woensdag 22 april 2015

Elizabeth Butler -- 23 april 1900

Elizabeth Butler (1846-1933) was een Britse kunstenares. Haar reisdagboek From sketch-book and diary is te lezen Gutenberg.

“23rd April 1900.—All day ‘on the wander’ through ripe old Perugia. A silent city, full of memories, brimming over with history, lapped in Art! Everywhere the flowering fruit-trees showed over the brown walls, the sunshine fell pleasantly on the masses of old unfinished brickwork and lent them a charm which on a wet day must vanish and leave them in a grim severity. Quiet tone everywhere; no ornament in the Roman sense, but here and there exquisite bits of carving and detail such as one can only find in the flat-surfaced Italian Gothic which is here seen in its very home. How that flat surface of blank wall spaces and the horizontal tendency of the design suit the Italian light. Architecture may well be placed as the most important of the Arts. It adds, if beautiful, to nature’s beauty, showing the height to which the human hand may dare to rise so as to join hands with the Divine Architect Himself. How it can disgrace His work we have only too many opportunities of judging!

“We visited my well-loved church of San Pietro, that treasure-house left undespoiled by the Italian Government—safeguarded, not as a place of worship—let that be well understood—but as ‘an Art Monument.’ So its pictures and carvings are left in the places their authors intended them for and not nailed up stark and shivering in a cold, staring museum, like the poor altar pieces and modest bits of delicate carving that have been wrenched from their life-long homes in so many churches throughout this country. True, in the museum the light is good, far better for showing the artist’s work than the ‘dim religious light’ of a church. But the painter knew all about the bad light, and still painted his picture for such and such an altar, not to his own glory, but to the glory of God.

“As we were passing once more the rich-toned Duomo and Nicola Pisano’s lovely fountain that stands before it, we saw the fountain suddenly surrounded by an eruption of Bersaglieri, who woke the echoes of that erst-while silent Piazza with their songs and chaff. They were on manœuvres and were halting here for the day. Shedding heavy hats and knapsacks, they had run down to fill their canteens and water-barrels. Toujours gais are the Bersaglieri, and a very pretty sight it was to see those good-looking healthy lads in their red fatigue fezes unbending in this picturesque manner. In the evening they were off again with the fanfaronade of their massed trumpets spurring their pas gymnastique to the farthest point of swagger, and Perugia returned to its repose.

The Bersaglieri at the fountain, Perugia

“We strolled about the streets by the light of the moon and felt the silence of those narrow ways. Now a cat would run into the light and disappear into blackness; a man in a cloak would emerge from a dark alley, as it were at the back of a stage, and, coming forward into the moonlight of an open space, look ready to begin a tenor love-song to an overhanging balcony (the lady not yet to the fore)—the opening scene in an opera after the overture of the Bersaglieri trumpets. Assuredly this was old Italy. The one modern touch is a very lovely one. In place of the old and rank olive-oil lamps of my first visit, burning at street corners under the little holy images and in the recesses of the wine-shops, there are drops of exquisite electric light. Thank goodness, the hideous interval of gas is nearing its extinction in Italy and the blessed ‘white coal’ which this country can generate so cheaply by her abundant water-power, will e’er very long become the agent of her machine-driven industries and illuminate with soft radiance her gracious cities. I think the Via Nuova at Genoa, that street of palaces, glowing in the light of those great electric globes, swung across from side to side, is a quite splendid bit of modernity, for which I tender the Genoese my hearty thanks. ‘Grazie, Signori!’”

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