Bolognese to the art of the fifteenth century (that radiant and adorable Quattrocento, when the fervid, ingenuous souls of artists turned so eagerly and enquiringly to Nature), to those works of freshness and sincerity in which truth and fancy, the real and the ideal are so artlessly intermingled ; that springtide of beauty, the touching candour of which breathes a perfume as of eternal youth.
Compared with these old masters who give themselves up so simply to their inspiration, allow their hearts to speak, and so achieve real eloquence, the Bolognese seem to me amazingly clever orators, erudite and sympathetic, who substitute science for emotion, and only manage to construct fine phrases, empty and sonorous. Their works are pretentiously dramatic.
True, they accumulate a vast number of things on a canvas and the action appears intense; but on closer examination, we see it is a factitious life, due to studio formulas. And yet these works were the delight of the eighteenth century, that age of taste and intelligence. There where I see nothing but skill and declamation, the subtlest of mankind admired fire and passion. To the artists of those days Bologna was a capital of art no less than Rome ; the most delightful of our own masters learned their craft there.
It is true that the seventeenth century had demolished many of the masterpieces of the Primitives, and exalted the Baroque and Jesuit styles. We must not be too absolute. In works of art there is much that we add ourselves, and we love them in proportion to the manner in which they respond to our sentiments, our conceptions, our personal ideals.
We men of letters see beauty in the things that move us. We can only offer subjective criticism—not the worst kind of criticism, perhaps. We do not care for a picture because of the difficulties overcome or the skill displayed by the painter, tout because it stirs our emotions. And may the history of the Bolognese always remind us that it is dangerous to judge for eternity !
Link (here) to the 19th century and early 20th century French composer Gabriel Faure, his book is entitled, Wanderings in Italy.
Listen to Gabriel Faure's music for Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 (here)