Signor Formica, by E. T. A. Hoffmann


By Salvator Rosa’s intervention Antonio Scacciati attains to a high honour. Antonio discloses the cause of his persistent trouble to Salvator, who consoles him and promises to help him.

And Antonio’s words proved true. The simple but salutary remedies of Father Boniface, the careful nursing of good Dame Caterina and her daughters, the warmer weather which now came — all cooperated so well together with Salvator’s naturally robust constitution that he soon felt sufficiently well to think about work again; first of all he designed a few sketches which he thought of working out afterwards.

Antonio scarcely ever left Salvator’s room; he was all eyes when the painter drew out his sketches; whilst his judgment in respect to many points showed that he must have been initiated into the secrets of art.

“See here,” said Salvator to him one day, “see here, Antonio, you understand art matters so well that I believe you have not merely cultivated your excellent judgment as a critic, but must have wielded the brush as well.”

“You will remember,” rejoined Antonio, “how I told you, my dear sir, when you were just about coming to yourself again after your long unconsciousness, that I had several things to tell you which lay heavy on my mind. Now is the time for me to unfold all my heart to you. You must know then, that though I am called Antonio Scacciati, the chirurgeon, who opened the vein in your arm for you, I belong also entirely to art — to the art which, after bidding eternal farewell to my hateful trade, I intend to devote myself for once and for all.”

“Ho! ho!” exclaimed Salvator, “Ho! ho! Antonio, weigh well what you are about to do. You are a clever chirurgeon, and perhaps will never be anything more than a bungling painter all your life long; for, with your permission, as young as you are, you are decidedly too old to begin to use the charcoal now. Believe me, a man’s whole lifetime is scarce long enough to acquire a knowledge of the True — still less the practical ability to represent it.”

“Ah! but, my dear sir,” replied Antonio, smiling blandly, “don’t imagine that I should now have come to entertain the foolish idea of taking up the difficult art of painting had I not practised it already on every possible occasion from my very childhood. In spite of the fact that my father obstinately kept me away from everything connected with art, yet Heaven was graciously pleased to throw me in the way of some celebrated artists. I must tell you that the great Annibal1 interested himself in the orphan boy, and also that I may with justice call myself Guido Reni’s2 pupil.”

“Well then,” said Salvator somewhat sharply, a way of speaking he sometimes had, “well then, my good Antonio, you have indeed had great masters, and so it cannot fail but that, without detriment to your surgical practice, you must have been a great pupil. Only I don’t understand how you, a faithful disciple of the gentle, elegant Guido, whom you perhaps outdo in elegance in your own pictures — for pupils do do those sort of things in their enthusiasm — how you can find any pleasure in my productions, and can really regard me as a master in the Art.”

At these words, which indeed sounded a good deal like derisive mockery, the hot blood rushed into the young man’s face.

“Oh, let me lay aside all the diffidence which generally keeps my lips closed,” he said, “and let me frankly lay bare the thoughts I have in my mind. I tell you, Salvator, I have never honoured any master from the depths of my soul as I do you. What I am amazed at in your works is the sublime greatness of conception which is often revealed You grasp the deepest secrets of Nature: you comprehend the mysterious hieroglyphics of her rocks, of her trees, and of her waterfalls, you hear her sacred voice, you understand her language, and possess the power to write down what she has said to you. Verily I can call your bold free style of painting nothing else than writing down. Man alone and his doings does not suffice you; you behold him only in the midst of Nature, and in so far as his essential character is conditioned by natural phenomena; and in these facts I see the reason why you are only truly great in landscapes, Salvator, with their wonderful figures. Historical painting confines you within limits which clog your imagination to the detriment of your genius for reproducing your higher intuitions of Nature.”

“That’s talk you’ve picked up from envious historical painters,” said Salvator, interrupting his young companion; “like them, Antonio, you throw me the choice bone of landscape-painting that I may gnaw away at it, and so spare their own good flesh. Perhaps I do understand the human figure and all that is dependent upon it. But this senseless repetition of others’ words”——

“Don’t be angry,” continued Antonio, “don’t be angry, my good sir; I am not blindly repeating anybody’s words, and I should not for a moment think of trusting to the judgment of our painters here in Rome at any rate. Who can help greatly admiring the bold draughtsmanship, the powerful expression, but above all the living movement of your fingers? It’s plain to see that you don’t work from a stiff, inflexible model, or even from a dead skeleton form; it is evident that you yourself are your own breathing, living model, and that when you sketch or paint, you have the figure you want to put on your canvas reflected in a great mirror opposite to you.”

“The devil! Antonio,” exclaimed Salvator, laughing, “I believe you must often have had a peep into my studio when I was not aware of it, since you have such an accurate knowledge of what goes on within.”

“Perhaps I may,” replied Antonio; “but let me go on. I am not by a long way so anxious to classify, the pictures which your powerful mind suggests to you as are those pedantic critics who take such great pains in this line. In fact, I think that the word ‘landscape,’ as generally employed, has but an indifferent application to your productions; I should prefer to call them historical representations in the highest sense of the word. If we fancy that this or the other rock or this or the other tree is gazing at us like a gigantic being with thoughtful earnest eyes, so again, on the other hand, this or the other group of fantastically attired men resembles some remarkable stone which has been endowed with life; all Nature, breathing and moving in harmonious unity, lends accents to the sublime thought which leapt into existence in your mind. This is the spirit in which I have studied your pictures, and so in this way it is, my grand and noble master, that I owe to you my truer perceptions in matters of art. But pray don’t imagine that I have fallen into childish imitation. However much I would like to possess the free bold pencil that you possess, I do not attempt to conceal the fact that Nature’s colours appear to me different from what I see them in your pictures. Although it is useful, I think, for the sake of acquiring technique, for the pupil to imitate the style of this or that master, yet, so soon as he comes to stand in any sense on his own feet, he ought to aim at representing Nature as he himself sees her. Nothing but this true method of perception, this unity with oneself, can give rise to character and truth. Guido shared these sentiments; and that fiery man Preti,3 who, as you are aware, is called Il Calabrese — a painter who certainly, more than any other man, has reflected upon his art — also warned me against all imitation. Now you know, Salvator, why I so much respect you, without imitating you.”

Whilst the young man had been speaking, Salvator had kept his eyes fixed unchangeably upon him; he now clasped him tumultuously to his heart.

“Antonio,” he then said, “what you have just now said are wise and thoughtful words. Young as you are, you are nevertheless, so far as the true perception of art is concerned, a long way ahead of many of our old and much vaunted masters, who have a good deal of stupid foolish twaddle about their painting, but never get at the true root of the matter. Body alive, man! When you were talking about my pictures, I then began to understand myself for the first time, I believe; and because you do not imitate my style — do not, like a good many others, take a tube of black paint in your hand, or dab on a few glaring colours, or even make two or three crippled figures with repulsive faces look up from the midst of filth and dirt, and then say, ‘There’s a Salvator for you!’— just for these very reasons I think a good deal of you. I tell you, my lad, you’ll not find a more faithful friend than I am — that I can promise you with all my heart and soul.”

Antonio was beside himself with joy at the kind way in which the great painter thus testified to his interest in him. Salvator expressed an earnest desire to see his pictures. Antonio took him there and then to his studio.

Salvator had in truth expected to find something fairly good from the young man who spoke so intelligently about art, and who, it appeared, had a good deal in him; but nevertheless he was greatly surprised at the sight of Antonio’s fine pictures. Everywhere he found boldness in conception, and correctness in drawing; and the freshness of the colouring, the good taste in the arrangement of the drapery, the uncommon delicacy of the extremities, the exquisite grace of the heads, were all so many evidences that he was no unworthy pupil of the great Reni. But Antonio had avoided this master’s besetting sin of an endeavour, only too conspicuous, to sacrifice expression to beauty. It was plain that Antonio was aiming to reach Annibal’s strength, without having as yet succeeded.

Salvator spent some considerable time of thoughtful silence in the examination of each of the pictures. Then he said, “Listen, Antonio: it is indeed undeniable that you were born to follow the noble art of painting. For not only has Nature endowed you with the creative spirit from which the finest thoughts pour forth in an inexhaustible stream, but she has also granted you the rare ability to surmount in a short space of time the difficulties of technique. It would only be false flattery if I were to tell you that you had yet advanced to the level of your masters, that you are yet equal to Guido’s exquisite grace or to Annibal’s strength; but certain I am that you excel by a long way all the painters who hold up their heads so proudly in the Academy of St. Luke4 here — Tiarini,5 Gessi,6 Sementa,7 and all the rest of them, not even excepting Lanfranco8 himself, for he only understands fresco-painting. And yet, Antonio, and yet, if I were in your place, I should deliberate awhile before throwing away the lancet altogether, and confining myself entirely to the pencil That sounds rather strange, but listen to me. Art seems to be having a bad time of it just now, or rather the devil seems to be very busy amongst our painters now-a-days, bravely setting them together by the ears. If you cannot make up your mind to put up with all sorts of annoyances, to endure more and more scorn and contumely in proportion as you advance in art, and as your fame spreads to meet with malicious scoundrels everywhere, who with a friendly face will force themselves upon you in order to ruin you the more surely afterwards — if you cannot, I say, make up your mind to endure all this — let painting alone. Think of the fate of your teacher, the great Annibal, whom a rascally band of rivals malignantly persecuted in Naples, so that he did not receive one single commission for a great work, being everywhere rejected with contempt; and this is said to have been instrumental in bringing about his early death. Think of what happened to Domenichino9 when he was painting the dome of the chapel of St. Januarius. Didn’t the villains of painters — I won’t mention a single name, not even the rascals Belisario10 and Ribera11 — didn’t they bribe Domenichino’s servant to strew ashes in the lime? So the plaster wouldn’t stick fast on the walls, and the painting had no stability. Think of all that, and examine yourself well whether your spirit is strong enough to endure things like that, for if not, your artistic power will be broken, and along with the resolute courage for work you will also lose your ability.”

“But, Salvator,” replied Antonio, “it would hardly be possible for me to have more scorn and contumely to endure, supposing I took up painting entirely and exclusively, then I have already endured whilst merely a chirurgeon. You have been pleased with my pictures, you have indeed! and at the same time declared from inner conviction that I am capable of doing better things than several of our painters of the Academy. But these are just the men who turn up their noses at all that I have industriously produced, and say contemptuously, ‘Do look, here’s our chirurgeon wants to be a painter!’ And for this very reason my resolve is only the more unshaken; I will sever myself from a trade that grows with every day more hateful. Upon you, my honoured master, I now stake all my hopes. Your word is powerful; if you would speak a good word for me, you might overthrow my envious persecutors at a single blow, and put me in the place where I ought to be.”

“You repose great confidence in me,” rejoined Salvator. “But now that we thoroughly understand each other’s views on painting, and I have seen your works, I don’t really know that there is anybody for whom I would rather take up the cudgels than for you.”

Salvator once more inspected Antonio’s pictures, and stopped before one representing a “Magdalene at the Saviour’s feet,” which he especially praised.

“In this Magdalene,” he said, “you have deviated from the usual mode of representation. Your Magdalene is not a thoughtful virgin, but a lovely artless child rather, and yet she is such a marvellous child that hardly anybody else but Guido could have painted her. There is a unique charm in her dainty figure; you must have painted with inspiration; and, if I mistake not, the original of this Magdalene is alive and to be found in Rome. Come, confess, Antonio, you are in love!”

Antonio’s eyes sought the ground, whilst he said in a low shy voice, “Nothing escapes your penetration, my dear sir; perhaps it is as you say, but do not blame me for it. That picture I set the highest store by, and hitherto I have guarded it as a holy secret from all men’s eyes.”

“What do you say?” interrupted Salvator. “None of the painters here have seen your picture?”

“No, not one,” was Antonio’s reply.

“All right then, Antonio,” continued Salvator, his eyes sparkling with delight “Very well then, you may rely upon it, I will overwhelm your envious overweening persecutors, and get you the honour you deserve. Intrust your picture to me; bring it to my studio secretly by night, and then leave all the rest to me. Will you do so?”

“Gladly, with all my heart,” replied Antonio. “And now I should very much like to talk to you about my love-troubles as well; but I feel as if I ought not to do so today, after we have opened our minds to each other on the subject of art. I also entreat you to grant me your assistance both in word and deed later on in this matter of my love.”

“I am at your service,” said Salvator, “for both, both when and where you require me.” Then as he was going away, he once more turned round and said, smiling, “See here, Antonio, when you disclosed to me the fact that you were a painter, I was very sorry that I had spoken about your resemblance to Sanzio. I took it for granted that you were as silly as most of our young folk, who, if they bear but the slightest resemblance in the face to any great master, at once trim their beard or hair as he does, and from this cause fancy it is their business to imitate the style of the master in their art achievements, even though it is a manifest violation of their natural talents to do so. Neither of us has mentioned Raphael’s name, but I assure you that I have discerned in your pictures clear indications that you have grasped the full significance of the inimitable thoughts which are reflected in the works of this the greatest of the painters of the age. You understand Raphael, and would give me a different answer from what Velasquez12 did when I asked him not long ago what he thought of Sanzio. ‘Titian,’ he replied, ‘is the greatest painter; Raphael knows nothing about carnation.’ This Spaniard, methinks, understands flesh but not criticism; and yet these men in St. Luke elevate him to the clouds because he once painted cherries which the sparrows picked at.”13

It happened not many days afterwards that the Academicians of St. Luke met together in their church to prove the works which had been announced for exhibition. There too Salvator had sent Scacciati’s fine picture. In spite of themselves the painters were greatly struck with its grace and power; and from all lips there was heard nothing but the most extravagant praise when Salvator informed them that he had brought the picture with him from Naples, as the legacy of a young painter who had been cut off in the pride of his days.

It was not long before all Rome was crowding to see and admire the picture of the young unknown painter who had died so young; it was unanimously agreed that no such work had been done since Guido Reni’s time; some even went so far in their just enthusiasm as to place this exquisitely lovely Magdalene before Guido’s creations of a similar kind. Amongst the crowd of people who were always gathered round Scacciati’s picture, Salvator one day observed a man who, besides presenting a most extraordinary appearance, behaved as if he were crazy. Well advanced in years, he was tall, thin as a spindle, with a pale face, a long sharp nose, a chin equally as long, ending moreover in a little pointed beard, and with grey, gleaming eyes. On the top of his light sand-coloured wig he had set a high hat with a magnificent feather; he wore a short dark red mantle or cape with many bright buttons, a sky-blue doublet slashed in the Spanish style, immense leather gauntlets with silver fringes, a long rapier at his side, light grey stockings drawn up above his bony knees and gartered with yellow ribbons, whilst he had bows of the same sort of yellow ribbon on his shoes.

This remarkable figure was standing before the picture like one enraptured: he raised himself on tiptoe; he stooped down till he became quite small; then he jumped up with both feet at once, heaved deep sighs, groaned, nipped his eyes so close together that the tears began to trickle down his cheeks, opened them wide again, fixed his gaze immovably upon the charming Magdalene, sighed again, lisped in a thin, querulous, mutilated voice, “Ah! carissima — benedettissima! Ah! Marianna — Mariannina — bellissima,” &c. (“Oh! dearest — most adored! Ah! Marianna — sweet Marianna! my most beautiful!”) Salvator, who had a mad fancy for such oddities, drew near to the old fellow, intending to engage him in conversation about Scacciati’s work, which seemed to afford him so much exquisite delight Without paying any particular heed to Salvator, the old gentleman stood cursing his poverty, because he could not give a million sequins for the picture, and place it under lock and key where nobody could set their infernal eyes upon it. Then, hopping up and down again, he blessed the Virgin and all the holy saints that the reprobate artist who had painted the heavenly picture which was driving him to despair and madness was dead.

Salvator concluded that the man either was out of his mind, or was an Academician of St. Luke with whom he was unacquainted.

All Rome was full of Scacciati’s wonderful picture; people could scarcely talk about anything else, and this of course was convincing proof of the excellence of the work. And when the painters were again assembled in the church of St. Luke, to decide about the admission of certain other pictures which had been announced for exhibition, Salvator Rosa all at once asked, whether the painter of the “Magdalene at the Saviour’s Feet” was not worthy of being admitted a member of the Academy. They all with one accord, including even that hairsplitter in criticism, Baron Josépin,14 declared that such a great artist would have been an ornament to the Academy, and expressed their sorrow at his death in the choicest phrases, although, like the crazy old man, they were praising Heaven in their hearts that he was dead. Still more, they were so far carried away by their enthusiasm that they passed a resolution to the effect that the admirable young painter whom death had snatched away from art so early should be nominated a member of the Academy in his grave, and that masses should be read for the benefit of his soul in the church of St. Luke. They therefore begged Salvator to inform them what was the full name of the deceased, the date of his birth, the place where he was born, &c.

Then Salvator rose and said in a loud voice, “Signors, the honour you are anxious to render to a dead man you can more easily bestow upon a living man who walks in your midst. Learn that the ‘Magdalene at the Saviour’s Feet’— the picture which you so justly exalt above all other artistic productions that the last few years have given us, is not the work of a dead Neapolitan painter as I pretended (this I did simply to get an unbiassed judgment from you); that painting, that masterpiece, which all Rome is admiring, is from the hand of Signor Antonio Scacciati, the chirurgeon.”

The painters sat staring at Salvator as if suddenly thunderstruck, incapable of either moving or uttering a single sound. He, however, after quietly exulting over their embarrassment for some minutes, continued, “Well now, signors, you would not tolerate the worthy Antonio amongst you because he is a chirurgeon; but I think that the illustrious Academy of St. Luke has great need of a surgeon to set the limbs of the many crippled figures which emerge from the studios of a good many amongst your number. But of course you will no longer scruple to do what you ought to have done long ago, namely, elect that excellent painter Antonio Scacciati a member of the Academy.”

The Academicians, swallowing Salvator’s bitter pill, feigned to be highly delighted that Antonio had in this way given such incontestable proofs of his talent, and with all due ceremony nominated him a member of the Academy.

As soon as it became known in Rome that Antonio was the author of the wonderful picture he was overwhelmed with congratulations, and even with commissions for great works, which poured in upon him from all sides. Thus by Salvator’s shrewd and cunning stratagem the young man emerged all at once out of his obscurity, and with the first real step he took on his artistic career rose to great honour.

Antonio revelled in ecstasies of delight. So much the more therefore did Salvator wonder to see him, some days later, appear with his face pale and distorted, utterly miserable and woebegone. “Ah! Salvator!” said Antonio, “what advantage has it been to me that you have helped me to rise to a level far beyond my expectations, that I am now overwhelmed with praise and honour, that the prospect of a most successful artistic career is opening out before me? Oh! I am utterly miserable, for the picture to which, next to you, my dear sir, I owe my great triumph, has proved the source of my lasting misfortune.”

“Stop!” replied Salvator, “don’t sin against either your art or your picture. I don’t believe a word about the terrible misfortune which, you say, has befallen you. You are in love, and I presume you can’t get all your wishes gratified at once, on the spur of the moment; that’s all it is. Lovers are like children; they scream and cry if anybody only just touches their doll. Have done, I pray you, with that lamentation, for I tell you I can’t do with it. Come now, sit yourself down there and quietly tell me all about your fair Magdalene, and give me the history of your love affair, and let me know what are the stones of offence that we have to remove, for I promise you my help beforehand. The more adventurous the schemes are which we shall have to undertake, the more I shall like them. In fact, my blood is coursing hotly in my veins again, and my regimen requires that I engage in a few wild pranks. But go on with your story, Antonio, and as I said, let’s have it quietly without any sighs and lamentations, without any Ohs! and Ahs!”

Antonio took his seat on the stool which Salvator had pushed up to the easel at which he was working, and began as follows:—

“There is a high house in the Via Ripetta,15 with a balcony which projects far over the street so as at once to strike the eye of any one entering through the Porta del Popolo, and there dwells perhaps the most whimsical oddity in all Rome — an old bachelor with every fault that belongs to that class of persons — avaricious, vain, anxious to appear young, amorous, foppish. He is tall, as thin as a switch, wears a gay Spanish costume, a sandy wig, a conical hat, leather gauntlets, a rapier at his side”——

“Stop, stop!” cried Salvator, interrupting him, “excuse me a minute or two, Antonio.” Then, turning about the picture at which he was painting, he seized his charcoal and in a few free bold strokes sketched on the back side of the canvas the eccentric old gentleman whom he had seen behaving like a crazed man in front of Antonio’s picture.

“By all the saints!” cried Antonio, as he leapt to his feet, and, forgetful of his unhappiness, burst out into a loud laugh, “by all the saints! that’s he! That’s Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, whom I was just describing, that’s he to the very T.”

“So you see,” said Salvator calmly, “that I am already acquainted with the worthy gentleman who most probably is your bitter enemy. But go on.”

“Signor Pasquale Capuzzi,” continued Antonio, “is as rich as Cr[oe]sus, but at the same time, as I just told you, a sordid miser and an incurable coxcomb. The best thing about him is that he loves art, particularly music and painting; but he mixes up so much folly with it all that even in these things there’s no getting on with him. He considers himself the greatest musical composer in the world, and that there’s not a singer in the Papal choir who can at all approach him. Accordingly he looks down upon our old Frescobaldi16 with contempt; and when the Romans talk about the wonderful charm of Ceccarelli’s voice, he informs them that Ceccarelli knows as much about singing as a pair of top-boots, and that he, Capuzzi, knows which is the right way to fascinate the public. But as the first singer of the Pope bears the proud name of Signor Odoardo Ceccarelli di Merania, so our Capuzzi is greatly delighted when anybody calls him Signor Pasquale Capuzzi di Senigaglia; for it was in Senigaglia17 that he was born, and the popular rumour goes that his mother, being startled at sight of a sea-dog (seal) suddenly rising to the surface, gave birth to him in a fisherman’s boat, and that accounts, it is said, for a good deal of the sea-cur in his nature. Several years ago he brought out an opera on the stage, which was fearfully hissed; but that hasn’t cured him of his mania for writing execrable music. Indeed, when he heard Francesco Cavalli’s18 opera Le Nozze di Feti e di Peleo, he swore that the composer had filched the sublimest of the thoughts from his own immortal works, for which he was near being thrashed and even stabbed. He still has a craze for singing arias, and accompanies his hideous squalling on a wretched jarring, jangling guitar, all out of tune. His faithful Pylades is an ill-bred dwarfish eunuch, whom the Romans call Pitichinaccio. There is a third member of the company — guess who it is? — Why, none other than the Pyramid Doctor, who kicks up a noise like a melancholy ass and yet fancies he’s singing an excellent bass, quite as good as Martinelli of the Papal choir. Now these three estimable people are in the habit of meeting in the evening on the balcony of Capuzzi’s house, where they sing Carissimi’s19 motets, until all the dogs and cats in the neighbourhood round break out into dirges of miawing and howling, and all their neighbours heartily wish the devil would run away with all the blessed three.

“With this whimsical old fellow, Signor Pasquale Capuzzi, of whom my description will have enabled you to form a tolerably adequate idea, my father lived on terms of intimacy, since he trimmed his wig and beard. When my father died, I undertook this business; and Capuzzi was in the highest degree satisfied with me, because, as he once affirmed, I knew better than anybody else how to give his moustaches a bold upward twirl; but the real reason was because I was satisfied with the few pence with which he rewarded me for my pains. But he firmly believed that he more than richly indemnified me, since, whilst I was trimming his beard, he always closed his eyes and croaked through an aria from his own compositions, which, however, almost split my ears; and yet the old fellow’s crazy gestures afforded me a good deal of amusement, so that I continued to attend him. One day when I went, I quietly ascended the stairs, knocked at the door, and opened it, when lo, there was a girl — an angel of light, who came to meet me. You know my Magdalene; it was she. I stood stock still, rooted to the spot. No, Salvator, you shall have no Ohs! and Ahs! Well, the first sight of this, the most lovely maiden of her sex, enkindled in me the most ardent passionate love. The old man informed me with a smirk that the young lady was the daughter of his brother Pietro, who had died at Senigaglia, that her name was Marianna, and that she was quite an orphan; being her uncle and guardian, he had taken her into his house. You can easily imagine that henceforward Capuzzi’s house was my Paradise. But no matter what devices I had recourse to, I could never succeed in getting a téte-à-téte with Marianna, even for a single moment. Her glances, however, and many a stolen sigh, and many a soft pressure of the hand, resolved all doubts as to my good fortune. The old man divined what I was after — which was not a very difficult thing for him to do. He informed me that my behaviour towards his niece was not such as to please him altogether, and he asked me what was the real purport of my attentions. Then I frankly confessed that I loved Marianna with all my heart, and that the greatest earthly happiness I could conceive was a union with her. Whereupon Capuzzi, after measuring me from top to toe, burst out in a guffaw of contempt, and declared that he never had any idea that such lofty thoughts could haunt the brain of a paltry barber. I was almost boiling with rage; I said he knew very well that I was no paltry barber but rather a good surgeon, and, moreover, in so far as concerned the noble art of painting, a faithful pupil of the great Annibal Caracci and of the unrivalled Guido Reni. But the infamous Capuzzi only replied by a still louder guffaw of laughter, and in his horrible falsetto squeaked, ‘See here, my sweet Signor barber, my excellent Signor surgeon, my honoured Annibal Caracci, my beloved Guido Reni, be off to the devil, and don’t ever show yourself here again, if you don’t want your legs broken.’ Therewith the cranky, knock-kneed old fool laid hold of me with no less an intention than to kick me out of the room, and hurl me down the stairs. But that, you know, was past everything. With ungovernable fury I seized the old fellow and tripped him up, so that his legs stuck uppermost in the air; and there I left him screaming aloud, whilst I ran down the stairs and out of the house-door; which, I need hardly say, has been closed to me ever since.

“And that’s how matters stood when you came to Rome and when Heaven inspired Father Boniface with the happy idea of bringing me to you. Then so soon as your clever trick had brought me the success for which I had so long been vainly striving, that is, when I was accepted by the Academy of St. Luke, and all Rome was heaping up praise and honour upon me to a lavish extent, I went straightway to the old gentleman and suddenly presented myself before him in his own room, like a threatening apparition. Such at least he must have thought me, for he grew as pale as a corpse, and retreated behind a great table, trembling in every limb. And in a firm and earnest way I represented to him that it was not now a paltry barber or a surgeon, but a celebrated painter and Academician of St. Luke, Antonio Scacciati, to whom he would not, T hoped, refuse the hand of his niece Marianna. You should have seen into what a passion the old fellow flew. He screamed; he flourished his arms about like one possessed of devils; he yelled that I, a ruffianly murderer, was seeking his life, that I had stolen his Marianna from him since I had portrayed her in my picture, and it was driving him mad, driving him to despair, for all the world, all the world, were fixing their covetous, lustful eyes upon his Marianna, his life, his hope, his all; but I had better take care, he would burn my house over my head, and me and my picture in it. And therewith he kicked up such a din, shouting, ‘Fire! Murder! Thieves! Help!’ that I was perfectly confounded, and only thought of making the best of my way out of the house.

“The crackbrained old fool is over head and ears in love with his niece; he keeps her under lock and key; and as soon as he succeeds in getting dispensation from the Pope, he will compel her to a shameful alliance with himself. All hope for me is lost!”

“Nay, nay, not quite,” said Salvator, laughing, “I am of opinion that things could not be in a better form for you, Marianna loves you, of that you are convinced; and all we have to do is to get her out of the power of that fantastic old gentleman, Signor Pasquale Capuzzi. I should like to know what there is to hinder a couple of stout enterprising fellows like you and me from accomplishing this. Pluck up your courage, Antonio. Instead of bewailing, and sighing, and fainting like a lovesick swain, it would be better to set to work to think out some plan for rescuing your Marianna. You just wait and see, Antonio, how finely we’ll circumvent the old dotard; in such like emprises, the wildest extravagance hardly seems to me wild enough. I’ll set about it at once, and learn what I can about the old man, and about his usual habits of life. But you must not be seen in this affair, Antonio. Go away quietly home, and come back to me early tomorrow morning, then we’ll consider our first plan of attack.”

Herewith Salvator shook the paint out of his brush, threw on his mantle, and hurried to the Corso, whilst Antonio betook himself home as Salvator had bidden him — his heart comforted and full of lusty hope again.

1 Annabale Caracci, a painter of Bologna of the latter half of the sixteenth century. His most celebrated work is a series of frescoes on mythological subjects in the Farnese Palace at Rome. Along with his cousin Lodovico and his brother Agostino he founded the so-called Eclectic School of Painting; their maxim was that “accurate observation of Nature should be combined with judicious imitation of the best masters.” The Caracci enjoyed the highest reputation amongst their contemporaries as teachers of their art. Annibale died in 1609; Masaniello’s revolt occurred, as already mentioned, in 1647; Antonio must therefore have been at least fifty years of age. This however is not the only anachronism that Hoffmann is guilty of.

2 The well-known painter Guido, born in 1575 and died in 1642. He early excited the envy of Annibale Caracci.

3 Mattia Preti, known as Il Cavaliere Calabrese, from his having been born in Calabria. He was a painter of the Neapolitan school and a pupil of Lanfranco, and lived during the greater part of the seventeenth century. Owing to his many disputes and quarrels he was more than once compelled to flee for his life.

4 The Accademia di San Luca, a school of art, founded at Rome about 1595, Federigo Zuccaro being its first director.

5 Alessandro Tiarini (1577–1668) of Bologna, was a pupil of the Caracci.

6 Giovanni Francesco Gessi (1588–1649), sometimes called “The second Guido,” was a pupil of Guido.

7 Sementi or Semenza (1580–1638), also a pupil of Guido.

8 Giovanni Lanfranco (1581–1647), studied first under Agostino Caracci. He was the first to encourage the early genius of Salvator Rosa.

9 Zampieri Domenichino (1581–1641) was a pupil of the Caracci. The work here referred to is a series of frescoes, which he did not live to quite finish, representing the events of the life of St. Januarius, in the chapel of the Tesoro of the cathedral at Naples, which he began in 1630.

The malicious spite which the text attributes to the rivals of Domenichino is not at all exaggerated. There did really exist a so-called “Cabal of Naples,” consisting chiefly of the painters Corenzio, Ribera, and Caracciolo, who leagued together to shut out all competition from other artists; and their persecution of the Bolognese Domenichino is well known. Often on returning to his work in the morning he found that some one had obliterated what he had done on the previous day.

Not only have we a faithful picture of the Italian artist’s life in the middle of the seventeenth century depicted in this tale, but the actual facts of the lives of Salvator Rosa, of Preti, of the Caracci, as well as the existence of Falcone’s Compagnia della Morte, furnish ample materials and illustrations of the wild lives they did lead, of their jealousies and heartburnings, of their quarrelsomeness and revengefulness. They seem to have been ready on all occasions to exchange the brush for the sword. They were filled to overflowing with restless energy. The atmosphere of the age they lived in was highly charged with vigour of thought and an irrepressible vitality for artistic production. Under the conditions which these things suppose the artists of that age could not well have been otherwise than what they were.

10 Belisario Corenzio, a Greek (1558–1643). “Envious, jealous, cunning, treacherous, quarrelsome, he looked upon all other painters as his enemies.”

11 Giuseppe Ribera, called Il Spagnoletto, a Spaniard by birth (1589), was a painter of the Neapolitan school, and delighted in horrible and gloomy subjects. He died in 1656.

12 Don Diego Velazquez de Silva, the great Spanish painter, born in 1599, died in 1660. He twice visited Italy and Naples, in 1629–31 and in 1648–51, and was for a time intimate with Ribera.

13 This suggests the legend of Quentin Massys of Antwerp and the fly, or the still older, but perhaps not more historical story of the Greek painters, Zeuxis and the bunch of grapes, which the birds came to peck at, and Parrhasius, whose curtain deceived even Zeuxis himself.

14 Giuseppe Cesari, colled Josépin or the Chevalier d’Arpin, a painter of the Roman school, born in 1560 or 1568, died in 1640. He posed as an artistic critic in Rome during the later years of his life, and his judgment was claimed by his friends to be authoritative and final in all matters connected with art.

15 In a previous note it was stated that the Via del Corse ran from the Piazza del Popolo southwards to the centre of the city of Rome. Besides this street there are two others which run from the same square in almost the same direction, the Via di Ripetta and the Via del Babuino, the former being to the west of the Via del Corso and the latter to the east, and each gradually gets more distant from the Via del Corso the farther it recedes from the Square. On the opposite side of the Piazza del Popolo is the Porta del Popolo.

16 Girolamo Frescobaldi, the most distinguished organist of the seventeenth century, born about 1587 or 1588. He early won a reputation both as a singer and as an organist.

17 Senigaglia or Senigallia, a town on the Adriatic, in the province of Ancona.

18 Pietro Francesco Cavalli, whose real name was Caletti–Bruni. He was organist at St. Mark’s at Venice for about thirty-six years (1640–1676). He composed both for the Church and for the stage.

19 Giacomo Carissimi, attached during the greater part of his life to the church of San Apollinaris at Rome. He died in 1674. He did much for musical art, perfecting recitative and advancing the development of the sacred cantata. His accompaniments are generally distinguished for “lightness and variety.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55