KNIGHTS OF ART
STORIES OF THE ITALIAN PAINTERS
BY AMY STEEDMAN
AUTHOR OF 'IN GOD'S GARDEN'
ABOUT THIS BOOK
What would we do without our picture books, I wonder? Before we knew
how to read, before even we could speak, we had learned to love them.
We shouted with pleasure when we turned the pages and saw the spotted
cow standing in the daisy sprinkled meadow, the foolish looking old
sheep with her gambolling lambs, the wise dog with his friendly eyes.
They were all real friends to us.
Then a little later on, when we began to ask for stories about the
pictures, how we loved them more and more. There was the little girl in
the red cloak talking to the great grey wolf with the wicked eyes; the
cottage with the bright pink roses climbing round the lattice window,
out of which jumped a little maid with golden hair, followed by the
great big bear, the middle sized bear, and the tiny bear. Truly those
stories were a great joy to us, but we would never have loved them
quite so much if we had not known their pictured faces as well.
Do you ever wonder how all these pictures came to be made? They had a
beginning, just as everything else had, but the beginning goes so far
back that we can scarcely trace it.
Children have not always had picture books to look at. In the long ago
days such things were not known. Thousands of years ago, far away in
Assyria, the Assyrian people learned to make pictures and to carve them
out in stone. In Egypt, too, the Egyptians traced pictures upon the
walls of their temples and upon the painted mummy cases of the dead.
Then the Greeks made still more beautiful statues and pictures in
marble, and called them gods and goddesses, for all this was at a time
when the true God was forgotten.
Afterwards, when Christ had come and the people had learned that the
pictured gods were not real, they began to think it wicked to make
beautiful pictures or carve marble statues. The few pictures that were
made were stiff and ugly, the figures were not like real men and women,
the animals and trees were very strange looking things. And instead of
making the sky blue as it really was, they made it a chequered pattern
of gold. After a time it seemed as if the art of making pictures was
going to die out altogether.
Then came the time which is called 'The Renaissance,' a word which
means being born again, or a new awakening, when men began to draw real
pictures of real things and fill the world with images of beauty.
Now it is the stories of the men of that time, who put new life into
Art, that I am going to tell you men who learned, step by step, to
paint the most beautiful pictures that the world possesses.
In telling these stories I have been helped by an old book called The
Lives of the Painters, by Giorgio Vasari, who was himself a painter. He
took great delight in gathering together all the stories about these
artists and writing them down with loving care, so that he shows us
real living men, and not merely great names by which the famous
pictures are known.
It did not make much difference to us when we were little children
whether our pictures were good or bad, as long as the colours were
bright and we knew what they meant. But as we grow older and wiser our
eyes grow wiser too, and we learn to know what is good and what is
poor. Only, just as our tongues must be trained to speak, our hands to
work, and our ears to love good music, so our eyes must be taught to
see what is beautiful, or we may perhaps pass it carelessly by, and
lose a great joy which might be ours.
So now if you learn something about these great artists and their
wonderful pictures, it will help your eyes to grow wise. And some day
should you visit sunny Italy, where these men lived and worked, you
will feel that they are quite old friends. Their pictures will not only
be a delight to your eyes, but will teach your heart something deeper
and more wonderful than any words can explain.
GIOTTO, ... Continue reading book >>