Edward Wright is best known as the companion of George Parker (1694-1764), the future astronomer. Parker's journey to Italy from 1719 to 1722 was similar to the tours of many other XVIIIth century gentlemen. His tour is more remarkable for its patronage; he travelled at least in part to purchase works of art for the castle at Shirburn, Oxfordshire, which his father Thomas, Lord Macclesfield, had just bought. The young man's judgement in Italian art was greatly strengthened by meeting up in Bologna with his kinsman Edward Wright who had already travelled in Italy and had a reputation among English travellers as an artist. Wright used the tour with Lord Parker to build up his own collection and turned the accounts of their journeys, written home to the anxious father, into a book which appeared in 1730. It is only in part a travel account with specific references to events which occurred during the journey and more a guidebook which reflects other travels by Wright and descriptions of Italy by other authors. Wright was impressed more by modern than by ancient Rome: In all the Churches here there are, besides the great Altar several lesser ones carried on all along on each side the Church, sometimes inclosed in
Chapels, sometimes not: so that it is not uncommon to see half
a dozen or more Masses going on at once. These Chapels and
Side-Altars generally belong to particular Families, and are adorned after such a manner, as if their Owners were endeavouring to shew which should outdo the other in Magnificence, and
Richness of Ornament.
Excerpts from E. Wright, Some Observations made in Travelling through France, Italy &c. in the years 1720, 1721 and 1722, .
When we enter'd the City, the Postilion durst not set us down at the Inn -, but brought us strait to the "Dogana", or Custom-house, to have our Baggage search'd for contraband Goods, or prohibited Books; but they gave us little Trouble; a Small Gratuity made the Search very easy. We were pester'd much more with Crowds of Valets, wrapp'd up in their Cloaks; who are always there ready to offer their Service to Strangers upon their Arrival.
They allow Strangers more Liberty in their Churches at Rome, and, indeed, all over Italy, than in Flanders, and other Roman-Catholick Countries. They won't discourage those whose chief Business in their Country, generally speaking, is Curiosity, which they well know brings a good deal of Money among them. Besides, that the English, who they are sensible spend more freely than any other People, being for the most part what they call Hereticks, should not by any Incivilities be sowr'd into a further dislike of their Religion.
Clement XI. died the 19th of March 1721, after a Reign of twenty Years, and about three Months. He was esteem'd a Man of Learning, and affable Behaviour, and gave patient Audience to the Meanest: However, his Subjedts thought he had reign'd long enough. The Romans please themselves with the jubilee of a new Promotion; the Court-Favours are then to run in a new Channel, and every Man is in hopes of some Benefit by the Change. (..) The new Pope was proclaim'd the 8th of May by Cardinal Panfilio, who came to the Loggia della Benedizione, over the noble Portico which is at the Entrance into S. Peter's Church, there with a thundering Voice he spoke as follows: (..) "I bring you Tidings of great Joy; we have a Pope, the most Reverend Father and Lord Michael Angelo, Priest of the holy Roman Church, Cardinal de Conti (..) who has taken upon him the Name of Innocent XIII." (..) The new-created Pope was a Man very agreeable to the People of Rome as being a Roman born. Brother to the Duke of Poli, of a most ancient Family out of which they reckon twelve Popes to have been, since the Family-Name was Conti, and four more while it was Anicia the ancient Name of it, from which they say 'twas chang'd to Conti, from the great Number of Counts that were then of it, above a thousand Years ago. (..) The Cardinals have each their separate Cell in the Conclave, and there is all possible Caution us'd that no Letters or Notes be sent in to any of them -, for which purpose the Prelates are appointed by the Governour of the Conclave, to watch in their turns at all the several Avenues, and take care of that matter. The very Windows of the Conclave are made up with Brick, within a very little way of the Top, and that part clos'd with some Linnen Cloth which admits exceeding little either of Light or Air: The Want of the later often proves prejudicial to the Health of their Eminencies, some of whom are of too great an Age to be able to bear it; so that many fall sick, and some die in long Conclaves.
One pretty odd thing is observable among the Basso-Relievo's on the Brazen Gates, at the entrance. There are some Figures of Heathen Story intermix'd with the Foliage; Ganymede and the Eagle, Jupiter and Leda, etc. Whether they were taken from some Heathen Temple, I know not; but certainly they had been more suitable there.
The Beauty of the Altars is perfectly surprising, both for Materials and Workmanship. There is none strikes you more than that of S. Ignatius in the Grand Giesu, where is a Statue of that Saint in Silver seven foot high; the Ornaments of his Habit are set thick with Jewels. This is shewn only on great Days. At other times 'tis hid by a good Picture, which closes the Nich it stands in. The Architecture about the Altar is nobly design'd, and exactly executed; the Pillars on each side are fluted with Lapis Lazuli; the Capitals and Pedestals are of gilt Metal, and narrow Ribs of the same Metal go along between the Flutings. On the outsides of these, are noble historical and emblematical Sculptures in white Marble. (..) This is esteem'd one of the finest Altars in Rome.
The little Church of S. Andrea, belonging to the Noviciates of the Jesuits, is as beautiful as can be imagined. 'twas built by Bernini He seems to have taken his Thought from the Pantheon, particularly in his Disposition of the Altars. The Church is of an oval Figure, wherein perhaps he might industriously vary from the other, that the Imitation might not be so easily perceiv'd: but that seem'd to me the only thing one would wish otherwise in it. (..) No Cost has been spar'd in the adorning it. 'Tis all incrusted with the finest sorts of Marble, the Stucco-Roof adorn'd with Foliage gilt, and enliven'd with Figures of Angels and little Cherubs, is as beautiful as can be imagin'd: A little Cupola, in the middle, has a border round its bottom almost fill'd with exceeding pretty Heads of Cherubs; some vacant spaces are left, which seem ready to be supplied by others that are coming down along the sides of the Cupola. The Beauty and Richness of some of the Altars and Tabernacles, having their whole Friezes and other flat Parts of the finest-colour'd Lapis Lazuli, adorn'd with Foliages of Silver gilt, between the Parts whereof you see the beautiful Variety of Stones, are hardly to be expressed.
It is indeed but the Representation of a Cupola upon the flat Roof; it's made in that part of the Church, where, if real, it ought properly to be; and from the place mark'd out on the Floor, in the middle of the great Nave, to view it from, one would almost imagine it were so.
'Tis no wonder the Churches belonging to the Jesuits should be rich; some of those, even of the begging Orders, are so to a great degree. That called S. Maria della Vittoria belonging to the Carmelitani Scalzi, a bare foot Order, (..) is all overlaid with Marble, Gilding, Sculpture, and fine Painting: So rich have they taken care to make their Church, out of the Alms they receive; for they have no Possessions, but subsist altogether upon Charity, which I believe is scarce ever wanting to them: the Zeal of the People in that Country, excited by the Artifices of the Priests, is such, that many are open-handed to Them, whose own families suffer for it. (..) What makes the noblest Appearance, is the Chapel of S. Teresa. The Statue of that Saint dying away, and the Angel comforting her, in white Marble, is esteem'd one of the principal Works of Bernini: There is a wonderful Expression in the Countenance of the Saint; the Angel I did not so much admire. The Vault of this Chapel is finely painted by Baciccio, the Subject is a Glory, with Angels.
The modern Churches, and those especially which are dedicated to modern Saints, are adorn'd most. That of S. Catharine of Siena is a perfect Cabinet for Neatness, nothing is to be seen in it, but Carv'd-Work and Stucco gilt, Marble and Painting. They have a piece of good Husbandry, whereby they make a little Marble go a great way, only by Incrustation, as they call it, or cementing thin Flakes of it upon the Wall they would cover. The same Method was in use among the Ancients, as we have seen in some old Ruins. They cut it sometimes to not above a quarter of an Inch thickness, and dispose the Veins so, as to answer one another. (..) Thus, tho' there be a great deal of Labour in the Workmanship, a small quantity (comparatively) spreads over a whole Church; and has the same Effect to the Eye, as if the Wall were all of solid Marble. And it is necessary they should husband it thus in their finest Works, where they employ such sorts of Marble as are not the Growth of Italy, and are scarce (if at all) now to be had, except in the Ruins of old Temples, Palaces, Baths, Sepulchres, and other antique Monuments, for the adorning of which, Egypt and India were ransack'd, while the Romans were Masters of the World.
Another Art they have, of imitating Marbles, that the Difference is hardly to be perceived. It is done with what they call Scagliola, which is not unlike what I have seen here in England, called Spar, and by some Mater Metallorum, which is found in the Lead-Mines. With this Material, burnt and powder'd, and made into a Paste or Plaister, and so mixt up with proper Colours, they imitate Marble to a great Nicety and with this Mixture, in several Variations, some of the Churches are incrusted, and make much the same appearance as if they were incrusted with real Marble.
A sort of Trench goes along the back Part, and Side of the Palace, and over one part of it is a Bridge built by Bernini, in imitation of the Ruins of an old one: It is very safe passing over it, tho' by the Appearance one would not think so. A very ingenious Person who was with us, and one who had studied many Years in Rome, Architecture as well as Painting, (but had never happen'd to see this Bridge) was some time before he could be convinc'd that it was not a real Ruin; so well is it represented. As we were observing this Bridge, I happen'd to cast my Eye upon a Marble Inscription in one of the Walls of the Trench (..) I found the Inscription related to. Our Nation, and so I transcrib'd it, as follows. TI . CLAVDIO. CES. AVGVSTO. PONTIFICI . MAX . TR . P . IX COS . V . IMP. XVI . P.P. SENATVS . POPVL . Q . R . QVOD REGES . BRITANNIAE . ABSQ . ' VLLA . IACTVRA . DOMVERIT.. . GENTESQVE . BARBARAS PRIMVS . INDICIO . SVBEGERIT. (This Monument was erected by the Senate and People of Rome in honour of the Emperor Claudius on his having vanquished the British Kings without any Loss on his Side and subdued several other Barbarian Nations).
They lead you to it artfully enough, thro' a narrow blind Corridore, (..) when you find your self immediately in one of the most glorious Galleries in the World. The Cieling is vaulted, and painted in Fresco: the Subject is the History and Exploits of several of that noble Family, particularly the Victory of MarcAntonio Colonna over the Turks in the Levant. The Frames of the Windows are of Marble, and between them are pilasters of Giallo Antico, a sort of yellowish Marble, highly esteem'd; the Order is, Composite: The Capitals are of white Marble. Military Trophies of stucco gilt run up each side of these Pilafters. The Cornice, which goes round the Top, is all gilt likewise. At proper Distances are Panels for Pictures, fill'd with those of the best Masters. The Floor is, of all I ever saw, the finest in all respects. The Choice of the several sorts of Marble, which make the pavement is judicious and happy; the several Colours set off one another perfectly well: There is just so much variety of sorts as to divert the Eye, not to confound and distract it. (..) Lovely Marble Tables, with antique Statues, Busts, and other valuable and rich Furniture, are plac'd in the most agreeable manner all along on each side. (..) Here is likewise a wreath'd Pillar of Rosso-Antico with little Figures and Foliage. (..) These Princes, the Colonna's, by virtue of their Office of Constable, assist at some of the publick Ceremonies, at the right hand of the Pope. (..) The Apartments within are noble, and the Rooms well proportion'd: State and Grandeur they seem chiefly to aim at, to which they are content that Convenience shall sometimes give way. In the greatest Palaces, the Suite of Rooms one within another, with the Vista thro' the Marble Door-cases, is very magnificent.
In the Palazzo Massimi are two curious Pieces of antique Mosaic, representing Combats of the Retiarii and Secutores. In one of them are written the Names of the Combatants, Calendio and Astianax; the former being the Retiarius, and the later the Secutor: And 'twas he that got the Victory, as the Inscription tells us Astianax vicit tho' the other is represented there to have so much the Advantage, as to have thrown his Net quite over his Adversary.
There are four other smaller antique Vases with Basso-Relievo's on one side only of each; they stand at the four Corners of a little Square. They represent Hercules in the Garden of the Hesperides. A Triton carrying off a Nymph. A Faun picking a Thorn out of a Satyr's Foot. The fourth seems to be Venus and Adonis. (..) there is in it an antique Basso-Relievo, which is valued not so much for the Workmanship, for that is indifferent enough, but for the Subject: It is a Votum to Aglibolus and Malachbelus, Deities of the Palmyreans, by which are understood the Sun and Moon; for the Moon was sometimes worship'd as a masculine Deity.
Read What Dante Saw.
Read What Goethe Saw.
Read What Lord Byron Saw.
Read What Charles Dickens Saw.
Read What Henry James Saw.
Read What Mark Twain Saw.
Read What William Dean Howells Saw.
Read Dan Brown's Spaghetti Bolognaise (excerpts from Angels and Demons)