Lapas attēli

time and leisure to the labour of acquiring the historical knowledge requisite for the investigations which can alone suggest an instructive selection of examples; whilst the pencil of the amateur is never adequate to the principal task of supplying the mass and body of accurate and finished representations, which the architectural student requires. We do not by any means intend to speak disrespectfully of amateur productions : in themselves, they are the source of great and innocent pleasure. The sketch-book affords an excellent antidote against the weariness of the body; and the still more wearying idleness of the mind of the unlucky wight wandering (like too many of our countrymen) without object or end. Such attempts may furthermore have considerable utility as memoranda. They may serve as indications, directing others to the same objects-pay, occasionally they may form pleasing embellishments; but as the materials for any extended or scientific investigation, the performances, tintings, and sketchings of the amateur's portfolio never can supply the place of the productions of the real artist. The degree of proficiency required for making complete and satisfactory architectural drawings, exacting a thorough knowledge of measurement, perspective, and colouring, can only be acquired by such a consumption of time and practice, as is totally incompatible with the duties and occupations of any other active course of life; and the same observation may be extended to every other department of art. It will, of course, often happen that the drawings of the professional artist are slovenly and inaccurate, and it may sometimes chance that those of the amateur are skilful and correct; but, considered as antagonist classes, we may boldly assert that the gentleman's work in the book-plate, bears the same relation to the sketch of the operative draftsman, that the ladies' work' in the · Repository' bears to the genuine caps and shoes of the counter. And we well recollect the placid criticism of the late Charles Stothard, who, when called upon, as in duty bound, to admire the broad and splendid contents of a non-professional portfolio, carefully and respectfully examined the first specimen, and then quietly turned its face downwards, so as to display the cream-white surface of the back, adding the simple remark,' a very fine piece of Bristol board!' Perhaps the late Mr Hope may be an approach to a single exception from the general rule. His natural talent, his opulent leisure, and, above all, his complete devotion to the study of architecture, have placed him at the head of the voluntaries ; but he is not orthodox; he is not on the establishment. His engravings literally swarm with inaccuracies. Pleasing as his outlines are, they only tell you where to look for the original edifices; whilst, if he bad adopted Mr Knight's plan, illustrating his essay by the pencil of a competent artist, his • Historical Essay on Architecture' would have possessed almost unrivalled merit.

Mr Knight, having previously investigated the mediæval antiquities of France and Italy, visited Normandy (which, sor various reasons, must not be considered as France), in 1831, with the views mentioned in this extract :

• The startling dates assigned, by the Norman Society of Antiquaries, to some churches in the pointed style in Normandy, could not but excite considerable surprise and curiosity in other countries. The Society, in their report for the year 1825, depose that churches exist in Normandy, at Coutances, Mortain, and other places, which were built in the eleventh century, and built in the pointed style. It would not have been surprising if France had done nothing more than assert her prior claim to the adoption of the pointed style; but that instances of the complete developement of that style should be found any where of such unsuspected antiquity, was enough to create astonishment.

• Under these circumstances, I determined to cross the water for the sake of inspecting and examining the architectural miracles in question. On so particular an occasion, I resolved not merely to trust to my own judgment, and engaged an architect by profession, Mr Richard Hussey, to be my companion ; that I might have the assistance of a practised eye to examine the construction of the buildings, and a practised hand to delineate their outline.'

Mr Knight having thus diligently surveyed the architecture of the Normans in France and England, and adopted the opinions which we have quoted, his researches instigated him to an undertaking of much more novelty and importance- an account of

their operations in the third scene of their conquest and domi' nion, in the Island of Sicily.' Here a new scene is unfolded,--a scene slightly noticed or inaccurately described by previous travellers; and, from the facts collected by Mr Knight, he deduces the following conclusions :

[ocr errors]

1. That the Normans, adopting the corrupt Roman style, gave it a character of their own.

* 2. That the supposed existence of the pointed style in Normandy in 1056 (i. e., in the case of the cathedral of Coutances), is a pure imagina tion.

3. That the Normans greatly contributed to the advancement of the arts in England.

• 4. That architecture performed exactly the same revolutions in England and France ; France having, in all the changes, a certain precedence. first employed in the eastern part of Sicily, and kept its footing for some time.

65. That in Calabria, where the Normans settled before their acquisition of Sicily, they appear never to have departed from the round, or Romanesque style. The remains of their buildings testify a studious endeavour to imitate the works of the Romans. Until about the conclusion of the eleventh century, this style continued unaltered; and that it appears from various examples, that the same circular or Romanesque style was

. But it is equally clear,' Mr Knight argues, that at and near Palermo, the Normans, from the moment they conquered the island, employed a style totally different from the style which they had adopted any where else ; totally different from the style which had, up to that time, been employed by any nation of Europe; and that, having once adopted this style, they ever afterwards adhered to it in Sicily.'

The 'pointed style,' to which Mr Knight thus alludes, is exemplified in several very remarkable examples, whose characters are to be collected partly from his descriptions, but much more distinctly from the Illustrations which accompany the text. In every respect are these objects most singular. Let the historian of Italy consult them with care; they will reveal to him much more than the mere progress of art; for the fabrics still existing in Sicily form the best commentary upon the pages of the Chroniclers.

Sicily formed a community whose political relations differed from all others of the age. The acquisition of the territory by the Normans, was productive of the smallest possible displacement of the races by whom the island was inhabited, prior to its subjugation. Of these the Greeks were, perhaps, still the most numerous. Whether the descendants of the first Hellenic colonists, or the results of later immigrations, they were still unbroken as a people. Their hierarchy continued its canonical succession; and, if the location of two bishops in one city be incompatible with the unity of the Church, the Latin succession, both there and in Naples, is in a state of irreparable irregularity. Their language flourished ; and such arts as they possessed were cultivated with at least as much success as in the capital of the Eastern einpire. The Saracens experienced from the Normans the same toleration which they had previously exercised. The code of the Roman Emperor, and the precepts of the Arabian Prophet, equally continued to be the law. In public documents the Arabic was employed concurrently with the two great dialects of the Christian world; and the descendants of the Scandinavian conquerors copied the costume and ceremonial of Byzantium; and adopted the luxuries and customs to which the subjects of the Caliphs owed at once their degeneracy and their civilisation. Whatever affinity the constituted government of the “Normans in Sicily' possessed towards the laws and customs of Latin Europe, the spirit of the court, and the life and conversation of the sovereigns, bore a much nearer resemblance to Bagdad or Cordova, than to Westminster or Rouen,

The Arabian traveller might be well justified in not considering himself as a wanderer in an infidel land; and though one portion of the subjects of the Norman William' have annexed the epithet of the Bad' to the sovereign's name, the wailings of the Saracen natrons, as he was borne to the sepulchre, might be well called forth by the remembrance of his mildness and impartiality.

This position of the Normans arose, in the first instance, from absolute necessity. A single fortress, nay a single tower, migbt have contained within its walls the united bands whose steady valour enabled the sons of Guiscard to win the fertile Trinacria. Any attempt to exterminate, or to expel the inhabitants, would have proved fatal to the conquerors ; and, if such a depopulation could have been effected, they would surely bave paused before they exchanged the uncultivated field, the deserted vineyard, and the idle harbour, for the tribute gladly paid by the industrious peasant, and the service rendered by the warlike Emir, wielding the scimetar and darting the javelin as the faithful defender of an infidel sovereign.*

All these circumstances produced a fellowship between the Saracen and Christian mind, which influenced the whole aspect of social life. The splendour of the Saracen buildings calls forth the constant admiration of the ancient Chroniclers; and the fragments still existing at Palermo, or in its vicinity, and upon which Mr Knight grounds his deductions, still exhibit many striking features even in their decay. The first of these edifices is the Ziza:

• A large and very lofty square edifice, built with large ashler stones in regular courses, and neatly put together with very little mortar. Ou the outside there are no original windows, for originally the windows were all turned to the court within; but the exterior is relieved and ornamented with tiers of long-pointed pannels, with two sinkings. Round the summit is a parapet of large stones, placed horizontally, on which is sculptured an inscription in Cuphic characters.

• This building is still inhabitable, and has been so entirely altered, to suit its modern destination, that nothing original is to be seen in the interior, except a fragment of the Arabesque honeycomb in the corner of one of the ceilings. But the great curiosity of the place is an open hall on the ground floor, which is in good preservation, and is an exact counterpart of the luxurious retreats which are so universally seen in Mahomedan countries.

· This hall, connected by a wide segmented arch with an open corridor which stretches along the front, has three recesses—in one of which (the one opposite the arch) is a fountain, of which the waters are conducted in channels across the marble floor. The vaulted part of the recesses is covered with elaborate specimens of that honeycomb work which is so common in the Alhambra. The walls are enriched with mosaics ; the floor, which is much worn, has been inlaid.

* Mr Knight's history of the conquest of Sicily furnishes the authorities for our text. It is clearly told, but we have no space for quotations.

• There are inscriptions, in Cuphic characters, on the walls of the corridor, on each side of the arch.

This hall is not the less curious for having been worked upon by the Normans ;-in consequence of which it now exhibits the blended performances of the two nations-Norman and Saracenic ornaments side by side.

• The Norman additions are small marble pillars, and mosaics. The pillars, which are introduced at the angles and at intervals along the walls, have foliage capitals, with animals intermixed. The Norman mosaics represent huntsmen and peacocks, as at the Palazzo Reale; but the lowest band of mosaics, which goes round the hall, is a repetition of flowers, and so entirely Arabesque in its character, that either it must have been a part of the original work, or copied from Saracenic designs.

The other examples are found in the Cuba and its adjoining buildings. Cuba,' says Mr Knight, is derived from the Arabic · Cubat, which signifies a vault, or vaulted work. The root will be easily recognised in the term Alcove,' which we have borrowed at second-hand from the Arabs, through the medium of the Spanish; whilst the etymologist might fill volumes with the cognate terms xubn, xupos, cupa, kopf, cap, cup, cope, cover, quiver, &c., all flowing from the same radicals of concavity.


· La Cuba is a lofty oblong edifice, built round a court, with a square projection in the centre of each external side. It is constructed of large ashler stones, well put together. The outside is ornamented with the same pointed pannels ; and there is the same parapet at the top, covered with Cuphic inscriptions. In the court within is a recess, of which the vault is ornamented with the Moorish honeycomb.

· La Cuba was originally surrounded with gardens, in which were an immense fish-pond and various pavilions. Fazellus, in the first book of his' Decade, describes the past glories of the gardens in the following words:

1 - Attached to the palace was a park or enclosure, about two miles in circumference, within which were delightful gardens. Within the enclosure were a number of vaulted pavilions, open on all sides, for the pleasure of the prince; of which one remains entire lo this day. In the midst of the garden was an immense fish-pond, of which the sides were composed of very large square stones, and were of a vast thickness. These walls are still in a perfect state. Over this fish-pond impended, as it were, the palace, built for the delight of the prince, round whose summit Cuphic characters are seen, of which I have not been able to obtain any interpretation.

· The " vaulted pavilion” still exists entire, and is perhaps the most curious, as well as most genuine vestige of the Saracens, which is to be seen in the neighbourhood of Palermo. It stands in a walled garden on the contrary side of the modern road. It is entirely built of ashler stone,

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »