The Last Judgment, by Orcagna
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Many of the features of this ancient fresco were imitated by Fra Bartolommeo, and especially by Michelangelo in his stupendous painting of the same subject in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican at Rome, notably the posture of the judge whom you see surrounded by an almond-shaped glory with his right hand uplifted and having the Virgin Mary in the position of honor on his right hand. The twelve apostles, six of whom are placed on either side of the Lord and the Virgin, are not in Michelangelo's work, but the company of the Blessed which you see below and on the right of the judge, and the suffering souls seen in the abode of the lost on his left, are reproduced by him, There is no doubt but that the great master found both inspiration and suggestion in this old painting, and, as we have shown, in some respects he followed it closely.
In these old frescoes which adorn the walls of this Palace of the Dead, it is to be regretted that there is so little that is joyous and inspiring. Most of them have for their supreme purpose the making of death as a horrible nightmare in the imaginations of men, and the thought of the grave as something ghastly and revolting. It remained for later centuries to make to shine out the sweetness and light of the teachings of Scripture, and the clearer apprehension of its words. Such paintings as these have lost much of their power over the minds of men, and yet we must not overlook the fact that they have their lessons to teach, and it is not to be wondered at if, after five hundred years, they seem to us to impart them in a grotesque and perfunctory way.
Just about the time the frescoes we have been studying in the Campo Santo at Pisa were being painted, Pisa began to decline rapidly as a great naval, commercial and artistic center; and immediately there followed the marvelous development of Florence which finally reached its height in the work of Fra Angelico and Michelangelo, and which remains to-day as the chief glory of that city. In-deed the decay of Pisa stimulated the growth of Florence in a marked degree, for the seaport of Pisa was superseded by Leghorn, whose inland trade was directed to Florence, situated as it was on the main road between Germany and Rome.
" Other, though not many, cities have histories as noble, treasures as vast, but no other city has them living and ever present in her midst, familiar as household words and touched by every baby's hand and peasant's step, as Florence has." Therefore, whatever else we see or leave unseen in Italy, we can-not afford to ignore the " Lily of the Arno."
" O Florence, with thy Tuscan fields and hills,
A glance at the general map of Italy shows Florence fifty miles inland from Pisa. On the map of Florence, Map No. 9, the principal sections of the city are given in outline. The Arno River flows from east to west, dividing the city into two unequal parts, the greater part lying on the river's north bank. Our first position and field of vision are given by the two lines which start from the lower right-hand corner of the map, and branch toward the northwest. The number 77 is found at the end of these lines and at the point from which they start.