13 JULY 1850, Page 16


5th June 1850.

M. Rorroa—Let me now beg of you for truth's sake to insert this letter. Raving been requested to state what I knew of the portrait of Dante dis- covered. in Florence, I replied, that I was well acquainted with the facts relating to the search, the discovery, the loss of the picture through the restorations of Marini, the part Mr. Kirkup took, before, cluring, and after the search; and that I had seen the fac-simile made from the tracing of (Motto's painting. There is no one who is interested in these matters who does not know Mr. Kirkup as one of the most untiring and studious men in all things directly or indirectly connected with Dante. But as I did not wish the ques- tion to rest upon my bare assertion, I wrote to Mr. Kirkup. I was asked if I would permit the publication of his answer; and in a second letter of his, on the 4th of February, I received free permission to make use of the state- ments contained in his first, "as they were true" : I consigned both letters to the same gentleman, who, instead, translated a part of the letters. Those letters, Sir, are still at your disposal in regard to the facts. I feel, however, obliged here to rectify three errors committed in the translation. The first is, "returning to Mr. Bezzi, hearing of the success from my two friends" ; instead of which, Mr. Kirkup says in his letter, "hearing of the success, he (Bezzi) went (egli andh da) to two of my friends and announced to them his triumph,"&c. There is a great deal of differ- ence between the two. Secondly, Mr. Kirkup says, "Marini was then permitted to return to the work on account of the Government; and at that time Bezel returned to England." It was some months afterwards that "he heard," not "I heard," (" send " a non " io eentii,") "that Marini had found certain figures, and soon afterwards the discovery of Dante himself." This correction destroys a point which Mr. Aubrey Bezzi makes one of the principal arguments to show how little Mr. Kirkup was concerned. The third arises out of this passage—" Spoiled by the prisons constructed" ; an error which, for the love of truth, we will do what Signor Bezzi does not think it his duty to do, that is, to correct it. It lies in the laudatory inscription on the portrait at Colnaghi' a. Signor Kirkup

states, " There were no constructed prisons there : first it was a chapel, then a clispensa or larder ; we, however, found it full of Indian corn, herbs, bread,

salumi," &c. ; which shows at least that Mr. Kirkup was one of the first to enter in the place where the portrait was. Moreover, he says expressly, " I went among the first to see it."

To show how much Mr. Kirkup was interested, it will suffice to read that part of his letter that has been published, where he gives a true account of

the portrait of Dante, which Mr. Bezzi does not ; but only cites names of persons who had entered into the field ,as Mr. Kirkup had said from the

first. And we, believing that the reason was our quality of foreigners, prayed two Florentine friends to lend their names" ; and then, lower down- ' Government, believing that the search interested the nation, took it upon itself, on our own conditions with Marini " ; and those persons knew Mr. Bezzi, since he occupied himself with the petition and the formation of the society, with other necessary steps; " and in this part," says Mr. Kirkup, "he did more than we others did."

The only point remaining in question is—from whom did the idea first spring ? The persons whom Mr. Bezzi names, and whom he may name as well as Mr. Wilde's friend, cannot state if the conversation with this latter gentleman took place before or after that with Mr. Kirkup. Mr. Kirkup emphatically says, " I told him at my house of the existence of that portrait, and he voluntarily united himself with me for the necessary expenses and steps

to find it. He had never heard of the existence of that portrait, as he then confessed. The day after he came to propose the iunetion of another person of my acquaintance of this object. This was Mr. Wilde, an American ; whom I accepted with pleasure as our associate in the affair." Mr. Bezzi says this is not true. "It was Mr. Wilde and not Mr. Kirkup who first spoke to me of this buried treasure." Thus ii,. no way could it be Mr. Bezzi who was the promoter of the search. Mr. Wilde is dead. Mr. Bezzi u,ntil now has as- sumed the credit of being the principal, and even in his own answer he says that Mr. Kirkup a assisted materially', ; as if the latter were a secondary person. I have not at hand the documents concerning the question between Signor Bezzi and Mr. T..asinio. But in the Athenceum, No. 1071, May 6, 1848, Mr.

Latilla writes from Florence with reference to the letter of Mr. Bezzi in the Athenceum of February 5th—" I beg to state on the authority of Mr. rirkup, that he himself first proposed the cleaning of the frescoes to Mr. Beni, who entered warmly into the subject, and took much trouble in drawing up me- morials to the Government. This is confirmed by authorities here, well ac- quainted with the particulars, who all agree in acknowledging Mr. Kirkup as the first mover, and Mr. Bezzi as the active manager." Signor Bezzi has never ventured to contradict this.

In the New Guide of Florence for 1845, by Fantozzi, architect, at page 248, I find this passage—"The celebrated Professor Missirini, in his Memoirs of Dante, returned with warm language to propose it [the search for the pic- ture], and he had the satisfaction to see his patriotic desires crowned with success; for the distinguished Englishman, Mr. Seymour Kirkup, a passionate Dentists, after having in vain sought the effigy of Alighied portrayed by the said Giotto at Santa Croce, turned all his thoughts to this in the chapel of the palace of the Podesti. Having communicated his projects to Mr. Bezzi, a Piedmontese man of letters, and they being united with the Honourable Henry Wilde, an American, who was collecting new materials to illustrate the life of the great poet, they proposed to pursue at their own expense the

intended project; and they would have effectuated it., if our Government had not ordered the attempt should be carried out at the charge of the pub- lic exchequer. The account of these facts was eomrounicated to me by the eminent painter Signor CavaliersCarlo Ernesto Livered."

The principal point concerning the Dante of Giotto seems to be this— What has become of the discovered portrait? as that alone was the object of the search. Mr. Bezzi at last confesses that he knows nothing of this, and allows that he never saw it; and appears at Colnaghi's as the prinhipal party, with his name fixed to a copy of the portrait of Dante ruined in the restoration. Mr. Kirkup says—" I saw Marini, under the direction of the

Minister of Public Works, who was by his side : he filled the hole' and niade a new eye, too little, and badly drawn ; and then he retouched the whole

face and clothes, to the great damage of the expression as well as the cha- racter and costume. The likeness of the face is changed; and the three co- lours in which Dante is dressed, the same with those of Beatrice, those of Young Italy, white, green, and red, are no longer there. The green is turned to chocolate colour- moreover, the farm of the cap is lost and confused." Mr. Kirkup has rendered a great service to Italy by giving the only account, and the only tracing, showing in what condition the portrait of Dante was be- fore its restoration. Mr. Bezzi, perhaps unaware of these circumstances, asso- ciates himself in what was done, and has thus unconsciously convicted him-

self of promulgating a false portrait, when he says, "The Commissioners employed the painter Marini, and the happy result of his carefulness and ability are now before the world." From all this it is easy for any one to judge who it is that has acted the principal part with regard to Dante's portrait, and to give each his due. As one thing leads to the demonstration of another, and conduces to the evidence of truth, I hold it to be my duty to adduce all the facts that can show the truth of that which I have asserted. In a letter of mine on the

National Gallery, on the 30th of January, in the Morning Post, I quoted part of a letter from a deceased friend, George Cutnming Scott, member of the Archaiological Society of London, addressed from Toronto, November 29th 1840, to the architect Catalani at Naples. He says, to speak of Italy alone, "Of what artistic treasures has she not been plundered ! not by the

hands of strangers, as you have oftentimes said, but by her own eons"; and further on he adds—" Yes, the hand of the destroying and defiling Vandal has been and still is in full activity; and there isno object however sacred, nor tradition however dear, that can escape the devastating scourge !" On his arrival in the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom, the Austrian Emperor, in his sovereign munificence, and in order to resuscitate the fine arts, or- dained a Commission of Academicians to see what pictures at Venice and its states had need of being restored ; the true mode of destroying the me- mory of past greatness. Restorers were sent everywhere. At 'Vicenza, the famous painting, the Baptism by Giovanni Bellini in the church Santa Corona, was reduced to a corpse. In Venice, at the Ducal Palace, I have seen the pie- tures of Paolo Veronese " restored ' in a horrible fashion. I could not refrain from expostulating ; and I was answered, "We are paid little, and must work quickly: At Rome, Camuccini, Director of the Museum of the Vatican, cut off the "glory" from the St. Sebastian of Titian. At Florence, the barbarism was committed of "cleaning" (as one would clean rusty iron) the chefs d'ceuvre of art, for instance, the David of Michael Angelo, and the St. George of Donatello, &e. At the Bargello, the portrait of Dante painted by Giotto is discovered, to be lost for ever through -being restored. In London, at the National Gallery, the principal pictures are ruined by the recent cleaning in a unique fashion. I ask of Mx. Aubrey Bezzi, if he approves of these Vandalisms, or at least that of restoring the portrait of .Dante, or the pictures in the National Gallery in London ? If he does, he either passes judgment on himself, or else will be forced to call our age the age of hype-

criy, the age of deception, at least for the fine arts.

History hangs a great judgment over us, and it will be tremendous ! But when it will be answered, we shall be no more.