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‘ Vix tertium ingressus lustrum ingenio et natura non est Lippo (another youth of the
writer’s acquaintance)
absimilis: quin praeter litteras tum latinas tum graecas
impuber iste et lyram tractare et in ea canere, versus edere, et, —quod caecus non
potest, scribere, pingere, statuas atque signa fingere, sic per se magis ut puto duce
natura quam arte perdidicit, ut temporibus nostris omnibus illi tantis in rebus simul
possit meo judicio conferri nemo.’ (Letter of Matteo Bosso to Girolamo, the father of
Giulio, about 1494.)

The square shape around the seriffed letter T is formed out of interlacing ribbons with terminal foliation of acanthus leaves and pomegranate buds. The decoration is created in thin black lines, leaving the letters, vines, and leaves white. It appears to be a wood engraving.

THE fond admiration of his seniors paints for
us, in a few letters and verses, the figure of
Giulio Campagnola’s prodigious youth. At
eleven or twelve a scholar, a musician, a
singer, a poet, a painter, a sculptor in the
round and in relief; at thirteen not only
conversing freely in Latin and Greek, but
reading Hebrew ‘as if he had sucked its
                                                   principles with his mother’s milk’; able to
reproduce exactly the works of the most famous painters and to
equal their creations ‘if he liked to take the pains’; skilled in
making portraits ‘so like that you could always recognise them,’
he seemed to those friends securely chartered for illimitable fame,
a wonder of inspiration and untaught genius. We can see that, far
from being this child of solitary nature or miraculous grace, he
really grew up in a hot-bed of culture. His father, an official of
the Venetian rule in the city of Padua, was a scholar and dilettante
in his tastes, delighting in Ciceronian correspondence with his friends;
author also of a translation of the Psalms, of a tract on the Jews,’
of a volume in Praise of Virginity, and other excursions of learned
curiosity. He was, moreover, the student, under Squarcione, of art
inspired by a recovered antiquity, and dedicated to a collector friend
a description, now lost, of certain works of art then to be seen in

    In such a house a child of quick faculties would slip into an accom-
plishment in the arts as readily as in other surroundings a boy becomes
a cricketer or a shot. If speech were an art practised only here and
there, all children who could chatter would be prodigies. The arts
of painting and music were themselves in the vigour of their spring,
and must have swept many a boy into their train— mere playfellows of
that contagious youth. It is clear that Giulio became at least an accom-
plished mimic in painting. Of original work we have no trace, the two
miniatures on kid, described by the Anonimo of Morelli, being after


drawings by Giorgione1 and Diana. The same authority attributes to him
a pupil in painting, Domenico Veneziano by name, who also figures as
a copyist in that Paduan catalogue. It has been conjectured that this
Domenico was the well-known Domenico Campagnola, possibly a son,
brother, or other relative of Giulio; that some relation beyond the
name united them is certain, since two plates exist in which one and
the other had a hand. Domenico’s drawings and engravings, wrought
in free undulating lines, differ much in style from Giulio’s, but the
inspiration of his art has a common source with that of his namesake.

    It is as an engraver that Giulio Campagnola survives. His
signature on a few prints has secured his identity and made him dear
to the collector as the developer of an unusual stipple-technique. It
is within these technical limits that his invention would seem chiefly
to have worked; designs he was ready to adopt from Mantegna, Durer,
John Bellini; it amused him to refit figures taken from one, with a land-
scape from another, or vice versa, but he was the virtuoso and curious
craftsman whether making miniatures on kid or breaking up the burin
line into dots. Variations in technique, however, have their significance,
and this tentative of stipple is the response of engraving in sensitive hands
to the impulse of a new kind of painting. The Tuscan art of line was
the very stuff for the severe burin of a Marcantonio; the painting of Gior-
gione, with its tenderly fused and rounded forms, its lustre and shadow,
called on the graver for a new language if its essential beauty was to
be preserved. A more adequate answer to the problem was the mezzo-
tint technique, invented much later; stipple engraving is but a bastard
form, which became none the better for being systematised. But these
first gropings for a new method with the old tools in the work of Giulio
Campagnola have no little charm. The question of absolute originality
is of small importance. Dotted work with a punch and hammer was a
device of the engravers of metal work. In the work of several contem-
poraries or predecessors of Giulio there is an occasional use of the dot;
Durer has recourse to it here and there, as when he grains the block of
stone in his Melencolia by dabbing with the burin point; but Giulio so
used the procedure as to subordinate the line, cover it up, or replace it,
so that the main effect is one of stipple. The plate of the Flute-
reproduced here, shows a preparation in line finished in stipple;
parts of other plates are worked in stipple only.

    Consideration of these plates proves our artist no first-rate draughts-

1. The engraving of a nude woman by Campagnola may be this same design.


man; he is safest with the more easily conventionalised forms, such
as the weedy acanthoid growth of his foliage. This has a pretty
effect in the semi-heraldic stag chained to a tree; in a companion piece
of a grazing stag there is an odd mixture of more natural and more
arbitrary shapes. Stipple doubtless pleased him for this reason as
well as for others, that he could fumble for his drawing and leave
it vaguer.

    If it is interesting to see engraving arrested and groping before the
new character in painting that we associate with the name of Giorgione,
the chief interest after all in these plates lies in what they echo of the
master’s imagination. Any fragments overheard from that poet must
be welcome, even were the eavesdropper much less capable than Giulio.
The Flute-Player and the Woman at the Well, to name two, seem to
bear the authentic stamp. Not alone the greater truth of aspect in his
painting struck Giorgione’s contemporaries; they were captured or
repelled by his conception of the image, his dealings with the subject
of painting. The shock of this is measured by the puzzled vexation of
Vasari before the frescoes on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Naturalistic
rendering or ingenious solutions of problems like that of painting all
sides of a body at once he could appreciate, but over the subjects of
the new painting he shook his head like any ordinary modern painter or
critic in like case. ‘Giorgione,’ he says, ‘ set hand to the work accordingly,
but thought only of executing fanciful subjects, calculated for the
display of his knowledge in art, and wherein there is of a truth neither
arrangement of events in consecutive order nor even single representa-
tions depicting the history of known or distinguished persons, whether
ancient or modern. I, for my part, have never been able to understand
what they mean, nor, with all the inquiries that I have made, could
I find any one who did understand or could explain them to me.
Here is a man, there a woman, in different attitudes; one has the head
of a lion beside him, near another is an angel, but which rather resembles
a cupid, so that one cannot divine what it all means.’ Cut adrift from
the histories of eminent persons, he can find no significance in the
anonymous attitudes of here a man, there a woman, or in the angel
which rather resembles a cupid. Nor, perhaps, will it ever become
common property of thought that the language of painting, possessing,
as it does, no verb, is badly handicapped for narrative statement;
possessing no conjunction save ‘and,’ is ill fitted for logical statement.
With some strain of its resources, the art may suggest Eve and Adam
instead of Adam and Eve; but thus to present the objects conjoined in


one strict order does not come natural to it, and so simple an opposition
of thought as ‘Black but comely’ is beyond its scope.‘Black’ it can
give, and the features summed up in the judgment ‘comely’ — that is all.
What the mind can take and make of the sheer presence and expression
to the eye of silent, immobile things is the characteristic field of paint-
ing, and to make a merit of this still conjunction, so that vision feeds
and broods upon it in a speculation, independent of story or argument,
is the franchise and triumph of the art.

    Strung to a high pitch of this picture reverie, Giorgione peopled
his canvas with images of youth, of love-making, of music-making
in a golden air and a holiday world. Mr. Pater wrote his admirable
essay on the painter to the curious text that ‘all art constantly
aspires towards the condition of music.’ It is easy to see from his
examples what he meant by the formula, but the language is mis-
leading. The complete analogue of music exists in the arts of design
when form and colour are combined in arbitrary decoration. Painting
differs from these by employing images, and must aspire to a musical
condition at their expense. Now, there are certainly draughtsmen, the
forms of whose images do dissolve into caligraphic lines like a reflec-
tion carried away and twisted in running water; there are painters in
whose carpet of colour the image has little significance beyond a station
and a shape. But Giorgione is not one of these. If he shakes free of
‘events in consecutive order’ and ‘the history of known or distinguished
persons,’ it is that he may come at the figures dear to himself. They
and their setting are chosen with intense purpose and liking, and all
the decorative parts of painting are employed to recommend them
to our delight. Himself a musician when Venice was mad for music,
and her fiddlers, says Diirer, wept to hear themselves play, he paints
the piper and the lutanist. Beside them he paints all of the naked
beauty of women that he could compass in a romance of Arcadian
woodland. ‘Here there is a man, there a woman, in different atti-
tudes,’ the dream of an angel who rather resembles a cupid.

    But if Giorgione lifted painting from the stress of definite story,
conscious of its quiet and profound appeal independent of that interest,
he none the less profited by the accumulated signs and traditions of the
art to stimulate and guide the fancy. It is his secret that those pleasure-
parties retain something of a hieratic composure, each figure rapt into a
dream and absence, as if remembering that once it was a martyr or a
saint. The effect is that of hearing church music carried through the doors
to the river-side, or of the solemn hymn melodies that first served for


     dancing. And if we are to give to Giulio Campagnola a part in the
invention of these pieces, it is perhaps certain witty afterthoughts of
combination, more pointed still, that we owe to him. We find a liking in
his work for the epigram of a death’s-head, or, as in the plate given here,
an old man slipped in at the feet of piping youth. In a version by
another engraver the old man does not appear. And we might sup-
pose his the daring scene-shifting by which the pipers are banished from
the well side, and the Woman, lingering, is confronted by another figure.1
The figure intended is poorly acted by this mincing person, a fact which
goes to heighten the probability that he is an intruder; but it was an apt
trick of fancy playing upon the Giorgionesque Woman at the Well that
turned her back into religious history and hit on the most credible part
for her to play. The Prophet has put to flight the piper, and comes to
trouble that easy Samaritan mind. If the figure of the
Woman be Giulio’s own, we have done scant justice here to an artist
capable of great conceptions.
                                                                                                D.S. MACCOLL.

    ❧ Note.—For a full list and description of the plates ascribed to
Giulio Campagnola, students may be referred to an article by Galichon
in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1st series, vol. xiii. Galichon, adding
considerably to the lists of Bartsch and Ottley, brings up the number
to fourteen. To these may be added the Grazing Stag of the British
Museum collection, which he does not catalogue. This collection, not
counting copies and different states, contains eleven plates, among them
the unique Child with Cats. Waagen states that there are drawings by
Giulio at Chatsworth. There are many by Domenico, and several that
may be Giulio’s, catalogued under other names, Italian or Flemish.
But without more knowledge of the man’s style of drawing, it is
impossible to identify these with any certainty. In the Museum of
Rennes, however, there is a drawing of two dismounted cavaliers in a
landscape, labelled ‘Campagnole’ by some collector, and very probably
Giulio’s. The delicate scratchy style differs altogether from Domenico’s.
In the same frame a drawing labelled ‘Campagnole dit le vieux’ is pro-
bably by Giulio after Mantegna. It should be possible, with a little
study, to add examples from other collections. There is said to be
one at Christ Church, Oxford.

1. In the ordinary treatment of the scene, as in the story itself, the Woman finds the Saviour
at the Well.

MLA citation:

MacColl, D.S.. “Giulio Campagnola.” The Pageant, 1897, pp. 136-142. Pageant Digital Edition, edited by Frederick King and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2021. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021.