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vouchsafed to the piety of St. Bernard, or the angelic theology of Thomas Aquinas.
But as to the works of art now before us, the few early pictorial representations of the Virgin, as dwelt upon by M. Rossi, they are of two kinds; one of the Virgin Mother with her Child in her lap, or on her bosom; the other as a female in the attitude of supplication, or as M. de Rossi would fondly believe, of intercession. As to the latter M. de Rossi is obliged, by that natural candour which he cannot shake off, to acknowledge that it may be no more than what it appears to our profane eyes, a female, possibly a martyr, or one of the faithful women in the attitude and act of adoration ; or still more probably, an impersonation, by no means uncommon in the earliest periods, of the Church. But though M. de Rossi fairly admits all this, by some strange process of reasoning, because in some passages of the most poetical or metaphorloving of the Fathers, the Church was represented as a Virgin, and by others an analogy drawn between the Virgin Mother and the Virgin Church, therefore he would assume that these are premature representations of the Virgin herself. So bold a conclusion from such scanty premises we have rarely known.
The former, the Virgin with the Child, are in truth simple Bible illustrations of the first chapters in the Evangelic History. In almost all it is the adoration of the Magi; it is the worship of the Child not of the mother. In one of these, that from the cemetery of Domitilla, the worshipping Magi are four. The theory that they were three, though M. de Rossi cites many earlier instances, does not appear to have been rigorously established. The number, as we know, is not declared in the Gospels. Is it not probable that the three were settled in conformity with the three oblations? One, as we often see, bears the gold, another the incense, the third the myrrh, as the tribute of different Eastern nations. After all, may not the four be here, as M. de Rossi suggests, to balance and give symmetry to the design. On some sarcophagi, it may be
added, appears the Child laid in the manger, in his swadddling clothes, with the mother near him, and the ox and the ass, once thought only to belong to later compositions, in mute adoration. No instance of this has been found in the catacomb paintings.
The adoration of the Magi appears again in a lunette of an arcosolio in the cemetery of S. Peter and S. Marcellinus. Here it is remarkable that the head of the Virgin is without a veil. This is supposed to indicate her virginity, as unmarried maidens did not wear the veil. In this there are only two Magi, looking much less kingly and less Oriental than in later art.
The third picture is the one which has been so often copied, from a lunette in an arcosolio in the cemetery of S. Agnese. This is familiar to all inquirers into ancient Christian art. It appears in Bishop Munter's “Sinnbilder der alten Christen;' who does not scruple to recognize in it a representation of the Virgin. It represents a female with uplifted hands, as in prayer, with a child in her lap. But the style of art, verging towards the Byzantine, and other indications noted by M. de Rossi, especially the double monogram, which rarely appears before the unfolding of the Labarum by Constantine, clearly prove that this is the latest of the four paintings of the Virgin, and dates assuredly after the peace of the Church under Constantine.
There remains the first, on which M. de Rossi lavishes all his ingenuity, and indeed rests the whole strength of his case. It was found on the vaulting, over a “loculo' in the cemetery of Priscilla. The chromo-lithograph is of the size of the original. Another of these chromo-lithographs exhibits the whole vaulting with the other paintings which cover it, and deserves our serious attention. Half of the centre of this (of one-half unfortunately the plaster has entirely fallen away and left no trace of the design) is occupied by the Good Shepherd carrying the lost sheep to the fold; the other two animals on each side of him are figured in relief of the finest white stucco,
as is the trunk of the tree, of which the branches, foliage, fruit, and flowers are only painted. It seems to us rather a bold conjecture to suppose that the obliterated half of the picture represented the female, whatever she be or signifies, in the attitude of prayer, because this figure is more than once the “pendant’to the Good Shepherd. And M. de Rossi here cites a parallel case, which seems to us altogether at issue with his interpretation of the praying female. On a sarcophagus in the Lateran, which has the Good Shepherd balanced by the praying female, appears over the female the name IULIANE. Now as this was the name of the person deposited in the sarcophagus (as appears by an epigraph from her widowed husband) it is clear that in this instance it represents the departed wife, whose piety is thus innaged forth. To return : in another part, on the right-hand side, of the • loculo,' there is a group to which a more commanding personage, almost obliterated, appears to point, of singular interest. The group consists of three figures; one a female in the attitude of prayer, with a long tunic and pallium ; the second, a man in a short tunic and pallium, also with his arms uplifted as in adoration; the third a youth about ten years old,—this figure is less perfect. We at once made a bold conjecture, anticipating, we rejoice to say, the interpretation of M. de Rossi, as to the Scriptural scene here represented, the return from the visit to the Temple, where our Lord, at twelve years old, disputed with the Doctors. “Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.' Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business ?' Of the same size with this (the chromo-lithograph is that of the picture) is the important painting on which M. de Rossi dwells with such satisfaction. The Virgin Mother is seated with her Divine Son in her lap ; above her, faint but still distinctly to be traced, is the star always seen in the representations of the Adoration of the Magi. In the front, to the left, is the figure of a man, youthful, with a few thin hairs
We accept M. de Rossi's description of the three figures; which seems to us from the print somewhat doubtful.
on his cheeks, standing up clothed only in a pallium, with his hands pointing at the star above the Virgin and Child; he holds the volume of a book in his hand. Who can this
represent ? St. Joseph ? That Saint, though usually represented in later times as advanced in years, sometimes, as we are informed, appears as a beardless youth. But why the book ? M. de Rossi suggests (and we accept his interpretation with hardly a doubt) that it represents one of the prophets of the Old Testament pointing at the star, and so signifying the fulfilment of prophecy. We had thought of Balaam ; M. de Rossi inclines to Isaiah, and cites an authority for the prophet's youth in a glass ornament (vetro), described in P. Garrucci's curious work. There are not wanting pictures and sculptures which bear close analogy to this, as a painting, described by Bosio, where the Virgin is seated before two towers, with a figure behind, which is supposed to designate the towers of Bethlehem where the Child was to be born. Be this as it may, we have before us nothing more than what perhaps may not be strictly called a scene from the Evangelic History, but, as it were, a symbolic picture, founded on a real scene. nearly resembles those typical pictures so common in early Christian art; Jonah prefiguring the Resurrection, Moses striking the rock, in all which there is ever something more than a mere representation of the scenes in the Old Testament, ever a constant reference to their bearing on the Gospel. In short, we see no reason why the most scrupulous Acatholic, as by a courteous euphemism we are called in the preface to this work, may not gaze on this picture with as profound interest as the most devout worshipper of the Virgin. Of that worship, there is in the design not a shadow of a shade ; the adoration is all centered on the child Jesus. Our own illustrated Bibles (Mr. Longman's or Mr. Murray's) may, without fear, transfer it to their pages.
The age of this picture M. de Rossi labours to raise, if not to that of the Apostles, to a period closely bordering upon it. It cannot at any rate be later than the Antonines. Into one of
our author's arguments we fully enter. Its rare beauty shows a time when Roman art was yet in its prime, before it had begun to degenerate into that rude and coarse conception and execution which gradually, during the third and fourth centuries, darkened towards the Byzantine. We are the last to doubt that the accomplished student of early Christian art, with the countless specimens which are now multiplying around him, collected, and examined and compared with such eager and emulous zeal, may acquire that fine perception which can assign probable dates for their execution. Yet there must still be limits to this critical divination ; some uncertainty will cleave to the soundest judgement. The individual artist may be later than his age, as he may be before his age. The sense of beauty and the skill, as they rose to precocious life, so may still linger in some chosen votaries.
Where the periods are defined, and marked by great names, each with his distinctive character; where the advance or degradation may be traced through numerous and undoubted examples, as in the history of Greek sculpture or Italian painting, we receive the decisions of the wise without mistrust. But it seems far more questionable, whether any taste however sensitive, any knowledge however extensive, can peremptorily discriminate between the Flavian age and the age of the Antonines, or even that of the immediate successors of the Antonines, especially in Christian art, of which, after all, the examples are comparatively few, and far from perfect; and where the employment of Pagan artists may in some cases have continued longer, in others been sooner proscribed and fallen into desuetude.
But while we treat M. de Rossi's artistic argument with much respect, he must permit us to say that his historical argument for the antiquity of these paintings, however ingenious, seems to us utterly worthless.
It rests on very doubtful legend, on the forced association of names, arbitrarily brought together. Our doubts would require more room than his statement, for every step in his reasoning seems to us liable