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Romance of Roman Villas (The Renaissance) By Elizabeth W. Champney Characters: 43117

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Centuries ago-here the Colonna came,

Vittoria with them, Angelo himself

Gazing upon her as she gravely moved,

And sighing for her, while Fabrizio's sword

Clanged on the gravel-here the d'Este came

From Tivoli, where o'er dark cypresses

Their villa looks above the billowy land

Of the Campagna.

William Wetmore Story.

It was with the Villa Conti-Torlonia at Frascati that Story rightly associated the men and women of the Colonna in the lines which I have quoted.

The Haunted Pool

Villa Conti Torlonia, Frascati

Hither certainly came the ladies of Palliano[8] from their castle in the neighbouring hills, for the Conti were cousins of the Colonna, and fond of entertaining their kindred on the terraces of their ancestral villa.

Here Giulia Gonzaga must have met another renowned woman of the family, Giovanna of Aragon, the wife of Ascanio Colonna, with their little son Marcantonio, from the Castle of Marino, hardly three miles away. This boy was to become the most renowned man of his race, and was to form a link between the lives of two women of Palliano, to whom brief reference must be made, for the pity and horror of their fate are not surpassed in all the annals of tragedy.

At first glance it may seem strange that the Colonnas possessed no suburban villa which could rival that of the Conti. Castles in plenty were theirs, Marino, Palliano, Palestrina, and a score of others, but though these sheltered comfortless, so-called palaces within their strong walls, there was never an attempt made here to indulge in such a feat of landscape-gardening as the Conti's

"fountain stairs,

Down which the sheeted water leaps alive."

The reason of this lack of the amenities of life is not far to seek. The magnificent Colonna palace at Rome, with its beautiful garden, answered every purpose of an elaborate villa. Here they flaunted in seasons of prosperity, retiring to their mountain fastnesses in times of trouble.

For five hundred years succeeding generations have added to the sumptuousness and charm of the Roman palace, and the portraits of the fair ladies who once gave those regal rooms their chief attraction still look down upon us from their walls. They hold us still with an all-compelling fascination: the noble Vittoria Colonna, whom Michael Angelo worshipped; that Duchessa Lucrezia, whom Van Dyck painted in her velvet robe and jewelled ruff; Felice Orsini and her children; and the bewitching Marie Mancini, as Mignard makes her known in her arch and innocent girlhood, and again with world-weary disillusion betraying itself through Netscher's pomp and opulence.

Vittoria Colonna

From a portrait in the Colonna Gallery

Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna

From a portrait in later life by Netscher

It is the women who interest us most, for the men of the race, masterful and brave, heroic even in certain great crisis, have often shown themselves brutally cruel.

The ceilings of the Colonna palace blaze with the victory of Lepanto whose hero Marcantonio Colonna is the glory of his family; but you will find no portrait of his murdered mistress Eufrosina, or of the most famous of all the duchesses of Palliano, whose ghost might well haunt that gloomy castle.

Violante de Cardona was, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, the most charming woman in Naples. Her wonderful eyes alone rendered her irresistible to most men, and she added to remarkable beauty the fascinations of wit and culture. All of the young bloods of Naples were captives at her chariot wheels, all but young Marcantonio Colonna, who must have known her for he dwelt at this time at the Castle of Ischia inherited from his aunt Vittoria Colonna.

Violante made choice among her adorers of Giovanni Caraffa, nephew of Pope Paul IV. whom Marcantonio had cause to hate, for Paul had despoiled him of Palliano, under pretext of his mother's heretical opinions, and had given the fief to this very Giovanni.

Thus Violante to her great misfortune became the usurping Duchess of Palliano, for her husband made her life a martyrdom and was ultimately responsible for her death. He was not so utterly depraved as his brother Cardinal Carlo Caraffa but his maniacal jealousy was more dangerous than the Cardinal's vices, and he made himself rich by the maladministration of the papal revenues.

The Pope though bigoted and fanatical was sternly upright, and discovering the crimes of his nephews visited unsparing retribution upon them. Cardinal Carlo's offences were most flagrant. He had quarrelled openly with a young gallant, Marcello Capecce, for the favours of Martuccia one of the most notorious courtesans of Rome, drawing his sword upon Capecce at a banquet where he had denied the Cardinal's right to appear as Martuccia's escort. Though the Pope had banished the brothers from Rome they might have lived in peace and obscurity but for Carlo's attempt to revenge himself upon Capecce.

It happened most opportunely for the Cardinal's purpose that Capecce had long cherished a hopeless passion for the Duchess of Palliano.

The Cardinal fanned this flame and Marcello, believing himself encouraged followed Violante to her villa. Here the Cardinal managed to bring the Duke at the very moment of the compromising visit.

Why Carlo Caraffa should thus have endangered the life and reputation of his sister-in-law as well as that of his enemy is not definitely stated. Perhaps he counted on the Duke's love for his wife and intended simply to enrage his brother against a presuming but unfavoured lover. Whatever the accusation the jealous husband was not at first absolutely convinced, and he placed the matter for investigation in the hands of his wife's brother the Count Aliffe, who spied upon Capecce and reported that he was undoubtedly in love with the Duchess of Palliano for his desk was filled with poems in her honour.

De Stendhal tells us vividly how Capecce was arrested on the charge of having attempted to poison the Duke, who, "to avoid public scandal stabbed him to death in prison." He also murdered the Duchess's lady-in-waiting, but seems not to have had the heart to kill his wife with his own hands. Nevertheless he believed it incumbent upon him as a wronged husband to exercise justice upon her, and he deputed the deed to her brother, who was nothing loth to wipe out the stain upon his family honour.

On the night of the twenty-fifth of August, 1559, the Count Aliffe, with his friend Leonardo del Cardine, a friar, and some soldiers, appeared at the villa and told his sister his errand. She received her sentence with the haughtiest disdain. Never had she been so thoroughly a duchess.

When urged to confess she protested her innocence, and assisted her brother in bandaging her own eyes. He hesitated for a moment; perhaps if she had appealed to his affection his heart might have given way; but she raised the handkerchief and coolly asked: "Well, what are we about, then?"

Thus taunted he turned the wand in the noose about her neck, and so strangled her.

The Pope seems to have approved the act or to have been indifferent to it; but it created a thrill of horror even at that time, for the beautiful Duchess had been greatly loved and was believed to be innocent.

Strange to say, the man who was to avenge her fate was he whose heritage she had usurped. Marcantonio Colonna had used all his influence at the Court of Spain until Philip declared war upon Pope Paul IV., and deputed the Duke of Alva and the Spanish Army to wage the famous war of the Campagna. Thus Marcantonio came to his own again, and the Pope, who was near his end, in bitterness of soul signed the capitulation which saved Rome from a second sack by the Spaniards.

News that the Pope was dying ran through Rome, and the populace liberated the prisoners of the Inquisition and burned the building. They howled for the Dominican monks, the guardians of the tribunal, that they might burn them also, but at the entrance to the monastery they were stopped by five mounted knights keeping guard over the doomed monks. They were all of them nobles, and all had suffered from the Pope, and they were led by Marcantonio Colonna, whose father and mother had been persecuted by the Inquisition. They had ridden in haste to Rome when they heard that Paul was dying to preserve order in the city.

"And at the sight of those calm knights," says Marion Crawford, "sitting their horses without armour and with sheathed swords, the people drew back while Colonna spoke; and because he also had suffered much at Paul's hands they listened to him, and the great monastery was saved from fire and the monks from death."

But though Revenge was restrained, Justice claimed the murderers of the Duchess of Palliano. Their trial was deliberate, but in the end Cardinal Carlo Caraffa met the same death which she had suffered, while her husband, her brother, and their accomplice were beheaded in the Torre di Nona.

The first use made by Colonna of his revenues was to equip the battleship which he commanded at Lepanto, where he won the title of Champion of Christendom.

The pitiful story of Eufrosina, who for a brief period was mistress of Palliano, is a sad blot upon the Champion's otherwise honourable career. Some authorities maintain that she was of good family, and that Marcantonio had killed her husband for love of her; others that she was a slave girl whom he had brought back from the Orient. All agree that she was beautiful, but Colonna had not made her his duchess. Strangely enough he offered the tiara of the murdered Violante to Felice Orsini, daughter of the very man who had striven in vain to win Palliano by force of arms. It was a tempting marriage, for it united the two great rival houses of Rome, and Eufrosina was heartlessly cast aside. Her after-history is a tragedy beside which the story just related pales to an idyl.

Court of the Massimi Palace

That she was a woman of extraordinary powers of fascination is proved by the fact that, though it was notorious that she had been abandoned by Marcantonio, Lelio Massimi, then the representative of one of the proudest patrician families of Rome, did not hesitate to make her his wife. Massimi was an old man and a widower, whose first wife, Gerolema Savelli, had given him six sons, notable for their herculean strength and arrogance and their father's remarriage to such a woman was an insult to their mother's memory which they could not condone.

They entered Massimi's apartment upon his wedding night and shot his bride to death in his arms. The old man cursed his sons excepting only the youngest, Pompeo, who had taken no part in the assassination, and shortly afterward died broken-hearted, foretelling that Pompeo alone would continue the line as all of his brothers would die violent deaths.[9]

The record of the hearts of flame which have burned themselves out in the old nest of the ph?nix might be indefinitely prolonged, for though battered by many sieges Palliano was never totally destroyed, and formed the background of many a sinister drama. Marie Mancini Colonna, Principessa di Palliano, writes that fear of imprisonment in the dungeon of her titular castle was the principal motive of her flight from her husband in 1672. She had been threatened with such a fate and the threat was not without precedent.

As a prison the Castle of Palliano exists at the present day. Has its symbol of the ph?nix attained a new meaning, and is it possible that erring souls issue from its gates, their stains burned clean by purgatorial flame?

Marie Mancini Colonna, Principessa di Palliano, by Mignard

Photographische Gesellschaft, Berlin

* * *




Brother, 't is vain to hide

That thou dost know of things mysterious,

Immortal, starry; such alone could thus

Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinned in aught

Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught

A Paphian dove upon a message sent?

Thy doubtful bow against some deer herd bent

Sacred to Dian? Haply thou hast seen

Her naked limbs among the alders green

And that, alas is death.


IT is impossible to saunter even so aimlessly as we have done through the villas of the cardinals of the Renaissance and not feel the potency of the charm by which their builders were enthralled, "the glamour of the world antique."

We may struggle against the spell, telling ourselves that the scope and limits of the present volume will not permit of a glance at the villas of ancient Rome, but they insidiously steal upon us through those of the Renaissance. Particularly is this true of the Villa d'Este and the Villa Albani, magic gateways both leading directly into that earlier, and only real, Rome.

For, though separated by the gulf of many centuries from the villa of the Emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, they are virtually ante-chambers to that once magnificent palace.

We might turn from the attractive vista which they reveal but for an alluring phantom which can never be disassociated from those imperial ruins, a face whose beauty and pathos draws us on irresistibly to solve the mystery of its gentle sadness.

Who, that has stood before the matchless relief of Antinous in the villa Albani, does not agree with the assertion, that "it is no shadow of sin which gives the pure brow its gravity, and that whatever may be the burden which bows the beautiful head, he bears it with a noble resignation which proves him superior to his suffering and unsullied by his doom."


Bas-relief found at Hadrian's Villa, now in the Villa Albani

In the general resurrection of ancient masterpieces which took place during the Renaissance only one, the Apollo Belvedere, commanded wider admiration as a type of manly beauty. But the Apollo is a theatrical manifestation of the popular conception of god-like perfection, while Antinous makes appeals directly to the heart through his very humanity.

One hundred and thirty-six of his portrait statues, busts, and reliefs have come down to us, and as many engraved gems and coins bearing varying interpretations of his familiar and unmistakable personality; so that it is common to speak of the Antinous type as the last ideal creation of ancient art. And yet we are assured on the highest authority that Antinous really lived, and that there is historical foundation for the authenticity of these portraits.

"He has a distinct individuality always recognisable," says Gregorovius. "In every case we see a face bowed down, full of melancholy beauty, with deep-set eyes, slightly arched eyebrows, and abundant curls falling over the forehead. It is the beautiful expression of a nature which combined the Greek and the Asiatic characteristics only slightly idealised. We read the fate of Antinous in this sorrowful figure, for the artists knew of the death of sacrifice to which he dedicated himself, and this mysterious sadness would attract the observer even if he could not give the name to the statue."

But history only whets our curiosity, for ancient writers are neglectful or tantalisingly bald in their allusions to Antinous. We are told only that he was the favourite of Hadrian, the most magnificent and enlightened of all the Roman emperors, who loved the gentle Bithynian youth so extravagantly that he made him his inseparable companion and even contemplated him as his successor; that during the fateful Egyptian journey an oracle announced that the Emperor must shortly die unless a voluntary victim could be found to take upon himself the doom with which he was threatened; and that Antinous unhesitatingly laid down his life for his patron. "Greater love hath no man than this," and Hadrian's ostentatious lamentation, and even his deification of his friend, seems puerile in comparison with the devotion of Antinous.

No modern author has developed this alluring theme in a satisfactory manner. Ebers in his novel The Emperor, is inadequate. He laboriously loads its pages with his carefully verified material, but his imagination is wingless, the result far from convincing.

Ruins of a Gallery of Statues in Hadrian's Villa

From an etching by Piranesi

One poet there was, he whose lines head this chapter, endowed with the inspiration to divine, and the power to worthily reveal the secret of the sadness in that haunting face, to which sculptors alone have done full justice. There are hints scattered through his poems that startlingly supplement the vague clues which now tantalise and baffle as we trace the story of Antinous in Hadrian's villa.

For where history and literature fail us arch?ology supplies its circumstantial evidence, and if we scan, through the crystal lenses of uncoloured truth, the stage where the drama which we seek was enacted we shall see the sculptured semblances of the vanished actors, and be able to surmise in part the lost book of the play.

The ruins of the great pleasure-palace, where the Emperor and his favourite resided during the opening scenes of their history, now lie bleak and bare, exposed to the burning sun and the wandering winds, despoiled even of the vines and flowers with which nature has striven to hide the ravages of man. We must go back to their excavation in the early part of the sixteenth century if we would study the tell-tale mise-en-scène.

It was Pirro Ligorio who in 1538 made for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este II. the first systematic exploration and authoritative map of Hadrian's villa. A Neapolitan by birth, but called to Rome by his friend Pope Paul IV. (Caraffa), Ligorio, upon his arrival was associated with the aged Michael Angelo in the building of St. Peter's.

With the arrogance of youth he quarrelled with the great master and did not hesitate to speak of him openly as a dotard who had outlived his usefulness and should yield his place to a younger genius. Paul IV. had the wisdom to retain Michael Angelo in his important post, and the tact to take the sting from Ligorio's removal by giving him the commission for the casino in the Vatican Gardens which (as it was not finished until the pontificate of Pius IV.) was destined to bear the name of the Villa Pia.

Learned authorities have endeavoured to find the original of Ligorio's masterpiece in some ancient building, whereas the perfect adaptability of its plan to new requirements proves that it could never have been produced earlier than the Renaissance. It has been well epitomised as the "day-dream of an artist who has saturated his mind with the past."

Antinous as Bacchus, in the Museum of the Vatican

Permission of Alinari.

In the profusion of joyous mythological deities which give the fa?ade of the Casino the richness of decoration of a jewel-casket, nymphs and graces dance, Pan flutes, and marine monsters frolic with all the abandon of classical feeling, and it is in the ornamental details, not in the conception of the ensemble, that we detect the influence of the Villa of Hadrian. When the papal villa was approaching completion, Ligorio attracted the attention of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este II. (the patron of Tasso) a connoisseur and dilettante in all the arts, who wisely entrusted to the young architect the construction of his famous villa at Tivoli.

The Cardinal had the right to quarry materials from the neighbouring ruins, and among the first of the great discoveries which Ligorio records is that of a statue of Antinous. It depicted the youth under the attributes of Bacchus, and was possibly a replica of the beautiful statue found later at Pr?neste and now in the Sala Rotonda of the Vatican.

From the hour that it was carried in triumph to the terraces of Villa d'Este, Ligorio and his patron as well, were taken captive by a new enthusiasm, for a lucky chance had guided the excavators to the most richly ornamented of all the apartments in the Emperor's wonderful palace-the heavy-folded curtain of Time had rolled upward disclosing the scene of the happiest hours in the short life of Antinous.

An exquisite circular palazzita lay before them, islanded by a marble-lined canal five metres broad from an encircling portico, whose roof was supported by forty Corinthian columns of precious giallo antico. Noting the important part played by water in this construction, the canal fed by fountains, whose pipes and mechanism plainly showed within the statues which ornamented the rotunda, Ligorio hastily concluded that this was the Emperor's natatorium or swimming pool. But the feminine elegance of the fairy-like suite of apartments, to which the canal served as a moat; the presence of drawbridges worked from the centre, thus cutting off or affording communication with the colonnade at the will of the occupant, and evidences that the canal itself was a nympheum or aquatic garden, among whose rose-coloured lotus blossoms white swans glided, flamingoes darted, and tall clusters of papyrus screened the porticoes from the gaze of passers, favoured the conclusion that this pavilion of all delight was designed for some beautiful woman royally beloved. The frieze of loves, mounted upon hippocampi imitating the games of the circus, which Ligorio copied in the vestibule of the Villa Pia formed a part of the decoration lavished here.

Villa Pia in the Garden of the Vatican

Pirro Ligorio, architect Alinari

The conspicuous situation of the palazzita between the basilica and the imperial apartments, to which its encircl

ing colonnade served as a corridor of communication, indicated that the lady was not a favourite of low degree, to be hidden away in some Rosalind's bower of the immense labyrinthine palace, while the most valuable statues in the entire villa, such as the replica of the Cnidian Venus by Praxiteles, the Eros bending the bow, by the same master, made this temple of love and Venus a fitting pavilion for an empress. Such it may well have been, for here was found the sculptured portrait of Faustina, the wife of Antoninus Pius, Hadrian's successor, who resided in the villa both before and after the death of Antinous.

She was the beautiful mother of a more beautiful daughter of the same name, an empress in her turn, and both branded by a historian of the time as infamous.

Swinburne's apostrophe in Ave Faustina Imperatrix applies equally to the portrait bust of mother or daughter:

"Your throat,

Strong, heavy, throwing out the face,

And hard, bright chin

And shameful, scornful lips that grace

Their shame, Faustine."

But it is possible that Swinburne was too hasty in accepting ancient gossip, and that both the Faustinas were maligned. "Modern scholarship," says Monsieur Victor Duruy, "argues for their rehabilitation, and chiefly because the husbands of each, good and wise men both, have left such unequivocal testimony of their respect."

"To the gods," wrote Marcus Aurelius of the younger Faustina, "I am indebted that I have such a wife, so obedient, so affectionate, and so simple."

And after the death of his wife (Faustina the elder) Antoninus Pius cried in his grief: "O God, I would rather live with her in a desert than without her in this palace."

In this enchanting palazzita the younger Faustina may have passed her childhood, while the scholarly boy, Marcus Aurelius, her cousin, listened to the disquisitions of the philosophers as they discussed great problems with the Emperor.

Villa Pia, Vatican

The Rotondo-Pirro Ligorio, architect Alinari

Hadrian loved the lad, and for his absolute truthfulness nicknamed him Verissimus, making him a knight at the age of six. He was the comrade of Antinous, and as they passed to and fro together through colonnaded rotonda they must have often noted the young mother (she was sixteen when married) and her bewitching child, waving white hands from across the lily-padded moat.

Here, then, are certain of the actors, as well as our mise-en-scène, and Marcus Aurelius, in his Meditations, has himself given us a hint as to the drama. "Forget not," he writes, "that in times gone by everything has already happened just as it is happening. Place before thine eyes whole dramas with the same endings, the same scenes, just as thou knowest them by thine own experience, or from earlier history-such, for example, as the whole Court of Hadrian."

If with these instructions we remember Marcus Aurelius's still more significant words, "Even in a palace life may be well led," each of us can according to his own fancy divine the secret which Antinous kept so well.

Had Ligorio given to literature the sympathetic imagination which he displayed in his art it might have been worthily revealed. For ten years he explored with the most intense enthusiasm the interminable apartments which were to prove an inexhaustible mine of art for modern museums, and whose bibliography would fill a library. Then in 1572 his munificent patron died, and the work suddenly came to an end.

For two centuries the Villa of Hadrian lay neglected until new discoveries revived popular interest, and a young German scholar was called to superintend the building and installation of the last of the great villas erected in Rome by a member of its hierarchical aristocracy.

There exists such striking parallelism in the history of the Villa d'Este and the Villa Albani, and on such identical lines was the work carried on that it would almost seem that, the duration of human life not being sufficient to complete it, Cardinal Ippolito and Pirro Ligorio were granted reincarnation for another fifty years in Cardinal Albani and his friend Winckelmann.

Eros Bending the Bow

Capitoline Museum

Faun of Praxiteles

Capitoline Museum

Notwithstanding the many masterpieces secured by Cardinal d'Este it was known from ancient records that the greatest treasures of the Villa Hadriana had escaped his eager search, having been so securely hidden on the invasion of the Goths, that they evaded as well all other plunderers. But early in the eighteenth century Gavin Hamilton, commissioned to secure antiques for the British Museum, drained an extensive marsh called the Pantello and found it to be the depository in which Belisarius had secreted the missing statues on the approach of Totila.[10] From this hiding-place there emerged between 1730 and 1780, the Antinous of the museum of the Capitol and the relief of the Villa Albani together with the Resting Faun of Praxiteles which so captivated the imagination of Hawthorne, and many another famous work of art now the glory of some far distant museum.

Fortunately for Italy, England found a contesting bidder in Cardinal Albani, and the majority of the statues found in the Pantello were purchased by him. At the same time the magnificent collection of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, was offered at public sale by the degenerate spendthrift who inherited it, and sixty of the finest statues were secured for Villa Albani and rejoined their old companions.

Winckelmann gloated over their beauty, for he united the artist's appreciation to the connoisseurship of the arch?ologist. What solicitude for its appropriate setting, only surpassed by that of Hadrian himself, did he bestow on the placing of each individual statue, and with what exultation he records its arrival.

"The Cardinal has brought from Tivoli on a carro drawn by sixteen bullocks a female river deity of colossal size well preserved" (and still to be seen reclining on the margin of a reservoir). To the relief of Antinous Winckelmann gave the place of honour which it now occupies. Let us read his own record of the esteem in which he held it.

"The glory and the crown of sculpture in this age as well as in all ages" he does not hesitate to assert, "are two likenesses of Antinous." One of them, in the Albani villa, is in relief, the other is a colossal head in the Mondragone villa.

"The former disinterred from Hadrian's villa is," says Winckelmann, "only a fragment of an entire figure which probably stood on a chariot. For the right hand, which is empty, is in a position that leads me to conclude that it must have held the reins. In this work therefore would have been represented the deification of Antinous as we know that figures so honoured were placed upon cars to signify their translation to the gods.

Villa Albani

Casino, Villa Albani Alinari

Candelabrum from

Hadrian's Villa

Museum of the Vatican Alinari

Candelabrum from

Hadrian's Villa

Museum of the Vatican Alinari

"The colossal head in the Mondragone villa (now in the Louvre) I hold it no heresy to say is, next to the Vatican Apollo and the Laocoon, the most beautiful work which has come down to us."

The two friends lived a charmed life more in the past than in the Rome of their own day until the spree was rudely broken by Winckelmann's tragic death at the hands of a vulgar robber, and the grey-haired cardinal wandered alone among his cherished marbles. Many of these he donated to the Capitoline Museum and to the Vatican, but the relief of Antinous he held among his most cherished possessions. It would have broken the good man's heart to have known that these statues were doomed to wander far from the home which he had provided for them. The French took possession of Italy, and the masterpieces of the Villa Albani formed only a fraction of the wholesale robberies which for a time enriched the museum of the Louvre.

On the fall of Napoleon the Pope chose the sculptor Canova as his envoy to negotiate with the allies for the return of the art treasures of Italy. Canova was successful, for he pleaded from a full heart; but although he secured the restitution of the two hundred and ninety-four statues which Napoleon had taken from the Villa Albani, Cardinal Giuseppe Albani, an unworthy successor of the great collector, sold all but one in order to avoid the cost of their return transportation. The poor peripatetic philosophers, emperors, empresses, gods, and goddesses trooped on like uneasy ghosts, not a few of them finding shelter in the Glyptothek at Munich.

The one piece of sculpture reserved from this fate of expatriation, and reinstated in triumph in its old position in the salon at the left of the main gallery of the villa, it is hardly necessary to state, was the relief of Antinous. Here it remains and lures us, according to our bent, to study or to dream of the life which its original so passionately lived, and instinctively we search for some statue of a woman of equal charm to link with it in our dreams.

Ebers thought he had found it in the loveliest of the nine muses which Ligorio discovered in the theatre of Hadrian's villa. In 1689 Velasquez was sent to Rome to acquire them for Philip V. Eight of them may still be seen in the Museum of Madrid, but the ninth muse, Urania, from which the d'Estes could not then be induced to part, is now in the Sala delle Muse of the Vatican. This is the Urania which Ebers imagines to have been carved by the young Alexandrine sculptor, Pollux, from the Selene whom we are told Antinous vainly loved.

The face is very winsome and the romance might satisfy us, but for a portrait-statue of a genuine Selene, found by Ligorio near the palazzita and now in the casino of the Villa Albani.


Museum of the Vatican Alinari

It is catalogued as Iris Descending, but mistakenly, says Monsieur Guzman, for Iris was invariably represented with wings, and this graceful figure is wingless, a torch in hand, and floating downward so gently that her motion scarcely agitates her soft drapery. Authorities are now agreed that the lovely figure represents Selene, the moon-goddess, who, enamoured with Endymion, kept tryst with him in his dreams, and a beautiful "Sleeping Youth" was actually discovered beneath the descending Selene, thus completing the composition and verifying the assumption as to its subject. That the recumbent youth was not at once recognised as intended to represent Endymion is due to the inability of the scientific mind to grasp more than one idea at a time, for the features bore so marked a resemblance to those of Antoninus Pius that it was rightly considered a portrait of that Emperor in his youth. Only recently have arch?ologists accepted the title, Antoninus Pius as Endymion and it seems probable that the Selene of Villa Albani portrayed the Empress Faustina, and that this group was a tribute of the Emperor's to his beautiful wife, his "Diva Faustina," who stooped to him like the moon-goddess from the sky. Is it not equally possible that he caused the symbols of Selene to be cut upon her signet that she might use it in her intimate correspondence, that the charm of this wonderful woman was associated in his mind with the magic of moonlight, gentle, love-compelling, and pure? Such a testimonial does in fact exist in a medal struck by the command of Antoninus Pius after the death of the Empress, representing Faustina bearing two torches, but returning to heaven, and depriving him of the light which had illumined their wedded life; and lest there should be any doubt that the deity typified in this apotheosis is Selene the Emperor caused the words Luna lucifera to be engraved beneath the name of Faustina.

The myth of the love of the lady-moon has nowhere been so exquisitely rendered as in the Endymion of Keats, and his description of the descent of Selene applies well to the moon-maiden of the Villa Albani:

"I raised

My sight right upward, but it was quite daz'd

By a bright something sailing down apace,

Making me quickly veil my eyes and face.

. . . . . . . . .

Her locks were simply gordianed up and braided

Leaving in naked comeliness unshaded

Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow.

. . . I see her hovering feet

More bluely veined, more whitely sweet

Than those of sea-born Venus when she rose

From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows

Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion,

'Tis blue and over-spangled with a million

Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed

Over the darkest lushest blue-bell bed

Handfuls of daisies."[11]

Faustina may have known Antinous before her marriage, while Hadrian still hoped to make him his successor, ere the clamours of the people forced him to make the wiser choice. Had Antinous been so favoured, is there any doubt whether Faustina would not have inclined to him instead of to the good man with the serious, anxious face, who was more than twice her age when he became her husband?

The statues of Antinous fully realise Keats's ideal of Endymion.

"His youth was fully blown

Shining like Ganymede to manhood grown,

A smile was on his countenance; he seemed

To common lookers-on like one who dreamed

Of idleness in groves Elysian

But there were some who feelingly could scan

A lurking trouble in his nether lip.

Then would they sigh, 'Ah! well-a-day

Why should our young Endymion pine away?'"

We know not on what authority Ebers links the name of Antinous, Endymion-like, with that of Selene. Was there some missive sealed by a moon-beam torch, or addressed to the lady moon which went astray and set the gossip of the Court crackling like a flame in dry grass? Or was it merely his aspiration for the throne of the C?sars which was signified by the common expression, "he longed for the moon," and not a love hopeless, but beyond his power to conquer for the unattainable Selene, which saddened his young life so deeply, and determined him to throw it away when the occasion seemed to demand the sacrifice.

Both research and fancy will lead you far, for it was in Egypt that the most dramatic part of the story was enacted, and that Antinous, believing that in so doing he saved Hadrian's life, launched forth upon the Nile during a terrific tempest, and standing erect in the unguided canoe sought a voluntary death in the storm-lashed waters.

The Emperor's grief was wildly extravagant. He gave the beautiful body a king's burial in a tomb flanked by obelisks and guarded by a sphinx; and he built about it a magnificent city which he called Antinopolis, a city which exists to this day though no man lives within its desolate columned streets.

But the deserted city has been identified in the ruins called by the Egyptians, Antin?. Its hippodrome, and theatres, and temple tomb have all been mapped by arch?ologists, and its Arch of Triumph, of Roman bricks faced with white marble, its long colonnades of Corinthian columns, and its melancholy waving palms have been photographed by troops of unreflecting tourists.

While erecting memorials to his friend, Hadrian was not unmindful of his own sepulchral monument, the present castle of St. Angelo. It served as a mausoleum for the imperial family. The ashes of Faustina (to whose memory her husband erected the beautiful temple bearing her name) were placed here, their urn guarded by two bronze peacocks, the emblems of an empress.

These peacocks with the pineapple, which crowned the summit of the tomb, now ornament the Court of the Belvedere of the Vatican, in whose galleries may be found some of the statues with which Hadrian decorated the upper colonnade of the mausoleum, and which were wrenched from their pedestals and toppled upon the heads of the Goths when Totila besieged Rome.

Gregorovius in his scholarly biography of Hadrian thus sums up his achievements and estimates his character:

"He ruled the empire like a noble Roman, with prudence and strength. He enjoyed life with the joy of the ancients. He travelled throughout the world and found it worth the trouble. He restored it and embellished it with new beauty. He was lavish on a great scale."

We certainly do not know what he thought of his whole life at the end of it. He might have agreed with the estimate of Marcus Aurelius: "All that belongs to the soul is a dream and a delusion; life is a struggle and a wandering among strangers, and fame after death is forgetfulness."

That he had some vague belief in the immortality of the soul the well-known poem written shortly before his death certainly shows:

"Animula, vagula, blandula;

Hospes, comesque corporis,

Qu? nunc abibis in loca;

Pallidula, rigida, nudula,

Nec ut soles dabis jocos?"

"Celestial spirit, evanescent fay,

Supernal guest and sharer of my might,

Wherefore and whither dost thou fly away,

Exquisite phantom, nude and ghostly white,

Never with me again to flit and play,

Never with me to play?"

Reluctantly, after all our search, we find that arch?ology, while it tells us much of Hadrian, leaves Antinous still a mystery.

The forsaken pleasure palace is silent and empty save for ghosts of the imagination. We see the imperial barges glide up the Nile as in a pageant, but it is all a wordless pantomime, though the beautiful immortal figure stands.

"Still there where he a thousand years hath stood

And watched, with gaze intent, the ages' flood

His graceful limbs reflecting, then as now

His lotus crown the sadness on his brow,

And races new in line unending glide

Along in shells upon the flowing tide;

But aye as they approach and look on him

Athwart their joy there falls a sorrow dim,

The citherns cease that rang as they drew nigh,

On glowing lips the jests and kisses die.

And, lo! the heart is seized by infinite woe,

With arms outstretched they gaze as on they go-

'O waken, boy! O waken from thy dream!

Say what thou seest below the ages stream,

Tell us, is life's enigma known to thee?

Give us thy own fair immortality!'

But ere he from his revery wakens they

Have with the river drifted far away."

View through the Key-hole of the Gate of the Villa of the Knights of Malta

* * *


A keyhole glimpse at Rome they show

'Twixt cypresses, a stately row,

Where all who pass are free to see

The villa of the Priory.

Here belted knights, with cross on breast,

In days of old were wont to rest,

And 'neath the ilex hedges tall

Oft paced the subtle Cardinal,

His robe upon the pavement cool

Mantling like some ensanguined pool.

St. Peter's keys, traditions tell,

Open the gates of Heaven and Hell.

O'er many a villa gate they 're shown,

With triple crown carved deep in stone.

If, then, you crave a fuller view

Than keyhole glimpses give to you,

Unlock and enter. You shall know

A Heaven of art, a Hell of woe.

the end

* * *


[1] His magnificent villa of Caprarola and the still more entrancing villa of Lante are linked with legends of Giulio Farnese and Vittoria Accoramboni in the author's Romance of Italian Villas, which with the Romance of the Renaissance Chateaux will be found supplementary to the present volume.

[2] From The Italian Rhapsody, by permission of Mr. Robert Underwood Johnson.

[3] Translated by E. Frère Champney.

[4] A song composed by Lorenzo de' Medici. "How lovely is our youth, and yet how fast it flies! Those who wish for joy must snatch it now. Trust not to to-morrow; seize it now, seize it now!"

[5] The earliest cards were not inscribed with hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades, but with swords, money, clubs, and cups. The same emblems are still used on the Spanish playing-cards.

[6] The French historians call him Richart de Cornouailles, the Italians Ricciardo.

[7] A stornello a fiore consists generally of a couplet beginning with an invocation to a flower, as:

Fior di limone!

Limone è agro e non si puoi mangiare

Ma son più agre le pene d'amore.

Fior di granato!

Se li sospiri mie fossere fuocco,

Tutto il mondo sarebbe buciato.

See also the stornelli in Browning's Fra Lippo Lippi of two of which Richard's are variants.

[8] Palliano or Pagliano, for the name is variously spelled.

[9] John Addington Symonds further relates in what strange ways fate fulfilled this prediction. "Disaster fell on each of the five brothers. The first of them, Ottavio, was killed by a cannon-ball at sea in honorable combat with the Turk. Another, Girolamo, who sought refuge in France, was shot down in an ambuscade while pursuing his amours with a gentle lady. A third, Alessandro, died under arms before Paris in the troops of General Farnese. A fourth, Luca, was imprisoned at Rome for his share of the step-mother's murder, but was released on the plea that he had avenged the wounded honour of his race. He died, however, poisoned by his own brother Marcantoni in 1599. Marcantoni was arrested on suspicion and imprisoned in Torre di Nona, where he confessed his guilt. He was shortly afterward beheaded on the little square before the bridge of St. Angelo."

[10] Hamilton was aided in his work by Piranesi whose engravings record the state of the ruins at this time.

[11] The same figure is depicted in the frescoes of Pompeii, and here the deep blue of an Italian night glittering with stars gives the added touch of colour.

* * *

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