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nastery of the Benedictine sisters, at Parma, a chamber painted in fresco, by the immortal Corregio, had got gradually into public circulation. At first it was deemed to be nothing more than the malicious gossip of some neighbouring convents, which represented the fresco as a most unholy exhibition, reflecting on the memory of a certain abbess, who flourished in the sixteenth century, and whose history had been traditionally preserved in the district over which she had exercised considerable sway. The fresco chamber had remained shut up for nearly two hundred and eighty years : or, if open to the nuns, its splendid pictures were but ill appreciated by the victims of bigotry, whose suppressed sensibility left them incapable or unwilling to receive those fine impressions which the works of genius are sure to impart to the cultivated and tasteful.

By degrees, however, this painted chamber began to excite the attention of the curious; and, at an epoch when the works of Corregio had reached their highest estimation, the celebrated Mengs, with some difficulty, obtained

permission to visit the interior of the convent, a sanctuary usually closed against “unblessed soles." In 1780, he published a letter on the subject, declaring the frescoes to be amongst those capi d'opera of Corregio which had secured his immortality. To this opinion Antonio Bresciani, professor in the academy of Parma, and Batti, of Geneva, who had obtained a similar permission, bore ample testimony. But when the posthumous works of Mengs appeared, all reference to the frescoes was omitted in the pages devoted to an analysis of the works of the painter of the Graces.

The world of virtù was again thrown into a vortex of doubt; and one must have lived in Italy, and seen how bad institutions can confine the mind to trivial subjects, to understand the commotion into which a whole community can be thrown by such a doubt.

Tiraboschi came forward on behalf of Corregio, to claim those splendid works, (of which the Italian public heard so much and had seen so little) as new triumphs of his genius. He endeavoured to reconcile the silence of Mengs with the declarations of Bresciani and Batti, by supposing that the former had not spoken of the frescoes, because he

had found them in a state of decay and partial obliteration. Signior Michali, with more probability, supposes that the silence of Mengs arose from the melancholy event of his death, which occurred immediately on his return from Parma to Rome, and which might have prevented those additions to his simple notices of the frescoes of St. Paul, which would have set the question at rest. But the question, so important to half the academicians and all the virtuosi of Italy, was not set at rest until the summer of 1795, when a commission of four artists of eminence was formed to visit the convent, with permission of the order, and to examine the frescoes, and pronounce a judgment by which the world of taste was resolved to abide.

From the judgment of the commission of artists there was no appeal the frescoes were assigned to Corregio. But their subjects—the most profane though eminently classical subjects, who had chosen them ? Vasari declared that Corregio had never studied at Rome-that he was ignorant of the sublime models furnished by the genius of antiquity! and that the humble and unfortunate . disciple of the dry school of the rude Mantegna, drew his first and only inspiration from the sight of that work of Raphael, which extorted the celebrated exclamation of “E sono pittore anche io!" Still the works of Albaro are not more classical, more poetically ideal, and more purely modelled on the antique, than those frescoes painted by Corregio in his early youth, which were doomed to the oblivion of two hundred and eighty years.

There is one of the subjects, more particularly, which appeared to have been more freshly drawn, from the pages of Homer. It represents a female suspended by a cord, her arms tied above her head, and two anvils of gold hung from her feet. This was the punishment inflicted by Jupiter on Juno in the presence of all the gods.

It was thought that some arrière pensée lurked in this representation of the summary punishment inflicted by the old church of the antique world upon its refractory daughters, and that it was meant to hit on the severity with which the rebellious mothers of the Christian church, the powerful abbesses of the fifteenth century, were occasionally treated by the Jupiter of the Vatican. All the subjects of these pictures, indeed, were so at variance with those usually selected by Corregio, or deemed admissible into such holy retreats as the convent of St. Paul's, that the whole appeared an inexplicable mystery. The laborious efforts of Italian virtù, however, at last discovered that the inspirer of the young and ardent Corregio was Giovanna of Piacenza, whose early encouragement and direction of a genius vainly struggling against penury, identified her name with the history of the arts, and probably gave to Italy the most brilliant of her artists.

At the period alluded to, the abbesses of the great and highly endowed Italian monasteries were powerful princesses of the church, commensurate in wealth and influence with the great lords of the conclave themselves. Chosen for life, they not only administered the immense revenues of their convent uncontrolled, but lived with a splendour and luxury, which occasionally degenerated into absolute licentiousness and boundless extravagance. The spiritual authority with which they were endowed, the jurisdiction they possessed over the persons submitted to their rule, extending even to

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