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It is of the pictorial kind, with figures in the round, of plain uncoloured wood, measuring about 5 feet high by 5 feet in width. In it we have, principally, the crucifixion with numerous figures and groups, soldiers on foot and on horseback, the Jews and other traditional personages, in costumes and armour of the early sixteenth century. Nothing more is known of it, or of its supposed author, than some particulars in a letter from the Italian vendor in 1891. He says:— 'This carving in wood, representing the nativity and the death of Jesus Christ, was formerly in the church of S. Agostino at Piacenza, and is attributed to a certain Giovanni, or Lucio, Ottivetono of the end of the fifteenth to the beginning of the sixteenth century.' I do not know that the name Ottivetono is elsewhere to be heard of, nor does it sound very Italian. The church of St. Augustine was suppressed by Napoleon 1., and the carving presented by the Pope to a duke of the Farnese family.- There was at one time a frame all round it, which, it is said, has been transformed into a bookcase in England.

In this comparatively brief notice there has been by no means any pretension to a general study of Italian art in wood of' the periods included. Such a task would involve many other considerations, and could not be confined to art in one particular material only. I have desired only to call the attention of those—and they are many I think—who are not already familiar with them, to some examples of a particular kind which, generally speaking, do not find their analogies elsewhere. Considerations of space compel also the leaving on one side such architectural work with figures as the splendid retable of the cathedral of Piacenza, late Gothic work of Antonio Burlenghi, many other fine examples of Venetian sculptors in wood, and those Gothic choirs which would otherwise form a portion of our subject, if within our limits of style or date.


AHE extreme lengths, already alluded to in a

previous chapter, to which the practice of

colouring sculpture of all kinds was carried in Spain, and continued there longer than elsewhere, lead us to some general consideration of the subject. When we remember that, as there has been occasion also more than once to remark, it was the universal custom in the Middle Ages to colour every description of sculpture, and especially sculpture in wood, it is evident that the question demands more than ordinary attention. We have seen the practice exemplified in the retables of the Netherlands and Germany, in the single figures and groups for roods, the Madonna statuettes and crucifixes, and in the beautiful Italian Annunciation figures of the quattrocento and earlier. As everything else in art, polychromatic decoration comes to us from the East. Long ago Owen Jones wrote in his Grammar of Ornament: 'The architecture of the Egyptians is thoroughly polychromatic: they painted everything. They dealt in flat tints, and used neither shade nor shadow. The colours used by the Egyptians were probably red, blue, and yellow, with black and white to define and give distinctness to the various colours: with green used generally, though not universally, as a local colour, such as the green leaves of the lotus.' The statues and bas-reliefs in limestone, basalt, wood, and even granite were coloured


to life, with differences distinguishing those of men from women, the latter having always a higher complexion. Even the mummy cases were gorgeously coloured and thickly gilded. Numerous are the references to the practice in Holy Writ. In the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon we find: 'For neither did the mischievous invention deceive us, nor an image spotted with divers colours, the painter's fruitless labour, the sight whereof enticeth fools to lust after it, and so they desire the form of a dead image that hath no breath' (xv. 4, 5).

It would be interesting, if our space allowed, to follow the question through the times of ancient Greece and Rome, to discuss the Parthenon, the Temple of Minerva at Athens, the colossal statues of Pheidias and Praxiteles, the polychromatic decoration of buildings, and of statues, at Herculaneum and at Pompeii. Socrates is reported by Plato, in his Fourth Book of the Republic, as remonstrating with those who blamed the painters of statues with not being contented to leave the eyes black instead of enriching them with the most beautiful colours. The sage remarked: 4 Pray, sir, do not suppose that we ought to make the eyes so beautiful as not to look like eyes, nor the other parts in like manner, but observe whether, by giving to every part what properly belongs to it, we make the whole beautiful' {Republic, Eng. transl., Cam., 1866). Undoubtedly the use of colour in architecture and sculpture in marble was much more common than is generally thought. The Elgin marbles have been proved to have been painted: the great ivory and gold statues of Minerva and Jupiter Olympius were fully coloured. Sometimes the hair alone was gilded, or painted yellow, and ornaments were frequently added, the ears, for example, being pierced for rings. Very applicable to our subject is the interesting account by Callistratus of a bronze statue of a boy. He says: 'His cheeks were tinged ruddy colour like a rose. We marvelled to see bronze imitate nature: for though metal it blushed.'

In early Christian times the evidence of the catacombs is alone sufficient to show that the same feeling prevailed. Though we have few examples to

down to the twelfth century, statuary, following the most ancient principles, was painted in a most conventional manner, the prevailing colour being an ochretinted white. About the middle of the century the colouring of architecture and sculpture became general both within and without the buildings. There was a universal call for brightness and cheerfulness in decoration, not only appealing to the senses as a mere gratification of them, but a use of art as a teaching medium, compelling attention: as it were, the advertising method of the day. And so the succeeding centuries, until the change of ideas in the sixteenth, were essentially ages of colour and opposed to the cold monotony of white which is the absence of colour. The note of joyousness was abroad, and amongst innumerable signs of this, surely it would be sufficient to compare an archaic, grave Madonna of the eleventh century, clad in sombre garments of a dull uniform tint, with the sweet smiling, almost coquettish, figure that an ivory statuette of the Virgin, of the thirteenth century, presents to us, the draperies and ornaments decorated with bright and lively colours enriched with gilding.

The colour of statuary, and of all the sculptured ornament, pervaded the whole interior of sacred edifices. To understand properly the spirit of the Middle Ages it is necessary to picture these great creations as glowing with painting and gilding from top to bottom. Even the light was subdued and tinted, the sun's rays entering through stained windows



ather that in early mediaeval times, of glass, of which the secret of producing the richest tones has been lost. If we bear this picture in mind it is impossible to imagine that mediaeval feeling could tolerate the white marble statuary which forms such glaring contrasts with its surroundings in the Abbey Church of Westminster, or the chill regularity of the Madeleine at Paris. Above all it must not be forgotten that the colouring of the statue or other piece of sculpture is not to be considered for itself alone. Everything was studied with regard to its effect in the general scheme. Marble and alabaster, metal and wood, were used also for sepulchral monuments, and for these, too, polychrome was the rule. Yet they were not treated as separate creations and placed haphazard. In our modern Gothic it would seem to be too much the rule to build and decorate piecemeal with no governing plan. Things are accepted as they come in and a place found for them somewhere.

In mediaeval times, as a general principle—perhaps in the earlier days arising from a want of more extended knowledge—the colours applied both to statuary and smaller sculpture were limited to the three primary ones: a dark red, yellow, and blue. The great sculptures of Reims were, for example, painted in this way. Many, indeed, were simply partially or wholly gilded. Black was of course used, and, later on, browns, purples, and violets were added. In viewing them, as we do to-day, we must remember how the reds, for example, lose their original strength and brilliancy, and other colours are toned down, by atmospheric influences. In France, as elsewhere, the colouring of sculpture was long held in high honour. For the three centuries during which we can point to names—the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth—those of Andre* Beauneveu, of Michel Colombe, and of Germain Pilon may well serve to illustrate this side of polychrome art. It was long before oil colours were used,

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