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porticos are divided by columns, and their arches and cornices are ornamented by small statues, busts, foliage, and bassi-rilievi in terra cotta finely modelled and executed. The court of the fountain is also richly decorated with bassi-rilievi in terra cotta, and has a very pretty effect. We brought a cold collation with us, which was spread on a table in the centre of this court; and our Italian servants with that natural taste for the picturesque which appertains to them, ornamented the repast with flowers plucked from the neglected gardens of the monks.
We spent a long summer's day at the Certosa, one of those summer's days only to be seen or felt in Italy; where the blue heavens above us produce an exhilaration of spirits that precludes gloomy reflections, though it disposes the mind to calm contemplation. A gentle breeze fanned the leaves of the stately trees around, and waved the long grass springing up between the stones of the pavement; the cows feeding in the park, lowed as the hour for yielding their rich milk approached; the voices of the playful children of the custode mingled with the sounds, as they frolicked gaily about; and there rose that stately façade, the glories of the setting sun throwing tints, half golden, half crimson over its sculptured wall, as we threw on it our last and lingering look.
We saw to-day a basin and ewer the work of Benvenuto Cellini, and exquisite they are. They
are proved to have been the identical “bacino e bacealetto,” presented to Francis I., by an engraving of them shown us by Signor Morose, executed during the life of that sovereign. The basin and ewer do not appear to me to have been intended to match, the subjects being totally different; nor, truth to say, though I know this opinion may be deemed an unpardonable scepticism, do they seem to have been designed or executed by the same hand. The basin is ornamented by an inimitably chiseled representation of the seasons, and the occupations of rural life. These reminded me of the charming Idyls of Gessner; and the beauty of the grouping, and the care
: bestowed in the execution of it, evince the artist's love of his subject. The ewer is adorned by heroic emblems and figures, and the chiseling struck me as being much less sharp than that of the basin.
We were told that these admirable works were sold at the melting price, that is, as old silver; and that within a recent period the sum of three thousand pounds had been offered for them. The Duke of Devonshire it is said wishes to become their owner, but so large a sum (five thousand pounds) is demanded for them, that no purchaser has yet been found. Good as is the taste of the Duke of Devonshire, and vast as is his fortune, both are considerably exaggerated in France and Italy; where every dealer in curiosities imagines that in his Grace will be found a ready buyer of any thing rare, however enormous may be the price demanded for it.
We went yesterday to Monza, and took with us an order to see the celebrated iron crown. On the road we passed through Greco; and stopped to view some very fine frescos by Bernardino Luini.
The town of Monza, though silent and deserted, is full of interest, as offering so many traces of the Lombards; and this very silence and solitude is not only in harmony with the aspect of the place, but better disposes the mind to the contemplation of the objects it contains, and the reflections they awaken.
The royal villa is outside the town, and is approached by a long avenue of stately trees. It owes all the beauty of its apartments and grounds to the good taste of Prince Eugène Beauharnois, who rendered it a most agreeable residence, and who loved to resort to it as a refuge from the cares of state. The history of Psyche, by Appiani, ornaments the orangery, and has a very good effect.
The cathedral, founded by Theodolinda, contains many curious objects, but none to which so much interest is attached as the iron crown; that crown which encircled the brow of the chosen husband of Theodolinda, bestowed on him unsought, by her who was compelled to the delicate and painful office of announcing to him the honour she designed to confer on him, and which bound the laurelled brows of Charles V. and Napoleon.
Theodolinda evinced a woman's wit and grace in the mode she adopted for making the overture of her hand to Agigulphus : nevertheless the task must have been a trying one to feminine feelings. I ventured to hint this to one of the monks, who was relating the anecdote; but he gravely reminded me that the queen was a widow, and consequently not so timid or bashful as if she had not previously been married. “ Besides, Signora,” added he,
queens have no refusals to dread, and this Theodolinda well knew."
The following was the mode adopted by Theodolinda to offer her hand to Agigulphus. She ordered a precious cup, never used except by her royal self, to be filled with the rarest wine, and having taken a portion of its contents, she presented it with her own hand to him she had selected as her husband. Some persons are malicious enough to assert, that in placing it in his hand, she allowed hers to give it a gentle pressure: while others insist that she turned towards his lips the side of the cup that her's had touched, in order that he might not by any possibility misunderstand her intentions, and so compel her to the painful necessity of avowing them by words. But these surmises, (for they cannot be more than surmises) must be mere scandal ; and I, for one, can never believe that the fair Theodolinda could commit such solecisms in feminine delicacy, as either to press the hand of Agigulphus, or turn to him the side of the cup which her lips had touched.
One thing, however, is quite clear, that Theodolinda must have been greatly beloved by her subjects, or they would not have authorized her to offer, not only her hand, but what they perhaps thought much more important, her crown, to any husband she might select: an example which I fear is not likely to be followed in modern times, in those countries where the Salique law does not exist, and in which subjects are so ungallant, as to leave nothing, save their hands and hearts, at the disposal of their queens; a want of gallantry which places the husbands selected in a much less enviable position than that filled by Agigulphus.
The iron crown, so designated from a ring of iron, made of the nails of the cross on which the Saviour suffered, is incased in gold, and beheld from such a distance, as to offer only a glittering object flashing through the fumes of incense from the censers of the priests, and the less pleasant smoke of the torches held up to display it. The crown is contained in a huge cross placed over the altar, and is never touched without the celebration of a religious ceremony.
A priest, in full canonicals, attended by two others bearing torches, and some half-dozen white robed boys, entered the church, the priests prostrated themselves before the altar, and prayed, while the sacristan mounted by a ladder to the cross, opened it, and displayed the crown.
To atone for not letting us see the real crown nearer, we were permitted to examine a copy of it;