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THE AMBROSIAN CODEX OF HOMER, WITH ANCIENT PAINTINGS,
The celebrated and indefatigable an abundant treasure of Oriental masuperintendant of the Ambrosian Li- nuscripts. brary at Milan, published about two But the greatest accession which years since, a work of the utmost it received arose from the stores of interest to the admirers of classical the Pinelli ary, formed Padua literature and art, entitled, “ Iliadis by Giovanni Vincenzio Pinelli, beFragmenta Antiquissima, cum Pic- tween the years 1558 and 1601. turis, item Scholia Vetera ad Odys- The history of this celebrated colseam; edente Angelo Maio, Ambro- lection may be briefly told: immesiani Collegii Doctore, &c. Mediol. diately after the death of its founder Regiis Typis, MDCCCXIX.” It it was plundered of many hundred forms a thick folio volume, illustrat- manuscripts, partly by treacherous ed by fifty-eight outline engravings, individuals, and partly by the anxiety and a specimen of the original manu- of the Venetian senate, from whose script; together with a fragment in archives Pinelli had amassed conuncial letters, and short critical ob- siderable stores. The remainder of servations. In the second division the collection was sent by sea to of the work are contained the Scho- Naples, where Pinelli's heirs residlia on the Odyssey, collected from ed; one of the three vessels aboard various Codices in the Ambrosian which they were freighted, was Library.
foundered in the voyage; and out It is not our intention in this ar- of the thirty-three cases which it ticle to notice the literary part of the contained, only twenty-two were volume, but to confine our attention rescued from the waves. Thus reto the embellishments alone: for the duced in bulk, the collection resake, however, of its connexion with mained at Naples, until the whole our present purpose, and on account was purchased of Pinelli's heirs by of its general interest, we shall select, Cardinal Borromeo, and by him refrom the Introduction to the work, moved to Milan. some remarks relative to the origin, Among these manuscripts was the condition, &c. of the Codex itself, Codex of Homer. It is a quarto voand likewise the paintings which it lume of not quite sixty vellum leaves; contains.
on the obverse of each of which is After some observations of a ge- a painting of some subject from the neral nature, the author informs us Iliad; and on the reverse, which is as to the manner in which the Am- lined with a paper manufactured brosian Library became enriched from cotton, are some arguments of with so many manuscript treasures. the rhapsodies, and Scholia. The Cardinal Frederigo Borromeo, who editor asserts confidently, that this spared neither pains nor expence in Codex was originally much larger, order to form in Milan a permanent and contained the entire Iliad, and seat of the liberal arts and sciences, many more paintings; but that, in caused manuscripts to be collected consequence of the unwieldy bulk from every part of the world. For of the volume, the poem was cut not merely Italy, Germany, the Ne- out, and merely the embellishments therlands, France, and Spain were suffered to remain; so that now no explored to this end by literary men, more remains of the former than but Greece was likewise carefully what happened to be written on the ransacked; so that manuscripts found backs of the paintings. These lattheir way to Milan from Corcyra, ter, and such parts of the manuCephalonia, Zacynthus, Crete, Chios, script as are written in the ancient Macedonia, and Epirus. Byzan- square charac.er, are referred by tlre tium, the coasts of Asia, Syria, and editor to the fourth or fifth century; Palestine-nay, even Babylon and but the more recent portion, namely, Africa -- were obliged to contribute to that on the paper pasted on the velthis collection; and hence it is that lum to the thirteenth. Considerable the Ambrosian Library possesses such difficulty attended the preparing these
ill-preserved and frail fragments for the colours; as he does likewise the publication : care and perseverance, general correctness of the proporhowever, accomplished this desirable tions. The artist has delineated object. It was necessary, first of all, gods and heroes in an ample style: to detach the paper from the vellum, but he had not always adhered to (which was done without injury,) and consistency, for the same personage to collate the Scholia; then the frag- appears sometimes with, and somements of the poem itself were obliged times without a beard, and not alto be transcribed, and the various ways in the same costume. It is readings carefully attended to ; last- to be regretted, that we are not more ly, the paintings remained to be co- fully informed as to the colouring, and pied; which, notwithstanding the dif- mechanical execution, of the original ficulties, arising from their mutilated designs; for as to the drawing, the condition, had been done with the outlines themselves supply us with greatest exactitude and success, by a all that is necessary on that head. very competent artist, named Ema- He does not assert that these copies nuel Schott: who has executed them are in every respect similar to the in outline, on precisely the same scale originals; but he advises us to reas the originals.
gard these Homeric paintings as Before he proceeds to the descrip- equal to those in the Vatican Virgil, tion of these illustrations, the editor which are of about the same date. notices the riches of the Ambrosian After this we are informed minuteLibrary in larger paintings and draw- ly of the manner in which the gods, ings of celebrated masters; which, priests, heroes, &c. are represented although not relevant to our present in these Homeric pictures. This purpose, is exceedingly interesting. does not admit of abridgement; and
The paintings which serve as em- were we to enter into the details it bellishments to the Codex cannot be would carry us too far; we, thereextolled very highly, as accurate or fore, the rather proceed to an exabeautiful representations; one may mination of the plates themselves. perceive in them the decline of the Both the drawing and the costume art; at the same time, they bear the remind us of the later Roman æra: evident stamp and impress of high the Grecian and Trojan heroes are antiquity. Their execution is very represented in the Roman military simple : the outline is first traced dress, except that the latter genewith a pale ink, after which the co- rally wear the Phrygian bonnet, and lours are laid on with a pencil—these the former helmets. Achilles is alare cinnabar, white-lead, red-ochre, most uniformly represented as half ultramarine, purple, green, . hya- naked ; Ulysses with a seaman's boncinth, violet, glass-green, yellow, net and tunic. As to the female and dark-brown. * The cinnabar is figures, they are all dressed. The used very unsparingly. In many in- usual characteristics of ancient art are stances the figures are only partially to be recognized in the divinities, or incompletely coloured; and the who are distinguished from the other accessories are but very superficially characters by a nimbus round the treated. Corrections are occasionally head. With regard to the drawing, to be detected, for in such places it is to be observed, that the prothe colours have been laid one above portions are rather short, and the the other. The editor does not in- heads somewhat too large. form us very explicitly in what man- There is, however, neither stiffness ner the originals are shadowed, whe- nor dryness in the figures; but they ther forcibly or not; but he com- are certainly very defective, in whatmends the union and transition of ever regards motion and attitude.
As the meanings of some of the Latin terms employed by the author are rather disputable, and not very precisely ascertained or agreed upon, we subjoin them here as he has given them: Minium, cerussa, rubrica, armenium, purpurissum, appianum, tincturæ hyacinthinæ, violaceæ, hyalinæ, crocæ, furvæ. We would refer the reader to Stieglitz' treatise on the Piginents employed by the Greeks and Romans.
“ Ueber die Malerfarbea der Griechen und Romer."
275 The chief characters, such as deities out. Where nothing is introduced or heroes, are uniformly larger than to point out the scene, there is only the rest—and in the battle scenes, the plane upon which the figures the dead and wounded are delineated stand, which is indicated by a shaof but half the size of those who are dowed line: but no appearance of fighting: similar proportions too are either fore or hack ground. observed, wherever persons of less The Editor concludes his introducrank are placed beside heroes. Gods, tion by expressing a wish that some when represented as being in the splendid work may be executed, clouds, are either larger or smaller comprising all the Homeric producthan the other figures, just as the tions, and containing whatever may space, in which they are introduced, tend to illustrate these immortal would permit. In general, no more works. For this purpose, the text is seen of them than the bust which should be taken from the best and projects above an horizontal cloud. oldest manuscripts, and accompanied In the sacrifice of Achilles, the head by all the various readings, and all of Jupiter is shown within a circle.- the Greek scholia. In addition to Little commendation can in general which, there ought to be a Greek be bestowed upon the grouping—the paraphrase, and every treatise in figures are at one time too much that language, relating to the sub-. scattered; at another, too much ject of Homer: these should also crowded together and confused; for, be succeeded by the best modern in this respect, the artist appears to disquisitions, biographies of the anhave resigned himself entirely to his cient bard, and a complete index to own caprices. Of perspective, there the whole work. By way too of giving is hardly a single trace; the remoter integrity and completeness to this imfigures being sometimes larger than mense cycle of erudition, all the works those which are in the foreground. of sculpture and painting ought to In the style and folds of the drapery, be delineated, which have been taken on the contrary, we may easily re- from the Homeric compositions. cognize the taste and practice of the Such a stupendous and compreRoman artists; it being treated with hensive undertaking will not, it is freedom and lightness, and not un- probable, ever be completely exefrequently displaying a knowledge cuted, on the scale and to the extent of, and feeling for beauty: it might here proposed; yet it may be gratitherefore almost be imagined that fying to the admirers of the ancient the artist copied it from some models bard, and to Dilettanti in general, to of an older and better period. Much know that an entire series of Tischhowever depends upon the manner bein's Illustrations of Homer are, in which the draperies are shadowed now engraving, and will be accomin the originals; for it is not improba- panied with explanatory and descripble that the arrangement of the folds tive letter press. This work, which appears to far greater advantage is to be published by Cotta of Tubiwhen beheld in mere outline, than it ringen, will doubtless form a very indoes in the originals: and this cir- teresting and productive mine to those cumstance is an additional reason for who admire classical and antiquarian our concluding that the painter had research-for the previous labours of purer models before his eyes, although M. Tischbein, an artist who has disit appears that he did not compre- tinguished himself by the zeal with hend them.
which he has explored the most reIn the back grounds, no more is condite stores of mythology and of inserted than is absolutely necessary: art, entitle us to indulge in such exand even that is but slightly marked pectations.
A NEW OPERA, BY ROSSINI;
Naples, Dec. 12, 1820. A new Opera from the prolific borate songs—for choruses-for repen of Rossini, was lately brought hearsal ? - What, in short, could be out at the Grand Neapolitan theatre expected, but that the Opera would of San Carlo, and met with the sin- be presented to the public in an ungular fate, which has at first attended finished, imperfect condition? To a the greater part of this eminently public, too, be it remembered, which successful author's works-viz. that has long bestowed its main attention of being very coldly received. This upon this subject, and has become circumstance excites much surprise one of the most nice, and critical, among the composer's friends: it and expert, to which a composer's illcertainly seems strange that the luck could consign him: a public, same Opera, which, on its first re- moreover, which knows so well the presentation, was received with dis- powers of Rossini, that it will be approbation or neglect, should after contented with nothing from him a few nights so rise in estimation short of first-rate excellence. as to draw down thunders of ap- To this it may be added, that the plause, and be retailed in arias, duos, composer must sometimes give way trios, &c. by all the dilettanti sing- to his artists and his material. One ers, fiddlers, and other musical singer has, perhaps, astonishing comworkmen throughout the whole city! pass,-another, amazing flexibility; The fact is quoted by one, as an in- singers love to be accommodated, stance of the had taste of the and have been sometimes known to Neapolitans; by another, as the prefer the difficult and the surpriseffect of envious opposition ; while ing, to the chaste, the grand, or the a third, rejecting both those opinions, beautiful. It must be granted, also, shrewdly ascribes it to a declining that it would be of no use to employ taste for operatic entertainment; and a hundred and fifty performers, if each continues to vent his spleen, they were not sometimes suffered, according to his humour, until the “ little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch, ultimate success of his favourite and Sweetheart," to sing together;. appeases his discontent.
and further, for we must speak the But has any one detected the true truth, we do very strongly suspect cause of this unpleasant circum- they have been lately employing stance? Perhaps not.—Rossini, like themselves here in cleaning out the many other men of genius, passes his trumpets and putting new parchtime between lapses of idleness and ment on the drums !- Thus, with struggles of exertion : his work is the assistance of hints from one, and unthought of, or neglected, until he directions from another, a work is is spurred on by circumstances; produced, incumbered with monthen he rouses himself, and labours, strous excrescences, and adventitious as a daily task, on that which he defects: the caustic of public opishould never touch but in the glow- nion, however, is applied—the exing hour of inspiration. We called crescences disappear, the redundant upon him on the Friday evening, shrinks, and the meagre gains imthat is to say, on the first of this portance ;--polish, and general effect, month, and found him still engaged succeed to roughness, and bursts of on his work, with twenty unfilled expression ;—the master breaks out scores before him, surrounded by from his auxiliaries;-our ears drink Donnas and Signors, chattering pret- in his sublime, or tender, or airy ty nothings, harassed by interrup- strains,-anu they haunt our memory tion, and worn out with fatigue. as long as their beauty is new; or The copyists had still to make oui rather, in proportion to the vigour their duplicates; and what time of our own musical imagination. would then remain for the instru- But let us draw a little closer to ments to practise their difficult and our friend Maometto. -Of the poetry complicated parts—for the singers to we shall say nothing; of the plot, study their long recitatives and ela- only enough to render intelligible our remarks on the music. The Sultan,' could not overpower the drums. We Mahomet the Second, attacks the city wished the Orchestra would let us. of Negropont, commanded by the Ve hear a little more of the song, netian General, Erisso. The besieged
Quando ogni speme è tolsa ; are reduced to great straits; but the
Ciccimarra was almost lost among public distress does not overcome
his instrumental assistants. Cornelli, the passion of the gallant Calbo, for too youthful and too pretty for a Anna, the daughter of his chief.
warrior, delighted us with her graceThe father, Erisso, approves
of Calbo ful figure and her grand voice (which for his son-in-law; but the lady's few can excel in compass or power), affections have been engaged by a in a bold martial song, mysterious lover, of whom we are
Guerrier che parli ? told nothing but that his name is Uberto, and
that she had seen him at It contains flights, which are raVenice. Treachery introduces the ther too long, and leaps intervals, Turkish soldiery into the city. A which are rather too wide; but the few of the besieged retreat to a rock, air is very beautiful, the singer very where they defend themselves; but expert, and the accompaniment exErisso and Calbo are taken prisoners, cellent. after the father has given to his The prelude to the second scene is daughter a dagger, which he recom- very mournful and tender, and premends her to use, rather than sub- pared us for a sweet aria, which was mit to dishonour. The Sultan offers sung by the Prima Donna, Madame their lives to these Venetian warriors, Colbran; a low and solemn murmur on condition of their betraying into of instruments accompanied it, from his power the few soldiers who still which the clarionet alone escaped in maintain resistance: of course, they melancholy arpeggios. A recitative contemn the proposal, and are about in dialogue follows, of which we reto be led off to torture, when Anna member nothing; but we shall not enters, and Mahomet turns out to be
soon forget the trio, Ubert, who has played the renegade
Ohimè ! qual fulmine to good purpose! He offers marriage
Per me fu questo! to his old sweetheart, but she upbraids him with his apostacy from nelli, and Nozzari, in turn, take up
It is really superb. Colbran, Cora his God. Much bustle and fighting the subject, which is rather
elaborate, take place; Anna performs a noble and is converted into a fine fugue part,--but is ultimately reduced to toward the close. A dialogue follows, the necessity of stabbing herself at which is happily broken off by an the foot of her mother's tomb. Such is the story.
awful burst of cannon.
In the next The dresses were splendid ; the scenery indiffer
scene, a prayer addressed by Anna ent; and the acting contemptible. crowd of kneeling women, drew our
to heaven, for help, and echoed by a Let us now examine the music. The attention by its simplicity, energy, overture commences with a few mournful notes, followed by a fine, of this scene is beautiful; but, when
and devotional character. The whole delicate pianissimo movement; but shall we stop, if we attempt to point very soon the londer instruments break in; volumes of sound roll to
out every thing that is so in this and fro, and it concludes in a mag
Opera! At the words nificent swell, as the curtain rises.
O cara, Erisso appears seated on a throne,
Prendi il pugnal, surrounded by his captains, and glit- such a divine effect was produced by tering with theatrical finery! A the accompaniment's being gergrand chorus commences the per- mane to the matter,” and by the due formance, and a very novel and ele- subordination of the instruments to gant effect is produced by some little the voice, that it made us deeply renotes, which are distinctly heard to gret that Rossini should ever sacrifice drop from the octave flutes to the sense to sound, and seek, by unmeanclarionets, bassoons, and double- ing violence, to " catch the ears of the basses. A long recitative follows, groundlings." There is an air here, and the chorus replies; but the re- which savours strongly of the Prima citative is rather dull, and the chorus Donna ; but let it pass: the choru Vol. III.