Last year coming north from Italy, I passed a day at Munich. Looking over a published list of museums, I found one that I had never visited: it was of a new type to me. Upon its walls were copies only, copies of the great master- pieces of painting, mostly after the world famous works of the Italians. These copies were made by the greatest of the German living artists. At first the effect was confusing. for only a few days before. I had seen the originals hanging on the walls of museums, churches or convents in the South. Knowing the Germans I knew full well there was a purpose in this museum, probably an educational one.Order now
Germany is system personified. There is hardly anything in the history of modem Germany that better illustrates what has been called “the wonderful might of thought’* than the capacity it has developed for organization, and an especially fine illustration of this may be found in its great and wonderful museums. The National and other museums are not merely collections of various donations gathered by rich, but not only wisely directed enthusiasts; but collections which have been the choice of a system, a system which appears to be the intellectual inheritance of the German na- tion, from her philosophers of the early nineteenth century. In Munich there exist some ten or more large museums where many original works of the greatest of the artists can always be seen ; and still in the same town they have a museum devoted to copies of masterpieces. When Germany opens a museum for copies it is well for us to take notice, for the German system of education has many advantages over our own. and indeed over every known system.
In many ways we ourselves are rapidly adopting, with the modifications that our national habit of mind make inevitable, many German methods. In puzzling over the “why” of this Museum of Copies I have stumbled upon this solution. At all of our best museums there are good collections of casts in plaster and bronze, copies and reproductions of the great masterpieces of sculpture. Long since, it has been conceded, that these have their proper place in the art education of our people—in our opinion, they are invaluable to our public. The educational value of collections of casts and reproductions has brought about the existence of such wonderfully organized galleries as the Musé du Trocadero in Paris, the Musé du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, and the Augusteum, or Royal Museum of Casts at Dresden. If collections of casts of masterpieces of .sculpture, are admittedly serviceable, why not collections of copies of the masterpieces of painting! It seems a happy idea. While in Florence, I had been asked to visit a private gallery (La Gallerie Pisani) of several hundred copies that the late Comm. Luigi Pisani had collected, and which his heirs intended to sell. I did not go to the gallery, not being interested in copies ; but this museum at Munich brought them back to my mind and I wrote Signor Tito Vianelli at Venice asking for photographs of a few of the pictures. He sent not only the photographs of the copies, but photographs of the originals, so that com- parisons might be made.
I found his nota- tions so interesting that I am passing them on to the readers of the Fine Arts Journal, together with the illustrations of both originals and copies. Fra Filippo Lippi, the Carmelite monk whose numerous love adventures are narrated by Vassari, is represented by two beautiful copies. One. a little smaller in size than the original, is from the Virgin and Child, that hangs in the Pitti Gallery at Florence. The copy was made by Professor Galeotti, who worked for the Pisani Gallery many, many years. He used a tempera of his own invention of which he would never reveal the secret. This tempera pro- duces the luminosity and freshness of the ancient tempera pictures, and is not affected by the action of light. It is protected by a varnish that also gives it consistency.
This original was painted by Lippi the year he was called to paint the frescoes in the choir of the Dome of the Prato. Prob- ably the commission came from Leonardo Bartolini. There is a subtle smile on the shrewd and intelligent face of the youthful and fresh Flor- entine woman whom he took as his model. The chubby child gracefully shows his mother the pommegranatc seed he has taken from the open fruit that she holds in her hand. In the background are scenes from the Virgin’s life, viz: the meeting of Joachim and Anne and the Virgin’s Birth. They are represented like familiar scenes of the quattrocento. All the serene and joyous humanity that Lippi put into his sacred subject pictures is vividly present here.
The other is a copy in oil of the delightful picture. La Vcrgxne col Bambino e cocjli Angeli, in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence. A reliable tradition has it that the Madonna is the portrait of Lucrezia Butit, a young and pretty nun of the Convent of Saint Marguerita of Prato, whom Lippi, although more than fifty years old, persuaded to leave the convent with him. The Bambino, according to the same tradition, is his son Filippino, who was born in 1457, and who later won a name in the art world for himself. In the Madonna and Bambino there is something so intimate and so full of love that it seems to give credit and strength to this tradition. The two cunning little angels take a lively part in the intimate scene. From the beautiful background perhaps a somewhat ‘’styled” and fantastic campagita toscano, emanates a soft harmony of green, azure and very pale rose. With Sandro Botticelli, a pupil of Fra Filippo Lippi, we get away from and above the earth. If we do not actually rise as high as Paradise, as is the case with Fra Angelico, we certainly move in a high, ideal world.
To understand this it is only necessary to sec the Magnificat, the original of which is in the Uffizi. The exquisitely beautiful Madon- na is pensive as if overcome by an undefinable sadness and disturbed by distant forebodings. The Bambino looks at his mother inquiringly and forgets the pommegranate that lies open in her hand. The surrounding angels, although they may remind one of some magnificent examples of the Florentine youths in the time of Botticelli, yet they have not the humanity and reality of Lippi’s angels. Nor have they that something of Paradise which Fra Angelico imparted to his divine creations, and yet they convey the expression of lofty thoughts and of a life superior to ours. The copy is a little smaller than the original, but gives the same impression of high intellectuality of type and posture of its figures as does the original. It also reproduces the charming pose of the exquisite hands, as well as the glowing colors. This picture by Botticelli is a true feast for the eyes, ow- ing to the sparkling tints of the drapery, the gildings of the ornaments and the freshness of the figures.