave it empty, according to the will of the artist.”

The author having discussed the progress of the art of taking impressions by engraved plates of metal from its invention by Finiguerra to the final establishment of chalcography; the works of the ancient engravers of the Florentine school are next described, and among them those of Baccio Baldini, Sandro Botticelli, and Antonio del Pollajuolo, with other early engravers, and notice is taken of some ancient prints of the same school by unknown artists. The same course is pursued in the next chapter with the Venetian engravers, and in the ninth we have the sequel of the professors of the Italian schools, Giulio and Domenico Campagnola, Jacomo Francia, and Marc Antonio Raimondi.

In the intervening chapter which is the eighth, from some love of derangement which we do not understand, we have intruded an account of the principal engravers of Germany and the low countries, from the earliest period to the time of Albert Durer and Lucas Van Leyden, which ought to have been assigned to another place in the work.

The important fact, as to the national origin or patria of Chalcography, is settled by the production before us; and if it had no other recommendation than bringing into notice the work ascribed to Maso Finiguerra, in the col. lection of the author, and introducing to the British pub. lic, the discovery of Zani of the specimen of the same artist, in the National Institute of France, it would be entitled to great credit. When Vasari asserted that the art was accidentally discovered by Finiguerra, the plausible answer of the Gerinans was, that no print had been produced by the Italian disputants that could, with certainty, be attributed to that artist; and they insisted, that the prints acknowledged to be German, the dates of which had been ascertained, and which were prior to those of any

artist, to great Cally discovas

« ElőzőTovább »