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- Pictures Every Child Should Know - 4/52 -

_(Madonna of the Sack)_

This picture is a fresco in the cloister of the Annunziata at Florence, and it is called "of the sack" because Joseph is posed leaning against a sack, a book open upon his knees.

Doubtless the model for this Madonna is Andrea del Sarto's abominable wife, but she looks very sweet and simple in the picture. The folds of Mary's garments are beautifully painted, so is the poise of her head, and all the details of the picture except the figure of the child. There is a line of stiffness there and it lacks the softness of many other pictures of the Infant Jesus.


In this picture in the Pitti Palace, Florence, Andrea del Sarto represents all the characters in a serious mood. There are St. John and Elizabeth, Mary and the Infant Jesus, and there is no touch of playfulness such as may be found in similar groups by other artists of the time. Attention is concentrated upon Jesus who seems to be learning from his young cousin. The left hand, resting upon Mary's arm is badly drawn and in character does not seem to belong to the figure of the child. A full, overhanging upper lip is a dominant feature in each face.

Other works of Andrea del Sarto are "Charity," which is in the Louvre; "Madonna dell' Arpie," "A Head of Christ," "The Dead Christ," "Four Saints," "Joseph in Egypt," his own portrait, and "Joseph's Dream."



(Pronounced Meek-el-ahn-jel-o (Bwone-ar-ro'tee)) _Florentine School_ 1475-1564 _Pupil of Ghirlandajo_

This wonderful man did more kinds of things, at a time when almost all artists were versatile, than any other but one. Probably Leonardo da Vinci was gifted in as many different ways as Michael Angelo, and in his own lines was as powerful. This Florentine's life was as tragic as it was restless.

There is a tablet in a room of a castle which stands high upon a rocky mount, near the village of Caprese, which tells that Michael Angelo was born in that place. The great castle is now in ruins, and more than four hundred years of fame have passed since the little child was born therein.

The unhappy existence of the artist seems to have been foreshadowed by an accident which happened to his mother before he was born. She was on horseback, riding with her husband to his official post at Chiusi, for he was governor of Chiusi and Caprese. Her horse stumbled, fell, and badly hurt her. This was two months before Michael Angelo was born, and misfortune ever pursued him.

The father of Angelo was descended from an aristocratic house--the Counts of Canossa were his ancestors--and in that day the profession of an artist was not thought to be dignified. Hence the father had quite different plans for the boy; but the son persisted and at last had his way. When he was still a little child his father finished his work as an official at Caprese and returned to Florence; but he left the little Angelo behind with his nurse. That nurse was the wife of a stonemason, and almost as soon as the boy could toddle he used to wander about the quarries where the stonecutters worked, and doubtless the baby joy of Angelo was to play at chiseling as it is the pleasure of modern babies to play at peg-top. After a time he was sent for to go to Florence to begin his education.

In Florence he fell in with a young chap who, like himself, loved art, but who was fortunate enough already to be apprenticed to the great painter of his time--Ghirlandajo. One happy day this young Granacci volunteered to take Michael Angelo to his master's studio, and there Angelo made such an impression on Ghirlandajo that he was urged by the artist to become his pupil.

All the world began to seem rose coloured to the ambitious boy, and he started his life-work with enthusiasm. At that time he was thirteen years old, full of hope and of love for his kind; but his good fortune did not last long. He had hardly settled to work in Ghirlandajo's studio than his genius, which should have made him beloved, made him hated by his master. Angelo drew superior designs, created new art-ideas, was more clever in all his undertakings than any other pupil--even ahead of his master; and almost at once Ghirlandajo became furiously jealous. This enmity between pupil and master was the beginning of Angelo's many misfortunes.

One day he got into a dispute with a fellow student, Torregiano, who broke his nose. This deformity alone was a tragedy to one like Michael Angelo who loved everything beautiful, yet must go through life knowing himself to be ill-favoured.

In height he was a little man, topped by an abnormally large head which was part of the penalty he had to pay for his talents. He had a great, broad forehead, and an eye that did not gleam nor express the beauty of his creative mind, but was dull, and lustreless, matching his broken, flattened nose. Indeed he was a tragedy to himself. In the "History of Painting" Muther describes his unhappy disposition:

"In his youthful years he never learned what love meant. 'If thou wishest to conquer me,' in old age he addresses love, 'give me back my features, from which nature has removed all beauty.' Whenever in his sonnets he speaks of passion, it is always of pain and tears, of sadness and unrequited longing, never of the fulfilment of his wishes."

Then, too, Michael Angelo had a quarrelsome disposition, and he was harsh in his criticism of others. He hated Leonardo da Vinci more for his great physical beauty than for his genius. He quarreled with most of his contemporaries, never joined the assemblies of his brother artists, but dwelt altogether apart. His was a gloomy and melancholy disposition and he never found relief outside his work.

He was all kinds of an artist--poet, sculptor, architect, painter--and although he worked with the irregularity of true genius, he worked indefatigably when once he began. It is said that when he was making his "David" he never removed his clothing the whole time he was employed upon the work, but dropped down when too exhausted to work more, and slept wherever he fell.

His first flight from the workshop of Ghirlandajo was to the gardens of the great Florentine prince, Lorenzo de' Medici, who had sent to Ghirlandajo for two of his best pupils. He wished them to come to his gardens and study the beautiful Greek statues which ornamented them. The choice fell to Angelo and Granacci. Probably those statues in Lorenzo's garden were the first glimpses of really great art that Michael Angelo ever had. Certain it is that he was overwhelmed with happiness when he was given permission to copy what he would, and at once he fell to work with his chisel. His first work in that garden was upon the head of an old faun; and Lorenzo, walking by, curious to know to what use the lad was putting his opportunity, made a criticism:

"You have made your faun old," he said, "yet you have left all the teeth; at such an age, generally the teeth are wanting."

Angelo had nothing to say and the prince walked on, but when next he came that way, he found that Angelo had broken off two of the faun's teeth; and this recognition of his criticism pleased Lorenzo so much that he invited Angelo to live with him. At first his father objected. He felt himself to be an aristocrat, and sculpture and painting were indeed low occupations for his son, who he had resolved should be nothing less than a silk merchant. Nevertheless, the prince's command, united with the son's pleading, compelled the father to give up his cherished dream of making a merchant of him, and Angelo went to live in the palace.

Then indeed what seemed a beautiful life opened out. He was dressed in fine clothing, dined with princes, and possibly he was grateful to his patron. Some historians say so, and add that when Lorenzo died Angelo wept, and returned sadly to his father's house to mourn, but this tale seems at odds with what else we know of Angelo's unangelic, envious and bitter disposition. It is quite certain, however, that with the death of Lorenzo, Angelo's, fortunes became greatly changed. Another prince followed in line--Pietro de' Medici--but he was a poor thing, who brought little good to anybody. He had small use for Michael Angelo's genius, but it is said that he did give him one commission. After a great storm one day, he asked him to make a snow-man for him, and Angelo obligingly complied. It was doubtless a very beautiful snow-man, but although it was Angelo's it melted in the night, even as if it had been Johnny's or Tommy's snow-man, and left no trace behind.

In Rome there was a high and haughty pope on the throne--Julius II.--who had probably not his match for obstinacy and haughtiness, excepting in the great painter and sculptor. When Angelo went to Rome, he was bound to come in conflict with Julius for it was popes and princes who gave art any reason for being in those days, and the Church prescribed what kind of art should be cultivated. Michael was to come directly under the command of the pope and such a combination promised trouble. Kings themselves had to remove their crowns and hats to Julius, and why not Michael Angelo? Yet there he stood, covered, before the pope, opposing his greatness to that of the pope. Soderini says that Angelo treated the pope as the king of France never would have dared treat him; but Angelo may have known that kings of France might be born and die, times without number, while there would never be born another Michael Angelo. There could be nothing but antagonism between Angelo and Julius, and soon after the artist returned to Florence; but the necessity for following his profession enabled Julius to tame him after all, and it is said that the pope led him back to Rome, later, "with a halter about his neck." This must have been agony to Angelo.

Back in Rome, he was commissioned to make a tomb for the pope. He had no sooner set about the preliminaries--the getting of suitable marble for his work--than he began to quarrel with the men who were to hew it. When that difficulty was settled, and the marble was got out, he had a set-to with the shipowners who were to transport the stone, and that row became so serious that the sculptor was besieged in his own house.

At another and later time, when he was engaged upon the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, he was made to work by force. He accused the man who had built the scaffolding upon which he must stand, or lie, to

Pictures Every Child Should Know - 4/52

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