Sunday, September 26, 2010


Man comes into the world with mental and moral characteristics which he can only very imperfectly influence and a large proportion of the external circumstances of his life lie wholly or mainly beyond his control. Every one also recognizes how large a part of the unhappiness of most men may be directly traced to their own voluntary and deliberate acts.
In the words of Burke, 'It is the prerogative of man to be in a great degree a creature of his own making.' There are men whose whole lives are spent in willing one thing and desiring the opposite and all morality depends upon the supposition that we have at least some freedom of choice between good and evil.
No human being can prevent himself from viewing certain acts with an indignation, shame, remorse, resentment, gratitude, enthusiasm, praise or blame, which would be perfectly unmeaning and irrational if these acts could not have been avoided. We can have no higher evidence on the subject than is derived from this fact. It is impossible to explain the mystery of free will, but until a man ceases to feel these emotions he has not succeeded in disbelieving in it. The feelings of all men and the vocabularies of all languages attest the universality of the belief.
Men continually forget that Happiness is a condition of Mind and not a disposition of circumstances, and one of the most common of errors is that of confusing happiness with the means of happiness, sacrificing the first for the attainment of the second. It is the error of the miser, who begins by seeking money for the enjoyment it procures and ends by making the mere acquisition of money his sole object, pursuing it to the sacrifice of all rational ends and pleasures. Circumstances and Character both contribute to Happiness, but the proportionate attention paid to one or other of these great departments not only varies largely with different individuals, but also with different nations and in different ages.
All the sensational philosophies from Bacon and Locke to our own day tend to concentrate attention on the external circumstances and conditions of happiness. And the same tendency will be naturally found in the most active, industrial and progressive nations; where life is very full and busy; where its competitions are most keen; where scientific discoveries are rapidly multiplying pleasures or diminishing pains; where town life with its constant hurry and change is the most prominent. In such spheres men naturally incline to seek happiness from without rather than from within, or, in other words, to seek it much less by acting directly on the mind and character than through the indirect method of improved circumstances.
Smoking in manhood, when practiced in moderation, is a very innocent and probably beneficent practice, but it is well known how deleterious it is to young boys, and how many of them have taken to it through no other motive than a desire to appear older than they are—that surest of all signs that we are very young. How often have the far more pernicious habits of drinking, or gambling, or frequenting corrupt society been acquired through a similar motive, or through the mere desire to enjoy the charm of a forbidden pleasure or to stand well with some dissipated companions! How large a proportion of lifelong female debility is due to an early habit of tight lacing, springing only from the silliest vanity! How many lives have been sacrificed through the careless recklessness which refused to take the trouble of changing wet clothes! How many have been shattered and shortened by excess in things which in moderation are harmless, useful, or praiseworthy,—by the broken blood-vessel, due to excess in some healthy athletic exercise or game; by the ruined brain overstrained in order to win some paltry prize! It is melancholy to observe how many lives have been broken down, ruined or corrupted in attempts to realize some supreme and unattainable desire; through the impulse of overmastering passion, of powerful and perhaps irresistible temptation. It is still sadder to observe how large a proportion of the failures of life may be ultimately traced to the most insignificant causes and might have been avoided without any serious effort either of intellect or will.
How different would have been the condition of the world, and how far greater would have been the popularity of strong monarchy if at the time when such a form of government generally prevailed rulers had had the intelligence to put before them the improvement of the health and the prolongation of the lives of their subjects as the main object of their policy rather than military glory or the acquisition of territory or mere ostentatious and selfish display!
It is very evident that a healthy, long and prosperous life is more likely to be attained by industry, moderation and purity than by the opposite courses. It is very evident that drunkenness and sensuality ruin health and shorten life; that idleness, gambling and disorderly habits ruin prosperity; that ill-temper, selfishness and envy kill friendship and provoke animosities and dislike; that in every well-regulated society there is at least a general coincidence between the path of duty and the path of prosperity; dishonesty, violence and disregard for the rights of others naturally and usually bringing their punishment either from law or from public opinion or from both.
The pleasures of vice are often real, but they are commonly transient and they leave legacies of suffering, weakness, or care behind them. The nobler pleasures for the most part grow and strengthen with advancing years. The passions of youth, when duly regulated, gradually transform themselves into habits, interests and steady affections, and it is in the long forecasts of life that the superiority of virtue as an element of happiness becomes most apparent.
Few things have done more harm in the world than disproportioned compassion. It is a law of our being that we are only deeply moved by sufferings we distinctly realize and the degrees in which different kinds of suffering appeal to the imagination bear no proportion to their real magnitude. The most benevolent man will read of an earthquake in Japan or a plague in South America with a callousness he would never display towards some untimely death or some painful accident in his immediate neighborhood, and in general the suffering of a prominent and isolated individual strikes us much more forcibly than that of an undistinguished multitude. Few deaths are so prominent, and therefore few produce such widespread compassion, as those of conspicuous criminals. It is no exaggeration to say that the death of an 'interesting' murderer will often arouse much stronger feelings than were ever excited by the death of his victim; or by the deaths of brave soldiers who perished by disease or by the sword in some obscure expedition in a remote country. This mode of judgment acts promptly upon conduct.
To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life, and in no fields is it more needed than in those we have been reviewing. At the same time every age has its own ideal moral type towards which the strongest and best influences of the time converge. The history of morals is essentially a history of the changes that take place not so much in our conception of what is right and wrong as in the proportionate place and prominence we assign to different virtues and vices. There are large groups of moral qualities which in some ages of the world's history have been regarded as of supreme importance, while in other ages they are thrown into the background, and there are corresponding groups of vices which are treated in some periods as very serious and in others as very trivial.
The human mind has much more power of distinguishing between right and wrong, and between true and false, than of estimating with accuracy the comparative gravity of opposite evils. It is nearly always right in judging between right and wrong. It is generally wrong in estimating degrees of guilt, and the root of its error lies in the extreme difficulty of putting ourselves into the place of those whose characters or circumstances are radically different from our own. This want of imagination acts widely on our judgment of what is good as well as of what is bad.
If we look again into the vice and sin that undoubtedly disfigure the world we shall find much reason to believe that what is exceptional in human nature is not the evil tendency but the restraining conscience, and that it is chiefly the weakness of the distinctively human quality that is the origin of the evil. Most crimes spring not from anything wrong in the original and primal desire but from the imperfection of this higher, distinct or superadded element in our nature. The crimes of dishonesty and envy, when duly analyzed, have at their basis simply a desire for the desirable—a natural and inevitable feeling. What is absent is the restraint which makes men refrains from taking or trying to take desirable things that belong to another.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Map of Life, by William Edward Hartpole Lecky)

Friday, September 24, 2010


Self Portrait
Oil on canvas, 1913-1914
National Portrait Gallery, London.
Retrieved from Tate gallery

Robert Polhill Bevan, c.1915
Author Colourman (talk)
Robert Polhill Bevan (5 August 1865 – 8 July 1925) was the world's most reluctant modernist. Having painted alongside Gaugin at Pont Aven and been a founder member of the Camden Town group, his avant-garde credentials were impeccable.
He was perhaps the most accomplished equestrian painter since Stubbs, and had a studio overlooking Cumberland Market, historically the heart of London's horse-trading activity. Unfortunately, his obsession coincided with horses becoming obsolete technology. While contemporaries were painting angular homage to the machine age, Bevan's meticulous views of Hansom cabs, horse fairs and the like began to seem somewhat quaint.
Bevan's Edwardian nostalgia never recovered from the interruption of the First World War, but he was an accomplished and progressive painter in his own modest way. His images of London's declining horse fairs show the world of Stubbs reframed by Degas and given Sickert's sickly pall.
His first teacher of drawing was Arthur Ernest Pearce, who later became head designer to Royal Doulton potteries. In 1888 he studied art under Fred Brown at the Westminster School of Art before moving to the Académie Julian in Paris. Amongst his fellow students were Paul Sérusier, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis.
In 1890–91, having encountered Paul Sérusier at the Académie Julian in Paris, he made his first visit to Brittany, where he worked with the Pont-Aven group; he also developed an interest in lithography. After contact with Renoir, Bevan made a second visit to Brittany in 1893–4, when he met and was influenced by Gauguin. From the early 1900s Bevan adopted a divisionist or pointillist style in paintings that often depicted London street scenes and horse trading.

Mare and Foal
Author Colourman (talk)

In the summer of 1897 Bevan attended the wedding, in Jersey, of his friend Eric Forbes Robertson who was marrying an art student from Poland. The bridesmaid was also a Polish art student, Stanislawa de Karlowska. It was apparently love at first sight but because of language difficulties they had to communicate in French which was their only common language. Many were the letters Bevan wrote her and then he journeyed into the depths of Polish countryside to her father’s house. They were married in Warsaw 9 December 1897.
The Bevans set up home near Swiss Cottage in London but made regular visits between 1899 and 1904 to Poland where he painted landscapes and horses. An exhibition of his work in 1908 at the first Allied Artists’ Exhibition broke his isolation as an artist and he became part of the circle of the Fitzroy Street Group and an original member of the Camden Town Group, the London Group and the Cumberland Market Group.

Houses in Sunlight, 1915

The Feathered Hat, 1915
Transferred from en.wikipedia
Ttransferred to Commons by User:Off2riorob
Original uploader was Colourman at en.wikipedia

The Artist's Son, c. 1918
Transferred from en.wikipedia
Ttransferred to Commons by User:Off2riorob
Original uploader was Colourman at en.wikipedia

The Cab Yard Evening, 1919

The subject matter of cab-yards, mews and horse sales in London was suggested to Bevan by Sickert and was in keeping with the tenets of the Camden Town Group. This painting (above), of c. 1919, shows how Bevan's mature technique had developed into an angular style in which colour fused into broad masses of a subdued and subtle tone.
(Information derived from the Ashmolean Museum's Complete Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings)

Sale at Ward's Repository, 1919

Showing at Tattersalls, 1919
Presented by R.A. Bevan, the artist's son, 1957
2006 University of Oxford - Ashmolean Museum

Bevan’s first visit to Applehayes, with his wife, was in the summer of 1912. They returned in 1913 and 1915. Due to the war Squire Harrison found it impossible to continue offering hospitality to his artist friends. Bevan had taken a special liking to the Blackdown Hills and from 1916 to 1919 he rented a cottage called Lytchetts in the Bolham Water Valley, Clayhidon. He would stay there from early May to the middle of November for a long working holiday. His wife and children, Robert and his sister (later Mrs. Charles Baty), would visit him during the school holidays. At intervals, particularly during the winter months he would travel with his family to Poland to visit relatives. On one such trip whilst drawing at Opatow he was apprehended by Russian Police for alleged spying (the second time this happened was whilst drawing in Camden Town).
Lytchetts was owned by the Chard family, who lived at Harts Farm. Anne Chard remembers Bevan from her childhood recalling he was of a shy retiring disposition and not easy to communicate with. However she, her brother and sisters frequently saw him. A solitary gentleman tramping miles across the Blackdowns carrying either a sketch book and pencils or paints and easel tucked under his arm. Anne could remember Bevan’s look of pleased amusement when turning suddenly from the easel he encountered a child gazing in wonder at the remarkable likeness on canvas of two dearly loved shire horses, Prince and Farmer. On another occasion the Chard children having been asked to collect Prince from the common decided to mount and play at hunting on the way home. Three young children hanging on for dear life, trotting along a narrow lane met the tall familiar figure and gaily called out "Good afternoon, Mr. Bevan". The artist lifted his bowler hat in acknowledgement and stopped dead in his tracks gazing incredulously at the spectacle before him. He was dressed in a light grey check suit with a watch-chain across his waistcoat. A bow tie and spats added to the elegance of his appearance. One of his nicknames in London was "Prime Minister" because of his bearing and attire.

Devon Cottage (Luppitt), ca.1920
Transferred from en.wikipedia
Original uploader was Colourman at en.wikipedia

Mount Stephen, 1924
Transferred from en.wikipedia
Ttransferred to Commons by User:Off2riorob
Original uploader was Colourman at en.wikipedia

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


A figure painter in the conservative tradition of the late 19th century French, Henry Bacon is associated primarily with watercolors of scenes of Normandy and Egypt. Many of his landscapes have figures, well drawn and often romanticized bucolic, peasant types.
He was also one of the first Americans to be admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and became a promoter of the use of watercolor in pure washes, without opaque coloration. He also showed his genius for Impressionist effects of weather and light, particularly on reflective surfaces such as water.
(Website of Comenos Fine Art and 300 Years of American Art by Michael David Zellman at

Along the Seine

At the Well

General View of the Acropolis at Sunset
From From

The Departure from New York Harbor
Oil on Canvas
Private Collection


The Erechtheum
Owner Smithsonian American Art Museum

Henry Bacon (1839 in Haverhill, Massachusetts – 13 March 1912 in Cairo) was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1839. During the American Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Army on 16 July 1861 and acted as a field artist for Frank Leslie's Weekly while he served as a soldier within the 13th Massachusetts Infantry. Badly wounded at Bull Run, he was discharged on 19 December 1862.
He was discharged so that he and his wife were able to travel to Paris in 1864. That October the two stayed in Brittany. Robert Wylie spotted the couple two years later in a restaurant and described Bacon as “a handsome fellow of about our age of twenty with long, dark hair and a generally artistic aspect.” Bacon must have been well versed in the French language, history and culture, for he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; one of his teachers there was Alexandre Cabanel. Moreover, he rubbed shoulders with Thomas Eakins in Gérôme’s atelier. At that time, Bacon earned money by writing “penny-a-liners” for Boston newspapers. In 1866 he was in Ecouen, studying with Edouard Frère. Bacon exhibited no fewer than thirty-one paintings at the Paris Salon between 1867 and 1896. These include genre works, historical scenes and shipboard subjects. One example of the latter is an accident at sea: Steamer Taking a Pilot from 1885 (location unknown). Bacon also exhibited at the National Academy of Design (1872-83). The Quilting Party (Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr.), which Bacon shipped from Paris, was part of the NAD’s 1872 show.
(Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D. at
One popular work in the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 was Bacon’s Boston Boys and General Gage, 1775 (Dimock Gallery, George Washington University), in which American children protest the encroachment of British soldiers upon their sledding areas. Dwyer and Miller (1995) explain that “the children’s plight [was] a metaphor for the larger struggle of the colonists.”
(Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D. at

The Tourist and the Fisherwoman, 1870

On Shipboard, 1877

First Sight of Land
Oil on canvas
In the collection of Art and Elaine Baur

Late-nineteenth-century Americans' familiarity with modern tourism was abetted by the advent of regular transatlantic routes, faster and more comfortable vessels, and reduced fares. Here, Bacon, who made many transatlantic crossings, tells a story of shipboard life on the luxurious French mail steamer the Péreire. The prominent mast indicates that even steam-powered liners used auxiliary sails to take advantage of good winds and reduce fuel consumption. The well-dressed young passenger, who has cast aside her tartan lap robe and book and risen from her chair, proclaims that women were venturing abroad in greater numbers during the 1870s than ever before to "finish" their education and prepare for marriage. Bacon offers only a fragmentary, open-ended narrative: because the book is a salmon-covered paperback associated with French publishers, the woman may be returning to America, yet her excitement suggests she is arriving in Europe.
In 1878 Bacon’s Land! Land! (perhaps the picture in the collection of John I. H. Baur) was on view at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. When the French impressionists came upon the scene, Bacon assumed they were “afflicted with some hitherto unknown disease of the eye; for they neither see form nor color as other painters have given them to us, or as nature appears to all who do not belong to this association.” Such a sober, meticulously accurate painter as Bacon could not understand “green or violet flesh,” purple trees and blue lawns.
(Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D. at

The Departure, 1879

The Peasant Girl, 1883

Beach at Etretat, 1890

Oil on Panel, 1890
Federal Reserve Board Coll. Washington USA

Egyptian Pyramids
watercolor over graphite, 1897
Honolulu Academy of Arts

Obelisk--Karnak in 1900
watercolor over graphite, 1900
Honolulu Academy of Arts

Starting in 1895 Bacon limited his activity to the watercolor medium and he began to visit exotic locales, such as Egypt, Ceylon and Greece. Around 1900 the Bacons moved to London. Mrs. Bacon published Our Houseboat on the Nile in 1902 and her husband died in Cairo in 1912.
(Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D. at

Monday, September 20, 2010


Making or finding law, call it which you will, presupposes a mental picture of what one is doing and of why he is doing it. Hence the nature of law has been the chief battleground of jurisprudence since the Greek philosophers began to argue as to the basis of the law's authority. But the end of law has been debated more in politics than in jurisprudence. In the stage of equity and natural law the prevailing theory of the nature of law seemed to answer the question as to its end.
In a society organized on the basis of kinship, in which the greater number of social wants were taken care of by the kin-organizations, there are two sources of friction: the clash of kin-interests, leading to controversies of one kindred with another, and the kinless man, for whom no kin-organization is responsible, who also has no kin-organization to stand behind him in asserting his claims.
Greek philosophers came to conceive of the general security in broader terms and to think of the end of the legal order as preservation of the social status quo. They came to think of maintaining the general security immediately through the security of social institutions. They thought of law as a device to keep each man in his appointed groove in society and thus prevent friction with his fellows.
In the form of maintenance of the social status quo this became the Greek and thence the Roman and medieval conception of the end of law. Transition from the idea of law as a device to keep the peace to the idea of law as a device to maintain the social status quo may be seen in the proposition of Heraclitus, that man should fight for their laws as for the walls of their city.
In Plato the idea of maintaining the social order through the law is fully developed. The actual social order was by no means what it should be. Men were to be reclassified and everyone assigned to the class for which he was best fitted. But when the classification and the assignment had been made the law was to keep him there. It was not a device to set him free that he might find his own level by free competition with his fellows and free experiment with his natural powers. It was a device to prevent such disturbances of the social order by holding each individual to his appointed place. As Plato puts it, the shoemaker is to be only a shoemaker and not a pilot also; the farmer is to be only a farmer and not a judge as well; the soldier is to be only a soldier and not a man of business besides; and if a universal genius who through wisdom can be everything and do everything comes to the ideal city-state, he is to be required to move on. Aristotle puts the same idea in another way, asserting that justice is a condition in which each keeps within his appointed sphere; that we first take account of relations of inequality, treating individuals according to their worth, and then secondarily of relations of equality in the classes into which their worth requires them to be assigned.
Roman lawyers made the Greek philosophical conception into a juristic theory. Everyone is to live honorably; he is to "preserve moral worth in his own person" by conforming to the conventions of the social order. Everyone is to respect the personality of others; he is not to interfere with those interests and powers of action, conceded to others by the social order, which make up their legal personality. Everyone is to render to everyone else his own; he is to respect the acquired rights of others. The social system has defined certain things as belonging to each individual. Justice is defined in the Institutes as the set and constant purpose of giving him these things. It consists in rendering them to him and in not interfering with his having and using them within the defined limits. This is a legal development of the Greek idea of harmoniously maintaining the social status quo. The later eastern empire carried it to the extreme. Stability was to be secured by rigidly keeping everyone to his trade or calling and his descendants were to follow him therein. Thus the harmony of society and the social order would not be disturbed by individual ambition.
In the Middle Ages the primitive idea of law as designed only to keep the peace came back with Germanic law. But the study of Roman law presently taught the Roman version of the Greek conception and the legal order was thought of once more as an orderly maintenance of the social status quo. This conception answered to the needs of medieval society, in which men had found relief from anarchy and violence in relations of service and protection and a social organization which classified men in terms of such relations and required them to be held to their functions as so determined. Where the Greeks thought of a stationary society corrected from time to time with reference to its nature or ideal, the Middle Ages thought of a stationary society resting upon authority and determined by custom or tradition. To each, law was a system of precepts existing to maintain this stationary society as it was.
Our administration of punitive justice is full of devices for individualizing the application of criminal law. Our complicated machinery of prosecution involves a great series of mitigating agencies whereby individual offenders may be spared or dealt with leniently. Beginning at the bottom there is the discretion of the police as to who and what shall be brought to the judicial mill. Next are the wide powers of our prosecuting officers who may ignore offences or offenders, may dismiss proceedings in their earlier stages, may present them to grand juries in such a way that no indictment results, or may enter a nolle prosequi after indictment. Even if the public prosecutor desires to prosecute, the grand jury may ignore the charge. If the cause comes to trial, the petit jury may exercise a dispensing power by means of a general verdict. Next comes the judicial discretion as to sentence, or in some jurisdictions, assessment of punishment by the discretion of the trial jury. Upon these are superposed administrative parole or probation and executive power to pardon. The lawyer-politician who practices in the criminal courts knows well how to work upon this complicated machinery so as to enable the professional criminal to escape as well as those or even instead of those for whom these devices were intended. They have been developed to obviate the unhappy results of a theory which would have made the punishment mechanically fit the crime instead of adjusting the penal treatment to the criminal. Here, as elsewhere, the attempt to exclude the administrative element has brought about back-handed means of individualization which go beyond the needs of the situation and defeat the purposes of the law.
Law as a securing of natural equality became law as a securing of natural rights. The nature of man was expressed by certain qualities possessed by him as a moral, rational creature. The limitations on human activity, of which the Spanish jurist-theologians had written, got their warrant from the inherent moral qualities of men which made it right for them to have certain things and do certain things. These were their natural rights and the law existed simply to protect and give effect to these rights. There was to be no restraint for any other purpose. Except as they were to be compelled to respect the rights of others, which the natural man or ideal man would do without compulsion as a matter of reason, men were to be left free.
It is usual to describe law as an aggregate of rules. But unless the word rule is used in so wide a sense as to be misleading, such a definition, framed with reference to codes or by jurists whose eyes were fixed upon the law of property, gives an inadequate picture of the manifold components of a modern legal system. Rules, that is, definite, detailed provisions for definite, detailed states of fact, are the main reliance of the beginnings of law. In the maturity of law they are employed chiefly in situations where there is exceptional need of certainty in order to uphold the economic order. With the advent of legal writing and juristic theory in the transition from the strict law to equity and natural law, a second element develops and becomes a controlling factor in the administration of justice. In place of detailed rules precisely determining what shall take place upon a precisely detailed state of facts, reliance is had upon general premises for judicial and juristic reasoning. These legal principles, as we call them, are made use of to supply new rules, to interpret old ones, to meet new situations, to measure the scope and application of rules and standards and to reconcile them when they conflict or overlap.
(Adapted from Project Gutenberg's An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law, by Roscoe Pound)

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Cristiano Banti

When it comes to painting, Italy is like the attic of an immensely wealthy family: so many priceless treasures are piled up against the walls that sometimes whole clusters of them get overlooked. The Macchiaioli (pronounced "mah-key-ay-OH-li") are perhaps the most obvious example. Their relatively small but fascinating school was born during the 1840s, probably as a direct consequence of the Risorgimento, a movement whose dream was to unite the Italian peninsula under one government. These Tuscan artists were descendants of the early Renaissance painters. In many ways they were the direct predecessors of the Impressionists. Like Russia's Decembrists, they were definitely a product of their time.
By the early 19th century, Italy had lost every last shred of the prominence it had gained under the ancient Romans and again in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its many small states - Piedmont, Lombardy, Tuscany, Parma, Modena, Naples and Sicily, the Papal States - were ruled over by foreign powers that prevented any kind of national cohesion among their citizens. Yet there were local leaders who argued persuasively that this state of affairs should end. Idealistic intellectuals flocked to join the local militias, artillery corps and revolutionary forces who fought the often bloody battles of liberation, and gradually, one by one, the states evicted their rulers, forming a growing independent kingdom. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was not the largest or strongest of these states (Piedmont was), but it was the only one where the spoken dialect was Italian, and its two million inhabitants considered themselves the most genuinely "Italian" Italians, as well as the natural heirs to the Renaissance.
Eventually, of course, with the help of Camillo Cavour, Giuseppe Mazzini, Giuseppe Garibaldi and his heroic "thousand men," the Risorgimento did unite Italy. But this did not create the idealized democratic state the intellectuals had envisioned. Many of them grew quickly disillusioned with politics. One hotbed of discontent was the Caffè Michelangiolo in Florence, the favorite hangout of two dozen or so veterans who also happened to be painters. Redirecting their rebellion away from the state and toward the artistic establishment of the day, they retreated into the country and developed a style of painting that focused heavily on landscapes and scenes of simple daily life. This, they declared, was the "Italy" they had dreamed of. Unable to contribute to its political birth, they created it in their canvases. Indeed, if we glance again at The Trellis, we will see that a subtle tension exists between the mistress of the house, seated in the shadows on her earthen wall, and the maid, striding proudly across the sunbathed patio.
Even as the first Impressionists were still setting up their easels in the fields of France, the Macchiaioli had developed their technique of capturing the moment, by means of bold strokes and "pools" of color which obeyed the artist's emotional reactions to the scene, rather than his intellectual awareness of it. This technique had always been used by painters, but historically it had been employed for the first draft, as an alternative to the sketch. Because the term for these areas of color was macchia (meaning "stain" or "spot"), the Tuscan artistic revolutionaries soon came to be known as Macchiaioli. Members of the establishment quipped that the word could also mean "renegade" or "outlaw," because of the phrase darsi alla macchia, which means "to hide out in the bush" (which of course is exactly what the Macchiaioli had chosen to do).
At the end of 1850, this group of young painters in Florence began to get together to oppose the academic approach to their art. They would meet in the Caffè Michelangelo to discuss and keep abreast of new trends. Together they were lucky enough to visit the extensive art collection that Prince Demidoff of Russia kept on his Florence estate, a collection enriched by works by French artists such as Ingres, Corot and Delacroix. The young painters included Telemaco Signorini and Serafino De Tivoli who, with Cristiano Banti and Vincenzo Cabianca, were the first to exhibit a completely modernized language in the Promotrice show for new talent held in Turin.
They were called "Macchiaioli" because they used "spots" of color to accentuate the chiaroscuro. In their paintings they abandoned the idea that "drawing" should precede the application of color: instead, they employed the technique of lining up "spots" of colors and chiaroscuro. The visual effect on the viewer was one of flickering light. Increasingly, the Macchiaioli chose to paint in plein air, an essential prerequisite to studying every single vibration of light. Therefore they moved their easels outdoors: in their studios they certainly were unable to catch the tones of light necessary for their way of painting.
(Cecilia Iacopetti - Translated by: Paola Ludovici and Nanette Cooper © Galleria d'Arte Bacci di Capaci – Lucca at
In 1848 Cristiano Banti (Croce sull'Arno PI 1824 - Montemurlo PO 1904) won the triennal competition with the painting "Domenico Mecherino figlio di Pacio colono trovato a disegnare le pecore dal suo padrone Beccafumi" (Domenico Mecherino, son of Pacio the farmer when he was found painting the sheep by his master Beccafumi). The planning out and the emphasis on colour of this work, which reminds of Giuseppe Bezzuoli, show that the young Banti's interests were far away from the Siena Academy. In 1854 he moved to Florence, where he began to attend the Caffé Michelangelo. The 50's production is made up mainly by historical paintings, like "Episodio del Sacco di Roma" (Episode of the sack of Rome), 1856, influenced by Saverio Altamura, an example of the "a macchie" treatment and similar to a sketch, typical of the Florentine historical painting of the period; "Galileo Galilei davanti all'Inquisizione" (Galileo Galilei before the Inquisition), which was exhibited at the Florentine Promotrice of 1857.

The trial of Galileo, 1857

Galileo in front of the Roman Inquisition (above), after a 1857 Painting by Cristiano Banti. Galileo was summoned to Rome by the Inquisition on 23 September 1632, following publication of his Dialogue in February of that year. He arrived in Rome on 13 February 1633, and was housed in the Tuscan embassy. He was called to the Holy Office (the Inquisition's headquarters) and first interrogated on 12 April 1633, sent back to the Tuscan embassy on April 30, and called in again and detained on May 10 and June 21. While detained in the Holy Office, Galileo was housed in apartments usually occupied by Inquisition officials, rather than in the usual prison cells.
On 22 June 1633 Galileo was forced to kneel in front of the Inquisition and recant his belief in the Copernican planetary system and the motion of the Earth. He was condemned to life imprisonment, ostensibly for having disobeyed a 1616 injunction by Cardinal Bellarmino "...not to defend or teach the Copernican doctrine...” The very next day the sentence was commuted to perpetual house arrest, which was rigidly upheld to the end of Galileo's life. Galileo's Dialogue was also put on the Index of Prohibited Books, together with the books by Copernicus and Kepler treating of the heliocentric system, where they all remained until 1835.
In 1859 it was clearly shown that Banti knew the painting of Domenico Morelli of Neaples, who had recently moved to Florence. In the same period he married and frequently stayed in the villas of Montorsoli and Montemurlo, where friends and less wealthy artists were his guests and where he gathered an important collection of works of Fattori, Boldini, Abbati, Signorini, Lega and also some Corots and Courbets and a dozen of Fontanesi.
In 1858 he met in Florence Edgar Degas, who was working on "Famiglia Bellelli" (The Belelli Family). In the spring of 1860, aware of the increasing importance of the "macchia" in the make of the painting, he began to paint "en plein air" in the countryside of Montelupo together with Signorini and Borrani; later on he worked with Cabianca in Montemurlo, then in La Spezia with Altamura and Signorini. Dating back to this period are works like "Bimbi al sole" (Children in the Sun) and "Contadina con un bambino" (Countrywoman with children), where he obtained simplified and vivid colors, of extraordinary brightness.
In May 1861 he went to Paris with Signorini and Cabianca (he will return there again in 1871, 1874 and 1875). Here he deepened the knowledge of Barbizon painting visiting an exhibition organized by the National Fine Arts Society and meeting Troyon and Corot. Back in Florence, he painted "Riunione di contadine" (Meeting of Countrywomen), which shows a new maturity and stylistic refinement. About 1865 he gave birth to masterpieces like "Tre vecchie in riposo" (Three old women at rest), "In via per la chiesa" (On the road to the church), "Le guardiane di porci" (The swineherds). Not in need of money, he preferred to paint for himself, showing a few of his works and not looking for success, only glad of the acknowledgment of valued friends like Fattori and Signorini.
(Written by: Gioela Massagli - Translated by: Cristina Panigada © Galleria d'Arte Bacci di Capaci - Lucca - Italy)

Riunione di contadine
Meeting of Countrywomen
From Ministry of Foreign Affairs at

Three Peasant Women
Oil on canvas, 1881
Galleria Palatina, Florence
From Web Gallery of Art at

Woman Sewing on the Terrace
Oil on canvas, 1882
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence
From Web Gallery of Art at

He spent more and more time in the countryside, working hard. In 1870 with Signorini, Cecioni and Raffaello Sorbi he was member of the jury of the National Exhibition of Parma; on this occasion, he broke his friendship with Signorini, later he will begin a long fellowship with Giovanni Boldini, who had not yet moved to Paris.
In the 80's he reached high levels of quality with paintings like "Tre contadine sedute dinanzi a una siepe" (Three Countrywomen seated in front of an hedge) and "Le lavoranti di paglia della Val d'Elsa" (Straw workers of Val d'Elsa), 1886, which he gave to the Minister of Education and where even Raphaelesque and sixteenth-century reminiscences are recognisable, filtered through the knowledge of the European contemporary painting. In 1884 he was appointed Professor at the Florence Academy and member of the Reorganizer Commission of the Uffizi.
He died, eighty-year-old, in Montemurlo.
(Written by: Gioela Massagli - Translated by: Cristina Panigada © Galleria d'Arte Bacci di Capaci - Lucca - Italy)
At first, and indeed for most of the rest of their lives, the Macchiaioli were misunderstood, criticized and ridiculed. Many of them died penniless. They were soon overshadowed by the Impressionists, who came along 20-30 years later. It wasn't until the first half of this century that critics began to look at their work with understanding and praise. Today, thanks to several very successful shows in countries around the world, the Macchiaioli have taken their rightful place among Italy's many schools of painting. And yet, because we tend to focus on the country's other two millennia of artistic output, few travelers ever actually see a work by Giovanni Fattori, Giuseppe Abbati (one of the very best of the bunch, despite having lost an eye fighting with Garibaldi), Telemaco Signorini, Giovanni Boldoni, Cristiano Banti, Odoardo Borrani, Adriano Cecioni, Raffaello Sernesi, Vito D'Ancona, Vicenzo Cabianca or Silvestro Lega. The problem is compounded because the vast majority of their many, many canvases are in private hands.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Images of the life, history and topography of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and sometimes modern Greece, the Crimea, Albania and the Sudan constitute the field of Orientalism. Although almost any biblical subject in Western art would rank as an Orientalist image by this definition, most such works dating before the 19th century fail to present any specifically Near Eastern details or atmosphere and are not Orientalist. Artists need not have journeyed to the Near East to be labelled Orientalist, but their works must have some suggestion of topographic or ethnographic accuracy.
(Grove Art excerpts - Electronic ©2003, Oxford Art Online)
Gustav Bauernfeind (b 1848; d 1904) was born in the town of Sulz-am-Neckar in Baden-Württemberg, southern Germany. His education gave no indication that he would become one of the most accomplished artists of his era. He had graduated from the Stuttgart Polytechnic Institute and joined an architectural firm. After an initial start at the office of Professor Wilhelm Baumer, he was employed by Adolf Gnauth who was not only an architect, but also a moderately gifted painter. It was during his time in the employment of Gnauth that Bauernfeind transformed from architect to artist. When traveling to Italy for a project for Gnauth's firm in 1873 and 1874, Bauernfeind refined his artistic skills, executing with meticulous verisimilitude the architecture and nature of his surroundings. Although his attention to detail was remarkable, his work found few interested buyers due to the rather mundane subject matter. He was advised to find a subject matter more 'en vogue' and, very much aware of the financial opportunities awaiting a painter of Orientalist subjects, he looked to the East as his new source of inspiration. This marked a turning point in his career: a fundamentally different and exotic culture in which to study the sun, the light, the characters, customs and religious attitudes.
(Christie’s catalogue of 19th Century European Art including Orientalist and Spanish Art, July 2, 2008, Lot 28)
Gnauth helped Bauernfeind pursue painting, finding him a commission to paint Italian scenes for the German art publisher, Johann Christian Englehorn. Gustav painted the Italian views from 1873 to 1874.
He returned to Stuttgart in 1874 and later moved to Munich in 1876. In Munich, Bauernfeind furthered his abilities as a painter. He developed friendships with other German artists such as Heinrich Von Zügel and Ludwig Löfftz.
(Armand Cabrera at

King David Street - Jerusalem
From History and historical Studies at

Chioggia'da Kanal

Pazar Yeri

Kudüs'te Sokak, 1880

Çamaşır Günü, 1880

Entrance to the Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Oil on canvas1886

Gate of the Great Mosque, Damascus
Oil on panel, 1890
Painted in Munich

This monumental painting (above) is arguably the most sensational work depicting Damascus by the German Orientalist artist Gustav Bauernfeind. The detailed execution and the vibrant use of colour truly capture the allure of the East. Bauernfeind made three trips to the Orient during his lifetimebefore eventually settling there permanently. For his first trip in1880 he made enquiries through his sister and brother-in-law who were living in Beirut at the time. Before his voyage, they sent him a letter describing the area: 'Everything which is in our power to do to make the Orient pleasant and interesting shall be done. Of course, I must tell you beforehand, you will find Syria to be no Italy. No such abundance of architectural art treasures are to be expected here; all the same, I should think that in spite of this, an artist could find a worthwhile field for his studies here, and would not regret his journey. Beirut perhaps has the least to offer - in very great contrast to the highlands, which do not lack for ruined stately homes and castles. Damascus, too, is at all events interesting; I haven't been there yet, but from what I've heard tell it is a city whose Oriental character is still the least diluted by European civilization' (quoted in A. Carmel and H. Schmid, op. cit. ,p.91). Although the unspoiled Eastern character of Damascus as described by his sister appealed highly to him, Bauernfeind would only properly discover the city during his second visit to the region in1884. He describes it in a letter to his mother as 'a city which has hardly been touched by civilization'. After his initial two trips Bauernfeind left Germany for a third time to travel to the Middle East in 1888. His third visit to the region would turn out not only to be his longest but also his most extensively documented. Bauernfeind travelled to Jaffa where he had met his wife on his second trip four years earlier. In Jaffa he boarded an Egyptian steamer Fayiem which took him to Beirut from where he travelled inland to Damascus. The city of Damascus was renowned for its silks and dried fruit. It is known to be one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. In its turbulent history it had been conquered numerous times. From the Assyrians to Alexander the Great and from Egyptians to the British, all had made their contribution to its rich history. Once it was even part of the Ottoman Empire and during that time it was considered to be one of the leading centres after Constantinople, Cairo and Jerusalem. With its vast breadth of history comes an infinitely complex and rich cultural heritage. Bauernfeind was truly enthralled by the city, its streets, its people and its buildings. He travelled the streets and, weather permitting, painted and sketched every day. He became a well known figure in the city. He wrote: 'I am almost known everywhere in the city (Damascus) as the M'Sauer (painter), a triumph that does credit to my activity. It is an absolute delight to see how inquisitively these folk follow the doings of Europeans, and what hilarious comments they often make regarding the subject. My travelling hat has elicited a number of these. Some are quite amazed that I should have a parasol on my Tarboosh (the red hat they wear); others called me the Father of the Casserole (Abu Aanshereh) because my hat looked like I'd clapped a pot on my head...' (Op. cit., p.98). Whilst sketching on December 2nd 1888 in the cotton bazaar or Sükel cotton he had to flee from the incessant curiosity of the local populace and climbed the rooftops in order to sketch the minaret of the Galciye Mosque in peace. The elevated location did not provide him with the desired perspective and although weary of the crowd he decided to climb down. When taking a pause from his work he decided to visit the Umayyad Mosque for the first time. Its monumental architecture made an enormous impression on him and he writes in his journal: 'Have discovered a thankful subject: The entrance to the Great Mosque. It will be difficult to paint it. I fit is possible, I hope to create a beautiful painting. (G.Bauernfeind, Die Reise nach Damascus, p. 14) The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque, is believed to be the building site of an Armean Temple to the God of Hadad dating back to 3000 B.C.. Built in the 1st Century AD and again renovated under Septimus Severus during 193-211 A.D., the site housed a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. Arcadius of the Byzantine Empirere stored and converted the Roman temple into a Christian Church naming it the Church of St. John (395-408 A.D.) as it held a casket with the head of John the Baptist on display. Following the Arab conquest of the city Welid, son of Abd el-Melik and the sixth Ummayad Khalif, entered negotiations with the Christians residing in the city about the purchase of their rights over the location. 'The Christians however declined to part with their Church, and it was then taken from them, either without compensation or according to a more probable account, in return for the guaranteed possession of several other churches in and around Damascus, which had not hitherto been expressly secured to them. The Khalif himself is said to have directed the first blow to the altar, as a signal for its destruction, to the great grief of the Christians. He then proceeded, without entirely demolishing the old walls, to erect a magnificent mosque on the site of the church. This building is extravagantly praised by Arabic authors, genii are said to have aided its construction, and 1,200 artists to have been summoned from Constantinople to assist. ... Antique columns were collected in the towns of Syria and used in the decoration of the mosque. The pavement and the lower walls were covered with the rarest marbles, while the upper parts of the walls and the dome were enriched with mosaics. The prayer niches were inlaid with precious stones and golden vines were entwined over the arches of the niches. The ceiling was of wood inlaid with gold, and from it hung 600 golden lamps. Prodigious sums are said to have been expended on the work.... Omar ibn Abd el-Aziz (717-720 A.D.) caused the golden lamps to be replaced by others of less value. In 1609 part of the mosque was burned down and since the conquest of Damascus by Timurlane the building has never been restored to its ancient magnificence.' (K.Baedeker, Palestine and Syria: handbook for travellers, Leipzig,1876, p. 482). Bauernfeind was clearly captivated by the Great Mosque. In the present lot all the inspiration that this extraordinary and historical place of worship offered comes to a crescendo. With his minute attention to detail he uses his paint to form a composition of near tangible reality. The architectural beauty offered the artist the ideal backdrop, challenging his skills of exactitude to the fullest. After first catching sight of the mosque on the 2nd of December 1888 he visited it nearly every day, investing large amounts of effort, and money, in acquiring sufficient material for the painting he envisioned. Money was needed not only to bribe the mosque's wardens for informal permission to sketch there but also to pay the models he found in the streets. The drawings of models would later serve as the basis for the figures so elaborately depicted in the present lot. Bauernfeind's relentless quest for material, in combination with his unsurpassed talent, has given form to a work of true quality. His masterful use of color and light, his richly attired figures and his exceptional understanding of the architecture are all irrefutably present in The Gate of the Great Omayaden Mosque,Damascus and make it without doubt one of the most monumental and sensational creations in the artist's oeuvre.

Şam'da Büyük Caminin Kapısında, 1891

Oryantal Sokak Teması

Ölü Deniz ve Moabiter Dağları
Totes Meer Mit Moabitergebirge Abendstimmung

Jericho Düzlüğü
Ebene Von Jericho Mit Quarantal

David Street in Jerusalem

Mountains of Moab Seen from Bethany

Bauernfeind is most remembered for his accurate portrayals of the Mideast. He traveled there four times. (1880-1881), (1884-1887), (1888-1889), (1896-1904). Bauernfeind worked in watercolors and oils outdoors. Many of these sketches were the basis for larger studio works. He believed in thoroughly immersing himself in his painting motifs---in some cases, painting Orientalist outdoor scenes at great risk to his life. He carried a gun and would hire local bodyguards to help protect him. Being a foreigner, Bauernfeind was often spat upon or had objects thrown at him while painting. Sometimes he was threatened by crowds and would be forced to leave the area.
Gustav Bauernfeind died in Jerusalem on Christmas Eve, 1904 from heart failure while decorating the Christmas tree.
(Armand Cabrera at

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


IT is a common saying that thought is free. A man can never be hindered from thinking whatever he chooses so long as he conceals what he thinks. The working of his mind is limited only by the bounds of his experience and the power of his imagination. But this natural liberty of private thinking is of little value. It is unsatisfactory and even painful to the thinker himself, if he is not permitted to communicate his thoughts to others, and it is obviously of no value to his neighbors.
At present, in the most civilized countries, freedom of speech is taken as a matter of course and seems a perfectly simple thing. We are so accustomed to it that we look on it as a natural right. But this right has been acquired only in quite recent times, and the way to its attainment has lain through lakes of blood. It has taken centuries to persuade the most enlightened peoples that liberty to publish one’s opinions and to discuss all questions is a good and not a bad thing. Human societies (there are some brilliant exceptions) have been generally opposed to freedom of thought, or, in other words, to new ideas, and it is easy to see why.
The average brain is naturally lazy and tends to take the line of least resistance. The mental world of the ordinary man consists of beliefs which he has accepted without questioning and to which he is firmly attached; he is instinctively hostile to anything which would upset the established order of this familiar world. A new idea, inconsistent with some of the beliefs which he holds, means the necessity of rearranging his mind; and this process is laborious, requiring a painful expenditure of brain-energy. To him and his fellows, who form the vast majority, new ideas, and opinions which cast doubt on established beliefs and institutions, seem evil because they are disagreeable.
Although the liberty to publish one’s opinions on any subject without regard to authority or the prejudices of one’s neighbors is now a well-established principle, only the minority of those who would be ready to fight to the death rather than surrender it could defend it on rational grounds. We are apt to take for granted that freedom of speech is a natural and inalienable birthright of man, and perhaps to think that this is a sufficient answer to all that can be said on the other side. But it is difficult to see how such a right can be established.
If a man has any “natural rights,” the right to preserve his life and the right to reproduce his kind are certainly such. Yet human societies impose upon their members restrictions in the exercise of both these rights. A starving man is prohibited from taking food which belongs to somebody else. Promiscuous reproduction is restricted by various laws or customs. It is admitted that society is justified in restricting these elementary rights, because without such restrictions an ordered society could not exist. If then we concede that the expression of opinion is a right of the same kind, it is impossible to contend that on this ground it can claim immunity from interference or that society acts unjustly in regulating it. But the concession is too large.
On the other hand, those who have the responsibility of governing a society can argue that it is as incumbent on them to prohibit the circulation of pernicious opinions as to prohibit any anti-social actions. They can argue that a man may do far more harm by propagating anti-social doctrines than by stealing his neighbor’s horse or making love to his neighbor’s wife. They are responsible for the welfare of the State, and if they are convinced that an opinion is dangerous, by menacing the political, religious, or moral assumptions on which the society is based, it is their duty to protect society against it, as against any other danger.
If you ask somebody how he knows something, he may say, “I have it on good authority,” or, “I read it in a book,” or, “It is a matter of common knowledge,” or, “I learned it at school.” Any of these replies means that he has accepted information from others, trusting in their knowledge, without verifying their statements or thinking the matter out for him. And the greater part of most men’s knowledge and beliefs is of this kind, taken without verification from their parents, teachers, acquaintances, books, newspapers. When an English boy learns French, he takes the conjugations and the meanings of the words on the authority of his teacher or his grammar. The fact that in a certain place, marked on the map, there is a populous city called Calcutta is for most people a fact accepted on authority. So is the existence of Napoleon or Julius Caesar. Familiar astronomical facts are known only in the same way, except by those who have studied astronomy. It is obvious that every one’s knowledge would be very limited indeed, if we were not justified in accepting facts on the authority of others.
The thoughts of the average man consist not only of facts open to verification, but also of many beliefs and opinions which he has accepted on authority and cannot verify or prove. We cannot go behind the authority and verify or prove it. If we accept it, we do so because we have such implicit faith in the authority that we credit its assertions though incapable of proof.
The distinction may seem as obvious as to be hardly worth making. But it is important to be quite clear about it. The primitive man who had learned from his elders that there were bears in the hills and likewise evil spirits, soon verified the former statement by seeing a bear, but if he did not happen to meet an evil spirit, it did not occur to him, unless he was a prodigy, that there was a distinction between the two statements; he would rather have argued, if he argued at all, that as his tribesmen were right about the bears they were sure to be right also about the spirits. In the Middle Ages a man who believed on authority that there is a city called Constantinople and that comets are portents signifying divine wrath, would not distinguish the nature of the evidence in the two cases. You may still sometimes hear arguments amounting to this: since I believe in Calcutta on authority, am I not entitled to believe in the Devil on authority?
It may be objected that there is a legitimate domain for authority, consisting of doctrines which lie outside human experience and therefore cannot be proved or verified, but at the same time cannot be disproved. Of course, any number of propositions can be invented which cannot be disproved, and it is open to anyone who possesses exuberant faith to believe them; but no one will maintain that they all deserve credence so long as their falsehood is not demonstrated. And if only some deserve credence, who, except reason, is to decide which? If the reply is, Authority, we are confronted by the difficulty that many beliefs backed by authority have been finally disproved and are universally abandoned. Yet some people speak as if we were not justified in rejecting a theological doctrine unless we can prove it false. But the burden of proof does not lie upon the rejecter.
When some disrespectful remark was made about hell, a loyal friend of that establishment said triumphantly, “But, absurd as it may seem, you cannot disprove it.” If you were told that in a certain planet revolving round Sirius there is a race of donkeys that talk the English language and spend their time in discussing eugenics, you could not disprove the statement, but would it, on that account, have any claim to be believed? Some minds would be prepared to accept it, if it were reiterated often enough, through the potent force of suggestion. This force, exercised largely by emphatic repetition (the theoretical basis, as has been observed, of the modern practice of advertising), has played a great part in establishing authoritative opinions and propagating religious creeds. Reason fortunately is able to avail herself of the same help.
In the most civilized and progressive countries, freedom of discussion is recognized as a fundamental principle. In fact, we may say it is accepted as a test of enlightenment. All intellectual people who count take it for granted that there is no subject in heaven or earth which ought not to be investigated without any deference or reference to theological assumptions. No man of science has any fear of publishing his researches, whatever consequences they may involve for current beliefs. Criticism of religious doctrines and of political and social institutions is free. Hopeful people may feel confident that the victory is permanent; that intellectual freedom is now assured to mankind as a possession for ever; that the future will see the collapse of those forces which still work against it and its gradual diffusion in the more backward parts of the earth. Yet history may suggest that this prospect is not assured. Can we be certain that there may not be a great set-back? For freedom of discussion and speculation was fully realized in the Greek and Roman world, and then an unforeseen force came in and laid chains upon the human mind and suppressed freedom and imposed upon man a weary struggle to recover the freedom which he had lost. Is it not conceivable that something of the same kind may occur again? That some new force, emerging from the unknown, may surprise the world and cause a similar set-back?
Nothing should be left undone to impress upon the young that freedom of thought is an axiom of human progress. It may be feared, however, that this is not likely to be done for a long time to come. For our methods of early education are founded on authority. It is true that children are sometimes exhorted to think for themselves. But the parent or instructor who gives this excellent advice is confident that the results of the child’s thinking for himself will agree with the opinions which his elders consider desirable. It is assumed that he will reason from principles which have already been instilled into him by authority. But if his thinking for himself takes the form of questioning these principles, whether moral or religious, his parents and teachers, unless they are very exceptional persons, will be extremely displeased, and will certainly discourage him. It is, of course, only singularly promising children whose freedom of thought will go so far. In this sense it might be said that “distrust thy father and mother” is the first commandment with promise. It should be a part of education to explain to children, as soon as they are old enough to understand, when it is reasonable, and when it is not, to accept what they are told, on authority.
(Adapted from Project Gutenberg's A History of Freedom of Thought, by John Bagnell Bury)

Sunday, September 12, 2010


painted by Ottavio Leoni, c. 1621 A.C.

Despite a tumultuous and anguished life, early Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (a.k.a. Caravaggio) revolutionized his art form to encompass an arresting sense of realism and a dramatic entangling of light and shadows. This intense man of the flesh was capable of putting viewers into a profound spiritual state by carving out pockets of inner enlightenment in the darkness. The Italian artist, born just outside Milan in 1571, worked extensively in Rome, Naples and on the island of Malta. He left a sumptuous and controversial legacy - one that swirled together sexual crises, a penchant for self-destruction, the desire to cast ordinary people as saints, the violence that led to real-life murder, escape, treachery on a near-geopolitical level, and death at the young age of 38.
(Lucia Mauro at
Little is known about Caravaggio (Francesco Boneri). In his guide to contemporary artists written for fellow-collectors in about 1620, Considerazioni sulla Pittura, Giulio Mancini mentions a 'Francesco detto Cecco del Caravaggio' as one of the great master's more noteworthy followers. A 'Cecco' is recorded among French artists working with Agostino Tassi at Bagnaia in 1613-15, and hence the artist has been thought to be of French origin, while other scholars have detected a Spanish influence, but in 2001 the scholar Gianni Papi identified this Cecco del Caravaggio as the Lombard artist Francesco Boneri (or Buoneri), and this now seems to be generally although not universally accepted.
An identification has also been made, (notably by the journalist Peter Robb in his 1998 biography of Caravaggio, M-The Man Who Became Caravaggio), between Francesco Boneri/Cecco del Caravaggio and the boy who models for a number of paintings done by Caravaggio in the period 1600/1606, including the famous Amor Vincit and the John the Baptist in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. The identification is based on the statements found in early authors that the model for Amor Vincit was a boy named Cecco who was also Caravaggio's servant and possibly pupil. As attractive as this idea is, it remains unproven.
Caravaggio left Cesari in January 1594, determined to make his own way. His fortunes were at their lowest ebb, yet it was now that he forged some extremely important friendships, with the painter Prospero Orsi, the architect Onorio Longhi, and the sixteen year old Sicilian artist Mario Minniti. Orsi, established in the profession, introduced him to influential collectors; Longhi, more balefully, introduced him to the world of Roman street-brawls; and Minniti served as a model and, years later, would be instrumental in helping Caravaggio to important commissions in Sicily. The Fortune Teller, his first composition with more than one figure, shows Mario being cheated by a gypsy girl. The theme was quite new for Rome, and proved immensely influential over the next century and beyond. This, however, was in the future: at the time, Caravaggio sold it for practically nothing. The Cardsharps - showing another unsophisticated boy falling the victim of card cheats - is even more psychologically complex, and perhaps Caravaggio's first true masterpiece. Like the Fortune Teller it was immensely popular, and over 50 copies survive. More importantly, it attracted the patronage of Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, one of the leading connoisseurs in Rome. For Del Monte and his wealthy art-loving circle Caravaggio executed a number of intimate chamber-pieces - The Musicians, The Lute Player, a tipsy Bacchus, an allegorical but realistic Boy Bitten by a Lizard - featuring Minniti and other adolescent models. The homoerotic ambience of Caravaggio's treatment of these works has been the centre of dispute amongst scholars and biographers since it was first raised in the later half of the 20th century, the critic Robert Hughes memorably described Caravaggio's boys as "overripe, peachy bits of rough trade, with yearning mouths and hair like black ice cream,"

The Flute Player
Oil on canvas
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Web Gallery of Art at

The paintings now attributed to “Cecco del Caravaggio” form a highly individualistic group of mostly genre scenes. They all show close interest in low-life but are painted with a delicacy and sensitivity which is quite unlike most other Caravaggesque work. There is still discussion about the precise definition of the artist’s output and modern scholarship has made many different and sometimes conflicting attempts to prove who the artist was.
Christopher Wright writes: The identity of “Cecco del Caravaggio” has become one of the most controversial and ultimately unresolved questions of recent research into the Baroque. Asmall group of pictures exist, ostensibly but not certainly by the same hand. Benedict Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement, Oxford, 1979, p. 42, listed some sixteen works but did not include the Flute Player in Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, which has always been associated with a similar work in the Wellington Museum, Apsley House. Nicolson assumed that the “Francesco, detto Cecco del Caravaggio”described by Mancini c. 1629 was an artist of Spanish origin, working in Rome in the second decade of the 17th century. On stylistic grounds this hypothesis would fit, although Nicolson also noted the influence of Louis Finson, a Flemish artist working in the south of France. There is still dispute from other scholars as to whether the Ashmolean Flute Player should be included. The contradictory current thinking by GianniPappi, Cecco del Caravaggio, Soncino, 2001, is that the Cecco group, a slightly different assembly of pictures to those used byNicolson, are by Francesco Boneri. Pappi comes to terms with the Spanish influence by attributing some “Ceccos” to Pedro Nunez del Valle.
The guitar player has a distinctively lined face and this is an especial feature of Cecco’s work, found in almost all his male models. Another similarity is the handling of white cloth, in this case the cravat, which also appears throughout his work. Other distinctive characteristics are the use of still life elements in the composition, introduced to show skill. A final comparison is the particular way which the hands are drawn and lit.
This haunting picture has overtones of the early work of Velasquez in his Seville period and it was to this great master that the painting was formally attributed. The scholarly suggestions that “Cecco” may well turn out to be Spanish now seem to make sense given the strong realism and powerful brushwork which seem so Spanish in themselves. The flute player (above) in the background seems especially Spanish. Anumber of Spanish academics believe the painting to be Neapolitan. Cecilia Grilli suggested Rombouts. The flute player has the timeless quality of Giorgione or Titian seen through Terbrugghen-like eyes; this eclectic painting still defies an attribution and it may continue to do so.

Muchacho con instrumentos musicales
The Musical Instrument Maker
National Gallery of Athens

The mystery surrounding Cecco's identitiy and origins may never be explained, but perhaps the mystery of his splendid painting in the National Gallery of Athens need not remain impenetrable. At first glance nothing more than a genre scene with vague moralistic connotations, upon closer study by Studio Veritas, the painting in the National Gallery revealed itself to be far more intriguing.
The iconography of the painting has perplexed all scholars. It has been called The Musical Instrument Maker (above), which is odd as there are no tools to indicate that the young man is at work on the making of instruments, neither does his appearance suggest the profession. Salerno entitles a less appealing version that exists in the Wellington Museum London, The Conjuror, referring to the apparent depiction in that painting of an illusionist's trick with a small object disappearing from the hand and appearing in the mouth.
This major compositional variance from the Athens painting is one of several, the comparison of which would constitute a separate study. It should be noted however, that such modifications suggest Cecco intended the two paintings to have related, but individual meanings. In the catalogue entry of the 1971 Cleveland exhibition Caravaggio and his Followers, Richard Spear called the London canvas simply A Musician and does not successfully decipher the iconography.
It is apparent to Studio Veritas, that both the London picture and the Athens painting were meant as allegories. The pose is static and permeated with psychological tension. In the Athens painting, the boy's furrowed brow and troubled eyes are in conflict to the lighthearted act of singing he appears to be engaged in. Rather than singing, perhaps he is advertising his services as an entertainer, or protesting against a too meager reward?
He does not hold the tambourine aloft in a casual gesture, as a practiced musician would. The boy balances it upright between his fingertips, as if it were a trophy. Traditionally, the tambourine is an attribute of Vice personified and herein lies the key to the overall allegorical intention.
The still-life accessories are carefully arranged in the immediate foreground to arrest the spectator's gaze. We must therefore question their significance further than ordinary objects. The violin has no bow and was not meant to be played by our protagonist, unlike the string instruments which appear in Cecco's Musical Angel or his Flute Player. In the portrayal of Virtue and Vice, musical instruments are most often associated with the latter. Here, the violin is a reference to the link between music and immorality, a concept typified by Erato the Muse of love poetry frequently depicted with a tambourine.
The curious cylindrical object in the centre is a traveller's mirror protected by its wooden lid, the lip of which we see reflected. The tilted mirror rests on both a leather pouch and on a round wooden container, lined with blue paper of the type that commonly held sugared sweets and which echoes the form of the mirror. The leather pouch in turn rests on a leather bound book. It is possible the objects on the table do not belong to him; the chair he sits in, is not his own. The scrolls of parchment, the book, the violin, the flask and what seems to be a type of telescope surely belong to a more educated man, the boy's unseen patron. What need of a fine travelling mirror would a young scoundrel have? Has he taken a coin from the gentleman's purse in exchange for a song and in doing so upset the lid of the mirror?
(Raichel Le Goff, copyrights Studio Veritas 1991 at

Woman with a Dove, 1610
Museo del Prado

Famous (and notorious) while he lived, Caravaggio was forgotten almost immediately after his death and it was only in the 20th century that his importance to the development of Western art was rediscovered. Despite this, his influence on the new Baroque style that eventually emerged from the ruins of Mannerism was profound. It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation heavily under his influence were called the "Caravaggisti" or "Caravagesques", as well as Tenebrists or "Tenebrosi" ("shadowists"). Andre Berne-Joffroy, Paul Valéry's secretary, said of him: "What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting."