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Title: Ex Voto: An Account of the Sacro Monte or New Jerusalem at Varallo-Sesia
 - With Some Notice of Tabachetti's Remaining Work at the Sanctuary of Crea
Author: Butler, Samuel
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ex Voto: An Account of the Sacro Monte or New Jerusalem at Varallo-Sesia
 - With Some Notice of Tabachetti's Remaining Work at the Sanctuary of Crea" ***

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Transcribed from the 1890 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition by David
Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]

                [Picture: “Il Vecchietto.”  By Tabachetti]

                                 EX VOTO:

                              AN ACCOUNT OF

                    _The Sacro Monte or New Jerusalem_
                            _at Varallo-Sesia_

                           WITH SOME NOTICE OF

                            SANCTUARY OF CREA.


                              SAMUEL BUTLER,

    “Il n’a a que deux ennemis de la religion—le trop peu, et le trop; et
    des deux
    le trop est mille fois le plus dangereux.”—L’ABBÉ MABILLON, 1698.

                                  OP. 9.

                         LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
                    AND NEW YORK: 15 EAST 16th STREET.

                          _All rights reserved_.

                                * * * * *

                        AI VARALLESI E VALSESIANI



                                * * * * *


THE illustrations to this book are mainly collotype photographs by
Messrs. Maclure, Macdonald & Co., of Glasgow.  Notwithstanding all their
care, it cannot be pretended that the result is equal to what would have
been obtained from photogravure; I found, however, that to give anything
like an adequate number of photogravures would have made the book so
expensive that I was reluctantly compelled to abandon the idea.

As these sheets leave my hands, my attention is called to a pleasant
article by Miss Alice Greene about Varallo, that appeared in _The Queen_
for Saturday, April 21, 1888.  The article is very nicely illustrated,
and gives a good idea of the place.  Of the Sacro Monte Miss Greene
says:—“On the Sacro Monte the tableaux are produced in perpetuity, only
the figures are not living, they are terra-cotta statues painted and
moulded in so life-like a way that you feel that, were a man of flesh and
blood to get mixed up with the crowd behind the grating, you would have
hard work to distinguish him from the figures that have never had life.”

I should wish to modify in some respects the conclusion arrived at on pp.
148, 149, about Michael Angelo Rossetti’s having been the principal
sculptor of the Massacre of the Innocents chapel.  There can be no doubt
that Rossetti did the figure which he has signed, and several others in
the chapel.  One of those which are probably by him (the soldier with
outstretched arm to the left of the composition) appears in the view of
the chapel that I have given to face page 144, but on consideration I
incline against the supposition of my text, _i.e._, that the signature
should be taken as governing the whole work, or at any rate the greater
part of it, and lean towards accepting the external authority, which,
_quantum valeat_, is all in favour of Paracca.  I have changed my mind
through an increasing inability to resist the opinion of those who hold
that the figures fall into two main groups, one by the man who did the
signed figure, _i.e._, Michael Angelo Rossetti; and another, comprising
all the most vigorous, interesting, and best placed figures, that
certainly appears to be by a much more powerful hand.  Probably, then,
Rossetti finished Paracca’s work and signed one figure as he did, without
any idea of claiming the whole, and believing that Paracca’s predominant
share was too well known to make mistake about the authorship of the work
possible.  I have therefore in the title to the illustration given the
work to Paracca, but it must be admitted that the question is one of
great difficulty, and I can only hope that some other work of Paracca’s
may be found which will tend to settle it.  I will thankfully receive
information about any other such work.

_May_ 1, 1888.


    CHAP.                                                         PAGE
       I.  INTRODUCTION                                              1
      II.  THE REV. S. W. KING—LANZI AND LOMAZZO                    10
     III.  VARALLO, PAST AND PRESENT                                24
      IV.  BERNARDINO CAIMI, AND FASSOLA                            38
       V.  EARLY HISTORY OF THE SACRO MONTE                         49
      VI.  PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS                               69
     VII.  AIM AND SCOPE OF THE SACRO MONTE                         80
           1, ADAM AND EVE; NO. 2, THE ANNUNCIATION; NO. 3,
       X.  CHAPEL NO. 5, VISIT OF THE MAGI; NO. 6, IL              132
      XI.  CHAPEL NO. 12, BAPTISM; NO. 13, TEMPTATION; NO.         153
           16, WIDOW’S SON AT NAIN; NO. 17,
           NO. 21, AGONY IN THE GARDEN; NO. 22, SLEEPING
           BACK TO PILATE; NO. 30, FLAGELLATION; NO. 31,
     XIV.  CHAPEL NO. 39, THE DESCENT FROM THE CROSS               214
     XVI.  TABACHETTI’S WORK AT CREA                               239
    XVII.  CONCLUSION                                              259


_For explanation of the Asterisk see Advertisement of Photographs at the
end of the book_.

        I.  PLAN OF THE SACRO MONTE IN 1671                         68
       II.  THE OLD ADAM AND EVE                                   121
      III.  TABACHETTI’S ADAM AND EVE                              122
       IV.  FIRST VISION OF ST. JOSEPH                             130
        V.  THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS                          144
       VI.  THE TEMPTATION IN THE WILDERNESS                       154
      VII.  CAIAPHAS                                               170
     VIII.  HEROD                                                  176
       IX.  TWO LAUGHING BOYS                                      177
        X.  MAN IN BACKGROUND OF THE FLAGELLATION                  182
       XI.  STEFANO SCOTTO, AND MR. S. BUTLER                      189
      XII.  TABACHETTI’S JOURNEY TO CALVARY                        195

     XIII.  TABACHETTI’S JOURNEY TO CALVARY                        196

      XIV.  TABACHETTI’S JOURNEY TO CALVARY                        198

       XV.  TABACHETTI’S JOURNEY TO CALVARY                        200

      XVI.  GAUDENZIO FERRARI’S CRUCIFIXION                        203

     XVII.  GAUDENZIO FERRARI’S CRUCIFIXION                        204

    XVIII.  GAUDENZIO FERRARI’S PORTRAITS OF                       206
      XIX.  BERNARDINO DE CONTI’S DRAWING OF                       207
       XX.  GAUDENZIO FERRARI’S CRUCIFIXION                        210
            THE BAD THIEF.


UNABLE to go to Dinant before I published “Ex Voto,” I have since been
there, and have found out a good deal about Tabachetti’s family.  His
real name was de Wespin, and he tame of a family who had been
Copper-beaters, and hence sculptors—for the Flemish copper-beaters made
their own models—for many generations.  The family seems to have been the
most numerous and important in Dinant.

The sculptor’s grandfather, Perpète de Wespin, was the first to take the
sobriquet of Tabaguet, and though in the deeds which I have seen at Namur
the name is always given as “de Wespin,” yet the addition of “dit
Tabaguet” shows that this last was the name in current use.  His father
and mother, and a sister Jacquelinne, under age, appear to have all died
in 1587.  Jean de Wespin, the sculptor, is mentioned in a deed of that
date as “expatrié,” and he has a “gardien” or “tuteur,” who is to take
charge of his inheritance, appointed by the Court, as though he were for
some reason unable to appoint one for himself.  This lends colour to
Fassola’s and Torrotti’s statement that he lost his reason about 1586 or
1587.  I think it more likely, however, considering that he was alive and
doing admirable work some fifty years after 1590, that he was the victim
of some intrigue than that he was ever really mad.  At any rate, about
1587 he appears to have been unable to act for himself.

If his sister Jacquelinne died under age in 1587, Jean is not likely to
have been then much more than thirty, so we may conclude that he was born
about 1560.  There is some six or eight years’ work by him remaining at
Varallo, and described as finished in the 1586 edition of Caccia.
Tabachetti, therefore, must have left home very young, and probably went
straight to Varallo.  In 1586 or 1587 we lose sight of him till 1590 or
1591, when he went to Crea, where he did about forty chapels—almost all
of which have perished.

On again visiting Milan I found in the Biblioteca Nazionale a guide-book
to the Sacro Monte, which was not in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, and of
whose existence I had never heard.  This guide-book was published in 1606
and reissued in 1610; it mentions all changes since 1590, and even
describes chapels not yet in existence, but it says nothing about
Tabachetti’s First Vision of St. Joseph chapel—the only one of his
chapels not given as completed in the 1590 edition of Caccia.  I had
assumed too hastily that this chapel was done just after the 1590 edition
of Caccia had been published, and just before Tabachetti left for Crea in
1590 or 1591, whereas it now appears that it was done about 1610, during
a short visit paid by the sculptor to Varallo some twenty years after he
had left it.

Finding that Tabachetti returned to Varallo about 1610, I was able to
understand two or three figures in the Ecce Homo chapel which I had long
thought must be by Tabachetti, but had not ventured to ascribe to him,
inasmuch as I believed him to have finally left Varallo some twenty years
before the Ecce Homo chapel was made.  I have now no doubt that he lent a
hand to Giovanni D’Enrico with this chapel, in which he has happily left
us his portrait signed with a V (doubtless standing for W, a letter which
the Italians have not got), cut on the hat before baking, and invisible
from outside the chapel.

[Picture: Seal] Signor Arienta had told me there was a seal on the back
of a figure in the Journey to Calvary chapel; on examining this I found
it to show a W, with some kind of armorial bearings underneath.  I have
not been able to find anything like these arms, of which I give a sketch
herewith: they have no affinity with those of the de Wespin family,
unless the cups with crosses under them are taken as modifications of the
three-footed caldrons which were never absent from the arms of Dinant
copper-beaters.  Tabachetti (for I shall assume that the seal was placed
by him) perhaps sealed this figure as an afterthought in 1610, being
unable to cut easily into the hard-baked clay, and if he could have
Italianised the W he would probably have done so.  I should say that I
arrived at the Ecce Homo figure as a portrait of Tabachetti before I
found the V cut upon the hat; I found the V on examining the portrait to
see if I could find any signature.  It stands next to a second portrait
of Leonardo da Vinci by Gaudenzio Ferrari, taken into the Ecce Homo
chapel, doubtless, on the demolition of some earlier work by Gaudenzio on
or near the same site.  I knew of this second portrait of Leonardo da
Vinci when I published my first edition, but did not venture to say
anything about it, as thinking that one life-sized portrait of a Leonardo
da Vinci by a Gaudenzio Ferrari was as much of a find at one time as my
readers would put up with.  I had also known of the V on Tabachetti’s
hat, but, having no idea that his name was de Wespin, had not seen why
this should help it to be a portrait of Tabachetti, and had allowed the
fact to escape me.

The figure next to Scotto in the Ecce Homo chapel is, I do not doubt, a
portrait of Giovanni D’Enrico.  This may explain the tradition at Varallo
that Scotto is Antonio D’Enrico, which cannot be.  Next to Giovanni
D’Enrico stands the second Leonardo da Vinci, and next to Leonardo, as I
have said, Tabachetti.  In the chapel by Gaudenzio, from which they were
taken, the figures of Leonardo and Scotto probably stood side by side as
they still do in the Crucifixion chapel.  I supposed that Tabachetti and
D’Enrico, who must have perfectly well known who they were, separated
them in order to get Giovanni D’Enrico nearer the grating.  It was the
presumption that we had D’Enrico’s portrait between Scotto and Leonardo,
and the conviction that Tabachetti also had worked in the chapel, that
led me to examine the very beautiful figure on the father side of
Leonardo to see if I could find anything to confirm my suspicion that it
was a portrait of Tabachetti himself.

I do not think there can be much doubt that the Vecchietto is also a
portrait of Tabachetti done some thirty years later than 1610, nor yet do
I doubt, now I know that he returned to Varallo in 1610, that the figures
of Herod and of Caiaphas are by him.  I believe he also at this time paid
a short visit to Orta, and did three or four figures in the left hand
part of the foreground of the Canonisation of St. Francis chapel.  At
Montrigone, a mile or so below Borgo-Sesia station, I believe him to have
done at least two or three figures, which are very much in his manner,
and not at all like either Giacomo Ferro or Giovanni D’Enrico, to whom
they are usually assigned.  These figures are some twenty-five years
later than 1610, and tend to show that Tabachetti, as an old man of over
seventy, paid a third visit to the Val-Sesia.

The substance of the foregoing paragraphs is published at greater length,
and with illustrations, in the number of the _Universal Review_ for
November 1888, and to which I must refer my readers.  I have, however,
here given the pith of all that I have yet been able to find out about
Tabachetti since “Ex Voto” was published.  I should like to add the
following in regard to other chapels.

[Picture: Monogram] Signor Arienta has found a 1523 scrawled on the
frescoes of the Crucifixion chapel.  I do not think this shows
necessarily that the work was more than begun at that date.  He has also
found a monogram, which we believe to be Gaudenzio Ferrari’s, on the
central shield with a lion on it, given in the illustration facing p.
210.  On further consideration, I feel more and more inclined to think
that the frescoes in this chapel have been a good deal retouched.

I hardly question that the Second Vision of St. Joseph chapel is by
Tabachetti, as also the Woman of Samaria.  The Christ in this last chapel
is a restoration.  In a woodcut of 1640 the position of the figures is
reversed, but nothing more than the positions.

Lastly, the Virgin’s mother does not have eggs east of Milan.  It is a
Valsesian custom to give eggs beaten up with wine and sugar to women
immediately on their confinement, and I am told that the eggs do no harm
though not according to the rules.  I am told that Valsesian influence
must always be suspected when the Virgin’s mother is having eggs.

_November_ 30, 1888.

                                * * * * *

_Note_.—A copy of this postscript can be easily inserted into a bound
copy, and will be forwarded by Messrs. TRÜBNER & CO. on receipt of
stamped and addressed envelope.


IN the preface to “Alps and Sanctuaries” I apologised for passing over
Varallo-Sesia, the most important of North Italian sanctuaries, on the
ground that it required a book to itself.  This book I will now endeavour
to supply, though well aware that I can only imperfectly and unworthily
do so.  To treat the subject in the detail it merits would be a task
beyond my opportunities; for, in spite of every endeavour, I have not
been able to see several works and documents, without which it is useless
to try and unravel the earlier history of the sanctuary.  The book by
Caccia, for example, published by Sessali at Novara in 1565, and
reprinted at Brescia in 1576, is sure to turn up some day, but I have
failed to find it at Varallo, Novara (where it appears in the catalogue,
but not on the shelves), Milan, the Louvre, the British Museum, and the
Bodleian Library.  Through the kindness of Sac. Ant. Ceriani, I was able
to learn that the Biblioteca Ambrosiana possessed what there can be
little doubt is a later edition of this book, dated 1587, but really
published at the end of 1586, and another dated 1591, to which Signor
Galloni in his “Uomini e fatti celebri di Valle-Sesia” (p. 110) has
called attention as the first work ever printed at Varallo.  But the last
eight of the twenty-one years between 1565 and 1586 were eventful, and
much could be at once seen by a comparison of the 1565, 1576, and 1586
[1587] editions, about which speculation is a waste of time while the
earlier works are wanting.  I have been able to gather two or three
interesting facts by a comparison of the 1586 and 1591 editions, and do
not doubt that the date, for example, of Tabachetti’s advent to Varallo
and of his great Calvary Chapel would be settled within a very few years
if the missing books were available.

Another document which I have in vain tried to see is the plan of the
Sacro Monte as it stood towards the close of the sixteenth century, made
by Pellegrino Tibaldi with a view to his own proposed alterations.  He
who is fortunate enough to gain access to this plan—which I saw for a few
minutes in 1884, but which is now no longer at Varallo—will find a great
deal made clear to him which he will otherwise be hardly able to find
out.  Over and above the foregoing, there is the inventory drawn up by
order of Giambattista Albertino in 1614, and a number of other documents,
to which reference will be found in the pages of Bordiga, Galloni,
Tonetti, and of the many others who have written upon the Val Sesia and
its history.  A twelve months’ stay in the Val Sesia would not suffice to
do justice to all the interesting and important questions which arise
wholesale as soon as the chapels on the Sacro Monte are examined with any
care.  I shall confine myself, therefore, to a consideration of the most
remarkable features of the Sacro Monte as it exists at present, and to
doing what I can to stimulate further study on the part of others.

I cannot understand how a field so interesting, and containing treasures
in so many respects unrivalled, can have remained almost wholly untilled
by the numerous English lovers of art who yearly flock to Italy; but the
fact is one on which I may perhaps be congratulated, inasmuch as more
shortcomings and errors of judgment may be forgiven in my own book, in
virtue of its being the first to bring Varallo with any prominence before
English readers.  That little is known about the Sacro Monte, even by the
latest and best reputed authorities on art, may be seen by turning to Sir
Henry Layard’s recent edition of Kugler’s “Handbook of Painting,”—a work
which our leading journals of culture have received with acclamation.
Sir Henry Layard has evidently either never been at Varallo, or has so
completely forgotten what he saw there that his visit no longer counts.
He thinks, for example, that the chapels, or, as he also calls them,
“stations” (which in itself should show that he has not seen them), are
on the way up to the Sacro Monte, whereas all that need be considered are
on the top.  He thinks that the statues generally in these supposed
chapels “on the ascent of the Sacro Monte” are attributed to Gaudenzio
Ferrari, whereas it is only in two or three out of some five-and-forty
that any statues are believed to be by Gaudenzio.  He thinks the famous
sculptor Tabachetti—for famous he is in North Italy, where he is
known—was a painter, and speaks of him as “a local imitator” of
Gaudenzio, who “decorated” other chapels, and “whose works only show how
rapidly Gaudenzio’s influence declined and his school deteriorated.”  As
a matter of fact, Tabachetti was a Fleming and his name was Tabaquet; but
this is a detail.  Sir Henry Layard thinks that “Miel” was also “a local
imitator” of Gaudenzio.  It is not likely that this painter ever worked
on the Sacro Monte at all; but if he did, Sir Henry Layard should surely
know that he came from Antwerp.  Sir Henry Layard does not appear to know
that there are any figures in the Crucifixion Chapel of Gaudenzio, or
indeed in any of the chapels for which Gaudenzio painted frescoes, and
falls into a trap which seems almost laid on purpose for those who would
write about Varallo without having been there, in supposing that
Gaudenzio painted a Pietà on the Sacro Monte.  Having thus displayed the
ripeness of his knowledge as regards facts, he says that though the
chapels “on the ascent of the Sacro Monte” are “objects of wonder and
admiration to the innumerable pilgrims who frequent this sacred spot,”
yet “the bad taste of the colour and clothing make them highly repugnant
to a cultivated eye.”

I begin to understand now how we came to buy the Blenheim Raffaelle.

Finally, Sir Henry Layard says it is “very doubtful” whether any of the
statues were modelled or executed by Gaudenzio Ferrari at all.  It is a
pity he has not thought it necessary give a single reason or authority in
support of a statement so surprising.

Some of these blunders appear in the edition of 1874 edited by Lady
Eastlake.  In that edition the writer evidently knows nothing of any
figures in the Crucifixion Chapel, and Sir Henry Layard was unable to
supply the omission.  The writer in the 1874 edition says that “Gaudenzio
is seen as a modeller of painted terra-cotta in the stations ascending to
the chapel (_sic_) on the Sacro Monte.”  It is from this source that Sir
Henry Layard got his idea that the chapels are on the way up to the Sacro
Monte, and that they are distinct from those for which Gaudenzio painted
frescoes on the top of the mountain.  Having perhaps seen photographs of
the Sacro Monte at Varese, where the chapels climb the hill along with
the road, or having perhaps actually seen the Madonna del Sasso at
Locarno, where small oratories with frescoes of the Stations of the Cross
are placed on the ascent, he thought those at Varallo might as well
remain on the ascent also, and that it would be safe to call them
“stations.”  It is the writer in the 1874 edition who first gave him or
her self airs about a cultivated eye; but he or she had the grace to put
in a saving clause to the effect that the designs in some instances were
“full of grace.”  True, Sir Henry Layard has never seen the designs;
nevertheless his eye is too highly cultivated to put up with this clause;
so it has disappeared, to make room, I suppose, for the sentence in which
so much accurate knowledge is displayed in respect to Tabachetti and Miel
d’Anvers.  Sir Henry Layard should keep to the good old plan of saying
that the picture would have been better if the artist had taken more
pains, and praising the works of Pietro Perugino.  Personally, I confess
I am sorry he has never seen the Sacro Monte.  If he has trod on so many
ploughshares without having seen Varallo, what might he not have achieved
in the plenitude of a taste which has been cultivated in every respect
save that of not pretending to know more than one does know, if he had
actually been there, and seen some one or two of the statues themselves?

I have only sampled Sir Henry Layard’s work in respect of two other
painters, but have found no less reason to differ from him there than
here.  I refer to his remarks about Giovanni and Gentile Bellini.  I must
reserve the counter-statement of my own opinion for another work, in
which I shall hope to deal with the real and supposed portraits of those
two great men.  I will, however, take the present opportunity of
protesting against a sentence which caught my eye in passing, and which I
believe to be as fundamentally unsound as any I ever saw written, even by
a professional art critic or by a director of a national collection.  Sir
Henry Layard, in his chapter on Leonardo da Vinci, says—

    “One thing prominently taught us by the works of Leonardo and
    Raffaelle, of Michael Angelo and Titian, is distinctly this—that
    purity of morals, freedom of institutions, and sincerity of faith
    have nothing to do with excellence in art.”

I should prefer to say, that if the works of the four artists above
mentioned show one thing more clearly than another, it is that neither
power over line, nor knowledge of form, nor fine sense of colour, nor
facility of invention, nor any of the marvellous gifts which three out of
the four undoubtedly possessed, will make any man’s work live permanently
in our affections unless it is rooted in sincerity of faith and in love
towards God and man.  More briefly, it is ἀγάπη, or the spirit, and not
γνώσις, or the letter, which is the soul of all true art.  This, it
should go without saying, applies to music, literature, and to whatever
can be done at all.  If it has been done “to the Lord”—that is to say,
with sincerity and freedom from affectation—whether with conscious
effusion, as by Gaudenzio, or with perhaps robuster unconsciousness, as
by Tabachetti, a halo will gather round it that will illumine it though
it pass through the valley of the shadow of death itself.  If it has been
done in self-seeking, as, _exceptis excipiendis_, by Leonardo, Titian,
Michael Angelo, and Raffaelle, it will in due course lose hold and power
in proportion to the insincerity with which it was tainted.


LEAVING Sir Henry Layard, let us turn to one of the few English writers
who have given some attention to Varallo—I mean to the Rev. S. W. King’s
delightful work “The Italian Valleys of the Pennine Alps.”  This author

    “When we first visited Varallo, it was comparatively little known to
    travellers, but we now found that of late years many more had
    frequented it, and its beautiful scenery and great attractions were
    becoming more generally and deservedly appreciated.  Independently of
    its own picturesque situation, and its advantages as head-quarters
    for exploring the neighbouring Vals and their romantic scenery, the
    works which it possesses of the ancient and famous Val Sesian school
    of painters and modellers are most interesting.  At the head of them
    stands first and foremost Gaudenzio Ferrari, whose original and
    masterly productions ought to be far more widely known and studied
    than they as yet are; and some of the finest of them are to be found
    in the churches and Sacro Monte of Varallo” (p. 498).

Of the Sacro Monte the same writer says—

    “No situation could have been more happily chosen for the purpose
    intended than the little mountain rising on the north of Varallo to a
    height of about 270 feet”—[this is an error; the floor of the church
    on the Sacro Monte is just 500 feet above the bridge over the
    Mastallone]—“on which the chapels, oratories, and convents of that
    extraordinary creation the New Jerusalem are grouped together.
    Besides the beauty of the site and its convenient proximity to a town
    like Varallo of some 3000 inhabitants, the character of the mountain
    is exactly adapted for the effective disposition of the various
    ‘stations’ of which it consists”—[it does not consist of
    “stations”]—“and on this account chiefly it was selected by the
    founder, the ‘Blessed Bernardino Caimo.’  A Milanese of noble family,
    and Vicar of the Convent of the Minorites in Milan, and also in
    connection with that of Varallo, he was specially commissioned by
    Pope Sixtus IV. to visit the Sepulchre and other holy places in
    Palestine, and while there took the opportunity of making copies and
    drawings, with the intention of erecting a facsimile of them in his
    native country.  On his return to Italy in 1491, after examining all
    the likely sites within reasonable distance of Milan, he found the
    conical hills of the Val Sesia the best adapted for his design, and
    fixed upon Varallo as the spot; being probably specially attracted to
    it from the fact of the convent and church of Sta. Maria delle
    Grazie, already described, having been conveyed through him to the
    ‘Minori Osservanti,’ as appears from a brief of Innocent VIII., dated
    December 21, 1486.”

Mr. King does not give the source from which he derived his knowledge of
the existence of this act, and I have not come across a notice of it
elsewhere, except a brief one in Signor Galloni’s work (p. 71), and a
reference to it in the conveyance of April 14, 1493.  But Signor Arienta
of Varallo, whose industry in collecting materials for a history of the
Sacro Monte cannot be surpassed, showed me a transcript from an old plan
of the church of S. Maria delle Grazie, in which the inscription on
Bernardino Caimi’s grave was given—an inscription which (so at least I
understood Signor Arienta to say) is now covered by an altar which had
been erected on the site of the grave.  The inscription ran:—

    “Hic quiescunt ossa B. Bernardini Caimis Mediolan.  S. Montis Varalli
    Fundatoris An. 1486.  Pontif. Dipl sub die 21 Xbris.  Mortuus est
    autem in hoc coenobio An. Vulg. Æræ 1499.”

It would thus appear that the Sacro Monte was founded four years earlier
than the received date.  The formal deed of conveyance of the site on the
mountain from the town to Bernardino Caimi was not signed till the 14th
of April 1493; but the work had been already commenced, as is shown by
the inscription still remaining over the reproduction of the Holy
Sepulchre, which is dated the 17th of October 1491.  Probably the work
was contemplated in 1486, and interrupted by B. Caimi’s return to
Jerusalem in 1487, not to be actively resumed till 1490.

    “The first stone,” says Mr. King, “was laid by Scarognini, a Milanese
    ‘magnifico,’ who cordially entered into the scheme; and at his
    expense the Holy Sepulchre was completed, and a hospice attached,
    where the founder and a number of Franciscan brothers came to reside
    in 1493.  Caimo had planned a vast extension of this commencement,
    but died within three years, leaving his designs to be carried out by
    his successors.”

                                  . . . . .

    “Each oratory contains a group—in some very numerous—of figures
    modelled in terra-cotta the size of life or larger; many of them of
    great merit as works of art, others very inferior and mere rubbish.
    The figures are coloured and occasionally draped with appropriate
    clothing, the resemblance to life being heightened by the addition of
    human hair”—[which, by the way, is always horse-hair]—“and the effect
    is often very startling.  Each chapel represents a different
    ‘mystery,’ and, beside the modelled figures, the walls are decorated
    with frescoes.  The front of each is open to the air, all but a wire
    grating, through apertures in which the subject may be perfectly seen
    in the position intended by the designer” (pp. 510–512).

Mr. King says, correctly, that Gaudenzio’s earliest remaining work on the
Sacro Monte is the Chapel of the Pietà, that originally contained the
figures of Christ bearing the cross, but from which the modelled figures
were removed, others being substituted that had no connection with the
background.  I do not know, however, that Christ was actually carrying
the cross in the chapel as it originally stood.  The words of the 1587
edition of Caccia (?) stand, “Come il N.S. fu spogliato de suoi panni, e
condotto sopra il Monte Calvario, ch’ e fatto di bellissimo e ben inteso

    “The frescoes on the wall,” he continues, “are particularly
    interesting, as having been painted by him at the early age of
    nineteen”—[Mr. King supposes Gaudenzio Ferrari to have been born in
    1484]—“when his ambition to share in the glory and renown of the
    great work was gratified by this chapel being intrusted to him; a
    proof of his early talent and the just appreciation of it.  The
    frescoes are much injured, but of the chief one there is enough to
    show its excellence.  On one side is St. John, with clasped hands
    gazing upwards in grief, and the two Marys sorrowing, as a soldier in
    the centre seems to forbid their following further; his helmet is
    embossed and gilt as in the instances in the Franciscan church, while
    the two thieves are led bound by a figure on horseback.”

These frescoes appear to me to have been not so much restored as
repainted—that is to say, where they are not almost entirely gone.  The
green colour that now prevails in the shadows and half-tones is alien to
Gaudenzio, and cannot be accepted as his.  I should say, however, that my
friend Signor Arienta of Varallo differs from me on this point.  At any
rate, the work is now little more than a ruin, and the terra-cotta Pietà
is among the least satisfactory groups on the Sacro Monte.  Mr. King

    “In the Chapel of the Adoration of the Magi we have a work of higher
    merit, giving evidence of his studies under Raphael.”

Here Mr. King is in some measure mistaken.  The frescoes in the Magi
Chapel are indeed greatly finer than those in the present Pietà, but they
were painted from thirty to forty years later, when Gaudenzio was in his
prime, and it is to years of intervening incessant effort and practice,
not to any study under Raphael, that the enlargement of style and greater
freedom of design is due.  Gaudenzio never studied under Raphael; he may
have painted for him, and perhaps did so—no one knows whether he did or
did not—but in every branch of his art he was incomparably Raphael’s
superior, and must have known it perfectly well.

Returning to Mr. King, with whom, in the main, I am in cordial sympathy,
we read:—

    “The group of ten figures in terra-cotta represents the three kings
    just arrived with their immediate attendants, and alighting at the
    door of an inner recess, where a light burns over the manger of
    Bethlehem, and in which is a simple but exquisite group of St.
    Joseph, the Virgin, and Child.  On the walls of the chapel are
    painted in fresco a crowd of followers, the varieties of whose
    costumes, attitudes, and figures are most cleverly portrayed.  In
    modelling the horses which form part of the central group, Ferrari
    was assisted by his pupil Fermo Stella.”—[Fermo Stella is not known
    to have been a pupil of Gaudenzio’s, and was probably established as
    a painter before Gaudenzio began to work at all.]—“But the greatest
    of all Gaudenzio’s achievements is the large chapel of the
    Crucifixion, a work of the most extraordinary character and masterly
    execution.  His first design for the subject, on the screen of the
    Minorite Church, he has here carried out in life-like figures in
    terra-cotta; twenty-six of which form the centre group, embodying the
    events of the Passion; while round the walls are depicted with
    wonderful power a crowd of spectators, numbering some 150, most of
    whom are gazing at the central figure of the Saviour on the cross.
    The variety of expression, costume, and character is almost infinite.
    Round the roof are twenty angels in the most varied and graceful
    attitudes, deserving of special attention; and also a hideous figure
    of Lucifer.”

Gaudenzio’s devils are never quite satisfactory.  His angels are divine,
and no one can make them cry as he does.  When my friend Mr. H. Festing
Jones met a lovely child crying in the streets of Varallo last summer, he
said it was crying like one of Gaudenzio’s angels; and so it was.
Gaudenzio was at home with everything human, and even superhuman, if
beautiful; if it was only a case of dealing with ugly, wicked, and
disagreeable people, he knew all about this, and could paint them if the
occasion required it; but when it came to a downright unmitigated devil,
he was powerless.  He could never have done Tabachetti’s serpent in the
Adam and Eve Chapel, nor yet the plausible fair-spoken devil, as in the
Temptation Chapel, also by Tabachetti.

To conclude my extracts from Mr. King.  Speaking of the Crucifixion
Chapel, he says:—

    “Though this combination of terra-cotta and fresco may not be as
    highly esteemed in the present day as in the times when this
    extraordinary sanctuary sprang into existence, yet this composition
    must always be admired as one of the greatest of Ferrari’s works, and
    undoubtedly that on which he lavished the full force of his genius
    and the collected studies and experience of his previous artist

It is noteworthy, but not perhaps surprising, that this observant,
intelligent, and sympathetic writer, probably through inability to at
once understand and enter into the conventions rendered necessary by the
conditions under which works so unfamiliar to him must be both executed
and looked at, has failed to notice the existence of Tabachetti, never
mentioning his name nor referring to one of his works—not even to the
Madonna and Child in the church of S. Gaudenzio, which one would have
thought could hardly fail to strike him.

                                * * * * *

Mr. King has elsewhere in his work referred both to Lanzi and to Lomazzo
in support of his very high opinion of Gaudenzio Ferrari; it may,
therefore, be as well to give extracts from each of these writers.  Lanzi

    “If we examine into further particulars of his style, we shall find
    Ferrari’s warm and lively colouring so superior to that of the
    Milanese artists of his day, that we shall have no difficulty in
    recognising it in the churches where he painted; the eye of the
    spectator is directly attracted towards it; his carnations are
    natural and varied according to his subjects; his draperies display
    much fancy and originality, with middle tints blended so skilfully as
    to equal the most beautiful produced by any other artist.  And, if we
    may say so,—he succeeded in representing the minds even better than
    the forms of his subjects.  He particularly studied this branch of
    the art, and we seldom observe more marked attitudes or more
    expressive . . . As Lomazzo, however, has dwelt so much at length on
    his admirable skill both in painting and modelling, it would be idle
    to insist on it further.  But I ought to add that it is a great
    reflection upon Vasari that he did not better know or better estimate
    such an artist; so that foreigners who form their opinions only from
    history are left unacquainted with his merit, and have uniformly
    neglected to do him justice in their writings.”

Lomazzo says:—

    “Now amongst the worthy painters who excelled herein, Raph. Urbine
    was not the least who performed his workes with a divine kind of
    maiesty; neither was Polidore”—[Polidoro Caldara da Caravaggio]—“much
    behind him in his kinde, whose pictures seemed as it were passing
    furious; nor yet Andreas Mantegna, whose vaine showed a very
    laborious curiositie; nor yet Leonard Vincent”—[Leonardo da
    Vinci]—“in whose doings there was never any error found in this
    point.  Wherof amongst all other of his works, that admirable last
    supper of Christ in Refect. S. Maria de Gratia in Milane maketh most
    evident proofe, in which he hath so lively expressed the passions of
    the Apostles mindes in their countenances and the rest of their
    bodies, that a man may boldly say the truth was nothing superior to
    his representation, and neede not be afraide to reckon it among the
    best works of oyle-painting (of which kind of painting John de Bruges
    was the first inventor).  For in those Apostles you might distinctly
    perceive admiration, feare, griefe, suspition, love, &c.; all which
    were sometimes to be seen together in one of them, and finally in
    Judas a treason-plotting countenance, as it were the very true
    counterfiet of a traitor.  So that therein he has left a sufficient
    argument of his rare perfection, in the true understanding of the
    passions of the mind exemplified outwardly in the bodie.  Which
    because it is the most necessary part of painting, I purpose (as I
    say) to handle in this present booke.  I may not omit Mi. Angelo in
    any case, whose skill and painfulnesse in this point was so greate,
    that his pictures carry with them more hard motions expressed after
    an unusual manner, but all of them tending to a certaine bould
    stoutnesse.  And as for Titian, he hath worthely purchased the name
    of a great painter in this matter, as his pictures do sufficiently
    witness; in each whereof there shineth a certain mooving vertue,
    seeming to incite the beholder unto the imitation thereof.  Of whom
    this saying may well be verified, that he was beloved of the world
    and envied of nature.

    “Finally, mine old Master Gaudentius (though he be not much knowne)
    was inferior unto fewe, in giving the apt motions to the Saintes and
    Angels; who was not onely a very witty painter (as I have elsewhere
    showed), but also a most profound philosopher and mathematician.
    Amongst all whose all-praiseworthy workes (which are almost infinite,
    especially in this point of motion) there are divers mysteries of
    Christe’s passion, of his doing, but chiefly a crucifix called Mount
    Calvary at the Sepulchre of Varallo; where he hath made admirable
    horses and strange angels, not only in painting, but also in
    plasticke, of a kinde of earth wrought most curiously with his own
    hand cleane rounde”—[_di tutto rilievo_]—“through all the figures.

    “Besides in the vault of the Chappell of S. Mary de Gratia in Milane
    he hath wrought most naturall angels, I meane especially for their
    actions; there is also that mighty cube of St. Mary de Serono, the
    Cupola of S. Maria at Saronno, full of thrones of angells set out
    with actions and habites of all sortes, carrying diversity of most
    strange instruments in their hands.  I may not conceal that goodly
    chapel which he made in his latter time, in the Church of Peace in
    Milan, where you shall find small histories of our Lady and Joachime
    showing such superexcellent motions that they seem much to revive and
    animate the spectators.

    “Moreover, the story of S. Roccho done by him in Vercelli, with
    divers workes in that city; although indeede almost all Lombardy be
    adorned with his most rare workes, I will not conceal one saying,
    which was that all painters delight to steale other men’s inventions,
    but that he himself was in no great danger of being detected of theft
    hereafter.  Now this great painter, although in reason he might for
    his discretion, wisedome, and worth be compared with the above named
    in the first booke, cap. 29, yet notwithstanding is he omitted by
    George Vasary in his lives of the famous painters, carvers, and
    architects.  An argument, to say no worse of him, that he intended to
    eternise only his own Tuscanes.  But I proceede to the unfoulding of
    the originall causes of these motions.  And first for our better
    understanding I will beginne with those passions of the mind whereby
    the body is mooved to the performance of his particular effects”
    (Id., Book ii. pp. 7, 8).

What Gaudenzio said was that all painters were fond of stealing, but that
they were pretty sure to be found out sooner or later.

For my own part, I should like to say that I prefer Giovanni Bellini to
Gaudenzio; but unless Giotto and Giorgione, I really do not know who the
Italian painters should stand before him.  Bernardino Luini runs him
close, but great as Bernardino Luini was, Gaudenzio, in spite of not a
little mannerism, was greater.

The passage above referred to by Lomazzo as from his twenty-ninth chapter

    “Now if any man be desirous to learne the most exact and smallest
    parts of these proportions, together with the way how to transfer
    them from one body to another, I refer him to the works of Le.
    Vincent, Bramante, Vincentius Foppa, Barnard Zenale; and for prints
    to Albert Durer, Hispill Peum, &c.  And out of mine owne workes he
    may gather that I have endeavoured if not performed these
    proportions, done according to these rules; which all the best and
    famous painters of our time have likewise observed; who have also
    attained to the exquisite proportions of the seven planets.  Amongst
    whom Mi. Angelo hath merited the chiefest commendation; next him
    Raph. Urbine was famous for making of delicate and Venereall bodies;
    Leon. Vincent for expressing of solary bodies; Polidore Caldara of
    Caravaggio for Martiall bodies; Titianus Vecellino for Lunaryes; and
    Gaudentius Ferrato da Valdugia a Milaner for Jovialistes” (55 Bk. i.
    p. 117).

Having been compelled to look through the greater part of Lomazzo’s work,
inasmuch as not one of the several writers who have referred to his high
opinion of Gaudenzio has given chapter and page, I would fain allow
myself to linger somewhat in the fascinating paths into which my subject
has led me.  I should like to call further attention to this forgotten
work as “Englished” by one Richard Haydocke, “Student in Physik,” and
dedicated to no less a person than “to the Right Worshipful Thomas
Bodley, Esq.,” whose foundation of the library that bears his name is
referred to in the preface.  Gladly would I tell him about Alexander the
Great, who, being overmatched by his enemies in India, “was seen to reake
forth from his bodie fier and light;” and of the father of Theodoricus,
who, “by the like vehement effect, breathed out of his heart, as from a
burning furnace, fierce sparkels; which flying forth, shone, and made a
sound in the aire.”  I should like to explain to him about the motions of
the seven planets which are the seven governours of the world, and how
Saturn “causeth a complexion of colour between blacke and yeallowe,
meager, distorted, of an harde skinne, eminent vaines, an hairie bodie,
small eies, eie brows joyned together &c.,” and how “he maketh a man
subtle, wittie, a way-layer, and murtherer;” how, again, Jupiter is
“magnipotent, good natured, fortunate, sweete, pleasant, the best
wel-willer, honest, neate, of a good gate, honorable, the author of mirth
and judgement, wise, true, the revealer of truth, the chiefe judge,
exceeding all the planets in goodnesse, the bestower of riches and
wisedome;” how Mars “broaches bould spirites, bloud, brawles and all
disordered, inconsiderate, and headdy actions;” how “his gestures are
terrible, cruell, fierce, angry, proude, hasty and violent,” and how also
“he is reputed hoat and drie in the highest degree, bearing sway over
redde choler.”  I should like to tell him about the passions, actions,
and the gestures they occasion, described as they are with a sweet and
silly unreasonableness that is very charming to read, and makes no demand
whatever upon the understanding.  But charming as are the pages of
Lomazzo, those of Torrotti are more charming still, and they have a
connection with our subject which Lomazzo’s have not.  Enough, therefore,
that Mr. Haydocke did not get through more than half Lomazzo’s treatise,
and that, glancing over the untranslated pages, I see frequent allusions
to Gaudenzio in the warmest terms, but no passage so important as the
longer of the two quoted above.

                               CHAPTER III.
                      _VARALLO_, _PAST AND PRESENT_.

NOW that Varallo can be easily reached by the new railway from Novara, it
is not likely to remain so little known much longer.  The town is
agreeable to stay in; it contains three excellent inns.  I name them in
geographical order.  They are the Italia, the Croce Bianca, and the
Posta, while there is another not less excellent on the Sacro Monte
itself.  I have stayed at all these inns, and have received so much
kindness in each of them, that I must decline the invidious task of
recommending any one of them especially.  My book is intended for
Varallo, and not for this or that hotel.  The neighbourhood affords
numberless excursions, all of them full of interest and beauty; the town
itself, though no exception to the rule that the eastern cities of North
Italy are more beautiful than the western, is still full of admirable
subjects for those who are fond of sketching.  The people are hospitable
to a fault; personally, I owe them the greatest honour that has ever been
conferred upon me—an honour far greater than any I have ever received
among those who know me better, and are probably better judges of my
deserts.  The climate is healthy, the nights being cool even in the
height of summer, and the days almost invariably sunny and free from fog
in winter.  With all these advantages, therefore, it is not easy to
understand the neglect that has befallen it, except on the ground that
until lately it has been singularly difficult of access.

Two hundred years ago it must have been much as it is at present.
Turning to the work of the excellent Canon Torrotti, published in 1686, I
find he writes as follows:—

    “Oh, what fannings is there not here,” he exclaims, “of the assiduous
    Zephyrs; what warmth in winter, what gelidness of the air in summer;
    and what freaks are there not of Nature by way of caves, grottoes,
    and delicious chambers hewn by her own hand.  Here can be enjoyed
    wines of the very finest flavour, trout as dainty as can be caught in
    any waters, game of the most singular excellence; in short, there is
    here a great commodity of everything most sensual and pleasing to the
    palate.  And of those who come here, above all I must praise the
    Piedmontese, who arrive in frequent cavalcades of from twenty to
    five-and-twenty people, to an edification which is beyond all praise;
    and they are munificent in the gifts they leave behind them to the
    Holy Place—not resembling those who are mean towards God though they
    will spend freely enough upon their hotel-bill.  Carriages of all
    sorts can be had here easily; it is the Milanese who for the most
    part make use of these carriages and equipages, for they are pompous
    and splendid in their carryings on.  From elsewhither processions
    arrive daily, even from Switzerland, and there are sometimes as many
    as ten thousand visitors extraordinary come here in a single day, yet
    is there no hindrance but they find comfortable lodging, and at very
    reasonable prices.

    “As for the distance, it is about sixty miles, or two easy days’
    journey from Milan; it is much the same from Turin; it is one day
    from Novara, and one from Vercelli; but the most delightful thing
    about this journey is that you can combine so many other devotions
    along with it.  In the Milanese district, for example, there is the
    mountain of Varese, and that of S. Carlo of Arona on the Lago
    Maggiore; and there are S. Francesco and S. Giulio on the Lago
    d’Orta; then there is the Madonna of Oropa in the mountains of
    Biella, which sanctuary is in the diocese of Vercelli, as is also S.
    Giovanni di Campiglio, the Madonna di Crevacore, and Gattinara; there
    is also the Mount Calvary of Domo d’Ossola, on the road towards
    Switzerland, and Montrigone below Borgosesia.  These, indeed, are but
    chapels in imitation of our own Holy Sepulchre, and cannot compare
    with it neither in opulence nor in importance; still those of Varese
    and Oropa are of some note and wealth.  Moreover, the neighbourhood
    of this our own Jerusalem is the exact counterpart of that which is
    in the Holy Land, having the Mastallone on the one side for the brook
    Kedron, and the Sesia for the Jordan, and the lake of Orta for that
    of Cæsaræa; while for the Levites there are the fathers of St.
    Bernard of Mentone in the Graian and Pennine Alps of Aosta, where
    there are so many Roman antiquities that they may be contemplated not
    only as monuments of empire, but as also of the vanity of all human
    greatness” (pp. 19–21).

A little later the Canon tells us of the antiquity of the councils that
have been held in the neighbourhood, and of one especially:—

    “Which was held secretly by five bishops on the summit of one of the
    mountains of Sorba in the Val Rassa, which is still hence called the
    bishops’ seat; for they came thither as to the place where the five
    dioceses adjoined, and each one sat on a stone within the boundary of
    his own diocese; and they are those of Novara, Vercelli, Ivrea, Orta,
    and Sion.  Nor must we forget the signal service rendered to the
    universal church in these same mountains of Rassa by the discomfiture
    of the heretic monks Gazzari to which end Pope Clement V. in 1307
    issued several bulls, and among them one bearing date on the third
    day of the ides of August, given at Pottieri, in which he confirmed
    the liberty of our people, and acknowledged the Capi as Counts of the
    Church . . . For the Valsesian people have been ever free, and by
    God’s grace have shaken off the yoke of usurpers while continuing
    faithful and profitable subjects of those who have equitably
    protected them.”

Torrotti goes on to tell us about the Blessed shepherdess Panesia, a
virgin of the most exquisite beauty, and only fifteen years old, who was
martyred on the 1st of May 1383 on the mountain of S. Giovanni of
Quarona, with three wounds on her head and two on her throat, inflicted
by a wicked stepmother who had a devil, and whose behests she had obeyed
with such consummate sweetness that she had attained perfection; on
which, so invariably do extremes meet, she had to be put to death and
made a martyr; and if we want to know more about her, we can find it in
the work that has been so elegantly written about her by the most
illustrious Father Castiglione Sommasco.  Again, there was the famous
miracle in 1333 of S. Maiolo in Val Rassa, which is celebrated every
year, and in virtue of which Pietro, only child of Viscount Emiliano, one
of the three brothers who fought against the heretics, was saved after
having been carried off by a ravenous wolf into the woods of Val Sorba as
far as the fountain named after the rout which this same Count, when he
afterwards grew up, inflicted upon the enemies of the valley in 1377;
wherefore he is seen in an old picture of those times as a child in
swaddling-clothes in the mouth of a wolf, and he gave the name of Fassola
di S. Maiolo to his descendants.  Nor, as in private duty bound, can the
worthy Canon forget—

    “My own beloved chapel of St. Mary of the Snow, for whose honour and
    glory I have done my utmost, at the entrance of the Val Mastallone;
    for here on a fragment of ruined wall there grow at all times sundry
    flowers, even in the ice and snows of winter; wherefore I had the
    distich set up where it may be now seen.”

I have never seen it, but must search for it next time I go to Varallo.
Torrotti presently says that the country being sterile, the people are
hard pressed for food during two-thirds of the year; hence they have
betaken themselves to commerce and to sundry arts, with which they
overrun the world, returning home but once or twice a year, with their
hands well filled with that which they have garnered, to sustain and
comfort themselves with their families; and their toil and the gains that
they have made redound no little to the advantage of the states of Milan
and Piedmont.  He again declares that they maintain their liberty,
neither will they brook the least infringement thereon.  And their
neighbours, he continues, as well as the dwellers in the valley itself,
are interested in this; for here, as in some desert or peaceful
wilderness, the noble families of Italy and neighbouring provinces have
been ever prone to harbour in times of war and trouble.

Then, later, there comes an account of a battle, which I cannot very well
understand, but it seems to have been fought on the 26th of July 1655.
The Savoyards were on their way to assist at a siege of Pavia, and were
determined to punish the Valsesians _en route_; they had come up from
Romagnano to Borgosesia, when the Valsesians attacked them as they were
at dinner, and shot off the finger of a general officer who was eating an
egg; on this the battle became general, and the Savoyards were caught
every way; for the waters of the Sesia had come down in flood during the
night.  The Germans of Alagna, Rima, and Rimella were in it, somehow, and
those of Pregemella in the Val Dobbia.  I cannot make out whether the
Pregemella people were Germans or merely people; either way, the
German-speaking villages in the Val Sesia appear to have been the same
two hundred years ago as now.  I mean, it does not seem that the
German-speaking race extended lower down the valley then than now.  But
at any rate, the queen, or whoever “Madama Reale” may be, was very angry
about the battle.

    “It is the custom,” concludes our author, “in token of holy
    cheerfulness (_allegria spirituale_) to wear a sprig of pine in the
    hat on leaving the holy place, to show that the visitor has been
    there; for it has some fine pine trees.  This custom was introduced
    in royal merriment by Carlo Emmanuele I.  He put a sprig in his hat,
    and was imitated by all his court, and the ladies wore the same in
    their bosom or in their hair.  Assuredly it is one of the wonders of
    the world to see here, amid the amenities and allurements of the
    country, especially during the summer season, what a continuous
    _festa_ or holy fair is maintained.  For there come and go torrents
    of men and women of every nation under heaven.  Here you shall see
    pilgrims and persons in religion of every description, processions,
    prelates, and often princes and princesses, carriages, litters,
    calêches, equipages, cavalcades accompanied by trumpeters, gay troops
    of cavaliers, and ladies with plumes in their hats and rich apparel
    wherewithal to make themselves attractive; and at intervals you shall
    hear all manner of songs, concerts, and musical instruments, both
    civil and military, all done with a modest and devout cheerfulness of
    demeanour, by which I am reminded of nothing so strongly as of the
    words of the Psalmist in the which he saith ‘Come and see the works
    of the Lord, for He hath done wonders upon earth.’”

It must have been something like our own Tunbridge Wells or Bath in the
last century.  Indeed, one is tempted to think that if the sea had come
up to Varallo, it must have been almost more like Margate than Jerusalem.
Nor can we forget the gentle rebuke administered on an earlier page to
those who came neither on business nor for devotion’s sake, but out of
mere idle curiosity, and bringing with them company which the good Canon
designates as scandalous.  _Mais nous avons changé tout cela_.

I have allowed myself to quote so freely from Torrotti, as thinking that
the reader will glean more incidentally from these fragments about the
genius of Varallo and its antecedents than he would get from pages of
disquisition on my own part.  Returning to the Varallo of modern times, I
would say that even now that the railway has been opened, the pleasantest
way of getting there is still over the Colma from Pella opposite Orta.  I
always call this road “the root,” for I once saw it thus described,
obviously in good faith, in the visitors’ book at one of the inns in
Varallo.  The gentleman said he had found “the root” without any
difficulty at Pella, had taken it all the way to Varallo, and it was
delicious.  He said it was one of the finest “roots” he had ever seen,
and it was only nine or ten miles long.

There were one or two other things in that book, of which, while I am
about it, I should like to deliver my mind.  A certain man who wrote a
bold round hand signed his name “Tom Taylor”—doubtless not the late
well-known art critic and dramatic writer, but some other person of the
same name—in the visitors’ book of the Hotel Leone d’Oro at Orta, and
added the word “disgusted.”  I saw this entry, then comparatively recent,
in 1871, and on going on to the Hotel d’Italia at Varallo, found it
repeated—“Tom Taylor disgusted.”  The entries in each case were probably
aimed at the Sacro Monte, and not at the inn; but they grated on me, as
they must have done on many other English visitors; and I saw with
pleasure that some one had written against the second of them the
following epigram, which is too neat not to be preserved.  It ran:—

    “Oh wretched Tom Taylor, disgusted at Orta,
       At Varallo we find him disgusted again;
    The feeling’s contagious, I really have caught a
       Disgust for Tom Taylor—he travels in vain.”

Who, I wonder, was it who could fling off such an apt impromptu, and how
many more mute inglorious writers have we not who might do anything they
chose if they would only choose to do anything at all?  Some one else had
written on an earlier page;—


    “While you’ve that which makes the mare go
    You should stay at this albergo,

    Bona in esse and in posse
    Are dispensed by Joseph Rossi.


    “Ask him and he’ll set before ye
    Vino birra e liquori,

    Asti, Grignolino, Sherry
    Prezzi moderati—very.”

There was more, but I have forgotten it.  Joseph Rossi was a famous old
waiter long since retired, something like Pietro at the Hotel Rosa Rossa
at Casale, whom all that country side knew perfectly well.  This last
entry reminds me of a somewhat similar one which I saw some five and
thirty years ago at the inn at Harlech;—


    Τῇδε πᾶν ἄριστον ἔστι
    Δεῖπνον οἶνοω και γάλ’ ἤδν.
    By this ’ere I mean to testi-
    fy how very well they feed you.


    “Quam superba sit ruina,
    Ipsa sua semper laus,
    And the castle—nothing finer,
    With its ivy and jackdaws.”

It is a pity the art of writing such pleasing little poems should be now
so generally neglected in favour of more ambitious compositions.
Whatever brevity may be as regards wit it is certainly the soul of all
agreeable poetry.

But again to return to Varallo, or rather to the way of reaching it by
the Colma.  There is nothing in North Italy more beautiful than this
walk, with its park-like chestnut-covered slopes of undulating pasture
land dotted about with the finest thatched barns to be found outside
Titian.  We might almost fancy that Handel had it in his mind when he
wrote his divine air “Verdi Prati.”  Certainly no country can be better
fitted either to the words or music.  It continues in full beauty all the
way to Civiasco, where the carriage road begins that now goes down into
the main road between Varallo and Novara, joining it a mile and a half or
so below Varallo.

Close to the point of juncture there is a chapel of singularly graceful
elegant design, called the Madonna di Loreto.  To this chapel I will
again return: it is covered with frescoes.  Near it there is an open
triangular piece of grass land on which a murderer was beheaded within
the memory of persons still living.  A wild old man, who looked like an
executioner broken loose from the flagellation chapel on the Sacro Monte,
but who was quite tame and kind to us when we came to know him, told
Jones and myself this last summer that he remembered seeing the murderer
brought here and beheaded, this being as close as might be to the place
where the murder had been committed.  We were at first rather sceptical,
but on inquiry at Varallo found that there had been an execution here,
the last in the open country, somewhere about the year 1835.

From this spot two roads lead to Varallo; one somewhat circuitous by
Mantegna, a village notable for a remarkable fresco outside the church,
in which the Virgin is appearing to a lady and gentleman as they are
lying both of them fast asleep in a large bed, with their two dear little
round heads on a couple of comfortable pillows.  The three Magi in the
very interesting frescoes behind the choir in the church of S. Abbondio
at Como are, if I remember, all in one bed when the angel comes to tell
them about the star, and I fancy they have a striped counterpane, but it
is some time since I saw the frescoes; at any rate the angel was not a
lady.  We had often before seen the Virgin appear to a lady in bed, and
even to a gentleman in bed, but never before to a lady and a gentleman
both in the same bed.  She is not, however, so much appearing to them as
sitting upon them, and I should say she was pretty heavy.  The fresco is
dated 1641.

The other road is the direct one, and passes the old church of St. Mark,
outside which there are some charming fifteenth-century frescoes by
nobody in particular, and among them a cow who, at the instance of St.
Mark, is pinning a bear or wolf to a tree in a most resolute determined

There are other frescoes on this church by the Varallese painter Luini
(not to be confounded with Bernardino), but I do not remember them as

Up to this point the two highest peaks of Monte Rosa are still visible
when clouds permit; here they disappear behind nearer mountains, and in a
few more hundred yards Varallo is entered.


IN geographical position Varallo is the most western city of North Italy
in which painting and sculpture were endemic.  Turin, Novara, Vercelli,
Casale, Ivrea, Biella, Alessandria, and Aosta have no endemic art
comparable to that of the cities east of Milan.  Bergamo, Brescia,
Verona, Vicenza, Padua, not to mention Venice and the cities of the
Friuli, not only produced artists who have made themselves permanently
famous, but are themselves, in their architecture and external features
generally, works of art as impressive as any they contain; they are
stamped with the widely-spread instinctive feeling for beauty with which
the age and people that reared them must assuredly have been inspired.
The eastern cities have perhaps suffered more from war, nevertheless it
is hard to think that the beauty so characteristic of the eastern
Lombardic cities should fail so conspicuously, at least by comparison, in
the western, if the genius of the places had been the same.  All cities
are symptomatic of the men who built them, towns no less than bodily
organisation being that unknown something which we call mind or spirit
made manifest in material form.  Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, and
Italians—to name them in alphabetical order, are not more distinct in
their several faults and virtues than are London, Paris, Berlin, and
Rome, in the impression they leave on those who see them.  How closely in
each case does the appearance of the city correspond with the genius of
the nation of which it is the capital.  The same holds good more or less
with the provincial cities of any country.  They have each in a minor
degree their distinctive evidences of character, and it will hardly be
denied that while the North Italian genius is indebted to the cities of
Piedmont for perhaps its more robust and vigorous elements, it owes its
command of beauty whether of form or colour to Lombardy rather than to
Piedmont.  It seems to have been ordained that an endemic interest in art
should not cross the Po northward to the west of the Ticino, and to this
rule Varallo is only partially an exception; the reasons which led to its
being an exception at all will be considered presently.  I know, of
course, that Novara, and still more Vercelli, contain masterpieces by
Gaudenzio Ferrari, but in each case the art was exotic, and with the not
very noteworthy exceptions of Lanini, Difendente Ferrari di Chivasso, and
Macrino d’Alba, I do not at the moment call to mind the name of a single
even high second-class painter or sculptor who has hailed from west of
the Valsesia.

The exceptional position of Varallo as regards North Italian art must be
referred mainly to its selection by Bernardino Caimi as the site for the
New Jerusalem which he founded there at the end of the fifteenth century;
a few words, therefore, concerning him will not be out of place here; I
learn from Torrotti that he was a “Frate Minore Osservante di S.
Francesco,” and came of the noble and illustrious Milanese family of the
Counts Caimi.  He had been Patriarch of the Holy Land, and, as I find
stated in Signor Galloni’s excellent work already referred to, {40} had
been employed on important missions in the island of Cyprus, chiefly in
connection with the reformation of abuses.  Full of zeal and devotion he
returned to his native country, and ere long conceived the design of
reproducing in Italy a copy of the most important sites in the Holy Land,
for the comfort and greater commodity of so many Christians who, being
unable to commit themselves to long and weary voyages by land and sea,
and among infidels, might gather thence some portion of that spiritual
fruit which were otherwise beyond their reach.

Old and mendicant as he was, he was nothing daunted by the magnitude of
the task before him, and searched Lombardy from one end to the other in
his desire to provide Providence with a suitable abode.  For a long while
he sought in vain, and could find no place that was really like
Jerusalem, but at last, towards the end of 1491, he came to Varallo
alone, and had hardly got there before he felt himself rapt into an
ecstasy, in the which he was drawn towards the Sacro Monte; when he got
up to the plain on the top of the mountain which was then called “La
Parete,” perceiving at once its marvellous resemblance to Jerusalem, even
to the existence of another mountain hard by which was like Calvary, he
threw himself on the ground and thanked God in a transport of delight.
It is said that for some time previously the shepherds who watched their
flocks on this solitary height had been talking of nothing but of
heavenly harmonies that had been heard coming from the sky; that Caimi
himself while yet in the Holy Land had been shown this place in a vision;
and that on reaching an eminence called Sceletta he had been conducted to
the site itself by the song of a bird which sang with such extraordinary
sweetness that he had been constrained to follow it.

I should have set this bird down as a blue rock thrush or _passero
solitario_, for I know these birds breed yearly on the Sacro Monte, and
no bird sings so sweetly as they do, but we are expressly told that Caimi
did not reach Varallo till the end of the year, and the _passeri
solitarii_ have all migrated by the end of August.  We have seen,
however, that Milano Scarrognini actually founded a chapel in October
1491, so Torrotti is wrong in his date, and Caimi may have come in 1490,
and perhaps in August, before the _passeri_ were gone.  There can be
little doubt in fact that he came, or at any rate chose his site, before

Whatever the bird may have been, Caimi now communicated his design to the
Consiglio della Vicinanza at Varallo, through Milano de’ Scarrognini, who
was a member of the body, and who also gave support in money;
negotiations were not finally concluded until the 14th of April 1493, on
which day, as we have already seen, the site of the monastery of S. Maria
della Grazie was conveyed to the Padri dell’ Osservanza with the
concession of a right to build their New Jerusalem on the adjoining
mountain—which they had already begun to do for some time past.

Divine assistance was manifest in the ease with which everything had been
arranged, but Torrotti goes on to assure us that it was presently made
still clearer.  The design had been to begin with a reproduction of the
Holy Sepulchre, and hardly had the workmen begun to dig for the
foundation of this first work, when a stone was found, not only
resembling the one which covered the actual Holy Sepulchre itself, but an
absolute facsimile of it in all respects—as like it, in fact, or even
more so, than Varallo was to Jerusalem.  The testimony to this was so
notorious, and the fact was so soon and widely known, that pilgrims
flocked in crowds and brought gifts enough to bring the first abode of
the Fathers with the chapel beside it to a speedy and successful
completion.  Everything having been now started auspiciously, and the
Blessed Bernardino having been allowed to look, as it were, into the
promised land, God took him to Himself on the 5th day of the Ides of
February 1496, or—as I have above said that the inscription on Caimi’s
tomb declares—in 1499.

The churches, both the one below the mountain in which Gaudenzio’s great
series of frescoes may be still seen, and the one on the top, which stood
on the site now occupied by the large house that stands to the right of
the present church, and is called the Casino, were consecrated between
the 5th and 7th days of September 1501, and by this time several of the
chapels with figures in them had been taken in hand, and were well
advanced if not completed.

Fassola’s version of Bernardino Caimi’s visit is more guarded than
Torrotti’s is.  Before going on to it I will say here the little that
need be said about Fassola himself.  I find from Signor Galloni’s “Uomini
e fatti” (p. 208) that he was born at Rassa above Bucioleto in the Val
Grande, on the 19th of September 1648.  His family had one house at
Rassa, and another at Varallo, which last is believed to have been what
is now the hotel Croce Bianca, at which I always myself stay.  Torrotti,
in his preface, claims to have been one of his masters; he also says that
Fassola was only eighteen when he wrote his work on the Sacro Monte, and
that he had published a work when he was only fourteen.  The note given
by Signor Galloni [p. 233] settles it that Fassola was born “anno D. 1648
die 19 septembris hora 22 min. 30,” so that either the book lay some
years unpublished, or he was over twenty when he wrote it.  Like the
edition of Caccia already referred to, it is dated a year later than the
one in which it actually appeared, so that the present custom of
post-dating late autumn books is not a new one.  In the preface the
writer speaks of his pen as being “tenera non tanto per talento quanto
per l’età.”  In the same preface he speaks of himself as having a double
capacity, one as a Delegate to the governing body of the valley, and the
other as a canon; but he must mean some kind of lay canon, for I cannot
find that he was ever ordained.  In 1672 he published his work “La
Valsesia descritta,” which according to Signor Galloni is more hastily
written than his earlier work.  On the 14th of December, the same year,
he left the Valsesia and travelled to France, keeping a journal for some
time, which Signor Galloni tells us still existed in 1873 in the
possession of Abate Cav. Carestia of Riva Valdobbia.  He went to Paris,
and appears to have stayed there till 1683, when he returned to Varallo,
and the Valsesia.

He found his country torn by faction, and was immediately hailed by all
parties as the one man whom all could agree to elect as Regent General of
the Valley.  He was elected, and on the 5th of October convened his first
general council of the Valsesia.  He seems to have been indefatigable as
an administrator during the short time he held office, but in the year
1684 was deposed by the Milanese, who on the 3rd of December sent a body
of armed men to seize him and take him to Milan.  He was warned in time
to fly, and escaped to France, where according to some he died, while
others say that he settled in Poland and there attained high distinction.
Nothing, however, is known for certain about him later than the year 1684
or the beginning of 1685.

In 1686 Torrotti published his book.  He says that Fassola during his
regency repeatedly desired him “ripigliare questa relatione per commodità
dei Pelegrini, Divoti, visitanti,” and that so much new matter had come
to light since Fassola’s time that a new work was called for.  Fassola,
he says, even in the midst of his terrible misfortunes, continued to take
the warmest interest in his native city, and in the Sacro Monte, where it
appears he had been saluted by a very memorable and well-known miracle,
which was so well known in Torrotti’s time that it was not necessary to
tell us what it was.  Fassola may or may not have urged Torrotti to write
a second work upon the Sacro Monte, but he can hardly have intended him
to make it little more than a transcript of his own book.  If new facts
had come to light they do not appear in Torrotti’s pages.  He very rarely
adds to Fassola, and never corrects him; when Fassola is wrong Torrotti
is wrong also; even when something is added I have a strong suspicion
that it comes from Fassola’s second book.  On the whole I am afraid I
regard Torrotti as somewhat of a plagiarist—at least as regards his
matter, for his manner is his own and is very quaint, garrulous, and

Fassola’s work is full of inaccuracies, and of such inaccuracies as can
only be explained on the supposition that the writer resided mainly at
Rassa, wrote his book there, and relied too much upon notes which he did
not verify after his work was written.  Nevertheless, as Signor Galloni
justly says, “he must be allowed the merit of having preserved an immense
mass of matter from otherwise almost certain destruction, and his pages
when subjected to rigid examination and criticism furnish abundant
material to the writer of genuine history.”

He leans generally much less towards the miraculous than Torrotti does.
After saying, for example, that Bernardino Caimi had returned from
Jerusalem in 1481 full of devotion and with the fixed intention of
reproducing the Holy City on Italian soil, he continues:—

    “With this holy intent the good ecclesiastic journeyed to the
    mountains of Biella, and thence to the Val d’Ossola, and thence to
    several places in the Valsesia, which of all others was the valley in
    which he was most inclined to unburden his mind of the treasure of
    his heroic design.  Finally, arriving at Varallo, as the place of
    most resort, where most of those would come whose means and goodwill
    would incline them to works of piety, he resolved to choose the most
    suitable site that he could here find.  According to some, while
    taking counsel with himself and with all who could help him, the site
    which we now adore was shown him in a vision; others say that on
    walking without the town he was seduced by the angelic warbling of a
    bird, and thus ravished to a spot where he found all things in such
    order for his design that he settled upon it then and there.  Many
    hold as true the story of certain shepherds who about a fortnight
    earlier than the coming of the father, heard songs of more than
    earthly sweetness as they were keeping watch over their flocks by

“But,” concludes Fassola, with some naiveté considering the reserve he
has shown in accepting any of the foregoing stories, “take it in whatever
way you will, the inception of the place was obviously miraculous.”


WHETHER miraculous or not, the early history of the Sacro Monte is
undoubtedly obscure, and the reader will probably have ere this perceived
that the accounts given by Fassola and Torrotti stand in some need of
reconstruction.  The resemblance between Varallo and Jerusalem is too far
fetched to have had any _bonâ fide_ effect upon a man of travel and of
affairs, such as Caimi certainly was; it is hardly greater than the
famous one between Monmouth and Macedon; there is, indeed, a river—not to
say two—at Varallo, and there is a river also only twenty-five miles off
Jerusalem; doubtless at one time or another there have been crucifixions
in both, but some other reason must be sought for the establishment of a
great spiritual stronghold at the foot of the Alps, than a mere desire to
find the place which should most remind its founder of the Holy City.
Why this great effort in a remote and then almost inaccessible province
of the Church, far from any of the religious centres towards which one
would have expected it to gravitate?  The answer suggests itself as
readily as the question; namely, that it was an attempt to stem the
torrent of reformed doctrines already surging over many an Alpine pass,
and threatening a moral invasion as fatal to the spiritual power of Rome
as earlier physical invasions of Northmen had been to her material power.

Those who see the Italian sub-alpine valleys of to-day as devoted to the
Church of Rome are apt to forget how nearly they fell away from her in
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and what efforts, both by way of
punishment and allurement, she was compelled to make before she could
retain them in her grasp.  In most of them the ferment caused by the
introduction of the reformed doctrines was in the end stamped out; but in
some, as in the Valle di Poschiavo, and the Val Bregaglia, Protestantism
is still either the predominant creed or not uncommon.  I do not mention
the Vaudois valleys of Piedmont, for I am told these were Protestant
before either Huss or Luther preached.

The Valsesians had ere now given proof of a tendency towards heresy, but
they were a people whom it was worth while making every effort to retain.
They have ever been, as we have seen it said already, a vigorous, sturdy,
independent race, imbued, in virtue perhaps of their mixed descent, with
a large share of the good points both of Southern and Northern nations.
They are Italians; but Italians of the most robust and Roman type,
combining in a remarkable degree Southern grace and versatility with
Northern enterprise and power of endurance.  It is no great stretch of
imagination to suppose that Bernardino Caimi was alive to dangers that
were sufficiently obvious, and that he began with the Val Sesia, partly
as of all the sub-alpine valleys the one most imbued with German
blood—the one in which to this day the German language has lingered
longest, and in which, therefore, ideas derived from Germany would most
easily be established—and partly because of the quasi-independence of the
Val Sesia, and of its lying out of the path of those wars from which the
plains of Lombardy have been rarely long exempt.  It may be noted that
the movement set on foot by Caimi extended afterwards to other places,
always, with the exception of Crea, on the last slopes of the Alps before
the plains of Lombardy and Piedmont begin.  Varese, Locarno, Orta,
Varallo, Oropa, Graglia, St. Ignazio, not to mention St. Giovanni di
Andorno, have all of them something of the spiritual frontier fortress
about them, and, I imagine, are all more or less directly indebted to the
reformation for their inception.

Confining our attention to Varallo, the history of the Sacro Monte
divides itself into two main periods; the first, from the foundation to
the visit of S. Carlo Borromeo in 1678; the second, from the visit of S.
Carlo to the present day.  The first of these periods begins with 1486,
in which year the present Sacro Monte was no doubt formally contemplated,
if not actually commenced.  That it was contemplated is shown by the
inscription on Caimi’s grave already given, and also by the first of the
two deeds given in Signor Galloni’s notes, from which it appears {52}
that under the brief of December 21, 1486, Caimi had powers to take over
the land now covered by the chapels, _even though he should be absent_—it
being evidently intended that the land should be conveyed at once, and
before he could return from Jerusalem, for which place he started in
1487.  Moreover, there remains one small chapel with frescoes that can
hardly be later than 1485–1490.  This is now numbered 45, and is supposed
by many to be older even than Caimi’s first visit.  It may be so, but
there is nothing to show that it actually was.  I have seen a date
scratched on it which it is said is 1437, but the four is really a five,
which in old writing is often taken for a four, and the frescoes, which
in their own way are of considerable merit, would be most naturally
assigned to about the date 1485–1490.  I do not think there can be a
doubt that we have in this chapel the earliest existing building on the
Sacro Monte, but find it impossible to form any opinion as to whether it
was in existence before Bernardino Caimi’s time, or no.

In the second of the two deeds given by Signor Galloni (p. 85), the
following passage occurs:—

    “Et similiter fecerunt ipsi Sindici, et Procuratores, ut suprà
    introducendo ipsum Patrem Vicarium ut suprà in Eremitorium sancti
    Sepulchri existent. in loco ubi dicebatur super pariete, aperiendo
    eidem ostia dicti Eremitorij, et dando eidem claues Ostiorum dicti
    eremitorij, et eum deambulari faciendo in eo, et similiter in Hortis
    dicti Eremitorij, dando eidem in gremium ut suprà de terris, herbis,
    et frondibus, et lapidibus existen. in locis prædictis, _et similiter
    in Capella existente subtus crucem_, _et in Capellam Ascensionis
    Ædificatam super Monte prædicto_.  Qui locus est de membris dicti
    Monasterii suprascripti.”

Neither Signor Galloni, who pointed out this passage to me, nor I, though
we have more than once discussed the matter on the ground itself, can
arrive at any conclusion as to what was intended by “the chapel now in
existence under the cross,” nor yet what chapel is intended by “the
chapel of the Ascension on the said mountain.”  It is probable that there
was an early chapel of the Ascension, and the wooden figure of Christ on
the fountain in the piazza before the church was very likely taken from
it, but there is no evidence to show where it stood.

Signor Arienta tells me that the chapel now occupied by the Temptation in
the Wilderness was formerly a chapel of the Ascension.  He told me to go
round to the back of this chapel, and I should find it was earlier than
appeared from the front.  I did so, and saw it had formerly fronted the
other way to what it does now, but among the many dates scrawled on it
could find none earlier than 1506, and it is not likely to have been
built thirteen years before it got scrawled on.

Some hold the chapels referred to in the deed above quoted from to have
included the present Annunciation, Salutation, and sleeping St. Joseph
block—or part of it.  Others hold them to have referred to the chapels
now filled by the Pietà and the Entombment (Nos. 40 and 41); but it
should not be forgotten that by 1493 the chapels of S. Francis and the
Holy Sepulchre were already in existence, though no mention is made of
them; and there may have been other chapels also already built of which
no mention is made.  Thus immediately outside the St. Francis chapel and
towards the door leading to the Holy Sepulchre, there is a small recess
in which is placed an urn of iron that contains the head of Bernardino
Caimi with a Latin inscription; and hard by there is another inscription
which runs as follows:—

    “Magnificus D. Milanus Scarrogninus hoc Sepulcrum cum fabrica sibi
    contigua Christo posuit die septimo Octobris MCCCCLXXXXI.  R. P.
    Frater Bernardinus de Mediolano Ordinis Minorum de Observ. sacra
    hujus montis excogitavit loca, ut hic Hierusalem videat qui peragrare

We may say with some confidence that the present chapel No. 45, those
numbered 40 and 41, the block containing the St. Francis and Holy
Sepulchre chapels, and probably the Presepio, Adoration of the Shepherds,
and Circumcision chapels—though it may be doubted whether these last
contained the figures that they now do—were in existence before the year
1500.  Part if not all of the block containing the Sta. Casa di Loreto,
in which the Annunciation is now found, is also probably earlier than
1500, as also an early Agony in the Garden now long destroyed, but of
which we are told that the figures were originally made of wood.  Over
and above these there was a Cena, Capture, Flagellation, and an Ascension
chapel, all of which contained wooden figures, and cannot be dated later
than the three or four earliest years of the sixteenth century.  No
wooden figure is to be dated later than this, for when once an oven for
baking clay had been made (and this must have been done soon after
Gaudenzio took the works on the Sacro Monte in hand) the use of wood was
discarded never to be resumed.

According to both Fassola and Torrotti, the first chapel erected on the
Sacro Monte was that of S. Francesco, with its adjacent reproduction of
the Holy Sepulchre.  According to Bordiga the first was the entombment,
containing nine figures of wood, or, as the earlier writers say, eight.
Bordiga probably means that the Entombment was the earliest chapel with
figures in it, and the other writers that the St. Francis chapel was the
first in which mass was said.  These last speak very highly of the wooden
figures in the Entombment chapel, and so more guardedly does Bordiga.  I
will return to them when I come to the present group of nine by Luigi
Marchesi, a sculptor of Saltrio, which were substituted for the old ones
in 1826.  The early writers say that there was no fresco background to
this chapel, and this suggests that the attempt to combine sculpture and
painting was not part of the initial scheme, though soon engrafted on to
it, inasmuch as this is the only chapel about which I find it expressly
stated by early writers that it was without a fresco background (“senza
pittura alcuna”). {57}  Though there was no fresco background, Bordiga
says there was a fresco painted, doubtless done very early in his career,
by Gaudenzio Ferrari, outside the chapel just above the iron grating
through which the visitor must look.  Probably the original scheme was to
have sculptured figures inside the chapels, and frescoes outside; by an
easy modification these last were transferred from the outside to the
inside, and so designed as to form an integral part of the composition:
the daring scheme of combining the utmost resources of both painting and
sculpture in a single work was thus gradually evolved rather than arrived
at _per saltum_.  Assuming, however, the currently received date of 1503
or 1504 as correct for Gaudenzio’s frescoes in the present Pietà chapel,
the conception as carried out in the greater number of the existing
chapels had then attained the shape from which no subsequent departure
was made.

Returning to Gaudenzio’s fresco outside the S. Francesco chapel, Bordiga
says that Caccia gave the following lines on this work:—

    “Sotto un vicino portico di fuore
    Portato a sepelir è di pittura
    Un Cristo; che non mai Zeuxi pittore
    Di questo finse piu bella figura,
    Che un San Francesco possa pareggiare,
    Pinto più inanzi sopra d’un altare.”

The reader will note that the fresco is here expressly stated to be “di
fuore” or outside and not inside the chapel.

Both Fassola and Torrotti place this fresco on the outside wall of the
chapel of St. Francis, but Bordiga is probably right in saying it was on
the Entombment chapel.  No trace of it remains, nor yet of the other
works by Gaudenzio, which all three writers agree were in the S.
Francesco chapel, though they must all have been some few years later
than the chapel itself.  These consisted of portraits of Milano
Scarrognini with Father Beato Candido Ranzo Bernardino Caimi upon the
gospel, or right, side of the altar, and of Scarrognini’s wife and son
with Bernardino Caimi, on the epistle side.  According to Bordiga,
Gaudenzio also painted a St. Anthony of Padua, and a St. Helena, one on
either side the grating.  Inside the chapel over the altar was a painting
of St. Francis receiving the stigmata, also by Gaudenzio.  This is the
only one of his works in or about the S. Francesco chapel which still
exists; it is now in the pinacoteca of the Museum at Varallo, but is not,
so far as I could judge of it, one of his best pictures.  The other works
were in a decayed condition in 1703, when they were removed, and the
chapel was redecorated by Francesco Leva, a painter of Milan.

The Crucifixion chapel of Gaudenzio Ferrari was begun and finished
between 1520 and 1530.  I have found three excellently written dates of
1529 scrawled upon the fresco background.  One of them, “1529 Die 26
Octobre Johannes Antoninus,” is especially clear, and the other two leave
no doubt what year was intended.  I have found no earlier date, but
should not be surprised if further search were more successful.  I may
say in passing that it seemed to me as though some parts of the scar made
by the inscription had been filled with paint, while others had certainly
not—as though the work had been in parts retouched, not so very long ago.
I think this is so, but two or three to whom I showed what I took to be
the new colour were not convinced, so I must leave others to decide the

The Magi chapel must be assigned to some date between the years 1530 and
1539—I should say probably to about 1538, but I will return to this later
on.  Torrotti says that some of the figures on the Christ taken for the
last time before Pilate (chapel No. 32) are by Gaudenzio, as also some
paintings that were preserved when the Palazzo di Pilato was built, but I
can see no sign of either one or the other now; nevertheless it is likely
enough that several figures—transformed as we shall presently see that
d’Enrico or his assistants knew very well how to transform them—are doing
duty in the Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate, and Ecce Homo chapels.  So cunningly
did the workmen of that time disguise a figure when they wanted to alter
its character and action that it would be no easy matter to find out
exactly what was done; if they could turn an Eve, as they did, into a
very passable Roman soldier assisting at the capture of Christ, they
could make anything out of anything.  A figure was a figure, and was not
to be thrown away lightly.

Soon after the completion of the Magi chapel the work flagged in
consequence of the wars then devastating the provinces of North Italy;
nevertheless by the middle of the sixteenth century we learn from
Torrotti that some nineteen chapels had been completed.

It is idle to spend much time in guessing which these chapels were, when
Caccia’s work, published in 1565, is sure to be found some day and will
settle the matter authoritatively, but the reader will not be far wrong
if he sees the Sacro Monte by the year 1550 as consisting of the
following chapels: Adam and Eve, Annunciation, Salutation (?), Magi,
Adoration of the Infant Jesus by the Shepherds, Adoration by Joseph and
Mary, Circumcision, (but not the present figures nor fresco background),
Last Supper, Agony in the Garden, Capture, Flagellation, Crowning with
thorns (?), Christ taken for the last time before Pilate, the Original
journey to Calvary, Fainting Madonna, Crucifixion, Entombment, Ascension,
and the old church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary now removed.
There were probably one or two others, but there cannot have been many.

In the 1586 edition of Caccia, a MS. copy of which I have before me, the
chapels are given as follows: Adam and Eve, Annunciation, and Santa Casa
di Loreto, Visit of Mary to Elizabeth, Magi, Joseph and Mary worshipping
the Infant Christ, and the Adoration of Shepherds, {62} Circumcision,
Joseph warned to fly, the chapel (but not the figures) of the Massacre of
the Innocents, Flight into Egypt Baptism, Temptation in the Wilderness,
Woman of Samaria, the chapel (but not the figures) of the Healing of the
Paralytic, and the Raising of the Widow’s son at Nain, the Raising of
Lazarus, Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Agony in the
Garden, Capture, Flagellation, Crowning with Thorns, Christ carrying His
cross to Calvary (doubtless Tabachetti’s chapel), the Fainting of the
Virgin, the earlier Journey to Calvary by Gaudenzio (now dispersed or
destroyed), Crucifixion, Pietà, Holy Sepulchre, Appearance to Mary
Magdalene (now no longer existing).

I should say, however, that I find it impossible to reconcile the two
accounts of the journeys to Calvary, given in the prose introduction to
this work, and in the poetical description that follows it, or rather to
understand the topography of the poetical version at all, for the prose
account is plain enough.  I shall place a MS. copy of the 1586 edition of
Caccia’s book in the British Museum, before this present volume is
published, and will leave other students of Valsesian history to be more
fortunate if they can.  Poetical descriptions are so far better than
prose, inasmuch as there is generally less of them in a page, but on the
whole prose has the advantage.

It would be interesting to see the 1565 and 1576 editions of Caccia, and
note the changes and additions that can be found in them.  The
differences between the 1586 and 1590 editions (dated 1587 and 1591—the
preface to the second being dated September 25, 1589), are enough to
throw considerable additional light upon the history of the place, and
if, as I believe likely, we find no mention of Tabachetti’s Calvary
chapel in the edition of 1576, nor of his other chapels, we should be
able to date his arrival at Varallo within a very few years, and settle a
question which, until these two editions of Caccia are found, appears
insoluble.  I must be myself content with pointing out these _libri
desiderati_ to the future historian.

Some say that the work on the Sacro Monte was almost discontinued between
the years 1540 and 1580.  I cannot, however, find that this was so,
though it appears to have somewhat flagged.  I cannot tell whether
Tabachetti came to Varallo before S. Carlo or after him.  If before, then
a good deal of the second impetus may be due to the sculptor rather than
to the saint; if after, and as a consequence of S. Carlo’s visit, then
indeed S. Carlo must be considered as the second founder of the place;
but whatever view is taken about this, S. Carlo’s visit in 1578 is
convenient as marking a new departure in the history of the Sacro Monte,
and he may be fairly called its second founder.

Giussano gives the following account of his first visit, which makes us
better understand the austere expression that reigns on S. Carlo’s face,
as we see it represented in his portraits:—

    “It was two o’clock in the day before St. Charles arrived at this
    place, and he had not broken his fast, but before taking anything he
    visited the different chapels for meditation, of which Father Adorno
    gave him the points.  As evening drew on, he withdrew to take his
    refection of bread and water, and then returned again to the chapels
    till after midnight though the weather was very cold” [end of October
    or beginning of November].  “He then took two hours’ rest on a chair,
    and at five o’clock in the morning resumed his devotions; then, after
    having said his Mass, he again allowed himself a small portion of
    bread and water, and continued his journey to Milan, renewed in
    fervour of spirit, and with a firm determination to begin again to
    serve God with greater energy than ever.” {65}

Surely one may add “according to his lights” after the words “to serve
God.”  The second visit of St. Charles to Varallo, a few days before his
death, is even more painful reading, and the reader may be referred for
an account of it to chapter xi. of the second volume of the work last
quoted from.  He had a cell in the cloister, where he slept on a wooden
bed, which is still shown and venerated, and used to spend hours in
contemplating the various sacred mysteries, but most especially the Agony
in the Garden, near which a little shelter was made for him, and in which
he was praying when his impending death was announced to him by an angel.
But this chapel, which was near the present Transfiguration Chapel, was
destroyed and rebuilt on its present site after his death, as also the
Cena Chapel, which originally contained frescoes by Bernardino Lanini.
It was on the Sacro Monte that S. Carlo discharged his last public
functions, after which, feeling that he had taken a chill, he left
Varallo on the 29th of October 1584, and died at Milan six days

At S. Carlo’s instance Pellegrino Pellegrini, called Tibaldi, made a new
design for the Sacro Monte, which was happily never carried out, but
which I am told involved the destruction of many of the earlier chapels.
He made the plan of the Sacro Monte as it stood in his time, which I have
already referred to, and designed the many chapels mentioned in the 1586
edition of Caccia as about to be built.  Prominent among these was the
Temple of Solomon, which was to involve “_una spesa grandissima_,” and
was to be as like the real temple as it could be made.  Inside it were to
be groups of figures representing Christ driving out those that bought
and sold, and it was to have a magnificent marble portico.

The Palazzo di Pilato, which, as the name denotes, is devoted to the
sufferings of Christ under Pontius Pilate, was actually carried out,
though not till some years after S. Carlo’s death, and not according to
Pellegrini’s design.  It is most probable that the designer of the
Palazzo di Pilato, and of the Caiaphas and Herod chapels as we now see
them, was Giovanni d’Enrico.  “It was in 1608,” says Bordiga, {66}
writing of the Santa Scala, which leads from the Crowning with Thorns to
the Ecce Homo chapels, and which, one would say, must have been one of
the first things done when the Palazzo di Pilato was made, “that this
work with its steps, exactly twenty-eight in number, was begun, according
to the design obtained from Rome by Francesco Testa, who was then
Fabbriciere.  This is for the information of those who think it is the
work of Pellegrini.”

Between this year and 1645 the four Pilate chapels, the Ecce Homo,
Caiaphas, Herod, present Pietà, Sleeping Apostles, Agony in the Garden,
and Christ Nailed to the Cross chapels were either created or
reconstructed.  These works bear d’Enrico’s name in the guide-books, and
he no doubt presided over the work that was done in them; but I should
say that by far the greater number of the figures in them are by Giacomo
Ferro, his assistant, to whom I will return presently, or by other pupils
and assistants.  Only one chapel, the Transfiguration, belongs to the
second half of the seventeenth century, and one, the Christ before Annas,
to the eighteenth (1765); one—the present Entombment—belongs to the
nineteenth, and one or two have been destroyed, as has been unfortunately
the case with the Chiesa Vecchia; but the plan of the Sacro Monte in
1671, which I here give, will show that it was not much different then
from what it is at present.  The numbers on the chapels are explained as

  1.  Gate.

  2.  Creation of the world and Adam and Eve.

  3.  Annunciation.

  4.  Salutation.

  5.  First vision of St. Joseph.

  6.  Magi.

  7.  Nativity.

  8.  Circumcision.

  9.  Second vision of St. Joseph.

  10.  Flight into Egypt.

  11.  Massacre of the Innocents.

  12.  Baptism.

  13.  Temptation.

  14.  Woman of Samaria.

  15.  Healing the Paralytic.

  16.  Widow’s son at Nain.

  17.  Transfiguration.

  18.  Raising of Lazarus.

  19.  Entry into Jerusalem.

  20.  Last Supper.

  21.  Agony in the Garden.

  22.  Sleeping Apostles.

  23.  Capture.

  24.  Caiaphas, and Penitence of St. Peter.

  25.  Christ before Pilate.

  26.  Christ before Herod.

  27.  Christ sent again to Pilate.

  28.  Flagellation.

  29.  Crowning with thorns.

  30.  Christ about to ascend the Santa Scala (not shown on plan).

  31.  Ecce Homo.

  32.  Pilate washes his hands.

  33.  Christ condemned to death.

  34.  Christ carrying the Cross.

  35.  Nailing to the Cross.

  36.  Passion.

  37.  Deposition from the Cross.

  38.  Pietà.

  39.  Entombment (not shown on plan).

  40.  Chapel of St. Francis.

  41.  Holy Sepulchre.

  42.  Appearance to Mary Magdalene.

  43.  Infancy of the Virgin.

  44.  Sepulchre of the Virgin.

  45.  Sepulchre of St. Anne.

  46.  Ascended Christ over the fountain.

  47.  Chiesa Vecchia.

  48.  Chiesa Maggiore.

The view is a bird’s-eye one, and there is hardly any hill in reality.

           [Picture: Plate I: Plan of the Sacro Monte in 1671]


THE foregoing outline of the history of the work must suffice for the
present.  I will reserve further remarks for the space which I will
devote to each individual chapel.  As regards the particular form the
work took, I own that I have been at times inclined to wonder whether
Leonardo da Vinci may not have had something to do with it.

Between 1481 and the end of 1499 he was in Milan, and during the later
years of this period was the chief authority on all art matters.  It is
not easy to think that Caimi, who was a Milanese, would not consult him
before embarking upon an art enterprise of the first magnitude; and
certainly there is a something in the idea of turning the full strength
of both painting and sculpture at once on to a single subject, which
harmonises well with the magnificent rashness of which we know Leonardo
to have been capable, and with the fact that he was both a painter and a
sculptor himself.  There is, however, not one scrap of evidence in
support of this view, which is based solely on the fact that both the
scheme and Leonardo were audacious, and that the first is little likely
to have been undertaken without counsel from the second.  The actual
evidence points rather, as already indicated, in the direction of
thinking that the frescoes began outside the chapels, got inside them for
shelter, and ere long claimed the premises as belonging no less to
themselves than to the statues.  The idea of treating full-relief
sculptured figures with a view to a pictorial rather than sculpturesque
effect was in itself, as undertaken when Gaudenzio was too young to have
had a voice in the matter, a daring innovation, even without the adjunct
of a fresco background; and the idea of taking a mountain as though it
were a book, and illustrating it with a number of such groups, was more
daring still.  To this extent we may perhaps suppose Caimi to have been
indebted to Leonardo da Vinci: the rest is probably due to Gaudenzio, who
evolved it in the course of those unforeseen developments of which design
and judgment are never slow to take advantage.

To whomsoever the conception may be due, if it had only been carried out
by such artists as Tabachetti and Gaudenzio Ferrari, or even Giovanni
d’Enrico, to say nothing of Bargnola or Rossetti, (to whichever of the
two the Massacre of the Innocents must be assigned,) works like those at
Varallo might have been repeated, as indeed they sometimes were,
thenceforward to the present day.  Unfortunately the same thing was
attempted at Orta, and later on at Varese, by greatly inferior men.  It
is true that some of the groups at Varese, especially the one in the
Disputa Chapel, are exceedingly fine, and that there are few chapels even
there in which no good or even admirable figures may be found.  Still the
prevailing spirit at Varese is stagey; the work belongs to an age when
art of all kinds was held to consist mainly in exaggeration, and when
freedom from affectation had fallen into a disrepute from which it has
taken centuries to emerge.  Nevertheless the work at Varese is for the
most part able; if at times somewhat boisterous and ranting, it is
incomparably above the feeble, silly cant of Orta; but unfortunately it
is by Orta that English people for the most part judge the attempt to
combine sculpture and painting.  It is indeed some years since I was at
this last-named place, and remembering how long I knew the Sacro Monte at
Varallo without observing the Vecchietto in the Descent from the Cross
Chapel, I cannot be sure that there is not some more interesting work at
Orta than I now know.  I do not think, however, I am far wrong in saying
that the chapels at Orta are for the most part exceedingly bad.

So are some even at Varallo itself, but assuredly not most of them.
One—I mean, of course, Tabachetti’s Journey to Calvary, which contains
about forty figures rather larger than life, and nine horses,—is of such
superlative excellence as regards composition and dramatic power, to say
nothing of the many admirable individual figures comprised in it, that it
is not too much to call it the most astounding work that has ever been
achieved in sculpture.  I know that this is strong language, but have
considered my words as much as I care to do.  As Michael Angelo’s
Medicean Chapel errs on the side of over-subtlety, refinement, and the
exaggerated idealism from which indeed there is but one step to the
_barocco_, so does Tabachetti’s on that of over-downrightness, or, as a
critic with a cultivated eye might say, with perhaps a show of reason at
a first glance, even of vulgarity.  Nevertheless, if I could have my
choice whether to have created Michael Angelo’s chapel or Tabachetti’s, I
should not for a moment hesitate about choosing Tabachetti’s, though it
drove its unhappy creator mad, which the Medicean chapel never did by
Michael Angelo.  Three other chapels by Tabachetti are also admirable
works.  Two chapels contain very extensive frescoes by Gaudenzio Ferrari,
than which it is safe to say that no finer works of their kind have been
preserved to us.  The statues by Gaudenzio in the same chapels are all
interesting, and some remarkably good.  Their arrangement in the
Crucifixion Chapel, if not marked by the superlative dramatic power of
Tabachetti, is still solemn, dignified, and impressive.  The frescoes by
Morazzone in Tabachetti’s great chapel belong to the decline of art, but
there is still much in them that is excellent.  So there is in some of
those by Tanzio and Melchiorre, Giovanni d’Enrico’s brothers.  Giovanni
d’Enrico’s Nailing of Christ to the Cross, with its sixty figures all
rather larger than life, challenges a comparison with Tabachetti’s, which
it will not bear; still it is a great work.  So are several of his other
chapels.  I am not so thoroughly in sympathy with the work of any of the
three brothers d’Enrico as I should like to be, but they cannot be
ignored or spoken of without respect.  There are excellent figures in
some of the chapels by less well-known men; and lastly, there is the
Vecchietto, perhaps the finest figure of all, who looks as if he had
dropped straight from the heavens towards which he is steadfastly
regarding, and of whom nothing is known except that, if not by
Tabachetti, he must be by a genius in some respects even more commanding,
who has left us nothing save this Melchizedek of a figure, without
father, mother, or descent.

I have glanced at some of the wealth in store for those who will explore
it, but at the same time I cannot pretend that even the greater number of
the chapels on the Sacro Monte are above criticism; and unfortunately
some of the best do not come till the visitor, if he takes them in the
prescribed order, has already seen a good many, and is beginning to be
tired.  There is not a little to be said in favour of taking them in the
reverse order.  As when one has sampled several figures in a chapel and
found them commonplace, one is apt to overlook a good one which may have
got in by accident of shifting in some one of the several rearrangements
made in the course of more than three centuries, so when sampling the
chapels themselves, after finding half a dozen running which are of
inferior merit, we approach the others with a bias against them.
Moreover, all of them have suffered more or less severely from decay.
Rain and snow, indeed, can hardly get right inside the chapels, or, at
any rate, not inside most of them, but they are all open to the air, and,
at a height of over two thousand feet, ages of winter damp have dimmed
the glory even of the best-preserved.  In many cases the hair and beards,
with excess of realism, were made of horse hair glued on, and the glue
now shows unpleasantly; while the paint on many of the faces and dresses
has blistered or peeled, leaving the figures with a diseased and mangy
look.  In other cases, they have been scraped and repainted, and this
process has probably been repeated many times over, with inevitable loss
of character; for the paint, unless very carefully removed, must soon
clog up and conceal delicate modelling in many parts of the face and
hands.  The new paint has often been of a shiny, oleaginous character,
and this will go far to vulgarise even a finely modelled figure, giving
it something of the look of a Highlander outside a tobacconist’s shop.  I
am glad to see that Professor Burlazzi, in repainting the Adam and Eve in
the first chapel, has used dead colour, as was done by Tabachetti in his
Journey to Calvary.  As the figures have often become mangy, so the
frescoes are with few exceptions injured by damp and mould.  The expense
of keeping up so many chapels must be very heavy; it is surprising,
therefore, that the general state of repair should be as good as it is.
Nevertheless, there is not a chapel which does not require some effort of
the imagination before the mind’s eye can see it as it was when left by
those who made it.

Unless the reader feels equal to this effort,—and enough remains to make
it a very possible one—he had better stick to the Royal Academy and
Grosvenor Exhibitions.  It should go without saying that a work of art,
if considered at all, must be held to be as it was when first completed.
If we could see Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Crucifixion Chapel with its
marvellous frescoes as strong and fresh in colour as they were three
centuries and a half ago, and with its nearly thirty life-sized human
figures and horses in good condition—not forgetting that, whatever Sir
Henry Layard may say to the contrary, they are all by one hand; if,
again, Tabachetti’s great work was seen by us as it was seen by
Tabachetti, and Morazzone’s really fine background were not disfigured by
damp and mildew, it can hardly be doubted that even “a cultivated eye”
would find little difficulty in seeing these two chapels as among the
very finest triumphs that have been vouchsafed to human genius; and
surely, if this be so, it follows that we should rate them no lower even
now.  Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Crucifixion Chapel, regarded as a single work,
conceived and executed by a single artist, who aimed with one intention
at the highest points ever attained both by painting and sculpture, and
who wielded on a very large scale, in connection with what was then held
to be the sublimest and most solemn of conceivable subjects, the fullest
range of all the resources available by either, must stand as perhaps the
most daringly ambitious attempt that has been made in the history of art.
As regards the frescoes, the success was as signal as the daring; and
even as regards the sculpture, the work cannot be said to have failed.
Gaudenzio the sculptor will not indeed compare with Gaudenzio the
painter; still less will he compare with Tabachetti either as a modeller
or composer of full-relief figures; but Tabachetti did not paint his own
background as well as make his figures, and something must always be
allowed to those who are carrying double.  Moreover, Tabachetti followed,
whereas Gaudenzio led as pioneer in a realm of art never hitherto
attempted.  Nevertheless, I may be allowed to say that, notwithstanding
all Gaudenzio’s greatness, I find Tabachetti the strongest and most
robust of all the great men who have left their mark on the Sacro Monte
at Varallo.

We cannot dismiss such works with cheap commonplaces about Madame
Tussaud’s—and for aught I know there may be some very good stuff at
Madame Tussaud’s—or sneer at them as though they must be all much of a
muchness, and because the Orta chapels are bad, therefore those at
Varallo must be so also.  Those who confine themselves to retailing what
they take to be art-tips gathered from our leading journals of culture,
will probably continue to trade on this not very hardly earned capital,
whatever may be urged upon the other side; but those who will take the
trouble involved in forming an independent judgment may be encouraged to
make investment of their effort here by remembering that Gaudenzio
Ferrari ranks as among the few purest and most accomplished artists of
the very culminating period of Italian art, and that what he thought good
enough to do may be well worth our while to consider with the best
attention we can give to it.

Another point should not be forgotten by those who would form their
opinion intelligently.  I mean, that they are approaching a class of work
with which they are unfamiliar, and must not, therefore, expect to be
able to make up their minds about it as they might if the question were
one either of painting or sculpture only.  Sculpture and painting are
here integral parts of a single design, and it is some little time before
we grasp this conception so fully to be able to balance duly the merits
and demerits of different compositions, even though we eventually get to
see that there is an immeasurable distance between the best and worst.  I
now know, for example, that Tabachetti’s Journey to Calvary is greatly
finer than Giovanni d’Enrico’s Nailing to the Cross.  I see this so
clearly that I find it difficult to conceive how I can have doubted about
it.  At the same time, I can remember thinking that one was nearly as
good as the other, and this long after I should have found little
difficulty in making up my mind about less complex works.


THE difficulty referred to at the close of the last chapter is the same
as that which those who rarely go to a theatre have to get over before
they can appreciate an actor.  They go to “Macbeth” or “Othello,”
expecting to find players speaking and acting on the stage much as they
would in actual life; and not finding this, are apt to think the acting
coarse and unnatural.  They forget that the physical conditions of the
stage involve compliance with conventions from which there is no escape,
and expect the players to play a game which the players themselves know
to be impossible, and are not even trying to play.  So important is it to
understand the standpoint from which the artists at Varallo worked, that
I shall venture some further remarks upon their aim and scope before
going on to the works themselves.

Their object, or the object of those who commissioned them, was to bring
the scene with which they were engaged home to the spectator in all its
fulness, short of actual life and motion; but in this “short of actual
life and motion” what a cutting-out of the part of Hamlet is there not
involved.  We can spare a good deal of Hamlet; but if the part is totally
excised,—even though the Hamlet be Mr. Irving himself,—the play must
suffer.  To try to represent action without the immediate changes of
position and expression which are its most essential features, seems like
courting defeat, and to a certain extent defeat does invariably follow
the attempt to treat very violent rapid action except loosely and
sketchily.  Violent action carried to high degree of finish is hardly
ever successful in painting or sculpture; a crowd done in Michael
Angelo’s Medici chapel manner must inevitably fail, and if a crowd is to
be treated in sculpture at all, Tabachetti’s broad, large-brushed, and
somewhat sketchy treatment is the one most to be preferred.  In spite,
however, of the incomparable success of Tabachetti’s work, I am tempted
to question whether quiet and reposeful sculpture is not always most
permanently pleasing, as not involving so peremptory a demand for the
change that cannot, of course, ensue.  At any rate, as one lie generally
leads to others, so with the attempt to render action without action’s
most essential characteristic, there is a departure from realism which
involves a host of other departures if the error is to be distributed so
as to avoid offence.  In other words, convention, or a composition
between artist and spectator, whereby, in view of admitted bankruptcy and
failure of possible payment in full, a less thing shall be taken as a
greater, has superseded nature at a very early point in the proceedings.

Nevertheless, within the limits of the composition we expect to be paid
in full; whatever the dividend is we are to have all of it, and we
sometimes take a different view of the terms of the settlement to that
taken by those with whom we are dealing.  It being admitted that the
object of the Sacro Monte workmen was to bring a scene home to the
spectator in all possible fulness, we expect to have a quotum of our own
ideas of the scene, whatever they may be, put before us, and are more or
less offended when we find a composition which we consider to be unreal
even within its own covenanted limitations.  The fault, however, rests
greatly with ourselves, in forgetting that it must be the ideal of
medieval Italians and not our own that we should look for, and that their
ideas concerning the chief actors in the sacred dramas were not as ours
are.  For us, the οἵοι νὺν βρότοι εἴσι view of history has been gathered
to its fathers, and οἵοι δὴ βρότοι ἤσαν is reigning in its stead.  We
believe that we have advanced upon, not degenerated from our ancestors,
except here and there as by way of back eddy, but Italians in the Middle
Ages may be excused for having been overawed by the remains of the old
splendour which met them everywhere; and even if this had not been so, to
children and half-educated people that which happened long ago is always
grander and larger than any like thing that happened recently.  As
regards the sacred dramas this grandioseness of conception extended even
to the villains of the piece, who must be greater, more muscular,
thorough-going, unredeemed villains than any now existing.  The realism
which would have proved so touching and grateful now—for we should have
found it turned into idealism through the impress of that seal which it
is time’s glory to set upon aged things—would in the Middle Ages have
seemed as unworthy, and as much below the dignity of the subject as
modern treatment of the same subjects, with modern costumes, would seem
to ourselves.

Ages thwart and play at cross purposes with one another, as parents do
with children; and our forefathers have been at infinite trouble and
expense to give us what we do not want, and have withheld what they might
have given with very little trouble, and we should have held as
priceless.  We cannot help it; it always has been and always will be so.
_Omne ignotum pro magnifico_ is a condition of existence or at any rate
of progress, and the unknown of the past takes a splendour reflected from
that of the future.  The artists and public of the sixteenth century
could no more find what they deemed a worthy ideal in their own familiar,
and as it seemed to them prosaic age than we in ours, and every age must
make its art work to its own liking and not to that of other people.
Caimi was thinking mainly of his own generation; he could not wait a
couple of hundred years or so till the work should become touching and
quaint through age; he wanted it to be effective then and there, which if
the Apostles were shown as mere common peasants and fishermen of the then
present day, it would not and could not be—not at any rate with the pit,
and it was to the pit as well as to the boxes that these pieces were
being played.  Let the ablest sculptors of the present time be asked to
treat sacred subjects as was attempted at Varallo, with the condition
that they must keep closely to the costume of to-day, and they would
probably one and all of them decline the task.  We know very well that,
laugh at it as we may, our costume will three hundred years hence be as
interesting as that of any other age, but that is not to the point: it
has got to be effective now, whereas our familiarity with it has bred

In the earlier ages both of painting and sculpture these considerations,
obvious as they are, were not taken into account.  The first artists
during the medieval revival of art rose as little to theory as children
do.  They found the mere doing at all so difficult that they were at the
mercy in great measure of what they could get.  The real was as much as,
and more than, they could manage, and they would have idealised long
before they did, if they had not felt the task too much for them.  They
could, with infinite trouble, they hardly knew how, save themselves yet
so as by fire and get a head or figure of some sort that was not quite
unlike what it was meant for, but they could only do this by helping
their unpractised memories to the facts morsel by morsel, treating nature
as though she were a stuffed set piece, getting her to sit as still for
as long a time as she could be persuaded to do, and then going all over
her touch for touch with a brush like the point of a pin.  If the early
masters had been able to do all they would have liked to have done, no
doubt they would most of them have been as vulgar as we are; fortunately
their incompetence stood them in good stead and saved them from becoming
the Guidos, Domenichinos, and Guercinos, that so many of their more
competent successors took so much trouble to become.  Incompetence, if
amiable and painstaking, will have with it an unconscious involuntary
idealism of its own which is perhaps more charming than any that can be
attained by aiming at it deliberately; at any rate it will take the thing
portrayed apart from the everyday familiar routine of life which is the
great enemy of fancy and the ideal; but the artists of the Sacro Monte
had got far beyond the point at which incompetence could be of much use
to them, and had to find some other means whereby to steer clear of the
everyday life which to the public for whom they had to play, would have
appeared so vulgar, and to us so infinitely more delightful than much
that they have actually left us.  These means they could only find in
much the same quarters as dramatic writers and players find them on the
stage, and to a certain extent no doubt the Varallo chapels, like all
other attempts to place a scene upon a stage, must submit to the charge
of being more or less stagey, but—more especially considering that they
are seen by daylight,—it is surprising how little stagey they are.

Also, like all other attempts to place a scene upon the stage, they will
be found to consist of a few stars, several players of secondary
importance, and a certain number of supers.  It is a mistake to attempt,
as I am told is attempted at the _Comédie Française_, to have all the
actors of first-class merit.  They kill one another even in a picture,
and on the whole in any work of art it is better to concentrate the main
interest on a sufficient number of the most important figures, and to let
the setting off of these be the chief business of the remainder.
Gaudenzio Ferrari hardly understood this at all, and has no figures which
can be considered as mere stage accessories.  Tabachetti understood it,
but could hardly bring himself down to the level of his supers.  D’Enrico
understood it perhaps a shade too well; he was a man of business as well
as of very considerable genius, and turned his supers over to Giacomo
Ferro, who might be trusted to keep them sufficiently commonplace to show
his own work to advantage.  It must be owned, however, that the greater
number of D’Enrico’s chapels would be better if there had been a little
more D’Enrico in them and less Giacomo Ferro, and if the D’Enrico had
been always taking pains.

We, of course, should have preferred the figures in the Varallo chapels
to be all of them as realistic as the artist could make them, provided he
chose good types, as a good man may be very well trusted to do.  Whenever
we get a bit of realism as in the Eve, and Sleeping St. Joseph of
Tabachetti, in the Herod, laughing boys, and Caiaphas of D’Enrico, and
still more in the Vecchietto, or in the three or four of the figures in
the St. Eusebius Chapel at Crea, we accept it with avidity, and we may be
sure that the masters who gave us the figures above-named could have
given us any number equally realistic if they had been inclined to do so.
Tabachetti’s instinct was certainly towards realism as far as he dared,
but even he is not in most cases realistic—not, I mean, in the sense of
making his personages actual life-like portraits.  That he was not more
so than he is is probably due to some of the considerations on which I
have above imperfectly dwelt, and to others that have escaped myself, but
were patent enough to him.

One other practical consideration would make against realism in such
works as those at Varallo, I mean the fact that if the figures were to be
portraits of the Varallo celebrities of the time, the whole place would
have been set by the ears in the competition as to who was to be
represented and with what precedence.  It was only by passing a kind of
self-denying ordinance and forbidding portraiture at all that the work
could be carried out.  Here and there, as in the case of Tabachetti’s
portrait of the Countess Solomoni of Serravalle in his Journey to
Calvary, or as in that of the Vecchietto (in each case a supposed
benefactress and benefactor) an exception was made; in most others it
seems to have been understood that whatever else the figures were to be,
they must not be portraits.


BEFORE going through the various chapels _seriatim_, it may be well to
give a short account of three out of the four most interesting figures
among the numerous artists who worked on the Sacro Monte.  By these I
mean, of course, Gaudenzio Ferrari, Tabachetti, Giovanni d’Enrico, and
the sculptor, whoever he may have been, of the Massacre of the Innocents
chapel.  I take my account of Gaudenzio chiefly from Colombo’s admirable
work, and from the not less excellent notice by Signor Tonetti, that
appeared in the “Museo Storico ed Artistico Valsesiano” for July and
August 1885.

Gaudenzio Ferrari was born, according to the general belief, in 1484, but
Colombo shows reasons for thinking that this date is some four or five
years too late.  His father was named Antonio Lanfranco or Franchino.
{90}  He too was a painter, but nothing is known of him or his works
beyond the fact that he lived at Valduggia, where his son Gaudenzio was
born, married a woman whose surname was Vinzio, and was dead by 1510.
Gaudenzio in his early years several times signed his pictures with his
mother’s name, calling himself Vincius, De Vincio, or De Vince.

He is generally said to have studied first under Gerolamo Giovenone of
Vercelli, but this painter was not born till 1491, and we have the
authority of Lomazzo for saying that Gaudenzio’s chief instructor was
Stefano Scotto, a painter of Milan, who kept a school that was more or
less a rival to that of Leonardo da Vinci.  I have myself no doubt that
Gaudenzio Ferrari has given Scotto’s portrait in at least three of the
works he has left behind him at Varallo, but will return to this subject
when I come to deal with the various places in which these portraits
appear.  His first works of importance, or at least the earliest that
remain to us, are probably in or in the immediate vicinity of Varallo;
but little is known of his early years and work, beyond what is comprised
in the three pages that form the second chapter of Colombo’s book.  There
is an early _ancona_ at La Rocca, near Varallo, another in the
_parocchia_ of Gattinara, and possibly a greatly damaged Pietà in the
cloisters of Sta. Maria delle Grazie at Varallo may be, as it is said to
be, an early work by Gaudenzio.  Besides these, the wreck of the frescoes
on the Pietà chapel on the Sacro Monte, and other works on the same site,
now lost, belong to his earlier years.

Some believe that about the year 1506 he travelled to Perugia, Florence,
and Rome, where he made the acquaintance of Raphael, and perhaps studied
under Perugino, but Colombo has shown on what very slender, if any,
grounds this belief is based, and evidently inclines to the belief that
Gaudenzio never went to Rome, nor indeed, probably, outside Lombardy at
all.  The only one of Gaudenzio’s works in which I can myself see
anything that may perhaps be called a trace of Umbrian influence, is in
the fresco of Christ disputing with the Doctors, in the chapel of Sta.
Margherita, in the Church of Sta. Maria delle Grazie at Varallo.  This
fresco, as Signor Arienta has pointed out to me, contains a strong
reminiscence of the architectural background in Raphael’s school of
Athens; it was painted—so far as an illegible hieroglyphic signature can
be taken as read, and so far as internal evidence of style may be relied
upon, somewhere about the year.  If Gaudenzio was for the moment
influenced by Raphael, he soon shook off the influence and formed a style
of his own, from which he did not depart, except as enriching and
enlarging his manner with advancing experience.  Moreover, Colombo (p.
75) points out that the works by Raphael to which Gaudenzio’s Disputa is
supposed to present an analogy, were not finished till 1511, and are
hence probably later than Gaudenzio’s fresco.  Perhaps both painters drew
from some common source.

In 1508 he was at Vercelli, and on the 26th of July signed a contract to
paint a picture for the church of S. Anna.  He is described in the deed
as “Gaudentius de Varali.”  He had by this time married his first wife,
by whom he had two children, Gerolamo and Margherita, born in 1508 and
1512.  In 1510 he undertook to paint an altarpiece for the main church at
Arona, and completed it in 1511, signing the work “_Magister Gaudentius
de Vince_, _filius quondam magistri Lanfranchi habitator vallis
Siccidæ_.”  In 1513 he painted the magnificent series of frescoes in the
church of Sta. Maria delle Grazie at Varallo, signing the work and dating
it, this time more legibly than he had done his earlier work in the
chapel of St. Margaret.  In July 1514 he signed a contract to paint an
altarpiece for the Basilica of S. Gaudenzio at Novara.  It was to be
completed within eighteen months from the date of the contract and
doubtless was so, but Gaudenzio found a good deal of difficulty in
getting his money, which was not paid in full till 1521.  He is
occasionally met with at Novara and Vercelli between the years 1515 and
1524, but his main place of abode was Varallo.

No date can be positively assigned for his great Crucifixion chapel on
the Sacro Monte, but it belongs probably to the years 1524–1528.  I have
already said that I can find no dates scrawled on the walls earlier than
1529.  Such dates may be found yet, but if they are not found, it may be
assumed that the chapel was not thrown open to the public much before
that year.  There is still a little relievo employed in the fresco
background, but not nearly so much as in the church of Sta. Maria delle
Grazie, and the increase of freedom is so evident that it is difficult
not to suppose an interval of a good many years between the two works.  I
gather that by the year 1520 Gaudenzio had abandoned the use of gold and
of _relievo_ in painting, but he may have made an exception in the case
of a work which was to consist both of sculpture and painting; and there
is indeed a good deal to be said in favour of relievo in such a case, as
helping to unite the sculptured and painted portions of the work.  Even
in the Magi chapel, the frescoes of which are several years later than
those in the Crucifixion chapel, there are still a few bosses of relievo
in the horses’ trappings.  The date usually assigned to the Crucifixion
chapel is 1524, and, in default of more precise knowledge, we shall do
well to adhere to the date 1524–1528 already suggested.

About 1524 Gaudenzio painted a picture for the Sacristy of the Cathedral
of Novara, and Signor Tonetti says that the very beautiful picture behind
the high altar in the church of S. Gaudenzio at Varallo is generally
assigned to about the same period.  He goes on to say that in 1526
Gaudenzio was certainly working at his native village of Valduggia,
where, in 1524 or 1525, a chapel had been erected in honour of S. Rocco,
who it was supposed had kept the Valsesia free from the plague that had
devastated other parts of Italy.  This chapel Gaudenzio decorated with
frescoes that have now disappeared, but whose former existence is
recorded in an inscription placed in 1793, when the chapel was restored.
The inscription runs: “_Quod populus à peste denfensori erigebat an_
MDXXVI _Gaudentius Ferrarius patritius ex voto picturâ decorabat_,” &c.

In 1528 he transferred his abode to Vercelli, and about the same year
married again.  His second wife was a widow who had a boy of ten years
old by Giovanni Antonio del Olmo, of Bergamo.  Her name was Maria Mattia
della Foppa; she came from Morbegno in the Valtellina, and was of the
same family as Vincenzo Foppa, the reputed founder of the Milanese school
of painting.  In 1532 he married his daughter Margherita to Domenico
Pertegalle, surnamed Festa, of Crevola near Varallo—he and his son
Gerolamo undertaking to give her a dowry of 500 _lire imperiale_, payable
in four years, and secured by mortgage on Gaudenzio’s house in Varallo.

In 1536 he painted the cupola of the church of the Madonna dei Miracoli
at Saronno; he then returned to Vercelli, but his abode and movements are
somewhat obscure till 1539, when it is certain that he left Varallo for
ever, settled in Milan, and died there between the years 1546 and 1549.
He does not appear to have continued to reside in Vercelli after 1536; we
may perhaps, therefore, think that he returned for a time to Varallo, and
that the frescoes on the Magi chapel should be given to some date between
1536 and 1539.  They are certainly several years later than those in the
Crucifixion chapel; but I will return to these frescoes when I come to
the Magi chapel itself.

In 1539 he lost his son Gerolamo, and Colombo ascribes his departure from
Varallo to grief; but we cannot forget that in the year 1538 there broke
out a violent quarrel between the ecclesiastics of the Sacro Monte and
the lay governors of Varallo.  Fassola says that in 1530 Gio. Ant.
Scarrognini, grandson of Milano Scarrognini, and some time afterwards
Gio. Angiolo Draghetti, were made Fabbricieri.  The election of this last
was opposed by the ecclesiastics, who wished to see certain persons
elected who were already proctors of the convent, but the Vicini held
out, and carried the day.  Party feeling ran so high, and the Fathers
wished to have such absolute control over the keys of the various money
boxes attached to the chapels, and over all other matters, that it may
well have been difficult for Gaudenzio to avoid coming into collision
with one or both of these contending parties; matters came to a head in
the year 1538, and his leaving Varallo for ever about this time may,
perhaps, be referred to his finding himself in an intolerable position,
as well as to the death of his son; but, however this may be, he sold his
house on the 5th of August, 1539, for seven hundred _lire imperiali_, and
for the rest of his life resided in Milan, where he executed several
important works, for which I must refer my readers to the pages of

The foregoing meagre notice is all that my space allows me to give
concerning the life of this great master.  I will conclude it with a
quotation from Signor Morelli which I take from Sir Henry Layard’s recent
edition of Kugler’s Handbook of Painting (vol. ii. p. 424).  Signor
Morelli is quoted as saying—

    “Gaudenzio Ferrari is inferior to very few of his contemporaries, and
    occasionally, as in some of those groups of men and women in the
    great Crucifixion at Varallo, he might challenge comparison with
    Raphael himself.”

It would be a bad business for Raphael if he did.  Gaudenzio Ferrari was
what Raphael is commonly believed to have been.  I do not mean, that he
was the prince of painters—such expressions are always hyperbolical;
there has been no prince of painters; I mean that Gaudenzio Ferrari’s
feeling was profound, whereas Raphael’s was at best only skin deep.
Nevertheless Signor Morelli is impressed with Ferrari’s greatness, and
places him, “for all in all, as regards inventive genius, dramatic life,
and picturesqueness * * far above Luini.”  Bernardino Luini must stand so
very high that no one can be placed far above him; nevertheless, it is
hard not to think that Gaudenzio Ferrari was upon the whole the stronger


Great and fascinating as Gaudenzio was, I have already said that I find
Tabachetti a still more interesting figure.  He had all Gaudenzio’s love
of beauty, coupled with a robustness, and freedom from mannerism and
self-repetition, that are not always observable in Gaudenzio’s work.  If
Gaudenzio has never received anything approaching to his due meed of
praise, Tabachetti may be almost said never to have been praised at all.
In Varallo, indeed, and its neighbourhood he is justly regarded as a
giant, but the art world generally knows not so much as his name.
Cicognara, Lübke, and Perkins know not of his existence, nor of that of
Varallo itself, nor of any Valsesian school of sculpture.  I have shown
that so admirable a writer as Mr. King never even alludes to him, while
the most recent authority of any reputed eminence on Italian art thinks
that the Titan of terra-cotta was a painter and a pupil of Gaudenzio

Zani, indeed, in his “_Enciclopedia Metodica_,” {100a} and Nagler in his
“_Künstler Lexicon_,” {100b} to which works my attention was directed by
Mr. Donoghue of the British Museum, both mention Tabachetti.  The first
calls him “_bravissimo_,” but makes him a Novarese, and calls him
“_Scultore_, _plasticalore_, _Pittore_,” and “_Incisore di stampe à
bulino_.”  The second says that Bartoli (Opp. mor. I. 2), calls him a
Flemish sculptor; that he made forty small chapels and several hermitages
at Crea in the Monferrato district; and that he also worked much at
Varallo.  I have in vain tried to find the passage in Bartoli to which
Nagler refers, and should be much obliged to any one who is more
fortunate if he will give me a fuller reference.  The “Opp. mor.”
referred to appears to be a translation of the “Opuscoli morali” of L. B.
Alberti, published at Venice in 1568, which is too early for Tabachetti.
I have had Bartoli’s translation before me, but could discover nothing.
Nagler’s words run:—

    “Tabachetti Johann Baptist, nennt Bartoli (Opp. mor. I. 2), einen
    Niederläindischen Bildhauer, ohne seine Lebenzeit zu bestimmen.  In
    der Kirche U.L.F. Tu Creo (_sic_) (Montferrat) stellte er in vierzig
    kleinen capellen die Geschichte der heil.  Jungfrau, des Heilandes
    und einiger Einsidler dar. Auch in Varallo arbeitete er vieles.”

If little is known about Gaudenzio we know still less about Tabachetti.
I do not believe that more is yet ascertained than I can give in the next
few pages.  His name was Jean Baptiste Tabaquet, and he came from Dinant
in Belgium.  This fact has only come to my knowledge within the last few
weeks, and I have been unable to go to Dinant and see whether anything
can be there made out about him.  I will thankfully receive any
information which any one is good enough to send me upon this subject.
It is not known when he came to Varallo, but by the year 1586 his great
Calvary chapel was undoubtedly finished, as also, I imagine, the Adam and
Eve, and Temptation chapels, all three of which are mentioned in the 1586
edition of Caccia.  In the 1590 edition, the abbreviated word “bellissi.”
has been added to the description of the Calvary chapel, as though it
were an oversight in the earlier edition to take no note of the
remarkable excellence of the work: there can be no doubt, therefore, that
Bordiga and the other principal authorities are wrong in dating this
chapel 1606.  How much earlier it may be than 1586 I cannot determine
till the missing editions of Caccia are found, but there is not enough
other work of Tabachetti’s on the Sacro Monte to let us suppose that he
had worked there for very many years.

Both Fassola and Torrotti say that he began the Visit of Mary to
Elizabeth, but went mad, leaving the work to be completed by another
artist.  It was generally supposed that this was the end of him, but
there can be no doubt that, if ever he went mad at all, it was only for a
short time, as a consequence of over-fatigue, and perhaps worry, over his
gigantic work, the Journey to Calvary chapel.  That he was either absent
from Varallo, or at Varallo but unable to work, between the years 1586
and 1590, is certain, for, in the first place, there is no work on the
Sacro Monte that can possibly be given to him during these years, and in
the second, if he had been available, considering the brilliant success
of his Calvary chapel, the Massacre of the Innocents, which dates from
1586–1590, would surely have been entrusted to him, instead of to
Rossetti or Bargnola—whichever of these two is the rightful sculptor.
Nevertheless it is certain that after the end of 1589, to which date the
edition of Caccia appears by its preface to belong, Tabachetti reappeared
in full force, did one chapel of extreme beauty—the first Vision of St.
Joseph—and nothing more—unless indeed the Vecchietto be assigned to this
date.  We know this, inasmuch as the First Vision of St. Joseph chapel is
not mentioned at all in either the 1586 or 1590 editions of Caccia, and
was evidently not yet even contemplated, whereas the Visit of Mary to
Elizabeth, over which he is supposed to have gone mad, is given in both
as completed.

Tabachetti was summoned to Crea in 1591, and was buying land and other
property in 1600, 1602, 1604, 1605, 1606, and 1608, at Serralunga, close
to Crea, where deeds which still exist say that he resided.  There are
many families named Tabachetti still living in the immediate
neighbourhood of Serralunga, who are doubtless descended from the
sculptor.  After 1608 nothing more is known of him.  At Varallo, over and
above his work on the Sacro Monte, there is an exceedingly beautiful
Madonna by him, in the parish church of S. Gaudenzio, and one head of a
man with a ruff—a mere fragment—which Cav. Prof. Antonini showed me in
the Museum, and assured me was by Tabachetti.  I know of no other work by
him except what remains at Crea, about which I will presently write more
fully.  I am not, however, without hope that search about Liege and
Dinant may lead to the discovery of some work at present overlooked, and,
as I have said, will thankfully receive information.

I will conclude with a note taken from p. 47 of Part I. of Cav.
Alessandro Godio’s admirable “Cronaca di Crea.” {104}

The note runs:—

    “The present writer found himself involved in a long dispute, through
    having entered the lists against the Valsesian writers, who reckon
    Tabachetti among the distinguished sons of the Val Sesia, and for
    having said that he was born in Flanders.  After a more successful
    search in the above-named [Vercelli?] archive, under the letter B No.
    6, over and above the deeds of 1600 and 1606, already referred to in
    the ‘Vesillo della libertà,’ No. 39, Sept. 5, 1863, I found, under
    numbers 308, 417, 498, 622, of the unarranged papers of Notary
    Teodoro Caligaris, four more deeds dated 1602, 1604, 1605, 1608, in
    which the Sculptor Gio. Battista Tabachetti is not only described as
    a Fleming, but his birthplace is given as follows: “_Vendidit_,
    _tradidit nobili Joanni Tabacheta filio quondam nobili Gulielmi de
    Dinante de Liesa_ [_Liège_] _nunc incola Serralungæ_.”  Since, then,
    he was buying considerable property at Serralunga during the
    above-named year, it is plain that he did not work continuously at
    Varallo from 1590 to 1606, as contended by the Valsesian writers
    quoted by An. Cav. Carlo Dionisotti, the distinguished author of the
    Valle Sesia.  Moreover, from the year 1590 and onward the chapels of
    Crea were begun, and of these, by advice of Monsignor Tullio del
    Carretto, Bishop of Casale, at the bidding of Michel Angelo da
    Liverno, who was Vicar of Crea, Tabachetti designed not fifteen but
    forty, and found himself at the head of the direction of the great
    work that was then engaging the attention of the foremost Italian
    artists of the day.”


For my account of Giovanni D’Enrico I turn to Signor Galloni’s “_Uomini e
fatti celebri di Valle Sesia_.”  He was second of three brothers,
Melchiorre, Giovanni, and Antonio, commonly called Tanzio, who were born
at the German-speaking village of Alagna, that stands at the head of the
Val Sesia.  Signor Galloni says that the elder brother, Melchiorre,
painted the frescoes in the Temptation chapel in 1594, and the Last
Judgment on the facciata of the parish church at Riva in 1597.

The house occupied by the family of D’Enrico was, as I gather from a note
communicated to Signor Galloni by Cav. Don Farinetti of Alagna, in the
fraction of Alagna called Giacomolo, where a few years ago a last
descendant of the family was still residing.  The house is of wood, old
and black with smoke; on the wooden gallery or lobby that runs in front
of it, and above the low and narrow doorways, there is an inscription or
verse of the Bible, “_Allein Gott Ehere_,” dated 1609.  The small oratory
hard by is said to have been also the property of the D’Enrico family,
and in the _ancona_ of the little altar there is a picture representing
the Virgin of not inconsiderable merit, with a beautiful gilded frame in
excellent preservation.  On the background of this picture there is the
stemma of the D’Enrico family, and an inscription in Latin bearing the
names of John and Eva D’Enrico.

The exact dates of the births of the three brothers are unknown, but the
eldest and youngest were described in a certificate of good character,
dated February 11, 1600, as “_juvenes bonæ vocis_, _conditionis et
famæ_,” so that if we assume Melchiorre to have been born in 1575, {106}
Giovanni in 1580, and Antonio in 1585, we shall, in no case, be more than
five years or so in error.  I own to being able to see little merit in
any of Melchiorre’s work, of which the reader will find a sample in the
frescoes behind the old Adam and Eve, which is given to face p. 121, but
it is believed that he for the most part painted the terra-cotta figures,
rather than backgrounds.  Nor do I like the work of Tanzio—which may be
seen, perhaps, to the best advantage in the Herod chapel.  Tanzio,
however, was a stronger man than Melchiorre.  Giovanni was incomparably
the ablest of the three brothers, and it is to him alone that I will ask
the reader to devote attention.

Signor Galloni calls Giovanni D’Enrico a pupil of Tabachetti, probably
following Bordiga, but I have not seen the evidence on which this
generally received opinion is based; Tabachetti had finally left Varallo
by 1591, when Giovanni D’Enrico was little more than a child, and though
he may have been sent to work under Tabachetti at Crea, I have not come
across anything to show this was so.  He was an architect as well as
sculptor, and is believed to have made the modification of Pellegrino
Tibaldi’s designs that was ultimately adopted for the Palazzo di Pilato,
Caiaphas, and Herod chapels.  He was also architect of the Chiesa
Maggiore on the Sacro Monte, his design having been approved April 1,
1614.  He is believed to have done a Madonna and child, a St. Rocco, and
a St. Sebastian in the parish church at Alagna; he also sent many figures
away, some of which may possibly be found in the disused chapels of
Graglia, if indeed these contain anything at all.  He died at Montrigone
near Borgosesia in 1644, while superintending the work of his pupil and
collaborateur Giacomo Ferro, who, it is said, has placed his master’s
portrait near the bed of S. Anna in his chapel of the Birth of the Virgin
(?) at Montrigone.  Others say that the figure in question does not
represent D’Enrico, and that his portrait is found in a niche in the
chapel itself, but Signor Galloni assures us that there is nothing but
tradition in favour of either view.  Giacomo Ferro appears to have been
his only pupil and his only collaborateur.  There can, I think, be little
doubt that the greater part of the work generally ascribed to D’Enrico is
really by Giacomo Ferro, and the uncertainty as to what figures are
actually by D’Enrico himself makes it very difficult to form a just
opinion about his genius.  Some chapels are given to him, as for example
the Flagellation and Crowning with Thorns, which are mentioned as
completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia, when D’Enrico was at most a
child.  True, he may have remodelled these chapels, but I have not yet
met with evidence that he actually did so, though I dare say such
evidence may exist without my knowing it.

In those in which he was undoubtedly assisted by Giacomo Ferro, as for
example the Caiaphas, Herod, four Pilate, and Nailing to the Cross
chapels, with possibly the Ecce Homo, perhaps the safest rule will be to
give the few really excellent figures that are to be found in each of
them to D’Enrico himself and to ascribe all the inferior work, of which
unfortunately there is too much, to Giacomo Ferro.  That the assistance
rendered by him was on a very large scale may be gathered from the fact
that there was a deed drawn up between him and his master whereby he was
to receive half the money that was paid to D’Enrico,—a quasi partnership
indeed seems to have existed between the two sculptors.  This deed is
referred to by Signor Galloni on page 178 of his “Uomini e Fatti,” and on
the same page he gives us an extract from a lawsuit between Giacomo Ferro
and the town of Varallo which gives us a curious insight into the manner
in which the artists of the Sacro Monte were paid.  From a
_procès-verbal_ in connection with this suit Signor Galloni quotes the
following extract:—

    “And further the said deputies allege that in the accounts rendered
    by the said master Giovanni D’Enrico in respect of the pontifical
    thrones in the Caiaphas and Nailing to the Cross chapels, these have
    been valued at the rate of four statues for each several throne and
    horse, whereas it appears from old accounts rendered by other
    statuaries that they have been hitherto charged only at the rate of
    three statues for each throne and horse.  Wherefore the said deputies
    claim to deduct the overcharge of one statue for each horse and
    throne, which being thirteen at the rate of 10 and a quarter scudi
    for each figure, would give a total deduction of 132 and a half

It appears in another part of the same _procès-verbal_ that Giovanni
D’Enrico had been paid in 1640 the sum of 4240 lire and 8 soldi.

Giacomo Ferro and his brother Antonio were Giovanni D’Enrico’s heirs,
from which it would appear that he either died unmarried, or left no

To say that D’Enrico will compare with Tabachetti would be an obvious
exaggeration, and, indeed, there are only very few figures on the Sacro
Monte about which we can feel certain that they are by him at all.  The
Caiaphas, Herod, Laughing Boys in the Herod chapel, and the Man with the
Two Children in the Ecce Homo chapel cannot, I think, be given to any one
else, but at this moment I do not call to mind more than some fourteen or
fifteen figures out of the three hundred or so that are ascribed to him,
about which we can be as certain that they are by D’Enrico as we can be
that most of those given to Tabachetti and Gaudenzio are actually by
them.  For not only have we to reckon with Giacomo Ferro, who, if he had
half the pay, we may be sure did not less than half the figures, and
probably very much more, but we must reckon with the figures taken from
older chapels when reconstructed, as in D’Enrico’s time was the case with
several.  What became of the figures in Gaudenzio Ferrari’s original
Journey to Calvary chapel, and in other works by him that were cancelled
when the Palazzo di Pilato chapel was built?  It is not likely they were
destroyed if by any hook or crook they could be made to do duty in some
other shape; more probably they are most of them still existing up and
down D’Enrico’s various chapels, but so doctored, if the expression may
be pardoned, that Gaudenzio himself would not know them.  In the Ecce
Homo chapel we can say with confidence that the extreme figure to the
left is by Gaudenzio, and has been taken from some one of his chapels now
lost; we are able to detect this by an accident, but there are other
figures in the same chapel and not a few elsewhere, about which we can
have no confidence that they have not been taken from some earlier chapel
either by Gaudenzio or some one else.  What, then, with these figures,
and what with Giacomo Ferro, it is not easy to say what D’Enrico did or
did not do.

The intercalated figures have been fitted into the work with admirable
skill, nevertheless they do not form part of design, and make it want the
unity observable in the work of Tabachetti and Gaudenzio.  They have been
lugged into the composition, and no matter how skilful their
introduction, are soon felt, as in the case of the Vecchietto, to have no
business where they are.  Moreover, D’Enrico shows his figures off, which
Tabachetti never does: the result is that in his chapels each figure has
its attention a good deal drawn to the desirableness of neither being
itself lost sight of, nor impeding the view of its neighbours.  This is
fatal, and though Giacomo Ferro is doubtless more practically guilty in
the matter than D’Enrico, yet D’Enrico is the responsible author of the
work, and must bear the blame accordingly.  Standing once with Signor
Pizetta of Varallo, before D’Enrico’s great Nailing of Christ to the
Cross chapel, I asked him casually how he thought it compared with
Tabachetti’s Journey to Calvary.  He replied “_Questo non sacrifica
niente_,” meaning that Tabachetti thought of the action much and but
little of whether or no the actors got in each other’s way, whereas
D’Enrico was mainly bent on making his figures steer clear of one
another.  Thus his chapels want the concert and unity of action that give
such life to Tabachetti’s.  Nevertheless, in spite of the defect above
referred to, it is impossible to deny that the sculptor of the Herod and
Caiaphas figures was a man of very rare ability, nor can the general
verdict which assigns him the third place among the workers on the Sacro
Monte be reasonably disputed.  But this third place must be given rather
in respect of quantity than quality, for in dramatic power and
highly-wrought tragic action he is inferior to the sculptor, whoever he
may be, of the Massacre of the Innocents chapel, to which I will return
when I come to the chapel in question.

I may say in passing that Cicognara, Lübke, and Perkins have all omitted
to mention Giovanni D’Enrico as a sculptor, though Nagler mentions his
two brothers as painters.  Nagler gives the two brothers D’Enrico as all
bearing the patronymic Tanzio, which I am told is in reality only a
corruption of the Christian name of the third brother.  Zani mentions
Giovanni D’Enrico as well as his two brothers, and calls him “_celebre_,”
but he calls all the three brothers “Tanzii, Tanzi, Tanzio, or Tanzo.”


THE ascent to the Sacro Monte begins immediately after the church of Sta.
Maria delle Grazie has been passed, and is made by a large broad road
paved with rounded stones, and beautifully shaded by the chestnuts that
grow on the steep side of the mountain.  The old road up the mountain was
below the present, and remains of it may yet be seen.  Ere long a steeper
narrower road branches off to the right hand, which makes rather a
shorter cut, and is commonly called the “_Strada della Madonna_.”  From
this name it has become generally believed that the Madonna once actually
came to Varallo to see the Sacro Monte, and took this shorter road.
There is no genuine tradition, however, to this effect, and the belief
may be traced to misapprehension of a passage in Fassola and Torrotti,
who say that the main road represents the path taken by Christ himself on
his journey to Calvary, while the other symbolises the short cut taken by
the Virgin when she went to rejoin him after his resurrection.  When he
was _Assistente_, which I gather to have been much what the Director of
the Sacro Monte is now, Torrotti had some poetry put up to say this.

At the point where the two roads again meet there is a large wooden
cross, from which the faithful may help themselves to a chip.  That they
do get chips is evident by the state of the cross, but the wood is hard,
and none but the very faithful will get so much but that plenty will be
left for those who may come after them.  I saw a stout elderly lady
trying to get a chip last summer; she was baffled, puzzled, frowned a
good deal, and was perspiring freely.  She tried here, and she tried
there, but could get no chip; and presently began to cry.  Jones and I
had been watching her perplexity, as we came up the _Strada della
Madonna_, and having a stouter knife than hers offered to help her.  She
was most grateful, when, not without difficulty, Jones succeeded in
whittling for her a piece about an inch long, and as thick as the wood of
a match box.  “Per Bacco,” she exclaimed, still agitated, and not without
asperity, “I never saw such a cross in my life.”  The old cross,
considered to be now past further whittling, was lying by the roadside
ready to be taken away.  I had wanted to get the lady a chip from this,
thinking it looked as if it would lend itself more easily to the design,
but she said it would not do.  They have a new cross every year, and they
always select a hard knotty uncompromising piece of wood for the purpose.
The old is then taken away and burnt for firewood.

Of this cross Fassola says it was here (“_e quì fù dove_”) the Virgin met
her son, and that for this reason a small chapel was placed rather higher
up, which represents the place where she took a little rest, and was
hence called the Capella del Riposo.  It was decorated with frescoes by
Gaudenzio, which have long since disappeared; these were early works, and
among the first undertaken by him on the Sacro Monte; the chapel remains,
but may, and probably will, be passed without notice.  A little higher
still, there is another very small and unimportant chapel containing a
decayed St. Jerome by Giovanni D’Enrico, and above this, facing the
visitor at the last turn of the road, is the chapel erected in memory of
Cesare Maio, or Maggi, a Neapolitan, Marquis of Moncrivelli, and one of
Charles the Fifth’s generals.  He died in 1568.  Many years before his
death he had commanded an armed force against the Valsesians, but when
his horse, on approaching Varallo, caught sight of the Sacro Monte, it
genuflected three times and pawed a great cross on the road with its
feet.  This had such an effect upon the rider that he had thenceforward
to become a munificent benefactor of the Sacro Monte, and expressly
desired to be buried there.  I do not know where the horse was buried.
His chapel contains nothing of importance, nor yet does the small oratory
with a crucifix in memory of a benefactor, one Giovanni Pschel Alemanno;
this is at the top of the ascent and close to the smaller entrance to the
Sacro Monte.

At this smaller entrance the visitor will be inclined to enter, but he
should not do so if he wishes to take the chapels in the order in which
they are numbered.  He should continue the broad road until he reaches
the excellent inn kept by Signor Topini, and the shops where “_corone_”
and pilgrims’ beads are sold.  The inn and shops are mentioned by Fassola
and by Torrotti.  Fassola in 1671 says of the inn that it will afford
accommodation for people of all ranks, and that though any one with other
curiosity may stay in the town, those who would enjoy their devotion
quietly and diffusively can do so more at their ease here.  Of the shops
he says that they sell “_corone_, _Storie della Fabrica_,” “and other
like instruments of devotion” (“_ed altri instromenti simili di
divozione_” p. 80).  Torrotti says they sell his book there, with images,
and various devout curiosities (_e varie cose curiose di divozione_, p.
66).  The shutters are strong and probably the original ones.

At Varese there is a very beautiful lady, one among many others hardly if
at all less beautiful on the same mountain, of whom I once asked what
people did with these _Corone_.  She said, “_Le adoperano per pregare_,”
“They make use of them to pray with.”  She then asked whether the English
ever prayed.  I said of course they did; that all nations, even the
Turks, prayed.  “_È Turco lei_?” she said, with a singularly sweet, kind,
and beneficent expression.  I said I was not, but I do not think she
believed me.

Passing now under the handsome arch which forms the main entrance to the
sacred precincts we come to


This chapel is perhaps the only one in the case of which Pellegrino
Tibaldi’s design was carried out; and even here it has been in many
respects modified.  The figures are by Tabachetti; and the original
internal frescoes were by Domenico Alfani Perugino, but they have
perished and have lately been replaced by some pieces from the life of
Adam and Eve by Professor Burlazzi of Varallo.  The outer frescoes are
said by Bordiga to be by Giovanni Miel of Antwerp, but they are probably
in reality by one of the brothers Battista and Gio. Mauro Rovere.  I
will, however, reserve remarks on this subject until I come to the
Massacre of the Innocents chapel.  The original frescoes do not appear to
have been executed till 1594–1600, but the terra-cotta work is described
as complete in the 1586 edition of Caccia in terms that leave no doubt
but that the present group is intended; it is probably among the first
works executed by Tabachetti on the Sacro Monte, but how much earlier it
is than 1586 cannot be known till the missing editions of Caccia are
found.  That he did the Adam and Eve is not doubted.  If he also did the
animals, he had made great progress by the time he came to the Temptation
chapel, for the animals in this last chapel are far finer than those in
the Adam and Eve chapel.

The present chapel superseded an earlier one with the same subject, which
was probably on the site now occupied by the Crowning with Thorns,
inasmuch as in this chapel the fresco on one wall still represents Adam
and Eve being dismissed from Paradise.  Signor Arienta pointed this out
to me, and I think it sufficiently determines the position of the
original Adam and Eve chapel.  The evidence for the existence of the
earlier chapel throws so much light upon the way in which figures have
been shifted about and whole chapels have disappeared, leaving only an
incidental trace or two behind them in some other of those now existing,
that I shall not hesitate to reproduce it here.

We were told in the town that there had been an old Adam and an old Eve,
and that these two figures were now doing duty as Roman soldiers in
chapel No. 23, which represents the Capture of Christ.  On investigation,
we found, against the wall, two figures dressed as Roman soldiers that
evidently had something wrong with them.  The draperies of all the other
figures are painted, either terra-cotta or wood, but with these two they
are real, being painted linen or calico, dipped in thin mortar or plaster
of Paris, and real drapery always means that the figure has had something
done to it.  The armour, where armour shows, is not quite of the same
pattern as that painted on the other figures, nor is it of the same make;
in the case of the remoter figure it does not go down far enough, and
leaves a lucid interval of what was evidently once bare stomach, but has
now been painted the brightest blue that could be found, so that it does
not catch the eye as flesh; a little further examination was enough to
make us strongly suspect that the figures had both been originally nude,
and in this case the story current in Varallo was probably true.

              [Picture: Plate No. II.  The Old Adam and Eve]

Then the question arose, which was Adam, and which Eve?  The farther
figure was the larger and therefore ought to have been Adam, but it had
long hair, and looked a good deal more like a woman than the other did.
The nearer figure had a beard and moustaches, and was quite unlike a
woman; true, we could see no sign of bosom with the farther figure, but
neither could we with the nearer.  On the whole, therefore, we settled it
that the nearer and moustached soldier was Adam, and the more distant
long-haired beardless one, Eve.  In the evening, however, Cav. Prof.
Antonini and several of the other best Varallo authorities were on the
Sacro Monte, and had the grating removed so that we could get inside the
chapel, which we were not slow to do.  The state of the drapery showed
that curiosity had been already rife upon the subject, and, observing
this, Jones and I gently lifted as much of it as was necessary, and put
the matter for ever beyond future power of question that the farther,
long-haired, beardless figure was Adam, and the nearer, moustached one,
Eve.  They are now looking in the same direction, as joining in the hue
and cry against Christ, but were originally turned towards one another;
the one offering, and the other taking, the apple.

Tabachetti’s Eve, in the Creation or Adam and Eve chapel, is a figure of
remarkable beauty, and a very great improvement on her predecessor.  The
left arm is a restoration by Cav. Prof. Antonini, but no one who was not
told of the fact would suspect it.  The heads both of the Adam and the
Eve have been less successfully repainted than the rest of the figures,
and have suffered somewhat in consequence, but the reader will note the
freedom from any approach to _barocco_ maintained throughout the work.
The serpent is exceedingly fine, and the animals are by no means
unpleasing.  Speaking for myself, I have found the work continually grow
upon me during the many years I have known it.

             [Picture: Plate III.  Tabachetti’s Adam and Eve]

The walls of this, and, indeed, of all the chapels, were once covered
with votive pictures recording the _Grazie_ with which each several
chapel should be credited, but these generally pleasing, though perhaps
sometimes superstitious, minor satellites of the larger artistic
luminaries have long since disappeared.  It is plain that either the
chapels are losing their powers of bringing the _Grazie_ about, or that
we moderns care less about saying “thank you” when we have been helped
out of a scrape than our forefathers did.  Fassola says:—

    “Molti oltre questa non mancano di lasciar qualche insigne memoria,
    cioè ò li dinari per incominciar, ò finire qualche Capella, ò per
    qualche pittura ò Statua, ò altro non essendouene pur’ vno di questi
    Benefattori, che non habbino ottenute le grazie desiderate di Dio, e
    dalla Beata Vergine, del che piene ne sono le carte, le mura delle
    Capelle, e Chiese con voti d’argento, ed altre infinite Tauolette,
    antichissime, e moderne, voti di cera ed altro, oltre tanto da
    esprimersi grazie, che ò per pouertà, ò per mancanza, ò per altri
    pensieri de’ graziati restano celate.”

For my own part I am sorry that these humble chronicles of three
centuries or so of hairbreadth escapes are gone.  Votive pictures have
always fascinated me.  Everything does go so dreadfully wrong in them,
and yet we know it will all be set so perfectly right again directly, and
that nobody will be really hurt.  Besides, they are so naïve, and free
from “high-falutin;” they give themselves no airs, are not review-puffed,
and the people who paint them do not call one another geniuses.  They are
business-like, direct, and sensible; not unfrequently they acquire
considerable historical interest, and every now and then there is one by
an old master born out of due time—who probably wist not so much as even
that there were old masters.  Here, if anywhere, may be found
smouldering, but still living, embers of the old art-fire of Italy, and
from these, more readily than from the hot-bed atmosphere of the
academies, may the flame be yet rekindled.  Lastly, if allowed to come as
they like, and put themselves where they will, they grow into a pretty,
quilt-like, artlessly-arranged decoration, that will beat any mere
pattern contrived of set purpose.  Some half-dozen or so of the old
votive pictures are still preserved in the Museum at Varallo, and are
worthy of notice, one or two of them dating from the fifteenth century,
and a few late autumn leaves, as it were, of images in wax still hang
outside the Crowning with Thorns chapel, but the chapels are, for the
most part, now without them.  Each chapel was supposed to be beneficial
in the case of some particular bodily or mental affliction, and Fassola
often winds up his notice with a list of the Graces which are most
especially to be hoped for from devotion at the chapel he is describing;
he does not, however, ascribe any especial and particular Grace to the
first few chapels.  A few _centesimi_ and perhaps a _soldo_ or two still
lie on the floor, thrown through the grating by pilgrims, and the number
of these which any chapel can attract may be supposed to be a fair test
of its popularity.  These _centesimi_ are a source of temptation to the
small boys of Varallo, who are continually getting into trouble for
extracting them by the help of willow wands and birdlime.  I understand
that when the _centesimi_ are picked up by the authorities, some few are
always left, on the same principle as that on which we leave a nest egg
in a hen’s nest for the hen to lay a new one to; a very little will do,
but even the boys know that there must be a germ of increment left, and
when they stole the coppers from the Ecce Homo chapel not long since,
they still left one _centesimo_ and a waistcoat button on the floor.


This was one of the earliest chapels, and is dated by Fassola as from
1490 to 1500.  There is no record of any contemporary fresco background.
Bordiga says that these figures were originally in the chapel now
occupied by the Salutation of Mary by Elizabeth, but that having been
long objects of popular veneration they were preserved at the time when
Tabachetti took this block of buildings in hand.  It does not appear from
any source what figures were in this chapel before the Annunciation
figures were brought here; possibly, as it is supposed to be a
reproduction of the Santa Casa di Loreto, this was considered enough and
it was untenanted.  Bordiga says, “The faces and extremities have a
divine expression and are ancient,” but both Fassola and Torrotti say
that Tabachetti gave the figures new heads.  These last are probably
right; the Virgin has real drapery, which, as I have said, always means
that the figure has been cut about.

Whatever the change was, it had been effected before the publication of
the 1586 edition of Caccia, where the chapel is described, in immediate
sequence to the Adam and Eve chapel, and in the following terms:—

    “Si vede poi un poco discosto, un altro Tempio, fatto ad imitatione
    della Cappella di Loreto, ben adornato, dove è l’Angelo che annontia
    l’ incarnatione . . . . di relievo.”

In the poetical part of the same book the figures are very warmly
praised, as, indeed, they deserve to be.  Fassola and Torrotti both say
that the Virgin was a very favourite figure—so much so that pilgrims had
loaded her with jewels.  One night, a thief tried to draw a valuable ring
from her finger, when she dealt him a stunning box on the ear that
stretched him senseless until he was apprehended and punished.  Fassola
says of the affair:—

    “Frà gl’ altri è degna di racconto la mortificazione hauuta da vn
    peruerso, che fatto ardito, non sò da quale spirito diabolico,
    volendo rubbare alcune di dette gioie, e forsi tutte, dalle mani
    della Beata Vergine fù reso immobile da vna guanciata della Vergine
    fin’ à tanto, che la giustizia l’ hebbe nella sua braccia; contempli
    ogn’ vno questa Statua, che ne riporterà mosso il cuore.”

Under the circumstances I should say he had better contemplate her at a
respectful distance.  I can believe that the thief was very much
mortified, but the Virgin seems to have been a good deal mortified too,
for I suspect her new head was after this occurrence and not before it.

Such miracles are still of occasional if not frequent occurrence in
connection with the Sacro Monte.  I have a broadside printed at Milan in
1882 in which a full account is given of a recent miracle worked by the
Blessed Virgin of the Sacro Monte of Varallo.  It is about a young man
who had been miraculously cured of a lingering illness that had baffled
the skill of all the most eminent professors; so his father sent him with
a lamp of gold and a large sum of money which he was to offer to the
Madonna.  As he was on his way he felt tired [it must be remembered that
the railway was not opened till 1886], so he sat down under a tree and
began to amuse himself by counting the treasure.  Hardly had he begun to
count when he was attacked by four desperate assassins, who with pistols
and poignards did their very utmost to despoil him, but it was not the
smallest use.  One of the assassins was killed, and the others were so
cowed that they promised, if he would only fetch them some “devotions”
from the Sacro Monte, to abandon their evil courses and thenceforth lead
virtuous lives.

We do not pitch our tracts quite so strongly, but need give ourselves no
airs in this matter.


The walls of this chapel according to Fassola are old, but the figures
all new.  Both Fassola and Torrotti say that Tabachetti had just begun to
work on this chapel when he lost his reason, but as the work is described
as complete in the 1586 edition of Caccia, it is evident, as I have
already shown, that his insanity was only temporary, inasmuch as he did
another chapel after 1590.  Both writers are very brief in their
statement of the fact, Fassola only saying “_quando era diuenuto pazzo_,”
and Torrotti “_impazzitosi_.”  The fresco background is meagre and forms
no integral part of the design; this does not go for much, but suggests
that in the original state of the chapel, which we know was an early one,
there may have been but little background, the fresco background not
having yet attained its full development.  The figures would doubtless
look better than they do if they had not been loaded with many coats of
shiny paint, which has clogged some of the modelling; they are not very
remarkable, but improve upon examination, and it must be remembered that
the subject is one of exceeding difficulty.


Fassola and Torrotti say that this chapel was originally a servant’s
lodge (“ospizio delli serui della Fabrica”), and part of the building is
still used as a store-room.  The servants were subsequently shifted to
what was then the chapel of the Capture of Christ, the figures in that
chapel being moved to the one in which they are now.  The original
Capture chapel was on the ground floor of the large house that stands on
the right hand as one enters the small entrance to the Sacro Monte which
a visitor will be tempted to take, opposite Giovanni Pschel’s chapel, and
a little below the Temptation chapel.

             [Picture: Plate IV.  First Vision of St. Joseph]

The First Vision of St. Joseph is not mentioned in either the 1586 or
1590 editions of Caccia; we may therefore be certain that it did not
exist, and may also be sure that it was Tabachetti’s last work upon the
Sacro Monte—for that it is by him has never been disputed.  It should
probably be dated early in 1591, by which time Tabachetti must have
recovered his reason and was on the point of leaving Varallo for ever.  I
give a photograph of the very beautiful figure of St. Joseph, which must
rank among the finest on the Sacro Monte.  I grant that a sleeping figure
is the easiest of all subjects, except a dead one, inasmuch as Nature
does not here play against the artist with loaded dice, by being able to
give the immediate change of position which the artist cannot.  With
sleep and death there is no change required, so that the hardest sleeping
figure is easier than the easiest waking one; moreover, sleep is so
touching and beautiful that it is one of the most taking of all subjects;
nevertheless there are sleeping figures and sleeping figures, and the St.
Joseph in the chapel we are considering is greatly better than the second
sleeping St. Joseph in chapel No. 9, by whomsoever this figure may be—or
than the sleeping Apostles by D’Enrico in chapel No. 22.

Cusa says that the Madonna is taken from a small figure modelled by
Gaudenzio still existing at Valduggia in the possession of the Rivaroli
family.  She is a very pretty and graceful figure, and is sewing on a
pillow in the middle of the composition—of course unmoved by the presence
of the angel, who is only visible to her husband.  The angel is also a
remarkably fine figure.



FASSOLA says that this chapel was begun about the year 1500, and
completed about 1520, at the expense of certain wealthy Milanese;
Torrotti repeats this.  Bordiga gives it a later date, making Gaudenzio
begin to work in it in 1531; he supposes that Gaudenzio left Varallo
suddenly in that year to undertake work for the church of St. Cristoforo
at Vercelli without quite completing the Magi frescoes; and it is indeed
true that the frescoes appear to be unfinished, some parts at first sight
seeming only sketched in outline, as though the work had been
interrupted; but Colombo, whose industry is only equalled by his fine
instinct and good sense, refers both the frescoes and their interruption
to a later date.  Still, Fassola may have only intended, and indeed
probably did intend, that the shell of the building was completed by
1520, the figures and frescoes being deferred for want of funds, though
the building was ready for occupation.

Colombo, on page 115 of his “Life and Work of Gaudenzio Ferrari,” says
that Bordiga remarked the obvious difference in style between the
frescoes in the Magi and the Crucifixion chapels, which he held to have
been completed in 1524, but nevertheless thought seven years the utmost
that passed between the two works.  Colombo shows that by 1528 Gaudenzio
was already established at Vercelli, and ascribes the frescoes in the
Magi chapel to a date some time between 1536 and 1539, during which time
he believes that Gaudenzio returned to Varallo, finding no trace of him
elsewhere.  The internal evidence in support of this opinion is strong,
for the Crucifixion chapel is not a greater advance upon the frescoes in
the church of St. Maria delle Grazie, painted in 1513, magnificent as
these last are, than the Magi frescoes are upon the Crucifixion, and an
interval of ten years or so is not too much to allow between the two.
Gaudenzio Ferrari was like Giovanni Bellini, a slow but steady grower
from first to last; with no two painters can we be more sure that as long
as they lived they were taking pains, and going on from good to better;
nevertheless, it takes many years before so wide a difference can be
brought about, as that between the frescoes in the Magi and Crucifixion
chapels.  The Magi frescoes have, however, unfortunately suffered from
damp much more than the Crucifixion ones, and I should say they had been
a good deal retouched, but by a very capable artist.

Colombo thinks that in these frescoes Gaudenzio was assisted by his son
Gerolamo, who died in 1539, and, as I have said, holds that it was the
death of this son which made him leave Varallo, without even finishing
the frescoes on which he was engaged.

But Signor Arienta assures me that the frescoes were not in reality left
incomplete: he holds that the wall on the parts where the outline shows
was too dry when the colour was laid on, and that it has gradually gone,
leaving the outline only.  This, he tells me, not unfrequently happens,
and has occurred in one or two places even in the Crucifixion chapel,
where an arm here and there appears unfinished.  The parts in the Magi
chapel that show the outline only are not likely to have been left to the
last; they come in a very random haphazard way, and I have little
hesitation in accepting Signor Arienta’s opinion.  If, however, this is
wrong and the work was really unfinished, I should ascribe this fact to
the violent dissensions that broke out in 1538, and should incline
towards using it as an argument for assigning this date to the frescoes
themselves, more especially as it fits in with whatever other meagre
evidence we have.

Something went wrong with the funds destined for the erection of this
chapel, and this may account for the length of time taken to erect the
chapel itself, as well as for subsequent delay in painting it and filling
it with statues.  In the earlier half of his work Fassola says that
certain Milanese gentlemen, “_Signori della Castellanza_,” subscribed two
hundred gold scudi with which to found the chapel, but that the money was
in part diverted to other uses—“a matter,” he says, “about which I am
compelled to silence by a passage in my preface;” this passage is the
expression of a desire to avoid giving offence; but Fassola says the
interception of the funds involved the chapel’s “remaining incomplete for
some time.”  There seems, in fact, to have been some serious scandal in
connection with the money, about which, even after 150 years, Fassola was
unwilling to speak.

I would ask the reader to note in passing that in this work, high up on
the spectator’s right, Gaudenzio has painted some rocks with a truth
which was in his time rare.  In the earliest painting, rocks seem to have
been considered hopeless, and were represented by a something like a
mould for a jelly or blanc-mange; yet rocks on a grey day are steady
sitters, and one would have thought the early masters would have found
them among the first things that they could do, whereas on the contrary
they were about the last to be rendered with truth and freedom by the
greatest painters.  This was probably because rocks bored them; they
thought they could do them at any time, and were more interested with the
figures, draperies, and action.  Leonardo da Vinci’s rocks, for example,
are of no use to any one, nor yet for the matter of that is any part of
his landscape—what little there is of it.  Holbein’s strong hand falls
nerveless before a rock or mountain side, and even Marco Basaiti, whose
landscape has hardly been surpassed by Giovanni Bellini himself, could
not treat a rock as he treated other natural objects.  As for Giovanni
Bellini, I do not at this moment remember to have seen him ever attempt a
bit of slate, or hard grey gritty sandstone rock.  This is not so with
Gaudenzio, his rocks in the Magi chapel, and again in the Pietà
compartment of his fresco in the church of St. Maria delle Grazie, at the
foot of the mountain, are as good as rocks need ever be.  The earliest
really good rocks I know are in the small entombment by Roger Van der
Weyden in our own National Gallery.

Returning to the terra-cotta figures in the Magi chapel, there is nothing
about them to find fault with, but they do not arouse the same enthusiasm
as the frescoes.  They too are sufferers by damp and lapse of time, and a
painted terra-cotta figure does not lend itself to a dignified decay.
The _disjecti membra poetæ_ are hard to recognise if painted terra-cotta
is the medium through which inspiration has been communicated to the
outer world.  Outside the Magi chapel, invisible by the Magi, and under a
small glazed lantern which lights the St. Joseph with the Virgin adoring
the Infant Saviour, and the Presepio, hangs the star.  It is very pretty
where it is, but its absence from the chapel itself is, I think, on the
whole, regrettable.  I have been sometimes tempted to think that it
originally hung on the wall by a hook which still remains near the door
through which the figures must pass, but think it more probable that this
hook was used to fasten the string of a curtain that was hung over the

In conclusion, I should say that Colombo says that the figures being
short of the prescribed number were completed by Fermo Stella.  Bordiga
gives the horses only to this artist.


This is more a grotto than a chapel, and is declared in an inscription
set up by Bernardino Caimi in letters of gold to be “the exact
counterpart of the one at Bethlehem in which the Virgin gave birth to her
Divine Son.”  Bordiga writes of this inscription as still visible, but I
have repeatedly looked for it without success.

If Caimi, as Fassola distinctly says, had the above inscription set up,
it is plain that this, and perhaps the Shepherd’s chapel hard by, were
among the very earliest chapels undertaken.  This is rendered probable by
the statement of Fassola that the shell of the Circumcision chapel which
adjoins the ones we are now considering was built “_dalli principij del
Sacro Monte_.”  He says that this fact is known by the testimony of
certain contemporaneous painters (“_il che s’ argumenta dalli Pittori che
furono di que’ tempi_”).  Clearly, then, the Presepio, Shepherds, and
Circumcision chapels were in existence some years before the Magi chapel
was begun.  Gaudenzio was too young to have done the figures before
Bernardino died.  Originally, doubtless, the grotto was shown without
figures, which were added by Gaudenzio, later on; they were probably
among his first works.  The place is so dark that they cannot be well
seen, but about noon the sun comes down a narrow staircase and they can
be made out very well for a quarter of an hour or so; they are then seen
to be very good.  They have no fresco background, nor yet is there any to
the Shepherd’s chapel, which confirms me in thinking these to have been
among the earliest works undertaken.  Colombo says that the infant Christ
in the Presepio is not by Gaudenzio, the original figure having been
stolen by some foreigner not many years ago, and Battista, the excellent
Custode of the Sacro Monte, assures me that this was the second time the
infant had been stolen.


Some of the figures—the Virgin, one shepherd, and four little angels—in
this chapel are believed to be by Gaudenzio, and if they are, they are
probably among his first essays, but they are lighted from above, and the
spectator looks down on them, so that the dust shows, and they can hardly
be fairly judged.  The hindmost shepherd—the one with his hand to his
heart and looking up, is the finest figure; the Virgin herself is also
very good, but she wants washing.

If Fassola and Torrotti are to be believed, {140} and I am afraid I must
own that, much as I like them, I find them a little credulous, the Virgin
in this chapel is more remarkable than she appears at first sight; she
used originally to have her face turned in admiration towards the infant
Christ, but at the very first moment that she heard the bells begin to
ring for the elevation of Pope Innocent the Tenth to the popedom, she
turned round to the pilgrims visiting the place, in token of approbation;
the authorities, not knowing what to make of such behaviour, had her set
right, but she turned round a second time with a most gracious smile and
assumed the position which the elevation of no later Pope has been ever
able to disturb.  Pope Innocent X. was not exactly the kind of Pope whom
one would have expected the Virgin to greet with such extraordinary
condescension.  If it had been the present amiable and venerable Pontiff
there would have been less to wonder at.


The chapel itself is, as I have already said, one of the very oldest on
the Sacro Monte; it is doubtless much older than either the frescoes or
the terra-cotta figures which it contains, both of which are given by
Fassola, Torrotti, and Bordiga to Fermo Stella, but I cannot think they
are right in either case.  The frescoes remind me more of Lanini, and are
much too modern for Fermo Stella; they are, however, in but poor
preservation, and no very definite opinion can be formed concerning them.
The terra-cotta work is, I think, also too free for Fermo Stella.  The
infant Jesus is very pretty, and the Virgin would also be a fine figure
if she was not spoiled by the wig and over-much paint which restorers
have doubtless got to answer for.  The work is mentioned in the 1586
edition of Caccia as completed, but there is nothing to show whether or
no it was a restoration.  I have long thought I detected a certain
sub-Flemish feeling in both the Virgin and Child, and though aware that I
have very little grounds for doing so, am half inclined to think that
Tabachetti must have had something to do with them.  Bordiga is clearly
wrong in calling the chapel a Purification.  There are no doves, and
there must always be doves for a Purification.  Besides, there was till
lately a knife ready for use lying on the table, as shown in Guidetti’s
illustration of the chapel.


This chapel is described as completed in both the 1586 and 1590 editions
of Caccia.  The figures are again given to Fermo Stella by Bordiga, but
not by either Fassola or Torrotti.  I am again unable to think that
Bordiga is right.  There is again, also, a sub-Flemish feeling which is
difficult to account for.  The angel is a fine figure, and the heads of
the Virgin and Child are also excellent, but the folds of the drapery are
not so good.  If there were any evidence, which there is not, to show
that these figures were early works of Tabachetti, and that the sleeping
St. Joseph is a first attempt at the figure which he succeeded later so
admirably in rendering, I should be inclined to accept it; as it is, I
can form no opinion about the authorship of the terra-cotta work.  The
fresco background is worthless.


This chapel is of no great interest.  The authors and the date are
uncertain.  It is mentioned in the 1586 and 1590 editions of Caccia, but
we may be tolerably sure that Tabachetti had nothing to do with it.
Bordiga says “the figures seem to be by Stella,” which may be right or
may be wrong.  Though the figures are not very good, yet this chapel has,
or had in Fassola’s time, other merits perhaps even of greater than
artistic value, for he says it is particularly useful to those who have
lost anything.  “_Perditori di qualche cosa_” are more especial
recipients of grace in consequence of devotion at this particular chapel.
The flight is conducted as leisurely as flights into Egypt invariably
are, but has with it a something, I know not what—perhaps it is the
donkey—which always reminds me of Hampstead Heath on a bank holiday.


This is one of the most remarkable chapels on the Sacro Monte, and also
one of the most abounding in difficult problems.  It was built with funds
provided by Carlo Emanuele I., Duke of Savoy, about the year 1586, and
took four years to complete.  In the 1586–7 edition of Caccia the chapel
itself is alone given as completed.  In the 1590–1 edition, it is said
that both the sculptures and the frescoes were now finished, and that
they are all “_bellissime e ben fatti_ (_sic_).”  This is confirmed by an
inscription on the collar of a soldier who stands near Herod’s right
hand, and which, I do not doubt, is intended to govern the whole of the
terra-cotta work.  The inscription runs—

    “Michel Ang.  RSTI” (Rossetti) “Scul: Da Claino MDXC  Etate an. VIIL”

This exactly tallies with the dates given in the two editions of Caccia.

  [Picture: The Massacre of the Innocents.  Chiefly by Giannantonio (or
   Giacomo) Paracca, otherwise called Bargnola; but finished by Michael
                             Angelo Rossetti]

The date is thus satisfactorily established, but the authorship of the
work is less easily settled.  All the authorities without exception say
that the sculptor was a certain Giacomo Bargnola of Valsolda, who was
also called Bologna.  Fassola describes him as a “_statuario
virtuosissimo e glorioso per tutta l’ Europa_,” and Torrotti calls him
“_il famoso Giacomo Bargnola di Valsoldo_ [sic] _sopranominato Bologna_.”
All subsequent writers have repeated this.

At Varallo itself I found nothing known about either Bargnola or
Valsolda, but turning to Zani find Bargnola under the name Paracca.  Zani
says, “_Paracca_, _non Peracca_, _nè Perracca_, _nè Perrazza_,
_Giannantonio_, _o Giacomo_, _detto il Valsoldo_, _Valsolino_, _e il
Valsoldino_, _non Valfondino_, _ed anche il Bargnola_, _e malamente
Antonio Valsado Parravalda_.”  He says that he was a “_plastico_” and
restorer of statues, came from the neighbourhood of Como, was
“_bravissimo_,” and lived about from 1557–1587.  There was a Luigi
Paracca from the same place who was also called “Il Valsoldino” and a
Giacomo, and an Andrea, but of these last three he does not say that they
were noteworthy.

Nagler mentions only a Giovanni Antonio Parracca, who he says was called
Valsolda.  He says that he was a sculptor of Milan, who made a reputation
at Rome about 1580 as a restorer of antique statues; that he only worked
in order to get money to spend on debauchery, and died, according to
Baglione, young, and in a hospital.  His words are—

    “Paracca, Gio. Antonio gennant Valsoldo, Bildhauer von Mailand,
    machte sich um 1580 in Rom als Restaurator antiker Werke einen Namen,
    arbeitete aber nur, um Geld zur Schwelgerei zu bekommen.  Starb jung
    im Hospital wie Baglione versichert.”

I have had Baglione before me, but can find no life of Paracca either
under that name or under that of Bargnola, and suppose the reference to
him must be incidental in the life of some other artist.  I will again
gratefully accept a fuller reference.  I do not believe a word about
Paracca’s alleged debauchery.  Who ever yet worked as Nagler says?

We have, then, to face on the one hand the authority of all writers about
the Sacro Monte, and on the other, the exceedingly explicit claim made by
Rossetti himself in the inscription given above.  Probably Bargnola began
the work and Rossetti finished it.  It is not likely that the extremely
circumstantial statement of Fassola should be without any foundation, but
again it is not likely that Rossetti would have claimed the work if he
had not done at any rate the greater part of it.  If Bargnola died about
1587, he could not have done much, for in the 1586–1587 edition of Caccia
it is expressly stated that the chapel alone was done “_Di questa è fatta
solamente la chiesa_.”  And if he had lived to finish the work, he, and
not Rossetti, would have signed it.  We may conclude, then, with some
certainty, that he died before the chapel was finished, but may think it
nevertheless probable that he was originally commissioned to do it.

The question resolves itself, therefore, into how much he did, and how
soon Rossetti took the work over.  It must be remembered that Michael
Angelo Rossetti is a name absolutely unknown to us.  Zani, Nagler,
Cicognara, Lübke, Perkins, and all the authorities I have consulted omit
to mention him.  I find abundant reference to three, and indeed five,
painters who were called Rossetti, two of whom—doubtless nephews of
Michael Angelo Rossetti,—did the frescoes in this very chapel we are
considering, but no one says one syllable about any Michael Angelo
Rossetti, and it is a bold thing to suppose that an unknown man should
have succeeded so admirably with such a very important work as the
Massacre of the Innocents chapel, and have lived as the inscription shows
to the age at least of fifty-seven without leaving a single trace in any
other quarter whatever.

The work, at any rate in many parts, is that of one who has been working
in clay all his life, and was a thorough master of his craft, and this
makes it all the more difficult to suppose it to be a single _tour de
force_.  On the other hand, such _tours de force_ were not uncommon among
medieval Italian workmen.  Gaudenzio Ferrari’s work in sculpture is
little else than a succession of _tours de force_, and in other parts of
the work we are now considering, there is a certain archaism which
suggests growing rather than matured power.

We should not forget, however, that an inscription in terra-cotta cannot
be surreptitiously scrawled on like a false signature on a fresco or
painting.  Here the signature was made with pomp and circumstance while
the clay was still wet, and was baked with the figure on which it
appears.  Too many people in this case would have to know about it for a
false inscription to be probable.  As for the evidence of Fassola, we
must bear in mind that he is a notoriously inaccurate writer; that he did
not write till nearly a hundred years after the work was completed; that
Torrotti is only an echo of Fassola, and all subsequent writers little
more than echoes of Fassola and Torrotti.  On the whole, therefore, the
more I have considered the matter the more I incline towards accepting
the signature, and giving the greater part of the terra-cotta work to the
man who claims it—that is to say, to Michael Angelo Rossetti, sculptor,
of Claino.  Signor Arienta tells me he has found a Castel Claino
mentioned in an old document, as formerly existing near Milan.  He is
himself inclined (though knowing nothing of Paracca when I last saw him),
to see two hands in the work—and here he is probably right, but I hardly
think Rossetti would have signed as he did if Bargnola or Paracca had
done the greater part or even half of it.

Proceeding to a consideration of the frescoes, we find that two of
Herod’s body-guard, standing on his left hand, and corresponding to the
one on his right, on whose collar the sculptor signed his name, have also
signatures on their collars, obviously done in concert with the sculptor.
The signatures are as follows:—

    “Battista Roveri Pictor Milane Æta XXXV”


    “Io Mauro Rover Pictor.”

Fassola says that the painter of the chapel was “il Fiamenghino.”  If he
had said the painters were “i Fiamenghini” he would have been right, for
Signor Arienta called my attention to a passage in Lanzi, in which he has
dealt with three painters bearing the name of Rovere, two of whom, if not
all three, were called “i Fiamenghini.”  The three were Giovanni Mauro,
Giambattista, and Marco, which last painter does not seem to have had
anything to do with the Massacre of the Innocents.  Lanzi calls Gio.
Mauro a follower, first of Camillo, and then of Giulio Cesare Procaccini.
He describes them as painters of great facility and invention, but as
seldom taking pains to do what they very well might have done, if they
had chosen, and his verdict is, I should say, about right.  He adds:—

    “I find them also called Rossetti, and they are still more often
    described as ‘_i Fiamenghini_,’ their father, Richard, having come
    from Flanders, and settled in Milan.”

Signor Arienta explained to me that it was through this surname of
Fiamenghini, by which the brothers Rovere were known, that Giovanni Miel
D’Anvers was supposed to have had any hand in the frescoes on the Sacro
Monte.  This last-named painter was court painter to Carlo Emanuelle I.
Bordiga knew this, and seeing he came from Antwerp, concluded that he
must be “il Fiamenghino” mentioned, and all subsequent writers have
followed him.

Signor Arienta also tells me that some twenty years or so later these
same two painters signed some frescoes at Orta as follows:—

    “Io Battista, et Io Maurus Aruberius, dicti Fiamenghini, pinxerunt
    anno 1608 die 9 Octobris.”

Doubtless their mother’s name was Rossetti, and the Michael Angelo RSTI
who claims the sculptured work, and was some twenty years their senior,
was their uncle.

He also told me that one of the figures in the frescoes of the Massacre
of the Innocents chapel is wearing a collar with a clasp on which there
is an oak-tree, for which “Rovere” is the Italian, and that he holds this
to have been a portrait of the painter.

Fassola says that under the glazed aperture which is in front of the
piece there is placed a small terra-cotta car drawn by a child and loaded
with a head, or ear, of maize, a goose, and a clown; he explains that the
maize means 1000, the car 400, the clown 90, and the goose “_per il suo
verso_”—whatever this may mean—4, which numbers taken together make the
number of infants that were killed.  He adds that there is another like
hieroglyphic, which, as it is not very important, he will pass over.  I
find no mention of this in Torrotti, nor yet in Bordiga, but when people
call attention to a thing and then say nothing about it, I generally find
they have a reason.  On a recent visit to Varallo I examined the two
hieroglyphs; the second is also a small terra-cotta car or cart drawn by
a child, and containing the bust of a monk, a die, and two or three other
things that I could not make out.  The treatment of these two
hieroglyphics alone is enough to show that they were done by a thorough
master of his craft.  No doubt the import of the whole was known by
Fassola to be sinister, but I must leave its interpretation to others.
He adds that the graces vouchsafed at this chapel are chiefly on behalf
of sick children.

I may conclude by saying that though nothing has been taken directly from
Tabachetti’s Journey to Calvary chapel, the sculptor, whoever he was, has
nevertheless plainly felt the influence, and been animated by the spirit
of that great work, then just completed.

_CHAPELS No._ 12–_No._ 22.

WE now begin the series of chapels that deal with Christ’s Manhood,
Ministry, and Passion.  The first of these is


The statues are of no great interest, and of unknown authorship.  The
frescoes are by Orazio Gallinone di Treviglio, but they are not striking.
The date of the chapel is about 1585.  It is mentioned in the 1586
edition of Caccia, and it is added that the water of the fountain would
be brought there shortly so as to imitate the Jordan.  This was done, but
the water made the chapel so damp that it was turned off again.  The
graces, according to Fassola, are chiefly for married ladies.


This chapel is given as completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia, and had
probably been by this time reconstructed by Tabachetti, to whom the work
is universally and no doubt justly ascribed.

[Picture: Plate No. VI.  The Temptation in the Wilderness.  By Tabchetti]

That the figures of Christ and of the devil have both been cut about may
be conjectured from their draperies being in part real linen or calico,
and not terra-cotta; Christ’s red shirt front is real, as also is a great
part of the devil’s dress.  This last personage is a most
respectable-looking patriarchal old Jewish Rabbi.  I should say he was
the leading solicitor in some such town as Samaria, and that he gave an
annual tea to the choir.  He is offering Christ some stones just as any
other respectable person might do, and if it were not for his formidable
two clawed feet there would be nothing to betray his real nature.  The
beasts with their young are excellent.  The porcupine has real quills.
The fresco background is by Melchior D’Enrico, and here the fall of the
devil when the whole is over is treated with a realistic unreserve little
likely to be repeated.  He is dreadfully unwell.  The graces in this
chapel are more especially for those tempted by the world, the flesh, and
the devil, for people who are bewitched, and for those who are in any
wise troubled in mind, body, and estate, “as the varying views of the
pilgrims themselves will best determine.”

Bordiga says that the chapel was begun about 1580, and completed in 1594,
but he refers probably to Tabachetti’s reconstruction, for in the portico
there is an inscription painted by order of the Bishop, and forbidding
visitors to deface the walls, that is dated 1524, and the back of the
chapel has many early 16th century scratches.


This chapel is given as completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia, so that
Bordiga and Cusa are wrong in dating it 1598.  In the poetical part of
Caccia it is described as recently made and “_ben ritratto_.”  The woman
of Samaria is a fine buxom figure, but the paint has peeled off so badly
both from her and from the Christ that it is hardly fair to judge the
work at all.  I should think it was very possibly an early work by
Tabachetti, but should be sorry to hazard a decided opinion.  The
frescoes are without interest.  The graces at this chapel were chiefly
for women who wanted to abandon some evil practice, and for rain when the
country was suffering from long drought.  This last is because Christ
said to the woman of Samaria “Give me to drink.”


The chapel alone was completed by 1586 and 1590, so that we may be
certain Tabachetti had no hand in it.  The statues are said to be by
D’Enrico, whom we meet here for the first time.  Bordiga praises them
very highly, but neither Jones nor I liked the composition as much as we
should have wished to have done.  Some of the individual figures are
good, especially a man with his arm in a sling, and two men conversing on
the left of the composition, but there is too little concerted and united
action, and too much attempt to show off every figure to the best
advantage, to the sacrifice of more important considerations.  They
probably date from 1620–1624, in which last year Bordiga says that the
frescoes were completed.  These are chiefly, if not entirely, by
Cristoforo Martinolo, a Valsesian artist and pupil of Morazzone, who,
according to Bordiga, though little known, has here shown himself no
common artist.  Again neither Jones nor I admired them as much as we
should have been glad to do.  “All infirmities of fever, and paralysis,”
says Fassola, “if recommended to the Great Saviour at this place will be
dissipated, as may be gathered from the many _voti_ here exhibited.”


Of this chapel the walls are alone mentioned as completed in 1590.  So
that Bordiga and Cusa are again wrong in saying that the frescoes were
painted about 1580.  It is not good.  The walls were probably raised soon
after 1580.  Donna Mathilde di Savoia, Marchesa di Pianezza, a natural
daughter of Carlo Emmanuele I., was among the principal contributors.
The graces were “for those who had had bad falls or any accidents whereby
they had been rendered speechless, stupid, senseless, and apparently

It will be observed on referring to the plan facing p. 68, that this
chapel is given as on the ground now occupied by Christ taken before
Annas, and faces the Herod chapel on the Piazza dei Tribunali.  This may
be a mere error in the plan, but the plan is generally accurate, and it
is very likely that a change was made in the middle of the last century
when the Annas chapel was built.


This is on the highest ground of the Sacro Monte, the Transfiguration
being supposed to have happened on Mount Sinai.  Inside the chapel they
have made Mount Sinai, but Fassola says that it was originally quite too
high, and the Fabbricieri had ordered it to be made lower, “so as to
render it more enjoyable by the eye.”  It was begun at the end of the
sixteenth century, but is mentioned as being only “founded” in the 1586
and 1590 editions of Caccia, and the work seems to have got little
further than the foundations, until in 1660 it was resumed; Fassola,
writing in 1671, says that the chapel was “_levata in alto da terra
l’anno del mille_, _sei cento e sessanta_,” or about ten years before his
book appeared; it was still in great part unpainted, and he makes an
appeal to his readers to contribute towards its completion.  From both
Fassola and Torrotti it would appear that only the group of figures on
the mountain was in existence when they wrote.  They both of them make
the extraordinary statement that these figures are by Giovanni D’Enrico,
whom they must have perfectly well known to have been dead more than a
quarter of a century before Fassola wrote, and many years before the
figures could possibly have been placed where they now are.  It is much
as though I, writing now, were to ascribe Boehm’s statue of Mr. Darwin,
in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, to Chantrey.  The
figures on the mountain are among the worst on the Sacro Monte.  I see
that Cusa ascribes the figures of Peter, James, and John only to
D’Enrico, but the ascription is very difficult to understand.

Bordiga does not say who did the figures of Peter, James, and John, but
he gives the Christ, Moses, and Elias to Pietro Francesco Petera of
Varallo.  The fourteen figures at the foot of the mountain he assigns to
Gaudenzio Soldo of Camasco, a pupil of the sculptor Dionigi Bussola.  In
1665 Giuseppe and Stefano Danedi, called Montalti, and pupils of
Morazzone, “painted the cupola of the chapel with innumerable angels
great and small exhibiting the most varied movements.”  Giuseppe had the
greater share in this work, in which may be seen, according to Bordiga,
signs of the influence of Guido, under whom Giuseppe had studied.

Among the figures below the mountain there is a blind man, and a boy with
a bad foot leading him—both good—and a contemptuous father telling the
Apostles that they cannot cure his son, and that he had told them so from
the first, but the paint is peeling off the figures so much that the work
can hardly be judged fairly.  When photographed they look much better,
and Signor Pizetta tells me he was last year commissioned to photograph
the boy, who is in a fit of hystero-epilepsy, for a medical work that was
being published in France, so it is probably very true to nature.


Fassola says that this chapel was erected at the expense of Pomponio
Bosso, a noble Milanese, between the years 1560 and 1580.  It is
mentioned as finished in the 1586 edition of Caccia, and was probably
completed before Tabachetti came.  Bordiga only says that it was finished
in 1582.  The statues are of little or no merit, nor yet the frescoes.  I
observe that in Caccia the “tempio” is praised but not apparently the
work that it contained.  The terra-cotta figures are ascribed by Bordiga
to Ravello, and the frescoes to Testa, whose brother, Lorenzo Testa, was
Fabbriciere at the time the chapel was erected.  There is one rather nice
little man in the left-hand corner, but there is nothing else.


The figures in this chapel are ascribed to Giovanni D’Enrico by both
Fassola and Torrotti, an ascription very properly set aside by Bordiga,
without assigned reason, but probably because 1590 is considerably too
early for Giovanni D’Enrico, and there is a document dated May 23, 1590,
showing that the fresco background was then contracted for.  The
sculptured figures are mentioned as finished in the 1586 edition of
Caccia, so that D’Enrico could not have done them.  They are better than
those in the preceding chapels, but they do not arouse enthusiasm, and
have suffered so much from decay, and from repainting, that it is hardly
fair to form any opinion about them.  They probably looked much better
when new.  The landscape part of the background is by one of the brothers
Rovere, named, as I have said, Fiamenghini, and he has introduced a house
with a stepped gable like those at Antwerp.  Some of the figures in the
background appear to be by the painter Testa, who is named in the
document above referred to.


This was one of the earliest chapels, and is mentioned as completed in
the 1586 edition of Caccia.  The figures are of wood, stiff, and
lifeless, the supper is profuse and of much later date than the figures,
but the whole scene is among the least successful on the Sacro Monte.
Originally, but not till many years after the figures had been made and
placed, Lanini painted a fresco background for this chapel.  Perhaps
Gaudenzio brought him from Vercelli on the occasion of the temporary
return to Varallo supposed by Colombo to have taken place between 1536
and 1539.  If we could know when Lanini was on the Sacro Monte doing this
background, we might suspect that Gaudenzio was not far off.  Lanini’s
work has unfortunately perished in a second reconstruction of the chapel.
Torrotti in 1686 says that a reconstruction of the Cena chapel was then
contemplated, but that Lanini’s frescoes were not to be touched.  The
original Cena chapel may or may not have been on its present site, but
the first restoration certainly was so, as appears from the plan dated
1671 already given.  The apostles have real napkins round their
shoulders.  The graces are for people who feel themselves deficient in
faith, and intercession may be made here for obstinate sinners.


This chapel, again, has been reconstructed, but the old figures have not
been preserved as in the case of the Cena, nor yet has the original site.
The original site, according to Bordiga, was apart from the other chapels
at the foot of the neighbouring _monticello_, meaning, presumably, the
height on which the Transfiguration chapel now stands.  It was at this
old chapel that S. Carlo used to spend hours in prayer.  It was one of
the earliest, and the figures were of wood.  Fassola says that it was the
angel who was offering the cup to Christ in the old chapel who announced
his approaching end to S. Carlo, but the figures had been removed in his
time as they were perishing, and the terra-cotta ones by Giovanni
D’Enrico had been substituted, with a fresco background by his brother
Melchiorre.  These in their turn perished during a reconstruction some
twenty years or so ago.  The graces at this chapel are thus described by

    “Il moderno e Christo ed Angiolo nel medemo stato rinouati non sono
    meno miraculosi, perche tutti li concorrenti, bisognosi di pazienza
    di soffrire trauagli, malattie, ed ogni sorte d’ infermità tanto
    dell’ anima, quanto del corpo caldamente racomandandosi al piacere di
    questo sudante Christo riportano ciò che meglio per lo stato di
    questo, ed altro Mondo fà di necessità alle loro persone.”

I find no mention of any original fresco background, though I do of the
one added afterwards by Melchiorre D’Enrico, now no longer in existence.
As this was one of the earliest chapels, I incline to think that there
was no fresco background in the first instance.


Fassola says that this chapel was decorated about fifty years (really
fifty-nine) before the date at which he was writing, by Melchiorre
D’Enrico.  It was then on its present site, but the end of the Cena block
was rebuilt some twenty years ago.  The present Custode, Battista, tells
me he worked at the rebuilding, and taking me upstairs showed me a trace
or two of Melchiorre’s background.  The sleeping Apostles are said to be
by Giovanni D’Enrico; they will not bear comparison with Tabachetti’s St.
Joseph.  The benefactor was Count Pio Giacomo Fassola di Rassa, a
collateral ancestor of the historian.  People who have become lethargic
in their self-indulgence, or who are blinded through some bad habit, will
find relief at this chapel.  I have met with nothing to show that there
was any earlier chapel with the same subject, and in the 1586 edition of
Caccia it is expressly mentioned as one of those that as yet were merely
contemplated, though the Agony in the Garden itself is described as


WE now come to the block of several chapels comprised in a building
originally designed by Pellegrini at the instance of S. Carlo Borromeo,
but not carried out according to his design, and called “The Palace of
Pilate.”  This work was begun about 1590, and according to Fassola was
not completed till 1660.  The figures, however, must have been most of
them placed by 1644, for they are mainly by Giovanni D’Enrico, who is
believed to have died in that year.  The first of these chapels—the
Capture of Christ—and probably several others, comprise some figures
taken from earlier chapels.  Fassola says that before this building was
erected, the old portico built by Milano Scarrognini stood in the Piazza
in front of the Holy Sepulchre, that “in its circuit of three hundred
paces it comprised several mysteries of the passion.”  Among these were
probably the present Flagellation, Crowning with Thorns, and final Taking
of Christ before Pilate chapels.  Each of these, however, has undergone
some modification.


This chapel is in the Palazzo di Pilato block, though not strictly a
suffering under Pontius Pilate.  The greater number of the sixteen
figures that it contains are old, and of wood, and among these are the
figures of Christ, Judas, and Malchus, who is lying on the ground.  To
show how dust and dirt accumulate in the course of centuries, I may say
that Cav. Prof. Antonini told me he had himself unburied the figure of
Malchus, which he found more than half covered with earth.  We have seen
that there are also two figures introduced here which had no connection
with the original chapel, I mean of course the old Adam and Eve, who are
now doing duty as Roman soldiers.  The few remaining figures that are not
of wood are given to D’Enrico, and the frescoes are by his brother
Melchiorre.  Neither figures nor frescoes can be highly praised.  The
present chapel is not on the site of the old, which I have already
explained was on the ground floor of the large house on the visitor’s
left as he enters the smaller entrance to the Sacro Monte.

The servants were put to lodge above this old and now derelict Capture
chapel when the present one was made.  The date of the removal is given
by Cusa as 1570, who says that the Marchese del Guasto contributed
largely to the expense.  If the figures were then completed and arranged
as we now see them, Giovanni D’Enrico can have had no hand in them, but
it is quite possible that somewhere about 1615–1619, they were again
rearranged and perhaps added to.  Melchiorre D’Enrico has signed the
frescoes in a quasi-cipher and dated them 1619.  The old chapel, though,
I think, originally larger than it now is, could not have contained all
or nearly all the present figures.  Any second rearrangement of the
chapel may have been due to its incorporation in the Palazzo di Pilato
block, which we know was not begun till after 1590.  That the removal
from the original chapel had been effected before 1586 is shown by the
fact that the chapel is given in its present geographical sequence in the
edition of Caccia published at the end of that year.  The work contains
no trace of Tabachetti’s hand, and this should make us incline towards
thinking that.  Tabachetti had not yet come to Varallo by 1570.

Of the former chapel Fassola says:—

    “On again descending where formerly was the Capture of Christ, and
    near the exit [from the Sacro Monte] we came to the porter’s lodge.
    It should be noted that under the porter’s room, in the place where
    the Capture used to be, there are most admirable frescoes by
    Gaudenzio” (p. 22).

With his accustomed reticence where he fears to give offence, he does not
say that the frescoes are going to rack and ruin, but this is what he
means; Torrotti expresses himself more freely, saying that a chapel,
although derelict, containing paintings by Gaudenzio and his pupils,
should not be left to the neglect of servants.  These frescoes were
removed a year or so ago to the Pinacoteca in the Museum.  They are not
by Gaudenzio, and are now rightly given to Lanini.  They are mere
fragments, and of no great importance.


This is the one chapel that belongs to the 18th century, having been
finished about 1765 at the expense of certain Valsesians residing in
Turin.  It does not belong to the Palazzo di Pilato block, but I deal
with it here to avoid departure from the prescribed order.  The design of
the chapel is by Morondi, and the figures by Carlantonio Tandarini,
except that of Annas, which is by Giambattista Bernesi of Turin.  The
frescoes are of the usual drop scene, _barocco_, academic kind, but where
the damp has spared them they form an effective background.  The figures
want concert, and are too much spotted about so as each one to be seen to
the best advantage.  This, as Tabachetti very well knew, is not in the
manner of living action, and the attempt to render it on these principles
is doomed to failure; nevertheless many of Tandarini’s individual figures
are very clever, and have a good deal of a certain somewhat exaggerated
force and character.  I have already said that from the plan of 1671 “The
Widow’s Son” would seem to have been formerly on the site of the present
Annas chapel.

       [Picture: Plate No. VII.  “Ciaphas.”  By Giovanni D’Enrico]


Cusa says that this chapel, which again is not in the Palazzo di Pilato
block, adheres very closely to the design of Pellegrino Tibaldi.  The
figures, thirty-three in number, are by Giovanni D’Enrico and Giacomo
Ferro, and the frescoes being dated 1642, we may think the terra-cotta
work to be among the last done by D’Enrico on the Sacro Monte.  The
figure of Caiaphas must be given to him, and it is hard to see how it
could have been more dramatically treated.  Caiaphas has stepped down
from his throne, which is left vacant behind him, and is adjuring Jesus
to say whether he is the Christ the Son of God.  If it were not for the
cobweb between the arm and the body, the photograph which is here given
might almost pass as having been taken from life, and the character is so
priest-like that it is hard to understand how priests could have
tolerated it as they did.  Indeed, the figure is so far finer than the
general run of Giovanni D’Enrico’s work, and so infinitely superior to
the four figures of Pilate in the four Pilate chapels, that we should be
tempted to give it to some other sculptor if, happily, the Herod did not
also show how great D’Enrico could be when he was doing his best, and if
the evidence for its having been by him were not so strong.

To the left of Caiaphas’s empty throne are two standing figures, which
look as if they had been begun for figures of Christ, but were condemned
as not good enough.  They may perhaps be intended for Joseph and
Nicodemus.  Some few of the other figures, which in all number
thirty-three, are also full of character, but the greater part of them do
not rise above the level of Giacomo Ferro’s supers, and suffer from
having lost much paint; nevertheless the chapel is effective, chiefly,
doubtless, through the excellence of the Caiaphas himself, and if we
could see the work as it was when D’Enrico left it we should doubtless
find it more effective still.

The frescoes are by Cristoforo Martinolo, also named Rocca.  They are not
of remarkable excellence, but form an efficient background, and are among
the best preserved on the Sacro Monte.  They have also the great merit of
being legibly signed and dated.


Hard by under a portico there is a statue of St. Peter, repentant, and
over him there is a cock still crowing.  The figure of St. Peter, and
presumably that of the cock also, are by D’Enrico.  I can find nothing
about the date in any author.

This cock is said to have been the chief instrument in a miracle not less
noteworthy than any recorded in connection with the Sacro Monte.  It
seems that on the 3rd of July 1653 a certain Lorenzo Togni from
Buccioleto, who had been a martyr to intemperance for many years, came to
the Sacro Monte in that state in which martyrs to intemperance must be
expected generally to be.  It was very early in the morning, but
nevertheless the man was drunk, though still just able to go the round of
the chapels.  Nothing noticeable occurred till he got to the Caiaphas
chapel, but here all on a sudden, to the amazement of the man himself,
and of others who were standing near, a noise was heard to come from up
aloft in the St. Peter chapel, and it was seen that the cock had turned
round and was flapping his wings with an expression of great severity.
Before they had recovered from their surprise, the bird exclaimed in a
loud voice, and with the utmost distinctness, “Ciocc’ anch’ anc’uei,”
running the first two words somewhat together, and dwelling long on the
last syllable, which is sounded like a long French “eu” and a French “i.”
These words I am told mean, “Drunk again to-day also?” the “anc’uei”
being a Piedmontese _patois_ for “ancora oggi.”  The bird repeated these
words three or four times over, and then turned round on its perch, to
all appearance terra cotta again.  The effect produced upon the drunkard
was such that he could never again be prevailed upon to touch wine, and
ever since this chapel has been the one most resorted to by people who
wish to give up drinking to excess.

The foregoing story is not given either in Fassola or Torrotti, but my
informant, a most intelligent person, assured me that to this day the
cocks about Varallo do not unfrequently say “Ciocc’ anch’
anc’uei”—indeed, I have repeatedly heard them do so with the most
admirable distinctness.  I am told that cocks sometimes challenge, and
wish to fight, well-done cocks on crucifixes, but it is some way from
this to the cock on the crucifix beginning to crow too.  One does not see
where this sort of thing is to end, and once terra-cotta always
terra-cotta, is a maxim that a respectable figure would on the whole do
well to lay to heart and abide by.


The Pilate is not nearly so good as the Caiaphas in the preceding chapel,
but though there is not one single figure of superlative excellence, this
is still one of D’Enrico’s best works, and the Pilate is the best of the
four Pilates.  The nineteen figures are generally ascribed to him; and, I
should say there was less Giacomo Ferro in this chapel than in most of
D’Enrico’s.  Possibly Giacomo Ferro was not yet D’Enrico’s assistant.
The frescoes are by Antonio, or Tanzio, D’Enrico, but I cannot see much
in them to admire.

The date is given by Bordiga as about 1620, but no date is given either
by Fassola or Torrotti.  The nude figure to the left, seated and holding
a spear near the spectator, is said to be a portrait of Tanzio, but
Bordiga thinks that if we are to look for the portrait anywhere in this
composition, we should do so in the open gallery above the gate of the
Pretorium, where we shall find a figure that has nothing to do with the
story, and represents a “jocund-looking” but venerable old man, wearing a
hat with a white feather in it, and like the portrait of Melchiorre
painted by himself in his Last Judgment—presumably the one outside the
church at Riva Valdobbia.  Bordiga adds that Melchiorre was still living
in 1620, when Tanzio was at work on these frescoes.


Bordiga says that this chapel was begun in 1606, as shown by a letter
from Monsignor Bescapè, Bishop of Novara, authorising the Fabbricieri to
appropriate three hundred scudi from the Mass chest for the purpose of
erecting it, but it was not finished until 1638.  The statues,
thirty-five in number, are by Giovanni D’Enrico, and the frescoes by
Tanzio, but we have no means of dating either the one or the other

        [Picture: Plate No. VIII.  “Herod.”  By Giovanni D’Enrico]

The figure of Herod is incomparably finer than any others in the chapel,
if we except those of two laughing boys on Herod’s left that are hardly
seen till one is inside the chapel itself.  Take each of the figures
separately and few are good.  As usual in D’Enrico’s chapels, there is a
deficiency of the _ensemble_ and concert which no one except Tabachetti
seems to have been able to give in sculptured groups containing many
figures; nevertheless, the Herod and the laughing boys atone almost for
any deficiency.  Bordiga speaks of the frescoes in the highest terms, but
I do not admire them as I should wish to do.  They are generally
considered as Antonio D’Enrico’s finest work on the Sacro Monte.

The figures behind the two boys’ heads coming very awkwardly in my
photograph, my friend Mr. Gogin has kindly painted them out for me, so as
to bring the boys’ heads out better.

  [Picture: Plate IX.  “Laughing Boys in the Herod Chapel.”  By Giovanni


This is supposed to be the last work of Giovanni D’Enrico, who, according
to Durandi, died in 1644.  The scene comprises twenty-three terra-cotta
figures, few of them individually good, but nevertheless effective as a
whole.  One man, the nearest but one to the spectator, must be given to
D’Enrico, and perhaps one or two more, but the greater number must have
been done by Giacomo Ferro.  The frescoes were begun both by Morazzone
and Antonio D’Enrico, but Fassola and Torrotti say that neither the one
nor the other was able to complete the work, which in their time was
still unfinished; but Doctor Morosini was going to get a really good man
to finish them without further delay.  Eventually the brothers Grandi of
Milan came and did the Doric architecture, while Pietro Gianoli did some
sibyls, and on the facciata “_il casto Giuseppe portato da due Angioli_.”
Gianoli signed his work and dated it 1679.  We know, then, that in this
case the sculptured figures were placed some years before the background,
as probably also with several other chapels; and it may be assumed that
generally the terra-cotta figures preceded the background—which was
designed for them, and not they for it, except in the case of Gaudenzio
Ferrari—who probably conceived both the round and flat work together as
part of the same design, and was thus the only artist on the Sacro Monte
who carried out the design of uniting painting and sculpture in a single
design, under the conditions which strictly it involves.

In connection with this chapel both Fassola and Torrotti say that
D’Enrico has intentionally made Christ’s face become smaller and smaller
during each of these last scenes, as becoming contracted through increase
of suffering.  I have been unable to see that this is more than fancy on
their parts.

It is also in connection with this chapel that we discover the true date
of Fassola’s book.  He says that they had been on the lookout “during the
whole _of last year_”—which he gives as 1669—for some one to finish the
frescoes.  “Now, however,” he continues, “when this book is seeing
light,” &c.  The book therefore should be seeing light in 1670.  It is
dated 1671.  True, Fassola may have been writing at the very end of 1670,
and the book may have been published at the beginning of 1671, but
perhaps the more natural conclusion is that the same reasons which make
publishers wish to misdate their books by a year now, made them wish to
do so then, and that though Fassola’s book appeared at the end of 1670,
as would appear from his own words, it was nevertheless dated 1671.


Torrotti and Fassola say that the Christ in this chapel, as well as in
all the others, is an actual portrait—and no doubt an admirable
one—communicated by Divine inspiration to the many workmen and artists
who worked on the Sacro Monte.  This, they say, may be known from two
documents contemporaneous with Christ Himself, in which His personal
appearance is fully set forth, and which seem almost to have been written
from the statues now existing at Varallo.  The worthy artists who made
these statues were by no means given to historical investigations, and
were little likely to know anything about the letters in question;
besides, these had only just been discovered, so that there can have been
no deception or illusion.  Both Fassola and Torrotti give the letters in
full, and to their pages the reader who wishes to see them may be
referred.  Fassola writes:—

    “Hora vegga ogni diuoto se rassomigliando queste statue al vero
    Christo essendo lauorate accidentalmente, parendo da Dio sia dato
    alli Statuarij, e Pittori il lume della sua Diuina Persona non si hà
    se non per mera sua disposizione e diachiarazione d’hauer quiui quasi
    come rinouata, e resa più commoda alla Christianità la sua
    Redenzione” (p. 103).

The work is mentioned as completed in the 1586 edition of Caccia—this,
and the Crowning with Thorns, being the only two that are described as
completed of those that now form part of the Palazzo di Pilato block.
These two chapels do not in reality, however, belong to the Palazzo di
Pilato at all; they existed long before it, and the new work was added on
to them.  Bordiga says that “an order of Monsignor Bescapè relating to
this chapel, and dated February 1, 1605, shows that there was as yet no
plan of this part of the Palace of Pilate.”  I have not seen this order,
and can only speak with diffidence, but I do not think the chapel has
been much modified since 1586, beyond the fact that Rocca, whom we have
already met with as painting in the Caiaphas chapel in 1642, at some time
or another painted a new background, which is now much injured by damp.

Not only does the author of the 1586 Caccia mention the chapel, but he
does it with more effusion than is usual with him.  He rarely says
anything in praise of any but the best work.  I do not, therefore, think
it likely that his words refer to the original wooden figures, two of
which were preserved when the work was remodelled; these two mar the
chapel now, and when all the work was of the same calibre it cannot have
kindled any enthusiasm in a writer who appears to have known very fairly
well which were the best chapels.  He says:—

    “Da manigoldi, in atto acerbo e fiero,
    Alla colonna Christo flagellato
    _Da scultor dotto assimigliato al vero_
    Di questo {181} in un de i lati è dimostrato,

    E come fusse macerato e nero,
    D’aspri flagelli percosso, e vergato,
    Di Christo il sacro corpo in ogni parte,
    Vi ha sculto dotto mastro in sottil arte.”

I think the reconstruction of the chapel, then, and its assumption of its
present state, except that a fresco background was added, should be
assigned to some year about 1580–1585, and am disposed to ascribe, at any
rate, the figure of the man who is binding Christ to the column to
Tabachetti, who was then working on the Sacro Monte, and whose style the
work seems to me to resemble more nearly than it does that of D’Enrico.
Whoever the chapel is by, it was evidently in its present place and much
admired in 1586; there could hardly, therefore, have been any occasion to
reconstruct it, especially when so much other work was crying to be done,
and when it had, in all probability, been once reconstructed already.

   [Picture: Plate X.  “Man in background in the Flagellation Chapel”]

On the whole, until external evidence shows D’Enrico to have done the
figures, I shall continue to think that at least one of them, and very
possibly all except the two old wooden ones, are by Tabachetti.  The foot
of the man binding Christ to the column has crumbled away, either because
the clay was bad, or from insufficient baking.  This is why the figure is
propped up with a piece of wood.  The damp has made the rope slack, so
that the pulling action of the figure is in great measure destroyed, its
effect being cancelled by its ineffectualness; but for this the reader
will easily make due allowance.  The same man reappears presently in the
balcony of the Ecce Homo chapel, but he is there evidently done by
another and much less vigorous hand.

The man in the foreground, who is stooping down and binding his rods, is
the same as the one who is kicking Christ in Tabachetti’s Journey to
Calvary, and is one of those adopted by Tabachetti from Gaudenzio
Ferrari’s Crucifixion chapel; this figure may perhaps have been an
addition by Giovanni D’Enrico, or have been done by an assistant, for it
is hardly up to Tabachetti’s mark.  The two nearest scourgers are fine
powerful figures, but I should admit that they remind me rather of
D’Enrico than of Tabachetti, though they might also be very well by him,
and probably are so.

Fassola says that the graces obtainable by the faithful here have
relation to every kind of need; they are in a high degree unspecialised,
and that this freedom from specialisation is characteristic of all the
chapels of the Passion.


Much that was said about the preceding chapel applies also to this.  It
is mentioned in the 1586 edition of Caccia as done “_sottilmente in
natural ritratto_,” and as being one of the few works that would form
part of the Palazzo di Pilato block that were as yet completed.

That this chapel had undergone one reconstruction before 1586, we may
gather from the fact that the left-hand wall is still covered with a
fresco of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise; this has no
connection with the Crowning with Thorns, and doubtless formed the
background to the original Adam and Eve.  I have already said that I am
indebted to Signor Arienta for this suggestion.  Bordiga calls this
subject Christ being Led to be Crowned, and gives it to Crespi da Cerano,
but I cannot understand how he can see in the work anything but an
Expulsion from Paradise.  The chapel having been reconstructed before
1586 on its present site—as it evidently had been—and being admired, is
not likely to have been reconstructed a second time, and I am again,
therefore, inclined to give the whole work, or at any rate the greater
part of it, to Tabachetti, and to reject the statements of Fassola,
Torrotti, Bordiga, and Cusa, who all ascribe the figures to D’Enrico.
The two men standing up behind Christ, one taunting Him, and the other
laughing, are among the finest on the Sacro Monte, and are much more in
Tabachetti’s manner than in D’Enrico’s.  The other figures are, as they
were doubtless intended to be, of minor interest.

Some of the frescoes other than those above referred to, were added at a
later date, and are said by Bordiga, on the authority of a covenant,
dated September 27_th_, 1608, to have been done by Antonio Rantio, who
undertook to paint them for a sum of ten ducatoons.  They are without

It was here the Flemish dancer was healed.

His name was Bartholomew Jacob, and he came from Graveling in Flanders.
It seems there was a ball going on at the house of one of this man’s
ancestors, and that the Last Sacraments were being carried through the
street under the windows of the ball-room.

The dancing ought by rights to have been stopped, but the host refused to
stop it, and presently the priest who was carrying the Sacrament found a
paper under the chalice, written in a handwriting of almost superhuman
neatness, presumably that of the Madonna herself and bearing the words,
“Dancer, thou wouldst not stay thy dance: I curse thee, therefore, that
thou dance for nine generations.”  And so he did, he and all his
descendants all their lives, till it came to Bartholomew Jacob, who was
the ninth in descent.  He too began life dancing, and was still dancing
when he started on a pilgrimage to Rome; when, however, he got to the
Sacro Monte at Varallo on the 7th of January 1646, he began to feel
tired, tremulous, and languid from so much incessant movement.  This
strange feeling attacked him first at the Nativity Chapel, but by the
time he got to the Crowning with Thorns he could stand it no longer, and
fell as one dead, to rise again presently perfectly whole, and relieved
of his distressing complaint.

Personally I find this story interesting as giving high support to the
theory I have been trying to insist upon for some years past, and
according to which in a certain sense a man is personally identical with
all the generations in the direct line both of his ancestry and his
descendants, as well as with himself.  The words “Thou shalt dance for
nine generations” involve one of the most important points contended for
in my earlier book, “Life and Habit.”  Fassola and Torrotti both say that
more pilgrims left alms at this chapel than at any other.  In fact they
both seem to consider that this chapel did very well.  “Quì,” says
Torrotti, “si colgano elemosine assai,” and, as I have said already, it
is here that a few autumn leaves of waxen images still linger.

A few weeks ago I saw the original document in which the story above
given was attested.  It was dated 1671, and signed, stamped, and sealed
as a document of the highest importance.  I noticed that in this
manuscript, it was a voice that was heard, and not as in Fassola a letter
that was found.


This is not mentioned in the 1586 edition of Caccia, perhaps as being a
poor and unimportant work.  Fassola says that some of the frescoes, as
well as of the statues, which, he says, are of wood, were by Gaudenzio.
The other statues are given both by Fassola and Torrotti to D’Enrico, and
the paintings to Gianoli, a wealthy Valsesian amateur who lived at
Campertogno.  Bordiga gives the statues to Ferro, already mentioned as a
pupil of D’Enrico, but whoever did them, they are about as bad as they
can be—too bad, I should say, for Giacomo Ferro, and I am not sure that
they are not of wood even now.  No traces of Gaudenzio’s frescoes remain.
The chapel seems to have been reconstructed in connection with the
_replica_ of the Scala Santa up which Christ is going to be conducted.
We have seen that the design for these stairs was procured from Rome in
1608 by Francesco Testa, who was then Fabbriciere.


This is one of the finest chapels, the concert between the figures being
better than in most of D’Enrico’s other work, notwithstanding the fact
that more than one, and probably several, are old figures taken from
chapels that were displaced when the Palazzo di Pilato block was made.
The figures are thirty-seven in number, and are disposed in a spacious
hall not wholly unlike the vestibule of the Reform Club, Christ and His
immediate persecutors appearing in a balustraded balcony above a spacious
portico that supports it.  This must have been one of D’Enrico’s first
works on the Sacro Monte, the frescoes having been paid for on Dec. 7,
1612, as shown by Morazzone’s receipt which is still in existence, and
which is for the sum of 2400 _imperiali_.  Of these frescoes it is
impossible to speak highly; they look clever at first and from a
distance, but do not bear closer attention.  Morazzone took pains with
the Journey to Calvary chapel, which was his first work on the Sacro
Monte, but never did anything so good again.

         [Picture: Plate XI.  “Stefano Scotto and Mr. S. Butler”]

Of the terra-cotta figures, the one to the extreme left is certainly by
Gaudenzio Ferrari, being another portrait, in nearly the same attitude,
of the extreme figure to the left in the Crucifixion chapel.  For reasons
into which I will enter more fully when I come to this last-named work, I
do not doubt that Stefano Scotto, Gaudenzio’s master, is the person
represented.  I had to go inside the chapel to hold a sheet behind the
figure in order to detach it from the background, so had myself taken
along with it to show how it compares with a living figure.  It is
generally said at Varallo to be a portrait of Giovanno D’Enrico’s brother
Tanzio, but this is obviously impossible, for not only does the same
person reappear in the Crucifixion chapel, but he is also found in
Gaudenzio’s early fresco of the Disputa in the Sta. Margherita chapel
already referred to, and elsewhere, as I will presently show.  I should
be sorry to say that any other figure in the Ecce Homo chapel except this
is certainly by Gaudenzio, but am inclined to think that two or three
others are also by him, the rest being probably all of them by D’Enrico
or some assistant.  Some—more especially two children, on the head of one
of whom a man has laid his hand—are of extreme beauty.  The child that is
looking up is among the most beautiful in the whole range of sculpture;
the other is not so good, but has suffered in re-painting, the eyelid
being made too red; if this were remedied, as it easily might be, the
figure would gain greatly.  Cav. Prof. Antonini has very successfully
substituted plaster hair for the horsehair, which had in great measure
fallen off.  The motive of this incidental group is repeated, but with
less success, in Giovanni D’Enrico’s Nailing to the Cross.

There is another child to the extreme right of the composition so
commonly and poorly done that it is hard to believe it can be by the same
hand, but it is not likely that Giacomo Ferro had as yet become
D’Enrico’s assistant.  The man who is pointing out Christ to this
last-named child is far more seriously treated, and might even be an
importation from an earlier work.  Among other very fine figures is a man
who is looking up and holding a staff in his hand; he stands against the
wall to the spectator’s right among the figures nearest to the grating.
There is also an admirable figure of a man on one knee tying his cross
garter and at the same time looking up.  This figure is in the background
rather hidden away, and is not very well seen from the grating.  I should
add that the floor of the chapel slopes a little up from the spectator
like the stage in a theatre.

The dog in the middle foreground is hollow, as are all the figures, or at
any rate many of them, and shows a great hole on the side away from the
spectator; it is not fixed to the ground, but stands on its own legs; it
was as much as I could do to lift it.  I am told the figures were baked
down below in the town, and though they are most of them in several
pieces it must have been no light work carrying them up the mountain.  I
have been shown the remains of a furnace near the present church on the
Sacro Monte, but believe it was only used for the figures made by Luigi
Marchesi in 1826.  I should, however, have thought that the figures would
have been baked upon the Sacro Monte itself and not in the town.

Of this chapel Fassola says:—

    “All the pilgrims of every description come here, because it is at
    the top of the _Scala Santa_ up which they go upon their knees, and
    there is plenty of room for pilgrims, as the chapel extends the whole
    width of the staircase.  Those who are oppressed with travail, or
    fevers, or lawsuits, or unjust persecutions of any description, are
    comforted on being commended to this Christ.”  “Vi sono quì,” says
    Torrotti, “pascoli deliziosi per i curiosi e più dotti.”

I daresay that on the great festivals of the Church, some pilgrims may
still go up the Scala Santa kneeling, but they do not commonly do so.
Often as I have been at the Sacro Monte, I never yet saw a pilgrim mount
the staircase except on his feet in the usual way.  It must be a very
painful difficult thing to go up twenty-eight consecutive high steps on
one’s knees; I tried it, but gave it up after a very few steps, and do
not recommend any of my readers to even do as much as this.


Fassola, Torrotti, and Bordiga all call this one of the best chapels, but
neither Jones nor I could see that it was nearly so successful as the
preceding.  The seventeen modelled figures are by Giovanni D’Enrico, and
the frescoes by his brother Antonio or Tanzio.  One or two of the
figures—especially a man putting his finger to his mouth derisively, are
excellent, but the Pilate is a complete failure; and it is hard to think
it can have been done, as it probably nevertheless was, by the sculptor
of the Caiaphas and Herod figures.  Bordiga says that a contract was made
with Caccia (not the historian), called Moncalvo, for the frescoes.  This
was the painter who did the backgrounds for the Crea chapels, but the
contract was never carried out, probably because Antonio D’Enrico
returned from Rome.  It was dated November 1616, so that the terra-cotta
figures probably belong to this year or to those that immediately
preceded it.


This is better than the preceding chapel, and contains some good
individual figures.  The statues are twenty-seven in number, and were
modelled by D’Enrico prior to the year 1614, in which year Morazzone was
paid twelve hundred imperiali for having painted the frescoes, so that it
was one of his earlier works, but the Pilate is again a failure.  People
who have been badly treated, and who have suffered from some injustice,
are more especially recommended by Fassola “to try this Christ, who moves
the pity of all who look upon Him.”

He continues that it was the intention to add some other chapels at the
end of the portico of the Palazzo di Pilato, but this intention was not
carried out.  Bordiga calls attention to the view on the right, looking
over Varallo and the Mastallone, as soon as the portico is passed.


[Picture: Plate XII.  Tabachetti’s “Journey to Calvary.”  General view to
                                the right]

THE Palazzo di Pilato is now ended, and we begin with the mysteries of
the Passion and Death of the Redeemer, the first of which is set forth in


This, having regard to the terra-cotta figures alone, is by far the
finest work on the Sacro Monte, and it is hardly too much to say that no
one who has not seen it knows what sculpture can do.  I have sufficiently
shown that all the authorities, not one of whom has ever so much as seen
a page of Caccia, are wrong by at least twenty years, when they say that
Tabachetti completed the work in 1606.  Bordiga refers, and this time I
have no doubt accurately, to a deed drawn up in 1602, in accordance with
which the fresco background was begun by Antonio Gandino, a painter of
Brescia; this alone should have made Bordiga suspect that the terra-cotta
work had been already completed, but he does not appear to have noted the
fact, and goes on to say that the agreement with Gandino was cancelled by
Bishop Bescapè in 1604, and that his work was destroyed, the chapel being
handed over to Morazzone, who painted it in 1605, and was paid 1400 lire,
besides twenty gold scudi.  Morazzone has followed Gaudenzio boldly,
repeating several of his fresco figures, as Tabachetti, with admirable
good taste, had repeated several of his terra-cotta ones, while
completely varying the action.  The right-hand frescoes, and part of
those on the wall opposite the spectator, have been recently cut away in
squares, and relined, as the wall was perishing from damp.

 [Picture: Plate XIII.  Tabachetti’s “Journey to Calvary.”  St. John, the
                     Madonna, with the other Maries]

The statues consist of about forty figures of men, women, and children,
and nine horses, all rather larger than life.  They too have suffered
from the effect of damp upon the paint; nevertheless, a more permanent
and satisfactory kind of pigment has been used here than in most of the
chapels; the work does not seem to have been much, if at all repainted,
since Tabachetti left it.  One figure of a child in the foreground has
disappeared, the marks of its feet and two little bits of rusty iron
alone show where it was; the woman who was holding it also remains
without an arm.  I am tempted to think that some disturbing cause has
affected a girl who is holding a puppy, a little to the right of this
last figure, and doubt whether something that accompanied her may not
have perished; at any rate, it does not group with the other figures as
well as these do with one another; this, however, is a very small
blemish.  The work is one that will grow upon the reader the more he
studies it, and should rank as the most successfully ambitious of
medieval compositions in sculpture, no less surely than Gaudenzio’s
Crucifixion chapel, having regard to grandeur of scheme as well as
execution, should rank as the most daring among Italian works of art in
general.  I am aware that this must strike many of my readers as in all
probability a very exaggerated estimate, but can only repeat that I have
studied these works for the last twenty years with every desire not to
let a false impression run away with me, and that each successive visit
to Varallo, while tending somewhat to lower my estimate of Giovanni
D’Enrico—unless when he is at his very best—has increased my admiration
for both Gaudenzio Ferrari and Tabachetti, as also, I would add, for the
sculptor of the Massacre of the Innocents chapel.

 [Picture: Plate XIV.  Tabachetti’s “Sta. Veronica,” and Man with Goitre]

It cannot, indeed, be pretended that Tabachetti’s style is as pure as
that of his great predecessor, but what it has lost in purity it has
gained in freedom and vigour.  It is not possible that an artist working
in the years 1580–1585 should present to us traces of the archaism which
even the most advanced sculptors of half a century earlier had not wholly
lost.  The stronger a man is the more certainly will he be modified by
his own times as well as modify them, and in an age of _barocco_ we must
not look for Donatellos.  Still, the more Tabachetti’s work is examined
the more will it be observed that he took no harm from the _barocco_, but
kept its freedom while avoiding its coarseness and exaggeration.  For
reasons explained in an earlier chapter his figures are not generally
portraits, but he is eminently realistic, and if he did the Vecchietto,
of which I have given a photograph at the beginning of this book, he must
be credited with one of the most living figures that have ever been
made—a figure which rides on the very highest crest of the wave, and
neither admits possibility of further advance towards realism without
defeating its own purpose, nor shows even the slightest sign of
decadence.  Of the figure of the Countess of Serravalle, to which I have
already referred, Torrotti said it was so much admired in his day that
certain Venetian cavaliers offered to buy it for its weight in gold, but
that the mere consideration of such an offer would be high treason (_lesa
Maestà_) to the Sacro Monte.  Fassola and Torrotti, as well as Bordiga
and Cusa, are evidently alive to the fact that as far as sculpture goes
we have here the highest triumph attained on the Sacro Monte of Varallo.

I had better perhaps give the words in which Caccia describes the work.
In the 1586 edition, we read, in the preliminary prose part, as follows:—

    “Come N. S. è condotto alla morte con la croce alle spalle, qual si
    vede tutto di rilievo.”

The poetical account runs thus:—

    “Si trova poi in una Chiesa nera
    Con spettacolo fiero accompagnato
    Da soldati, e da gente molto fiera,
    Con la Croce alle spalle incaminato
    Christo Giesu in mezzo à l’empia schiera,
    Seguendolo Giovanni addolorato,
    Che di Giesu sostien la sconsolata
    Madre, da Maddalena accompagnata.”

In the 1591 edition, the prose description of the work runs;—

    “Come N. S. è condotto alla morte con la Croce sopra delle spalle,
    quali si vedeno tutto di rilieuo bellissi.”

I have no copy of the poetical part of this edition before me, but
believe it to be identical with the version already given.  The
impression left upon me is that the work in 1586 was only just finished
enough to allow it to be called finished, and that its full excellence
was not yet displayed to the public, though it was about to be so very

Signor Arienta tells me that Tabachetti has adhered rather closely to a
design for the same subject by Albert Durer, but I have failed to find
the design to which he is referring.

Bordiga again calls attention to the extreme beauty of the view of
Varallo that is to be had on leaving this chapel.

 [Picture: Plate XV.  Tabachetti’s “Journey to Calvary.”  The Two Thieves
                            and their Driver]


This and the two following chapels are on the top of the small rise of
some fifteen or twenty feet in which Bernardino Caimi is said to have
seen a resemblance to Mount Calvary; they are approached by a staircase
which leads directly to Giovanni D’Enrico’s largest work.

Bordiga says that the chapel was begun in 1589 at the expense of Marchese
Giacomo d’Adda; he probably, however, refers only to the building itself.
It is not mentioned as even contemplated in the 1586 edition of Caccia,
nor yet, unless my memory fails me, in that of 1590.  It is not known
when the terra-cotta work was begun, but it was not yet quite finished in
1644, when, as I have said, D’Enrico died.

The frescoes are by Melchiorre Gilardini, and have been sufficiently
praised by other writers; they are fairly well preserved, and show, as in
the preceding chapel and in Gaudenzio’s Crucifixion, how much more is to
be said for the union of painting and sculpture when both are in the
hands of capable men, than we are apt to think.  If the reader will
divest the sculpture of its colour and background, how cold and
uninteresting will it not seem in comparison even with its present
somewhat impaired splendour.  Looking at the really marvellous results
that have been achieved, we cannot refrain from a passing regret at the
spite that threw Tabachetti half a century off Gaudenzio, instead of
letting them come together, but we must take these things as we find

On first seeing Giovanni D’Enrico’s Nailing to the Cross we are tempted
to think it even finer than the Journey to Calvary.  The work is larger,
comprising some twenty or so more terra-cotta figures—making about sixty
in all—and ten horses, all rather larger than life, but the first
impression soon wears off and the arrangement is then felt to be
artificial as compared with Tabachetti’s.  Tabachetti made a great point
when, instead of keeping his floor flat or sloping it evenly up to any
one side, he threw his stage up towards one corner, which is much higher
than any other.  The unevenness, and irregular unevenness, of the ground
is of the greatest assistance to him, by giving him variety of plane, and
hence a way of escaping monotony without further effort on his part.  If
D’Enrico had taken his ground down from the corner up to which Tabachetti
had led it, he would have secured both continuity with Tabachetti’s
scene, and an irregularly uneven surface, without repeating his
predecessor’s arrangement.  True, the procession was supposed to be at
the top of Mount Calvary, but that is a detail.  As it is, D’Enrico has
copied Tabachetti in making his ground slope, but, unless my memory fails
me, has made it slope evenly along the whole width of the chapel, from
the foreground to the wall at the back—with the exception of a small
mound in the middle background.  The horses are arranged all round the
walls, and the soldiers are all alongside of the horses, and every figure
is so placed as to show itself to the greatest advantage.  This perhaps
is exaggeration, but there is enough truth in it to help the reader who
is unfamiliar with this class of work to apprehend Tabachetti’s
superiority more readily than he might otherwise do in the short time
that tourists commonly have at their disposal.  The general impression
left upon myself and Jones was that it contains much more of Giacomo
Ferro than of D’Enrico; but in spite of this it is impossible to deny
that the work is important and on the whole impressive.

 [Picture: Plate XVI.  Gaudenzio Ferrari’s “Crucifixion.”  General View,
                      looking towards the Bad Thief]


Neither Fassola nor Torrotti date this work, but I have already shown
reasons for believing that it should be given to the years 1524–1528.
Fassola says that the figure of Christ on the Cross is not the original
one, which was stolen, and somehow or other found its way to the Church
of S. Andrea at Vercelli, where, according to Colombo (p. 237), a
crucifix, traditionally said to be this one, was preserved until the
close of the last century.  Bordiga says that there is no reason to
believe this story.  The present crucifix is of wood, and is probably an
old one long venerated, and embodied in his work by Gaudenzio himself,
partly out of respect to public feeling, and partly, perhaps, as an
unexceptionable excuse for avoiding a great difficulty.  The thieves
also, according to Bordiga and Cusa, are of wood, not terra-cotta, being
done from models in clay by Gaudenzio as though the wood were marble.  We
may be sure there was an excellent reason for this solitary instance of a
return to wood, but it is not immediately apparent to a layman.

[Picture: Plate XVII.  Gaudenzio Ferrari’s “Crucifixion.”  General View,
looking towards the Good Thief]

We have met with the extreme figure to the spectator’s left in the Ecce
Homo chapel.  He is also, as I have said, found in the Disputa fresco,
done some twenty years or so before the work we are now considering, and
we might be tempted to think that the person who was so powerfully
impressed on Gaudenzio’s mind during so many years was some Varallo
notable, or failing this that he was some model whom he was in the habit
of employing.  This, however, is not so; for in the first place the
supposed model was an old man in, say, 1507, and he is not a day older in
1527, so that in 1527 Gaudenzio was working from a strong residuary
impression of a figure with which he had been familiar many years
previously and not from life; and in the second, we find the head
repeated in the works of Milanese artists who in all probability never
came near Varallo.  We certainly find it in a drawing, of which I give a
reduced reproduction, and which the British Museum authorities ascribe,
no doubt correctly, to Bernardino de’ Conti.  I also recognise it
unquestionably in a drawing in the Windsor collection ascribed to
Leonardo da Vinci—a drawing, however, which it is not easy to think is
actually by him.  I have no doubt that a reminiscence of the same head is
intended in a drawing ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci in the Biblioteca
Ambrosiana, only that the artist, whoever he may be, has added hair
(which is obviously not drawn from nature), and has not produced so good
a likeness as Gaudenzio and Bernardino de’ Conti have done, but about
this last I am less certain.  At any rate there can be no doubt that the
figure represents a Milanese character who in the time of Gaudenzio’s
youth was familiar to Milanese artists, and who made a deep impression
upon more than one of them.  This will be even more apparent to those who
are familiar with the terra-cotta figures at Varallo, for these can be
seen from several points of view, and a fuller knowledge of the head is
thus obtained than a flat impression from a single point can give.

It is not likely that the figure is that of a mere model, for it has no,
or very little connection with the action of the piece, and is evidently
placed where it is—the extreme figure to the left, which is always a
place of honour—for the sake of introducing the portrait into the
composition.  Gaudenzio would not have been so impressed, say, with old
Christie {206} as to give his portrait from memory twenty years after he
had seen him last, to put this portrait in the place of honour, and to
make the work much more emphatic as a portrait than as the figure of an
actor in his drama, inasmuch as he has turned the head towards the
spectator and away from the central incident.  It is more probable, then,
that we must look for some well-known Milanese art-world character as the
original for which the figure was intended.

     [Picture: Plate XVIII.  “Stefano Scotto and Leonardo da Vinci”]

We know that Gaudenzio Ferrari studied under Stefano Scotto, and have
every reason to think that Bernardino de’ Conti—who, I see, studied in
the school of Foppa, one of Scotto’s predecessors, if not under Scotto
himself, must have known him perfectly well.  Leonardo da Vinci kept the
rival school at Milan, and the two schools were to one another much what
those kept by the late Mr. F. S. Cary and Mr. Lee were some thirty years
ago in London.  Leonardo, therefore, also doubtless knew Scotto by sight
if not personally.  I incline to think, then, that we have here the
original we are looking for, and that Gaudenzio when working at what he
probably regarded as the most important work of his life determined to
introduce his master, just as I, if I were writing a novel, might be
tempted to introduce a reminiscence of my own old schoolmaster, and to
make the portrait as faithful as I could.

  [Picture: Plate XIX.  Fig. 1.  Profile of Leonardo da Vinci by Himself

  [Picture: Plate XIX.  Fig. 2.  Stafano Scotto (?).  From a Drawing by
                          Bernardino de’ Conti]

I am confirmed in this opinion by noting, as I have done for many years
past, that the figure next to that of Scotto is not unlike the portraits
of Leonardo da Vinci, of which I give the one (whether by himself or no I
do not know) that I believe to be the best.  I had been reminded of
Leonardo da Vinci by this figure long before I knew of Scotto’s
existence, and had often wondered why he was not made the outside and
most prominent figure; now, then, that I see reason to think the outside
figure intended for Gaudenzio’s own master, I understand why the
preference has been given him, and have little doubt that next to his own
master Gaudenzio has placed the other great contemporary art-teacher at
Milan whose pupil he never actually was, but whose influence he must have
felt profoundly.  I also derive an impression that Gaudenzio liked and
respected Scotto though he may have laughed at him, but that he did not
like Leonardo, who by the way had been dead about ten years when this
figure was placed where it now is.

I see, therefore, the two figures as those of Scotto and of Leonardo da
Vinci, and think it likely that in the one portrait we have by far the
most characteristic likeness of Leonardo that has come down to us.  In
his own drawings of himself he made himself out such as he wanted others
to think him; here, if I mistake not, he has been rendered as others saw
him.  The portrait of Scotto is beyond question an admirable likeness; it
is not likely that the Leonardo is less successful, and we find in the
searching, eager, harassed, and harassing unquiet of the figure here
given a more acceptable rendering of Leonardo’s character and appearance
than any among the likenesses of himself which are more or less plausibly
ascribed to him.  The question is one of so much interest that I must
defer its fuller treatment for another work, in which I hope to deal with
the portraits of Giovanni and Gentile Bellini, and with Holbein’s “Danse
des Paysans.”  I have, however, given above the greater part of the
information of which I am as yet possessed upon the subject.  In
conclusion, I may say that I mentioned the matter to Signor Boccioloni
the Sindaco of Varallo, and to other friends with whom I have discussed
the question on the spot, and found that people generally seemed to
consider the case as rather a strong one.

As regards the portraits supposed to be found on the frescoes, they are
all so doubtful that I will refrain from discussing them, but will refer
my readers to Colombo.  The only exception is a portrait of one of the
Scarrognini family which is seen on the right-hand wall above the door,
the fact of the portraiture being attested by a barbarous scrawl upon the
fresco itself.

Caccia says of the work with more enthusiasm than even I can command, but
in a style of poetry which I find it fairly easy to render, that we may
see among the spectators

    “ . . . à maraviglia,
    Vi son più donne con la sua famiglia;”

which means in English—

    “And here you may behold with wondering eyes,
    Several ladies with their families.”

He continues that

    “Gli Angeli star nel ciel tutti dolenti
    Si veggon per pietà del suo Signore,
    E turbati mostrarsi gli elementi,
    Privi del sole, e d’ ogni suo splendore,
    E farsi terremoti, e nascer venti,
    Par che si veda, d’ estremo dolore,
    E il tutto esser non pinto ne in scultura,
    Ma dell’ istesso parto di Natura.

    “E se a pieno volessi ricontare
    Di questo tempio la bellezza, e l’ arte,
    Le statue, le pitture, e l’ opre rare,
    Saria (?) un vergar in infinite carte
    Che non han queste in tutto il mondo pare,
    Cerchisi pur in qual si voglia parte,
    Che di Fidia, Prasitele, e d’ Apelle,
    Ne di Zeuxi non fur l’ opre si belle.”

    “Search the world through in whatsoever part,
    And scan each best known masterpiece of art,
    In Phidias or Praxiteles or Apelles,
    You will find nothing that done half so well is.”

In this translation I have again attempted to preserve—not to say
pickle—the spirit of the original.

 [Picture: Plate XX.  Gaudenzio Ferrari’s “Crucifixion.”  The Bad Thief]

Returning to the work as a whole, if the modelled figures fail anywhere
it is in respect of action—more especially as regards the figures to the
spectator’s right, which want the concert and connection without which a
scene ceases to be dramatic, and becomes a mere assemblage of figures
placed in juxtaposition.  It would be going too far to say that complaint
on this score can be justly insisted on in respect even of these figures;
nevertheless it will be felt that Gaudenzio Ferrari the painter could
harmonise his figures and give them a unity of action which was denied to
him as a sculptor.  It must not be forgotten that his modelled work
derives an adventitious merit from the splendour of the frescoes with
which it is surrounded, and from our admiration of the astounding range
of power manifested by their author.

As a painter, it must be admitted that Gaudenzio Ferrari was second to
very few that had gone before him, but as a sculptor, he did not do
enough to attain perfect mastery over his art.  If he had done as much in
sculpture as in painting he would doubtless have been as great a master
of the one as the other; as it was, in sculpture he never got beyond the
stage of being an exceedingly able and interesting scholar;—this,
however, is just the kind of person whose work in spite of imperfection
is most permanently delightful.  Among the defects which he might have
overcome is one that is visible in his earlier painting as well as in his
sculpture, and which in painting he got rid of, though evidently not
without difficulty—I mean, a tendency to get some of his figures unduly
below life size.  I have often seen in his paintings that he has got his
figures rather below life size, when apparently intending that they
should be full-sized, and worse than this, that some are smaller in
proportion than others.  Nevertheless, when we bear in mind that the
Crucifixion chapel was the first work of its kind, that it consists of
four large walls and a ceiling covered with magnificent frescoes,
comprising about 150 figures; that it contains twenty-six life-sized
statues, two of them on horseback, and much detail by way of accessory,
all done with the utmost care, and all coloured up to nature,—when we
bear this in mind and realise what it all means, it is not easy to
refrain from saying, as I have earlier done, that the Crucifixion chapel
is the most daringly ambitious work of art that any one man was ever yet
known to undertake; and if we could see it as Gaudenzio left it, we
should probably own that in the skill with which the conception was
carried out, no less than in its initial daring, it should rank as
perhaps the most remarkable work of art that even Italy has produced.



FASSOLA and Torrotti both say that the terra-cotta figures here are by a
pupil of Giovanni D’Enrico.  Bordiga says that the three figures forming
the group upon the cross were done contemporaneously with the Nailing of
Christ to the Cross, which we have already considered, and are in the
style of D’Enrico.  If so, they are not in his best style, while the
others are among the worst on the Sacro Monte, with the exception of one,
which I never even observed until last summer, so completely is it
overpowered by the worse than mediocrity with which it is surrounded.
This figure is perhaps, take it all round, the finest on the Sacro Monte,
and is generally known as “Il Vecchietto” or “the little old man.”  It is
given as the frontispiece of this book.

I was led to observe it by a casual remark made by my old and valued
friend Signor Dionigi Negri of Varallo, to whom I am indebted for
invaluable assistance in writing this book, and indeed at whose
instigation it was undertaken.  He told me there was a portrait of the
man who gave this part of the ground to the founders of the Sanctuary; he
was believed to be a small peasant proprietor—one of the “alcuni
particolari poueri” mentioned by Fassola as owning the site—who, having
been asked to sell the land, gave it instead.  This was the story, but I
knew that the land was given not later than 1490–1493, whereas the chapel
in question is not earlier than 1630, when no portrait of the peasant
benefactor was possible.  I therefore went to the chapel, and finding the
figure, saw what must be obvious to any one who looks at it with
attention, I mean, firstly, how fine it was, and secondly, that it had
not been designed for its present place.

This last is clear from the hand, which from outside at first appears to
be holding a pair of pincers and a hammer, as though to assist at the
Deposition, but which proves to have been originally designed to hold a
stick—or something round, the hammer and pincers being at present tied on
with a piece of string, to a hand that is not holding them.  I asked the
opinion of Cav. Prof Antonini of Varallo and his son, both of them
admirable sculptors, and found them as decided as myself in their
admiration of the figure.  Both of them, at different times, were good
enough to go inside the chapel with me, and both agreed with me that the
figure was no part of the design of the group in which it now is.  Cav.
Prof. Antonini thought the whole right arm had been restored, but it was
getting dusk when he suggested this, and I could not see clearly enough
to form an opinion; I have the greatest diffidence in differing from so
excellent an authority, but so far as I could see, I did not think there
had been any restoration.  I thought nothing had been done except to put
a piece of string through the hole in the hand where a stick or roll had
been, and to hang the hammer and pincers with it.  Leaving Varallo early
on the following morning, I was unable to see the figure again by
day-light, and must allow the question of restoration or non-restoration
to remain unsettled.

There is a large well-defined patch of mended ground covering the space
occupied by the figure itself.  There is no other such patch under any
other figure, and the most reasonable inference is that some alteration
has been made here.  The expression, moreover, of the face is not
suitable for a Deposition.

There is a holy tranquil smile of joy, thankfulness, and satisfaction,
which perfectly well befits one who is looking up into the heavens, as he
might at an Assumption of the Virgin, or an Ascension, but is not the
expression which so consummate an artist as the man who made this figure,
would give to a bystander at a Deposition from the Cross.  Grief and
horror, would be still too recent to admit of the sweet serene air of
ineffable contentment which is here given.

Lastly, the style of the work is so different from that of all the other
figures in the chapel, that no solidarity can be seen between it and
them.  It would be too much to say that the others are as bad as this is
good, but the difference between Rembrandt’s old woman in our National
Gallery and an average Royal Academy portrait of fifty years ago, is not
more striking than that between the Vecchietto and his immediate

I can find no mention of the figure in Fassola, or Torrotti.  Bordiga
says, “On the left there is a man in peasant’s costume, holding his hat
in reverence of Jesus, and said to be a benefactor of the chapel.”  He
does not say anything about the excellence of the workmanship, nor,
indeed, have I heard any one, except the two sculptors, Cav. Prof.
Antonini and his son, speak of the work in terms which showed a
perception of its merit.  If the world knows little of its greatest men
it seems to know not much more about its greatest works of art, nor, if
it continues to look for guidance in this matter to professional critics
and society art-dabblers, is it likely to improve its knowledge.  Cusa
says of it:—

    “È fra essi un vecchietto naturale assai pel rozzo costume che veste,
    e per la semplicità del atto; egli guarda Gesù in atto di levarsi il
    cappello, mentre con l’altra mano tiene le tenaglie ed il martello.
    Lo si dice ritratto di un Rimellese, benefattore della cappella.”

I asked the two sculptors Antonini if they could help me in settling the
question to whom the work should be assigned, and they agreed with me
that it could not be given to Gaudenzio.  It is too masterly, easy, and
too like the work of Velasquez in painting, to be by one who is not known
to have done more in sculpture than some two score or so of figures on
the Sacro Monte now remaining, and a few others that have been lost.  The
Vecchietto is the work of one to whom modelling in clay was like
breathing, walking, or eating and drinking, and Gaudenzio never reached
such freedom and proficiency as this.

With few exceptions even the best art-work falls into one of two classes,
and offers signs either of immaturity or decline.  Take Donatello, and
Luca della Robbia, or, in painting, Giovanni Bellini, John Van Eyck,
Holbein, Giotto, and even Gaudenzio Ferarri in his earlier work; take
again, in music, Purcell and Corelli; no words of affectionate admiration
are good enough for any one of these great men, but they none of them say
the last word that is to be said in their respective arts.  Michael
Angelo said the last word; but then he said just a word or two over.  So
with Titian and Leonardo Da Vinci, and in music with Haydn, Mozart, and
Beethoven.  We admire them, and know that each in many respects surpassed
everything that has been done either before or since, but in each case
(and more especially with the three last named) we feel the presence of
an autumnal tint over all the luxuriance of development, which, while
hardly detracting from the pleasure we receive, still tells of an art
that has taken not an upward but a downward path.  I know that I am apt
to take fancies to works of art and artists; I hold, for example, that my
friend Mr. H. F. Jones’s songs, of which I have given the titles at the
end of this volume, are finer than an equal number of any written by any
other living composer—and I believe that people will one day agree with
me, though they will doubtless take their time in doing so—but with all
this tendency towards extravagance I endeavour to preserve a method in my
madness, and with most works find that they fall readily into the growing
or the decaying.  It is only with very few, as with Homer and Shakespeare
at their best, the Venus of Milo, the Ilyssus, the finest work of
Rembrandt, Giorgione, and Velasquez, and in music with Handel, that I can
see no step left unclimbed, yet none taken on the downward path.
Assuredly the Vecchietto must be classed with the very few works which,
being of the kind of fruit that they are, are dead ripe, without one
trace either of immaturity or decay.

Difficult, however, as the problem who made this statue is, it is
simplified by the reflection that it can only be given either to
Gaudenzio or Tabachetti.  I suggested D’Enrico’s name to Cav. Prof.
Antonini to see how he received it, but—thinking doubtless more of
Giacomo Ferro than of D’Enrico—he said “E-whew,” and tossed his thumb
over his shoulder, as only an Italian can, as much as to say that
D’Enrico set about his figures with too light a heart to get a Vecchietto
out of them; Gaudenzio, then, being impossible and D’Enrico ordered out
of court, it only remains to give the work to Tabachetti, with whose
sleeping St. Joseph and with not a little else of whose work it presents
much analogy; for the notion that a stranger of name unknown came to
Varallo, did this single figure, and then went away without doing any
more either there or anywhere else in the least like it, is as incredible
as that it is the work of D’Enrico.

As for the question of the source from which the figure came we should
remember that the _Chiesa Vecchia dell’ Assunta_ was pulled down at the
end of the last century; and this, considering the excellent preservation
in which the Vecchietto is still found, and the comparatively recent
appearance of the disturbance of the ground under his feet, seems the
most likely place for him to have come from.  There were two
opportunities in this church, one of which certainly was, while the other
very well might have been, made the occasion for a group of figures with
upturned heads.  The first of these, of course, is the Assumption of the
Madonna, of which Caccia says there was a representation of her “_Come
ascese in Cielo_, _con le statue delli dodeci Apostoli intorno di
rilievo_,” and there may very well have been a benefactor or so in
addition.  The second was the impress of our Saviour’s last footprint on
the Mount of Olives before He ascended into heaven.  This is mentioned by
Fassola as a feature of special importance, and as having had an
indulgence conceded to it by the Pope in 1488 while it was on its road
from Jerusalem.  This relic was held in great veneration, and it is easy
to imagine that its effect may have been enhanced by surrounding it with
figures looking upwards into the heavens towards the clouds that had
already received the body of the Redeemer.  All this, however, is mere
conjecture, for there is not a tittle of evidence in support of it, and
we are left practically with nothing more than we can still see within
the limits of the figure itself to give a clue either to its maker, or
the source from which it came, but we may incline to think that it is the
portrait of a benefactor, for no one but a benefactor would have been
treated with so much realism.  The man is not a mere peasant; his clothes
are homely, but they are good, and there is that about him which
harmonises well enough with his having been in a position of comfort.
Common peasants may be seen in the Shepherd’s chapel, and the Vecchietto
is clearly of higher social status than these.  He looks like a Valsesian
yeoman or peasant proprietor, of some substance; and he was doubtless a
benefactor, not of this, but some other chapel.

I have said there are analogies between this figure and others by
Tabachetti which after all make it not very difficult to decide the
question to whom it should be given.  We do not, indeed, find another
Vecchietto, but we shall find more than one figure that exhibits equal
truth to nature, and equal freedom from exaggeration.  It is not
possible, for example, to have greater truth to nature than we find in
the figures of Adam and Eve in the first chapel.  There is not one trace
either of too much or too little, of exaggeration or of shortcoming; the
nude figure of a man and of a woman were wanted, and the nude figure of a
man and of a woman are given, with neither more or less modelling than
what would be most naturally seen in a young and comely couple.  So again
with the charming figure of the Virgin sewing in the First Vision of St.
Joseph chapel.  The Virgin and the Vecchietto are as unlike each other as
two figures can be, but they are both stamped with the same freedom from
affectation, and the same absolute and easy mastery over the means
employed.  The same applies to the sleeping St. Joseph, in which case
there is a closer analogy between the two figures themselves.  It applies
also to a not inconsiderable extent to the man with a goitre who is
leading Christ in the Calvary chapel.  This figure is not done from life,
being a repetition of one by Gaudenzio, but it is so living that we feel
sure it would have been more living still if Tabachetti had had the model
before him from which Gaudenzio in all probability actually worked.  At
Crea, there are other figures by Tabachetti to which I will call
attention presently, and which present not inconsiderable analogies to
the Vecchietto.  I explain the fact that the analogies are not closer, by
reflecting that this is the one of the few cases in which Tabachetti has
left us a piece of portrait work, pure and simple, and that his treatment
of the head and figure in pure portraiture, would naturally differ from
that adopted in an ideal and imaginative work.


THE remaining chapels are few in number, and, whatever they may once have
been, unimportant in character.  The first is


The three preceding chapels are supposed to be on Mount Calvary, and from
them we descend by a flight of stone steps to the level of the piazza.
Immediately on reaching this we come upon the Pietà.  We have seen that
this chapel originally contained Gaudenzio’s Journey to Calvary, and that
the fresco background still, in so far as it is not destroyed, treats
this subject, while the modelled figures represent the Pietà.  Of
Gaudenzio’s original work Caccia says:—

    “Come fu Christo de’ panni spogliato,
    Montando il Monte poi Calvario detto,
    Nel mezzo a manigoldi mal trattato,
    Contemplar possi con pietoso affetto,

    Seguito da Maria e da l’amato
    Discepolo di lui, et è l’effetto
    Sculto si bene e doitamente fatto
    Che sembra vero e non del ver ritratto.”

    “Per una scala asceso al Sacro Monte
    Si entra nel più d’ogn’ altro sacro tempio,” &c.

The words “_montando il monte poi_,” &c., must refer to a supposed ascent
on the part of Christ Himself, for Gaudenzio’s work was on a level with
Tabachetti’s present Journey to Calvary which Caccia has just described,
and Caccia goes on to say that from Gaudenzio’s chapel (the present
Pietà) one “ascends by a staircase to” the most sacred chapel of all—the
Crucifixion—as one does at present.  That the present Pietà and the
adjacent Entombment chapels were once one chapel, may be seen by any one
who examines the vaulting inside the first-named chapel.  Signor Arienta
pointed this out to me, and at the same time called my attention to the
fact that Gaudenzio’s fresco on the wall facing the spectator does not
turn the corner and join on with the subject that fills the left-hand
wall.  A flag and a horse are cut off, and the rest of them is not seen.
I sometimes question whether the original wooden-figured entombment was
in the chapel in which the present modern figures are seen, but it
probably was so.

There was also a fainting Madonna mentioned in the prose part of Caccia
as a work by itself and described as follows:—

    “Come la Madonna è tramortita vedendo N.S. condotto à morte.”

This is not referred to in the poetical part, and must have been a mere
cell occupied by a single figure.  No doubt it was seen through the
window that is still approached by two steps on the south side of the
present Pietà, and the space it occupied has been thrown into the present

I do not know when Gaudenzio’s Journey to Calvary was dispersed, but it
was some time, doubtless, between 1600 and 1644.  It is puzzling to note
that the Pietà appears in the plan of 1671 as situated rather in the part
of the building now occupied by the Entombment than by the Pietà, while
the 39 that should mark the site of the Entombment does not appear; but
this is perhaps only an error in the plan itself.  I find, however, the
attempt to understand the changes that have taken place here so difficult
that I shall abandon it and will return to the present aspect of the

Torrotti says that some of the statues in the present chapel are by
Gaudenzio, which they are not.  Fassola gives them all to Giovanni
D’Enrico; Bordiga speaks of the work in the highest terms, but for my own
part I do not admire it, nor, I am afraid, can I accept the more
fresh-looking parts of the fresco background as by Gaudenzio.  I do not
doubt that his work has been in these parts repainted, and that the
outlines alone are really his.  It is not likely we have lost much by the
repainting, for where the work has not been touched it has so perished as
to be hardly worth preserving, and we may think that what has been
repainted was in much the same state.  This is the only chapel in which
Gaudenzio’s frescoes at Varallo have been much repainted.  If those in
the Crucifixion and Magi chapels have been retouched they have taken
little harm; the frescoes in the church of Sta. Maria delle Grazie have
certainly not been touched, and are in such good preservation that it may
be questioned whether they ever looked much better than they do now.  The
fine oil picture in the church of S. Gaudenzio has gone a little yellow
through the darkening of the oil, but is in a good state, and generally,
though no painter of the highest rank has been so much neglected, or
suffered more from the actual destruction of his works, yet for the most
part Gaudenzio has been spared the reckless restoration which is the most
cruel ill that can befall an artist.


We have already seen that this was the first chapel with figures in it on
the Sacro Monte.  Of the old eight wooden figures that it contained, two
are still on the mountain in a sort of vault adjacent to, or under, the
main church, and near the furnace in which those that superseded them
were baked.  Six are in the Museum at Varallo.  I saw them a few weeks
ago, not yet arranged, leaning up against the wall with very battered and
dilapidated glories; the recumbent Christ was standing more or less on
end, and the whole group was in a pathetic state of dismemberment that
will doubtless soon make way for a return to their earlier arrangement.
The figures are interesting, but it cannot be pretended that they are of
great value.  They look very much as if they had been out somewhere the
night before.

Of the figures in the present chapel the less said the better.


The chapel of St. Francis is open to the air, and contains nothing but an
altar, and a modern fresco of the death of the saint.

Near it is the Holy Sepulchre, which is entered from a small cell in
which there is a figure of the Magdalene, and from which the visitor must
creep on hands and knees into the Sepulchre itself.  The figure of Christ
is not actually in the Sepulchre, but can be seen through a window
opening into the contiguous chapel, where it is over the altar.  The
early writers say that there were also two angels by Gaudenzio (_statue
di Gaudenzio divoissime_), but Bordiga says nothing of this.  The upper
part of this building was the abode of Bernardino Caimi and his
successors until the year 1577.

As for the Holy Sepulchre itself it is low and dark, which I have no
doubt is the reason why I have neglected it on the occasions of each of
my two latest visits to Varallo, and thus failed to reach the adjacent
Oratory, which Bordiga says was erected about the year 1702.  Fassola and
Torrotti wrote before this date, so that the angels mentioned by them as
by Gaudenzio may have been removed when the present fabric was erected.
At any rate Bordiga speaks as though they were paintings by one Tarquinio
Grassi and not sculptured figures at all.  Torrotti says that visitors to
the Holy Sepulchre used to burn candles, tapers, and torches, each one
according to his purse or piety, and that they did this not so much to
see with as to pray.  “Here,” he continues, “the great S. Carlo spent his
evenings agreeably” (_spendeva gradevolmente le notti_).  “Few,” he
concludes drily, and perhaps with a shade of the same quiet irony that
led the Psalmist to say what he did about “one” day in certain courts,
“can leave it without feeling devoutly thankful.”  About the candles
Fassola says that there was a kind of automatic arrangement for getting
them like that whereby we can now buy butter-scotch or matches at the
railway stations, by dropping a penny into a slot.  He says:—

   “And as the figure of Christ can only be seen by the help of candles
   (for which reason all pilgrims whose means permit are accustomed to
   burn them, being naturally prompted thereto each one according to his
   faith)—by throwing money into a hole wherein the same candles lie,
   each pilgrim can be made quite comfortable, and contented.”

   [“Gettando il denaro per un buco dove stanno le medesime candelette,
   commodamente può restar ogni divoto contento.”]

    “The mercies vouchsafed here,” continues the same writer; “are
    innumerable—in all parts may be seen votive pictures both old and

In the open cloister hard by is shown the wooden bed on which S. Carlo
lay when he came to visit the Sacro Monte, and the stone which is said to
be a facsimile of the one rolled in front of the Holy Sepulchre itself.
Many years ago I spent several weeks at Varallo sketching and painting on
the Sacro Monte.  A most excellent and lovable old priest, now doubtless
long since dead, took rather a fancy to me, and used to implore me to
become a Catholic.  One day he took me up to this stone and spoke long
and earnestly about it.  What a marvellous miracle it was.  There was the
stone; I could see it for myself.  What a dumb but eloquent testimony was
it not offering; how could I account for such things? and more to the
same effect, all said obviously in good faith, and with no idea save that
of guiding me to the truth.  I was powerless.  I could not go into facts
or arguments—I could not be obstinate without getting something like his
consent—and he was instant in season and out of season in endeavouring to
get mine.  At last I could stand it no longer, and said, “My dearest sir,
I am the son of an English clergyman who is himself the son of another
English clergyman; my father and mother are living.  If you will tell me
that I am to hold my father born in more than common sin, to have
committed a crime in marrying my mother, and that I am to hold myself as
one who ought never to have been born, then I will accept what you have
said about that stone.  Till then let me go my way, and you yours.”  He
said not a word more, and never again approached the subject; the nearest
he ever went to it was to say that he liked to see me sketching about the
Sacro Monte, for it could do me nothing but good.  I trust that I have
done it no harm.

The chapel representing the Magdalene at the feet of the risen Christ has
disappeared.  It contained two statues only, and two prophets by
Gaudenzio were painted outside on the wall.  It stood “_Sotto un auanzo
dei Portici antichi seguentemente al Sepolcro_.”  It was probably a very
early work.

Through an arch under the raised portico or arcaded gallery are three
small ruined cells called now “Il Paradiso,” and numbered 43, 44, and 45;
of one of these Fassola tells us that it contained “many modern statues”
by Gaudenzio Sceti, and frescoes by Gianoli; they are all now mere
wrecks.  There is no important work by Gaudenzio Sceti remaining on the
Sacro Monte, but there is a terra-cotta crucifix with a Virgin and a St.
John by him, of no great value, in the church of S. Gaudenzio.  What
remains of his work on the Sacro Monte itself consists of statues of Sta.
Anna and the Virgin as a child upon her lap in the chapel or cell
numbered 43.

Chapel 44 need not detain us.  What few remains of figures it contains
are uninteresting and ruined.

I have already spoken of chapel No. 45, which once represented an
entombment of the Madonna, as in all probability the oldest building, and
as certainly containing the oldest, and by no means least interesting
frescoes on the Sacro Monte.  There is nothing inside the chapel except
these frescoes, but outside it there are many scrawls, of which the
earliest I have noticed is 1520—the supposed 1437 being certainly 1537.
The writer of one of these scrawls has added the words “fuit hic” to his
signature as John Van Eyck has done to the signature of his portrait of
John Arnolfini and his wife.  I have found this addition of “fuit hic” in
a signature of a certain “Cardinalis de al . . . ” who scratched his name
“1389 die 19 Mag” on a fresco to the left of the statue of S. Zenone in
the church S. Zenone at Verona.  On a fresco in the very interesting
castle of Fénis in the valley of Aosta, to which I hope to return in
another work, there is scratched “Hic sponsus cum sponsâ fuit 1790 25
May,” the “May” being an English May; Jones and I thought the writer had
begun to add “London” but had stopped.  The “fuit hic,” therefore, of
John Van Eyck’s signature should not be translated as we might be tempted
to wish to translate it, “This was John Van Eyck.”

Returning to the Sacro Monte, there remains only the Chiesa Vecchia,
removed at the end of the last century to make room for the building that
was till lately the “_casa degli esercizi_,” or house in which the
priests on the mountain performed their spiritual exercises.  This is now
let out in apartments during the summer, and is called the Casino.  The
old sacristy, now used as the _archivio_ of the Sacro Monte, still
remains, and contains a fresco by Lanini, that bears strong traces of the
influence of his master Gaudenzio.  Besides the impress of Christ’s foot
and the Assumption of the Virgin, the church contained an Annunciation by
Gaudenzio and frescoes of St. Catherine and St. Cecilia; the Cupola was
also decorated by him.  This work was undertaken in 1530, the greater
angels being by Gaudenzio and the smaller by Lanini and Fermo Stella.
These frescoes all perished when the church was pulled down.

The present Chiesa Maggiore was begun on the 9th of June 1614—D’Enrico’s
design having, so Bordiga says, been approved on the 1st of April in that
year.  Fassola says that in 1671 the only parts completed were the Choir
and Cupola, the whole body of the church being left unfinished.  Bordiga
speaks of the church as having been finished in 1649, in which year, on
the feast of the Birth of the Virgin, her image was taken from the old
church and placed in the new, so when Fassola says “unfinished” he must
refer to decoration only.  The steps leading up to the church and the
unfinished columns were erected in 1825 from designs by Marchese Don
Luigi Cagnola, the architect of the Arco della Pace at Milan.  It was ere
long found that the stone selected was unreliable, so that all must be
done over again; the work has, therefore, been suspended.

The Cupola is covered with about 140 modelled figures of angels, by
Dionigi Bussola and Giambattista Volpino, Milanese sculptors, who worked
from designs made by Antonio Tempesta, a Florentine.  They did this work
about the year 1660.  The brothers Montalti painted the frescoes, some
more highly coloured groups being added by Antonio Cucchi of Milan in

In the crypt there is a sumptuous shrine containing the statue of the
Madonna, said to have been made by St. Luke.  This was erected in 1854,
but on the night between the 4th and 5th of October in the same year the
crown was stolen from the Virgin’s head, and in the following year there
was a solemn expiatory function, with festivities extending over three
days, in order to celebrate the replacing of the stolen crown by a new

It cannot be said that any of the works of art now in the church are of
considerable interest, but an important work of art was nevertheless
produced in it at the celebration of the fourth centenary of the birth of
Gaudenzio Ferrari, which was held in 1885.  I refer to the Mass by
Cagnoni, which was here performed for the first time, and which showed
that the best traditions of old Italian ecclesiastical music are still
occasionally adhered to.  I was present at the production of the work,
and have heard no modern Italian music that has pleased me nearly as
much.  I ventured to ask the Maestro for the baton he had used in
conducting it, and am proud to keep it as a memorial of a fine
performance of a very fine work.  The baton is several old newspapers
neatly folded up and covered with silk.


I HAVE now to add a short account of what remains of Tabachetti’s work at
Crea, to the very inadequate description of his work at Varallo that has
been given in some earlier chapters.

Crea is most easily approached from Casale, a large opulent commercial
town upon the Po, that has already received the waters of the Dora
Baltea, and though not yet swelled by the influx of the Ticino and Adda,
has become a noble river.  The town is built entirely on the plain, but
the rich _colline_ of the Monferrato district begin to rise immediately
outside it, and continue in an endless series of vineclad slopes and
village-capped hill-tops as far as the eye can reach.  These _colline_
are of exquisite beauty in themselves, and from their sides the most
magnificent views of Piedmont and the Alps extend themselves in every
direction.  The people are a well-grown comely race, kind and easy to get
on with.  Nothing could exceed the civility and comfort of the Hotel Rosa
Rossa, the principal inn of the city.  The town contains many picturesque
bits, but in our short stay we did not see any very remarkable
architectural features, and it does not form an exception to the rule
that the eastern cities of Northern Italy are far more beautiful than the
western.  The churches, never one would imagine very striking, have been
modernised and restored; nor were we told that there is any collection of
pictures in the town which is likely to prove of interest.

The visitor should leave Casale by the 7.58 A.M. train on the line for
Asti, and get out at Serralunga, the third station on the road.  Here the
sanctuary of Crea can be seen crowning a neighbouring _collina_ with a
chapel that has an arcaded gallery running round it, like some of those
at Varese.  Many other chapels testify to the former importance of the
place; on the whole, however, the effect of the buildings cannot compare
with that of the sanctuaries of Varallo and Varese.  Taking a small
carriage, which can always be had at the station (fare, to the sanctuary
and back, eight francs), my friend, Mr. H. F. Jones, and myself ascended
to Serralunga, finding the views continually become more and more
bewitching as we did so; soon after passing through Serralunga we reached
the first chapel, and after another zigzag or two of road found ourselves
in the large open court in front of the church.  Here there is an inn,
where any one who is inclined to do so could very well sleep.  The piazza
of the sanctuary is some two thousand feet above the sea, and the views
are in some respects finer even than those from the Sacro Monte of Varese
itself, inasmuch as we are looking towards the chain of the Alps, instead
of away from them.

We have already seen that the sanctuary at Crea was begun about 1590, a
hundred years or so later than the Sacro Monte of Varallo, and a dozen
years earlier than that of Varese.  The church attached to the convent,
in which a few monks still remain, contains a chapel with good frescoes
by Macrino D’Alba; they are somewhat damaged, and the light is so bad
that if the _guardiano_ of the sanctuary had not kindly lent us a candle
we could not have seen them.  It is not easy to understand how they can
have been painted in such darkness; they are, however, the most important
work of this painter that I have yet seen, and give a more favourable
impression of him than is likely to be formed elsewhere.  Behind the high
altar there is an oil picture also by Macrino d’Alba, signed as by the
following couplet, which they may scan who can:

    “Hoc tibi, diva parens, posuit faciente Macrino
    Bladratensis opus Johes ille Jacobus.1503.”

The “Macrino,” and “1503,” are in red paint, the rest in black.  The
picture is so dark, and the view of it so much obstructed by the high
altar, that it is impossible to see it well, but it seemed good.  There
is nothing else in the church, nor need the frescoes in the chapels
containing the terra-cotta figures be considered; we were told they were
painted by Caccia, better known as Moncalvo, but we could see nothing in
them to admire.  The sole interest of the sanctuary—except, of course,
the surpassing beauty of its position—is vested in what few remains of
Tabachetti’s work may be found there, and in the light that these may
throw upon what he has left at Varallo.

All the work by Tabachetti now remaining at Crea consists of the
Martyrdom of St. Eusebius chapel, almost all of which is by him, perhaps
a figure or two in the Sposalizio chapel, but certainly not the figures
of St. Joseph and the Virgin, which are not even ascribed to him, the
Virgin in the Annunciation chapel, some parts of the Judith and
Holofernes, with which this subject is strangely backed; some few of the
figures in the Marriage Feast at Cana chapel, and lastly, the wreck,
which is all that remains, of the Assumption of the Virgin—commonly
called “Il Paradiso.”  All the other chapels are either in a ruined state
or have been renewed with modern figures during the last thirty years,
and more especially during the last ten, at the instance, and, as we
understood, at the expense, of the present Archbishop of Milan, who does
his campagna here every summer.

The most important chapel is the Martyrdom of St. Eusebius, below the
sanctuary itself.  The saint is supposed to have been martyred in front
of the church of St. Andrea at Vercelli.  Some four or so of the figures
to the spectator’s right are modern restorations; among them, however,
there is a child of extreme sweetness and beauty, which must certainly be
by Tabachetti, looking up and clinging to the dress of its mother, who
has been restored, and is as commonplace as the child is the reverse.
There are two restored or rather entirely new priests close by the mother
and child, and near these is another new figure—a girl immediately to the
child’s right; this is so absurdly bad and out of proportion that it is
not easy to understand how even the restorer can have allowed himself to
make it.  All the rest of the figures are by Tabachetti.  A little behind
the mother and child, but more to the spectator’s right, and near to the
wall of the chapel, there stands a boy one of whose lower eyelids is
paralysed, and whose expression is one of fear and pain.  This figure is
so free alike from exaggeration or shortcoming, that it is hard to praise
it too highly.  Another figure in the background to the spectator’s
left—that of a goitred _crétin_ who is handing stones to one of the
stoners, has some of the same remarkably living look as is observable in
the two already referred to; so also has another man in a green
skull-cap, who is holding a small battle-axe and looking over the
stoner’s shoulders.  Two of the stoners are very powerful figures.  The
man on horseback, in the background, appears to be a portrait probably of
a benefactor.  In spite of restoration, the work is still exceedingly
impressive.  The figures behind the saint act well together, the crowd is
a crowd—a one in many, and a many in one—not, as with every one except
Tabachetti who has tried to do a crowd in sculpture, a mere collection of
units, that, whatever else they may be, are certainly not crowding one
another.  The main drawback of the work is that the chapel is too small
for the subject—a matter over which Tabachetti probably had no control.

It is with very great regret that I have been unable to photograph the
work, but I was flatly refused permission to do so, though I applied
through influential people to the Archbishop himself.  No one need be at
the trouble of going to see it who is not already impressed with a sense
of Tabachetti’s in some respects unrivalled genius, and who does not know
how to take into consideration the evil influences of all sorts with
which he was surrounded; those, however, who realise the magnitude of the
task attempted, who will be at the pains of putting themselves, as far as
may be, in the artist’s place and judging of the work from the
stand-point intended by him, and who will also in their imagination
restore the damage which three centuries of exposure and restoration must
assuredly have involved, will find themselves rewarded by a fuller
comprehension of the work of a sculptor of the foremost rank than they
can attain elsewhere except at Varallo itself.

I have said that some of the figures in the Sposalizio chapel, except
Joseph and Mary, are ascribed to Tabachetti.  I do not know on what
grounds the ascription rests; they have been restored,—clogged with shiny
paint, and suffered every ill that could well befall them short of being
broken up and carted away.  Any one who sampled Tabachetti by these
figures might well be disappointed; two or three may be by him, but
hardly more.  In spite, however, of all that may be justly urged against
them, they are marked by the same attempt at concert and unity of purpose
which goes so far to redeem individual comparative want of interest.  In
the background is a coloured bas-relief of Rachel and Jacob at the well
and five camels.

In the Annunciation chapel the Virgin may well be, as she is said to be,
by Tabachetti; she is a very beautiful figure, though not so fine as his
Madonna and Child in the church of St. Gaudenzio at Varallo; she has been
badly painted, and it is hard to say how much she has not suffered in
consequence.  Some parts of the story of Judith and Holofernes in the
background are also good, but I do not think I should have seen
Tabachetti in them unless I had been told that he was there.

The wreck of the chapel commonly called “Il Paradiso” crowns the hill,
conspicuous for many a mile in every direction, but on reaching the
grating we found no trace of the figures that doubtless once covered the
floor of the chapel.  All that remained was a huge pendant of angels,
cherubs, and saints, swarming as it were to the ceiling in an
inextricable knot of arms, legs, wings, faces, and flowing drapery; two
circles of saints, bishops, and others, who might be fitly placed in
Paradise, rising one above the other high up the walls of the chapel—the
lower circle full-length figures, and the other half-length; and above
this a higher and richly coloured crown of musical saints and angels in
good preservation.  In passing I may say that this is the place where the
Vecchietto ought to have come from, though it is not likely that he did

The pendant retains much of its original colour, and must once have been
a gorgeous and fitting climax.  Still, no one can do much with such a
subject.  To attempt it is to fly in the face of every canon by the
observance of which art can alone give lasting pleasure.  It is to crib,
cabin, and confine, within the limits of well-defined sensation and
perception, ideas that are only tolerable when left in the utmost
indefiniteness consistent with thought at all.  It is depressing to think
that he who could have left us portrait after portrait of all that was
noblest and loveliest in the men and women of his age—who could give a
life such as no one but himself, at any rate at that time, could
give—should have had to spend months if not years upon a work that even
when new can have been nothing better than a magnificent piece of stage

But of such miscarriages the kingdom of art is full.  In the kingdom of
art not only are many called and few chosen, but the few that do get
chosen are for the most part chosen amiss, or are lavished in the
infinite prodigality of nature.  We flatter ourselves that among the
kings and queens of art, music, and literature, or at any rate in the
kingdom of the great dead, all wrongs shall be redressed, and patient
merit shall take no more quips and scorns from the unworthy: there, if an
able artist, as, we will say, F. H. Potter just dead, dies poor,
neglected, and unable to fight his way through the ranks of men with not
a tenth part of his genius, there, at any rate, shall right be done;
there the mighty shall be put down from his seat, and the lowly and meek,
if clever as well as good, shall meet his just reward.  It is not so.
There is no circle so exalted but the devil has got the run of it.  As
for the reputations of the great dead, they are governed in the main by
the chicane that obtains among the living; it is only after generations
of flourishing imposture, that even approximate right gets done.  Look at
Raphael, see how he still reigns supreme over those who have the people’s
ears and purses at command.  True, Guido, Guercino, and Domenichino have
at last tumbled into the abyss, and we know very well that Raphael will
ere long fall too, but Guido, Guercino, and Domenichino had a triumph of
some two hundred years, during which none dared lift hand against them.
Look again at that grossest of impostors—Bacon.  Look at by far the
greater number of the standard classical authors, painters, and
musicians.  All that can be said is that there is a _nisus_ in the right
direction which is not wholly in vain, and that though tens of thousands
of men and women of genius are as dandelion seeds borne upon the air and
perishing without visible result, yet there is here and there a seed that
really does take root and spring upwards to be a plant on the whole more
vigorous than that from which it sprung.  Right and truth and justice, in
their relation to human affairs, are as asymptotes which, though
continually drawing nearer and nearer to the curve, can never reach it
but by a violation of all on which their own existence is founded.

As for the Assumption chapel, those who would see it even as a wreck
should lose no time; it is in full process of restoration; it is swept
and garnished for immediate possession by a gentleman whom we met on the
road down, and whose facility of execution in making crucified Christs
out of plaster of Paris is something almost incredible.  His type of face
was Jewish, and it struck both Jones and me that his proficiency must be
in some degree due to hereditary practice.  He showed us one crucifix
which he had only begun at eight o’clock that morning, and by eleven was
as good as finished.  He told us he had done the brand new Disputa chapel
and the Agony in the Garden with the beautiful blue light thrown all over
Christ through deep French ultramarine glass, and he was now going on
with the other chapels as fast as he could.  He said they had no oven for
baking terra-cotta figures; besides, terra-cotta was such a much slower
material to work in; he could make a gross of apostles in plaster more
quickly than a single set of twelve in terra-cotta, and the effect was
just as good when painted; so plaster of Paris and unrivalled facility of
execution are to have everything their own way.  Already what I can only
call a shoddy bishop or pope or two, I forget which, have got in among
the circle of Tabachetti’s saints and angels that still remains.  These
are many of them portraits full of serious dignity and unspotted by the
world of _barocco_ with which Tabachetti was surrounded.  At the present
moment they have been partly scraped and show as terra-cotta; no doubt
they have suffered not a little in the scraping and will do so still
further when they are repainted, but there is no help for it.  Great
works of art have got to die like everything else.

And, after all, it is as well they should, lest they come to weigh us
down too heavily.  Why should a man live too long after he is dead?  For
a while, yes, if he has done good service in his generation, give him a
new lease of life in the hearts and memories of his successors, but do
not let even the most eminent be too exacting; do not let them linger on
as nonagenarians when their strength is now become but labour and sorrow.
We have statutes of mortmain to restrain the dead hand from entering in
among the living—why not a statute of limitations or “a fixed period” as
against reputations and works of art—say a thousand years or so—behind
which time we will resolutely refuse to go, except in rare cases by
acclamation of the civilised world?  How is it to end if we go on at our
present rate, with huge geological formations of art and book middens
accreting in every city of Europe?  Who is to see them, who even to
catalogue them?  Remember the Malthusian doctrine, and that the mind
breeds in even more rapid geometrical ratio than the body.  With such a
surfeit of art and science the mind pails and longs to be relieved from
both.  As the true life which a man lives is not in that consciousness in
the midst of which the thing he calls “himself” sits and the din and roar
of which confuse and deafen him, but in the life he lives in others, so
the true life a man’s work should live after his death is not in the
mouths but in the lives of those that follow him; in these it may live
while the world lasts, as his lives who invented the wheel or arch, but
let it live in the use which passeth all praise or thanks or even
understanding, and let the story die after a certain time as all things
else must do.

Perhaps; but at any rate let us give them decent burial.  Crush the
wounded beetle if you will, but do not try to mend it.  I am glad to have
seen the remains of the Assumption chapel while they are in their present
state, but am not sure whether I would not rather see them destroyed at
once, than meet the fate of restoration that is in store for them.  At
the same time I am confident that no more competent restorer than the
able and eminent sculptor who has the work in hand is at all likely to be
found.  My complaint is not against him, but against the utter
hopelessness of the task.  I would again urge those who may be induced to
take an interest in Tabachetti’s work to lose no time in going to see
what still remains of it at Crea.

Last January I paid a second visit to Crea; and finding a scaffolding up,
was able to get on a level with the circle of full-length figures.  They
were still unpainted, the terra-cotta figures showing as terra-cotta and
the plaster of Paris white.  When they are all repainted the visitor will
find it less easy to say which are new figures and which old.  I will
therefore say that of the lower circle of twenty full-length figures the
only two entirely new figures are the sixth to the left of the door on
entering, which represents a man holding an open book by his left hand
and resting it on his thigh, and the sixth figure to the right of the
door on entering.  There are several unimportant restorations of details
of dress, feet, and clouds; the rest of the work in this circle is all by

In the circle of busts and half-length figures, the first new work to the
left of the door on entering is a figure that holds a lamb, the two
half-length figures that come next in sequence are also new—the second of
these is a nun holding a little temple.  The second upper choir of angels
and saints is still in its original [?] colour and seems to have been
little touched, as also the pendant.

The chapel containing the Marriage Feast at Cana has been much restored
and badly repainted.  Most of the figures are very poor, but some, and
especially a waiter with his hair parted down the middle, who is offering
a hare (not cut up) to a guest who seems to have had too much already,
are very good indeed.  I find it difficult to think that this waiter can
be by any one but Tabachetti.  The guitar-player is good, or rather was
good before he was repainted—so is a lady near him, so are some of the
waiters at the other end, and so are the bride and bridegroom; at any
rate they are life-like and effective as seen from outside, but the
chapel has suffered much from restoration.

There is one other chapel at Crea which may be by Tabachetti though I do
not know that it is ascribed to him, I mean the one containing figures of
the founder and his wife, a little below the main piazza.  The shepherds
and sheep to the left are probably not by Tabachetti, but the lady is a
well-modelled figure.  Both she, however, and her husband have been so
cruelly clogged with new paint that it is hard to form an opinion about

On the piazza itself is a chapel representing the Birth of the Virgin
which is also pleasing.  It is not always easy for us English to tell the
Birth of the Virgin from the Nativity, and it may help the reader to
distinguish these subjects readily if he will bear in mind, that at the
Birth of the Virgin the baby is always going to be washed—which never
happens at the Nativity; this, and that the Virgin’s mother is almost
invariably to have an egg, and generally a good deal more, whereas the
Virgin never has anything to eat or drink.  The Virgin’s mother always
wants keeping up.  Gaudenzio Ferrari has a Birth of the Virgin in the
Church of S. Cristoforo at Vercelli.  The Virgin’s mother is eating one
egg with a spoon, and there is another coming in on a tray, which I think
is to be beaten up in wine.  Something more substantial to follow is
coming in on a hot plate with a cover over it and a napkin.  The baby is
to be washed of course, and the kind old head nurse is putting her hand
in the bath, while the under nurse pours in the hot water, to make sure
that the temperature is exactly right.  It is to be just nicely loo-warm.
The bath itself is certainly a very little one; it will hold about a pint
and a half, but medieval washing apparatus did run rather small, and
Gaudenzio was not going to waste more of his precious space than he could
help upon so uninteresting an object as a bath; in actual life the bath
was doubtless larger.  The under-under nurse is warming a towel, which
will be nicely ready when the bath is over.  Joachim appears to have been
in very easy circumstances, and the arrangements could hardly be more
commodious even though the event had taken place at a certain well-known
establishment in the Marylebone Road.

At Milan, in a work that I only know by Pianazzi’s engraving, there are
two eggs coming in on a tray, and they too, I should say, are to be
beaten up in wine.  The under nurse is again filling a very little bath
with warm water, and the head nurse is trying the temperature with her
hand.  There is no room for the warming of the towel, but there is no
question that the towel is being warmed just out of the picture on the
left hand.  Here, at Crea, the attendant is giving the Virgin’s mother a
plain boiled egg, and has a spoon in her hand with which she is going to
crack it.  The Virgin’s mother is frowning and motioning it away; she is
quite as well as can be expected; still she does not feel equal to taking
solid food, and the nurse is saying, “Do try, ma’am, just one little
spoonful, the doctor said you was to have it, ma’am.”  In the smaller
picture by Carpaccio at Bergamo she is again to have an egg; in the
larger she is to have some broth now, but a servant can be seen in the
kitchen plucking a fowl for dear life, so probably the larger picture
refers to a day or two later than the earlier.

The only other thing that struck us at Crea was the Virgin in the
Presentation chapel.  She is so much too small that one feels as though
there must be some explanation that is not obvious.  She is not more than
2 ft. 6 in. high, while the High Priest, and Joachim and St. Anne are all
life-sized.  The Chief Priest is holding up his hands, and seems a good
deal surprised, as though he were saying—“Well, St. Anne my dear, I must
say you are the very smallest Virgin that I ever had presented to me
during the whole course of my incumbency.”  Joachim and St. Anne seem
very much distressed, and Joachim appears to be saying, “It is not our
fault; I assure you, sir, we have done everything in our power.  She has
had plenty of nourishment.”  There must be some explanation of the
diminutive size of the figure that is not apparent.


RETURNING to Varallo, in the town itself the most important work is the
fresco by Gaudenzio Ferrari in the church of Sta. Maria delle Grazie,
already several times referred to.  The reader will find it fully
described in the pages of Colombo; moreover, in January last Signor
Pizetta took excellent negatives of all the compartments into which the
work is divided, and I learn that he has sent impressions—put together so
as to give a very good idea of the work—to the Italian Exhibition that
will open as these pages leave my hands.  I have myself also sent to the
same Exhibition a few unreduced impressions from the negatives used in
the illustrations that face earlier pages: these will give the reader a
more correct impression of the works from which they are taken than he
can get from the reduction.  I do not yet know whether they will be hung.

The fresco of Sta. Petronilla painted by Gaudenzio by moonlight on a
chapel just outside the town, is now little more than a wreck.

There are a few works by Gaudenzio of no great importance in the
Pinacoteca of the Museum; a few frescoes by Lanini, one or two drawings
by Tanzio D’Enrico, which show that he was a well-trained draughtsman;
two pictures by him, _barocco_ in character, but not without power, and
other works of more or less interest, are also in the Pinacoteca.

In the parish church of S. Gaudenzio, behind the altar, there is an
exceedingly fine Ancona by Gaudenzio, to which I have already referred.
Over an altar in the north transept, but for the most part hidden behind
a painted _tela_, is Tabachetti’s very beautiful Madonna del Rosario,
which the visitor should ask the Sacristan to show him; and last, but
hardly least, there is a Madonna by Dedomenici of Rossa—a village higher
up the Valsesia—painted on linen, in the chapel dedicated to St. Joseph.

I referred to this last-named work in my book “Alps and Sanctuaries” (pp.
177, &c.), and have seen no reason to modify the opinion I then
expressed.  I may repeat that about twenty years ago I was much struck
with the painting and could not make out its strong and evidently
unaffected medieval feeling, yet modernness at the same time.  On
consulting the Sacristan I learned that Dedomenici had died about 1840.
He added that the extraordinary thing was that Dedomenici had never
studied painting, and had never travelled out of the Valsesia; that he
had, in fact, acquired his art by doing rather than by learning how to

This, as it appeared to me, explained his excellence.  As a general rule
the more people study how to do things the more hopelessly academic they
become.  Learning how to say ends soon in having nothing to say.
Learning how to paint, in having nothing that one so longs to paint as to
be unable to keep one’s hands off it.  It gratifies the lust of doing
sufficiently to appease it, and then kills it.  Learning how to write
music, ends in the dreary symphonies, operas, cantatas, and oratorios
which it seems are all that modern composers can give us.  The only way
to study an art is to begin at once with doing something that one wants
very badly to do, and doing it—even though it be only very badly.  Study,
of course, but synchronously—letting the work be its own exercises.

If a man defers doing till he knows how to do, when is the hunting the
_ignis fatuus_ of a perfect manner to end, and the actual work that he is
to leave behind him to begin?  I know nothing so deadening, as a long
course of preliminary study in any art, and nothing so living as work
plunged into at once by one who is studying hard—over it, rather than in
preparation for it.  Jones talking with me once on this subject, and
about _agape_ as against _gnosis_ in art, said, “Oh that men should put
an enemy into their brains to steal away their hearts.”  At any rate he
and I have written “Narcissus” on these principles, and are not without
hope that what it has lost in erudition it may have gained in freshness.
I have, however, dealt with the question of how to study painting more at
length in the chapter on the Decline of Italian art in “Alps and

I said I would return to the chapel of Loreto a little way out of Varallo
on the road to Novara.  This work has a lunette which is generally, and I
suppose correctly, ascribed to Gaudenzio.  It is covered with frescoes
not of extraordinary merit, but still interesting, and the chapel itself
is extremely beautiful.  I had intended dwelling upon it at greater
length, but find that my space will not allow me to do so, though I shall
hope to describe it more fully in another work on Italy, for which I have
many notes that I have been unable to use here.

And now to conclude.  A friend once said to me on the Sacro Monte, “How
is it that they have no chapel of the Descent of the Holy Spirit?”  I
answered that the work of Gaudenzio Ferrari, Tabachetti, D’Enrico, and
Paracca was a more potent witness to, and fitter temple for, the Holy
Spirit, than any that the hands even of these men could have made for it
expressly.  For that there is a Holy Spirit, and that it does descend on
those that diligently seek it, who can for a moment question?  A man may
speak lightly of the Father and it shall be forgiven him; he may speak
lightly of the Son and it shall be forgiven him; but woe to him if he
speak lightly of that Divine Spirit, inspiration of which alone it is
that makes a work of art either true or permanently desirable.

Of the letter in which the Sacro Monte is written, I have at times in the
preceding pages spoken lightly enough.  Who in these days but the
advocates whose paid profession it is to maintain the existing order, and
those whom custom and vested interests hold enthralled, accepts the
letter of Christianity more than he accepts the letter of Oriental
exaggerated phraseology?  If three days and three nights means in reality
only thirty-six hours, so should full fifty per cent. be deducted
wherever else seems necessary, and “dead” be read as “very nearly dead,”
and “the Son of God” as “rarely perfect man.”  Who, on the other hand,
that need be reckoned with, denies the eternal underlying verity that
there is an omnipresent unknown something for which Mind, Spirit, or God,
is, as Professor Mivart has well said, “the least misleading” expression?
Who doubts that this Mind or God is immanent throughout the whole
universe, sustaining it, guiding it, living in it, he in it and it in
him?  I heard of one not long since who said he had been an atheist this
ten years—and added, “thank God.”  Who, again, doubts that the spirit of
self-sacrifice for a noble end is lovelier and brings more peace at the
last than one of self-seeking and self-indulgence?  And who doubts that
of the two great enemies both to religion and science referred to in the
passage I have taken for my motto, “the too much” is even more dangerous
than “the too little”?

I, and those who think as I do, would see the letter whether of science
or of Christianity made less of, and the spirit more.  Slowly, but very
slowly—far, as it seems to our impatience, too slowly—things move in this
direction.  See how even the Church of Rome, and indeed all churches, are
dropping miracles that they once held proper objects of faith and
adoration.  The Sacro Monte is now singularly free from all that we
Protestants are apt to call superstition.

The miracles and graces so freely dealt in by Fassola and Torrotti find
no place in the more recent handbooks.  The Ex Votos and images in wax
and silver with which each chapel formerly abounded have long
disappeared, and the sacred drama is told with almost as close an
adherence to the facts recorded in the Gospels, as though the whole had
been done by Protestant workmen.  Where is the impress of Christ’s
footprint now? carted away or thrown into a lumber room as a child’s toy
that has been outgrown—so surely as has been often said do the famous
words “_E pur si muove_” apply to the Church herself, as well as to that
world whose movement she so strenuously denied.

The same thing is happening here among ourselves.  As the good churchmen
at Varallo have thrown away their Flemish dancer, their footprint of the
Saviour, and their Virgins that box thieves’ ears and persist in turning
round and smiling even after they have been asked not to do so, so we, by
the mouths of our Bishops, are flinging away our Genesis, our Exodus, and
I know not how much more.  In the _Nineteenth Century_ for last December
the Bishop of Carlisle says that the account of Creation given in the
Book of Genesis “does not pretend to be historical in any ordinary
sense”—or, in other words, that it does not pretend to be historical, or
true, at all.  Surely this is rather a startling jettison.  The Bishop
goes on to say that “the account of the flood is a very precious
tradition full of valuable teaching,” and is, he doubts not, a record of
some great event that actually occurred; “but,” he continues, “I confess
that until Bishop Colenso brought his arithmetic to bear upon it and some
other portions of Old Testament history, I was quite [why “quite?”] under
the impression that the common sense of Christians abstained from
criticising this ancient record by the canons applicable to ordinary
history.”  This was not my own impression, but the Bishop’s is doubtless
more accurate.  If things, however, go on at this rate, a hundred years
hence we shall have a Bishop writing to the _Twentieth Century_ that till
X, Y or Z brought their canons of historical criticism to bear on the
Resurrection itself, he was “quite” under the impression that the common
sense of Christians abstained from criticising this ancient record by the
canons applicable to ordinary history.  The Bishop appeals, and rightly,
to common sense.  This is of all courts the safest and rightest to abide
by, but it must not be forgotten that the common sense of one generation
is not that of the next, and that the modification with which common
sense descends cannot be effected, however gently we may try to do so,
without some disturbance of the pre-existing common sense, and some
reversal of its decrees.

That the letter of the coming faith will be greatly truer than that of
the many that have preceded it I for one do not believe.  Let us have no
more “Lo heres” and “Lo theres” in this respect.  I would as soon have a
winking Madonna or a forged decretal, as the doubtful experiments or
garbled articles which the high priests of modern science are applauded
with one voice for trying to palm off upon their devotees; and I should
look as hopefully for good result from a new monastery, as from a new
school of art, college of music, or scientific institution.  Whatever
faith or science the world at large bows down to will in its letter be
tainted with the world that worships it.  Whoever clings to the spirit
that underlies all the science obtaining among civilised peoples will
assuredly find that he cannot serve God and Mammon.  The true Christ ever
brings a sword on earth as well as peace, and if he maketh men to be of
one mind in an house, he divideth a house no less surely.  The way will
be straight in the future as in the past.  All that can be hoped for is
that it may perhaps become a trifle more easy through the work of the
just men made perfect through suffering that have gone before, and that
he who in bygone ages would have been burnt will now be only scouted.

I have in the last few foregoing pages been trenching on somewhat
dangerous ground, but who can leave such a work as the Sacro Monte
without being led to trench on this ground, and who that trenches upon it
can fail to better understand the lesson of the Sacro Monte itself?  I am
aware, however, that I have said enough if not too much, and will return
to the note struck at the beginning of my work—namely, that I have
endeavoured to stimulate study of the great works on the Sacro Monte
rather than to write the full account of them which their importance
merits.  At the same time I must admit that I have had great advantages.
Not one single previous writer had ever seen an earlier work than that of
Fassola, published in 1670 [1], whereas I have had before me one that
appeared in 1586 [7].  I had written the greater part of my book before
last Christmas, and going out to Varallo at the end of December to verify
and reconsider it on the spot, found myself forced over and over again to
alter what I had written, in consequence of the new light given me by the
1586 [7] and 1590 [1] editions of Caccia.  It is with profound regret
that though I have continued to search for the 1565 and 1576 editions up
to the very last moment that these sheets leave my hands, my search has
been fruitless.

Over and above the advantage of having had even the later Caccia before
me, I have seen Cav. Aless. Godio’s “Cronaca di Crea,” which no previous
writer had done, inasmuch as this work has been only very lately
published.  Moreover, when I was at Varallo, it being known that I was
writing on the Sacro Monte, every one helped me, and so many gave me such
important and interesting information that I found my labour a very light
and pleasant one.  Especially must I acknowledge my profound obligations
to Signor Dionigi Negri, town clerk of Varallo, to Signor Galloni the
present director of the Sacro Monte, to Cav. Prof. Antonini and his son,
Signori Arienta and Tonetti, and to many other kind friends whom if I
were to begin to name I must name half the town of Varallo.  With such
advantages I am well aware that the work should be greatly better than it
is; if, however, it shall prove that I have succeeded in calling the
attention of abler writers to Varallo, and if these find the present work
of any, however small, assistance to them, I shall hold that I have been
justified in publishing it.  In the full hope that this may turn out to
be the case, I now leave the book to the generous consideration and
forbearance of the reader.

                                * * * * *

Photographs of Subjects

Unreduced Prints from the Negatives used for the Illustrations given in
the foregoing pages, and from about twenty additional Negatives also
taken on the Sacro Monte at Varallo, can be had of Mr. GEORGE SALLNOW
MARTIN, Optician, Birkbeck Institution, Bream’s Buildings, Chancery Lane,
at the following prices:—

WHOLE PLATES (about 8 in. x 6 in.)—

  Silver Prints, unmounted, 1s. 9d. each.

  Do. in permanent Bromide Process, resembling an Engraving, 2s. 6d.

  Mounting on plain board, 6d., and on India tinted board, 9d. extra.

HALF PLATES (about 6 in. × 4 in.)—

  Silver Prints, unmounted, 1s. each.

  Do. in permanent Bromide Process, resembling an Engraving, 1s. 6d.

  Mounting on plain board, 4d., and on India tinted board, 6d. extra.

Some few of the Negatives are unsuited for Bromide Process, and these
will only be printed in Silver.  The original photographs used for this
book that are from Whole Plate negatives are marked with an asterisk in
the List of Illustrations at the beginning of the volume.  Those not so
marked are Half Plates.

                                * * * * *


{40}  “Uomini e Fatti,” &c., p. 65, &c.

{52}  “Uomini e fatti,” p. 83.

{57}  Fassola, p. 112.

{62}  These chapels are grouped together in the 1586 edition as “la
natività di N.S. nel Presepio,” but they are separated, as they doubtless
should have been earlier, in the edition of 1590 [1591].

{65}  English translation of the “Life of St. Charles Borromeo,” with
preface by Cardinal Manning.  Burns & Oates, London and New York, 1884,
vol. ii. p. 47.

{66}  “Storia a Guida,” ed. 1857, Varallo, p. 68.

{90}  In the register of the houses in Varallo, taken in 1536, his house
is thus described—“_Magister Gaudentius pictor fqm Magistri Franchini
Vallis Ugiæ habitator Varalli_, _tabet sedimen unum cum domo una magna
plodata et alia contigua peleis_, _et curte ante_, _et curteto ad plateam
putei_, _cui cohoeret Franciscus Draghettus sive de Boglia et strata_,
_et soror Catarina de Pioldo_.”  (See Signor Tonetti’s Memoir.)

{100a}  Parma, 1823.

{100b}  Munich, 1841.

{104}  Torino-Tipografia S. Giuseppe—Collegio degli Artigianelli Corso
Palestro, No. 14.  1887.

{106}  See Signor Galloni’s first and tenth notes, pp. 175 and 180.

{140}  Their words run thus;—“Il volto di quella Vergine Maria mirava
altre volte al Bambino Giesù, mà dall’ anno, il giorno, ed hora, che fù
creato Pontefice Innocenzo X. al suono di Campane miracolosamente si
voltò alli Visitanti.  Dicono alcuni, che prima ancora staua riuoltata al
Popolo, e che accommodata, non accorgendosi del miracolo in detto giorno,
poi lo diede a conoscere.”  Fassola, p. 86.

“Si dice che la Vergine mirava il Bambino, e quando si sonarono le
campane per l’esaltazione d’Innocenzio X. tornò il volto ai Visitanti,
che racconciata nuovamente voltollo al popolo come invitante.”  Torrotti,
p. 70.

{181}  The projected Palazzo di Pilato blocks.

{206}  A famous model of some five-and-twenty years ago.

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 - With Some Notice of Tabachetti's Remaining Work at the Sanctuary of Crea" ***

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