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The streets are kept remarkably clean, and the houses are generally substantial and well built, but less ornamented with stucco and sculpture, than those of Rome. The public edifices are remarkable rather for massive strength than architectural beauty, looking more like fortresses than palaces, and black with stone and time. There are numerous fountains scattered through the city; but, amidst the abundance of bronze and marble ornaments which they exhibit, the stream of water they pour out is extremely insignificant. The coffee-houses are well served, the favourite ices are made with clean ice taken from the streams, instead of the frozen and dirty snow collected in the mountains, which is used at Rome. In all public places of resort, are seen quantities of beautiful and fragrant flowers, the delight of the Florentines; and men are everywhere met who carry baskets of them, which are offered not only to the ladies, but are presented bunch after bunch, with the most persevering assiduity, to gentlemen who are sipping their coffee, eating their ice-creams, or reading the papers.
While Mr. Peale was in Florence, he had the good fortune to witness the powers of the most celebrated improvisatrice of the day, Rosa Taddei, of Naples. Her performances took place at the principal theatre, two or three times on each occasion, but with intervals of several days:
“ When the curtain rose, the scene was that of a parlour, with an open piano, at which a professor of music was seated. On the entrance of Rosa Taddei, she was greeted with loud applause by her old friends and confiding expectants. She appeared to be about thirty years of age, and, though small, her uncorsetted chest gave ample space for the important action of her powerful lungs. She was dressed as a private lady. Her pale face indicated a studious life, but her fore. head was low and narrow, though her head was broad; her little sunken eye was quick in its movements, and when it looked intently out, to fashion the mea. sure of a thought, was accompanied by a slight contraction of the brow that banished all suspicion of coquetry. Her nose was small, and her mouth would be called ordinary; but when it was about to speak, it quivered delicately with the rising emotion, and varied its expression according to the passion of her discourse.
“A servant now advances to the front of the stage, holding a little casket, destined to received the papers which are handed from different parts of the house, containing subjects proposed for recitation. When about forty of these are received, the casket is placed on a side table. Without reading them she folds and returns them to the casket. This is an operation of some time, and serves to give the appearance of business, and, perhaps, composure to the per. former. Advancing to the side boxes and orchestra, she offers successively to different persons the casket, out of which, each time, a paper is drawn and presented to her. With a grave, deliberate, and emphatic voice she reads the theme proposed. If the subject is hackneyed, dull, or unfit, a lamentable and deep-toned ah! synonymous with our bah! is heard from various parts of the house; on which she tears up the paper with an impressive look, which seems to say—such is your pleasure. When six or seven subjects are approved by the cries of yes, yes, she places them on her side table, selects one, and, advancing to the piano, decides upon a musical harmony, which the professor immediately begins to play, and continues delicately during which she walks in measured steps across the stage backwards and forwards, looking earnestly down, occasionally pausing, sometimes raising her hand to her mouth or forehead. The
crowded bouse is silent as death, and she is only influenced by the measure of the music and the arrangement of ber unseen materials of thought. This being completed, she suddenly advances, and begins with a burst of language, in which she continues with unhesitating volubility and moderate action, occasionally uttering some fine expression that draws forth from experienced critics an approving bravo! It was to be remarked, that as she advanced to the termination of every line, couplet, or stanza, according to the compass of the sentiment, there was a dwelling on the syllables and a monotonous chanting, very much resembling the cadence of a Quaker preacher ; thereby permitting her thoughts to advance and fashion the commencement of the following line, couplet, or stanza, which was always eagerly and expressively pronounced at its commencement, and as regularly terminated in the thought-resolving chant.
“ Among the subjects which she treated, some of which she began with little preparation, were the following:—The discoveries of Galileo and Columbus, and ihe ingratitude of their country ; two Doctors, a Lawyer and Jealous Woman; a Lawyer's Inkhorn ; and a Dialogue between the Dome of St. Peter and the Dome of Florence. This last appeared to perplex her a little, and it was some time before she could fashion it to her mind ; indeed, there was an expectation, from the frequency of her turns across the stage, and her contracted brow, that she would be obliged to acknowledge a failure ; but when she advanced and began in elegant strains to state the difficult nature of the singular task imposed on her, to give tongues to the domes so long silent, and listen to so distant a dialogue between the Duomo, the boast of Florence, and the Dome of St. Peter, suspended in mid air by the divine Buonarotti ; and then with increasing enthusiasm, made them recount, in strains of honourable emulation, the great events of which they had been the witnesses, the delight of the audience knew no bounds in the thundering repetitions of bravo!
“Some of the pieces she composed with terminating words, suggested by acclamation from the audience as she proceeded ; other pieces were so conceived as to introduce a particular word into every stanza, proposed by any voice at its commencement. It was a singular and interesting exhibition, in which a little feeble woman, during a whole evening, could afford the most refined entertainment to a crowded theatre. Such is the homage paid to mental superiority.”
From Florence, Mr. Peale proceeded to Pisa, and thence along the plains or alluvial grounds between the mountains and the Mediterranean, on the road to Genoa. At Carrara, he visited and examined the studios and work-shops, where the various works in the marble of the celebrated quarries are made. This marble is obtained in the ravines of the mountains, from two to five miles distant from the town. It is generally taken from their base, but frequently great masses are tumbled from situations many hundred feet high, to which the labourers are an hour in ascending, and where they work with cords around them, to secure them against the danger of falling. The whitest marble is found only in occasional layers, some at the base of tho mountain is most beautifully so.
On entering Genoa, the streets through which Mr. Peale passed, though of moderate width, presented the appearance of much magnificence, being lined with the palaces of the king and nobles. In other parts he remarked, however, but little of the splendour which would entitle it to be called a city of palaces; the houses are in general plain and high, and the passages of communication wide enough only for persons on foot.
From Genoa, Mr. Peale turned again to the cast, and, crossing the extremitics of the Maratime Alps, passcd through the
broad and beautiful plain which spreads far and wide on either bank of the Po. At Parma, he visited the plain and simple palace where the Empress Maria Louisa resides, and a beautiful new theatre contiguous to it lately built by her; he saw also the more splendid palace once inhabited by Napoleon, which is at the extremity of the city, surrounded by fine gardens, and contains some good frescoes and fine old tapestry. The pictures which crowd the churches, are not, however, in the best style, but the marbles are frequently rich and well wrought.
Bologna presents the singular character of a city composed of streets, lined, with a few exceptions, with arcades, many of which are of lofty and elegant proportions, and the arches supported by stone pillars with handsome bases and capitals, while others are of plastered brick. These long ranges of columnated arcades, impart great elegance to the general aspect of the place. The public square is ornamented by a magnificent fountain, which ranks among the greatest works of John of Bologna. In the gallery of the fine arts are some admirable pictures of Guido, Domenichino, and the Caraccis; and the Pontifical University is attended by a great number of students, while its halls are well filled by an extensive library, and large collections relating to natural science.
From Bologna Mr. Peale proceeded through Ferrara to Venice. His description of the entrance into that celebrated city of the sea, does not offer the glowing picture which novelists and poets have delighted to paint, but perhaps conveys a more correct idea of the reality.
“Early the next morning we beheld the queen of the ocean, at the extremity of the lagune, stretching across, and almost united with the mole of fishermen's dwellings, called Palestrina. The steeples and domes were relieved by an extensive range of gray mountains, rising high in the distance, upon the tops of which the snow was bright with the rising sun. For many miles our boat was towed by another boat with oarsmen. At lengh we reached some old walls and ruin. ous houses, the outskirts of Venice, and passing these, opened into a magnificent barbour, resembling a great river, lined with good houses, and animated by a variety of shipping and boats in motion. Crossing this great harbour, we approached a point of land embellished by a beautiful edifice as the Porto Franco, and then opened into another great but less spacious canal. In front, the singular but beautiful palace of the doges, and the lesser palace of St. Mark were close by, with a fine terrace or wharf extending along the water's edge. As our boat pursued its way to the post-office, down the great serpentine canal or river, the magnificence of the palaces, and their peculiar style of architecture, rich in bold ornaments, balconies, and sculptures, excited us to frequent exclamations of admiration. What must have been their beauty when Venice was in her full glory, and these marble palaces were new or in bright repair ? From many which were built of brick, the plastering was falling off, and others, with broken windows, were uninhabited : yet, as an evidence of renovation, since Venice has been made a free port, we passed a large new edifice, rising from an old foundation, and others undergoing repair.
“'The Gondola, about which so much is said and sung, is a ferry-boat, very much resembling an Indian canoe, floating lightly on the water, and rising pointed at each end, the front being ornamented with a large sharp-edged piece of iron, something like a battle-axe. In the centre are cushioned seats, with an
arched covering of black cloth, where two grown persons and two children may conveniently sit, or, on an emergency, six grown persons may squeeze together, either with open door and side windows, or closed with glass or black Venetian blinds. The boatmen, without a rudder, and only one oar at his right side, stands on the little deck of his narrow stern, and bearing his weight on his oar, which seldom rises out of the water, not only urges the gondola straight onwards, but by dextrous movements, which are practised from infancy, turns it in all directions with surprising facility and accuracy.
“Having reached the post-office, and assorted our baggage, we entered one of these gondolas, and returned to the Hotel de l'Europe, which we had passed on entering the port. I found that the use of one oar produced an unpleasant rocking of the boat, to which those are not subject who employ an additional boatman at the front of the canoe, whose oar, striking simultaneously with the other, at opposite sides, corrects the evil, and it affords the advantage of greater speed when long excursions are to be made. We landed on marble steps rising a few feet out of the water to a vast hall, in which the light gondola, when only for private use, may be deposited ; first divested of its covered chamber, which two men lift off the seats and carry up.
“It had begun to rain before we entered Venice, and a mist obscured the magnificent mountains which we had seen at sun-rise stretching beyond and extending far over the low lands of the adjoining continent. As it cleared up, however, the view from our elevated balcony, of splendid edifices stretching in various directions into the broad expanse of waters, was as delightful as it was novel.”
Mr. Peale remained in Venice, only sufficiently long to make a rapid survey of the works of art which it contains, especially the masterpieces of Titian, Paul Veronese, and Tintoretto, which are found in its palaces and churches. Though the necessity of passing generally along the canals, and the narrowness of the streets which do traverse the city to a much greater extent than is supposed, give a gloominess to Venice, yet the place and arcades of St. Mark offer a gay scene not often surpassed. The leisure and excitement of a Sunday afternoon especially, make them lively with the fashion and curiosity of the city; among which the gay modes of Paris are less to be admired than the fine features and rich complexions of the descendants of those men and women, who have served as models for the glowing pencils of the masters we have named. In the evening, the crowd may be seen still to increase, enjoying the soft mildness of the sea atmosphere, and basking in the blaze of the patent lamplight which attracts them round the coffee-houses; whilst a fine band of military music, stationed in the centre of the place, with music-books and lamps, greatly increases the popular enjoyment at the expense of the government. The grand canal, in length two miles, presents on each side a great number of elegant palaces, intermingled with some ordinary buildings, all in a degree blackened and injured by age and neglect. Some of the palaces of the ancient noble families are in a grand style of architecture, enriched with a profusion of bold sculpture, according to the taste of the times, and the peculiar propensity of the Venitians to this exuberance of decoration.
From Venice Mr. Peale again turned across the peninsula. VOL. IX.-NO. 18.
Passing through Padua, Vicenza, and Verona, he reached Milan, where he visited the celebrated works of art, which however do not seem to be numerous. There, however, he took leave of the arts of Italy, and bent his way towards the Alps. Near the vil. lage of Arona, he saw and inspected the colossal statue of San Carlo Borromeo, which he thus describes.
“It is made of sheet copper, and stands on a pedestal about forty feet high ; and judging by a ladder which was placed at one side, and the proportions of the persons who ascended it, I computed the height of the statue to be about seventy feet. This agrees with the statement of my companions, who ascended under the skirt of his tunic, and climbed the iron bars which united the circumference of the bishop's garment with the brick core that rises through it. The head, they agree, is about eight or nine feet in height, so that only a boy or a very small man can stand in the nose. Yet it is not only a very stupendous, but I think it rather an elegant statue. My companions were amused with the singular animation which they found in the head of the saint, the dark asylum of a vast number of bats, which darted past them to escape out of a trap-door in the neck.”
Crossing the Alps by the route of the Simplon, Mr. Peale reached Geneva, on the 29th of May, and after a short stay, set off for Paris. The dirt and incommodiousness of most of the Italian cities, gave increased enjoyment to his return to the noble quays of Paris, the Boulevards, and the gardens of the Luxembourg, Tuileries, and Palais Royal. After the course, too, which he had made through Italy, it became an object of no little interest to examine the treasures of the Louvre. He acknowledges that the specimens of the Italian painters there preserved, sunk a little in his estimation as he compared them with the best works in the galleries he had visited; but at the same time, he derived increased pleasure from many of the productions of what may be termed the old French school-especially from those of Poussin, Vernet, and Subleyras.
From Paris, he crossed the channel to England. He was astonished at the great improvements of late years in London, especially in the vast amount of buildings and ornamented squares, erected in the place of green fields, and the improvements effected in opening and widening many streets. Regent street, lined with splendid shops and dwellings like palaces, including its circular sweep of fluted cast-iron columns, and connecting St. James's park with the Regent's park, encircled with splendid mansions, he thought perhaps unequalled by any thing of the kind he had seen. Among the artists, he found our countrymen, Leslie and Newton, holding a distinguished rank, and he bears especial testimony, not only to the genius and reputation, but to the urbanity and moral worth of the former.
From London he proceeded to Portsmouth, and embarking there, reached America after an absence of nearly two years, on the last of September, 1830.
We have already remarked, that in this volume a reader is