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THE HOUSE OF TITIAN
Doch ist der Mensch
For the Painter
VENICE, September, 1845. If I were required to sum up in two great names whatever the art of painting had contemplated and achieved of highest and best, I would invoke RAPHAEL and Titian. The former as the most perfect example of all that has been accomplished in the expression of thought through the medium of form; the latter, of all that has been accomplished in the expression of life through the medium of color. Hence it is, that, while both have given us mind, and both have given us beauty, Mind is ever the characteristic of Raphael - Beauty, that of Titian.
Considered under this point of view, these wonderful men remain to us as representatives of the two great departments of art. All who went before them, and all who follow after them, may be ranged under the banners, of one or the other of these great kings and leaders. Under the banners of Raphael appear the majestic thinkers in art, the Florentine and Roman painters of the tif teenth and sixteenth centuries; and Albert Durer, in Germany. Ranged on the side of Titian appear the Venetian, the Lombard, the Spanish, and Flemish masters. When a school of art arose which aimed at uniting the characteristics of both, what was the result ? A something second-hand and neutral- the school of the Academicians and the Mannerists, a crowd of painters, who neither felt what they saw, nor saw what they felt; who trusted neither to the God within them, nor the nature around them; and who ended by giving us Form without Soul—Beauty without Life.
I once heard it said, by a celebrated connoisseur of the present day, “ that there were but three inventors or originators in modern art—Giorgione, Correggio, and Rembrandt. Each of these broke up a new path for himself; they were inventors, inasmuch as they saw nature truly, yet under an aspect which had never before been rendered through the medium of art. Raphael had the antique, and Titian had Giorgione, as precursors and models.” This is true; and yet to impugn the originality of Raphael and Titian, is like impugning the originality of Shakspeare. They, like him, did not hesitate to use, as means, the material pre.
senied to them by the minds of others. They, like him, had minds of such universal and unequalled capacity, that all other originalities seem to be swallowed up-comprehended, as it were, in theirs. How much, in point of framework and material, Shakspeare adopted, unhesitatingly, from the playwrights of his time is sufliciently known; how frankly Raphael borrowed a figure from one of his contemporaries, or a group from the Antique, is notorious to all who have studied his works.
I know that there are critics who look upon Raphael as having secularized, and Titian as having sensualized art; I know it has become a fashion to prefer an old Florentine or Umbrian Madonna to Raphael's Galatea; and an old German hardvisaged, wouden-limbed saint to Titian's Venus. Under one point of view, I quite agree with the critics alluded to. Such preference commands our approbation and our sympathy, if we look to the height of the aim proposed, rather than to the completeness of the performance as such. But here I am not considering art with reference to its aims or its associations, religious or classic; nor with reference to individual tastes, whether they lean to piety or poetry, to the real or the ideal ; nor as the reflection of any prevailing mode of belief or existence; but simply as Art, as the Muta Poesis, the interpreter between nature and man; giving back to us her forms with the utmost truth of imitation, and, at the same time, clothing them with a high significance derived from the human purpose ani the huinan intellect.
If, for instance, we are to consider painting as purely religious, we must go back to the infancy of modern art, when the expression of sentiment was all in all, and the expression of life in action nothing; when, reversing the aim of Greek art, the limbs and forin were defective, while character, as it is shown in physiognomy, was delicately felt and truly rendered. And if, on the other hand, we are to consider art merely as perfect imitation, we must go to the Dutchmen of the seventeenth century. Art is only perfection when it fills us with the idea of perfection ; when we are not called on to supply deficiencies, or to set limits to our demands; and this lifting up of the heart and soul, this fulness of satisfaction and delight, we find in the works of Raphael and Titian. In this only alike—in all else, how different! Different as were the men themselves—the antipodes of each other!
In another place, I might be tempted to pursuo the comparison, or rather contrast, between these two worshippers and high-priests of the Beautiful, in all other respects so unlike—working, as une might say, under a different dispensation. But Raphael, elsewhere the god of my idolatry, seems here-at Venice-to have become to me like a distant star, and the system of which he is the amazing central orb or planet, for awhile removed and comparatively dim; while Titian reigns at band.