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The Accademia c. 1850 11/08/2011

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c. 1850

The collection of the Academy of Fine Arts is not extensive, nor is it interesting or valuable, but in a strictly historical point of view. In that light it is interesting and instructive; invaluable to any historian of art. The purpose of the institution was to present on its walls an unbroken series of works, from the earliest glimmerings of art in the twelfth century, down to the close of the sixteenth. The design has been successfully carried out, and there are few artists of Tuscany in all that time who are not represented there in their works. When I looked at the earliest pictures of those earliest times, appearing like the drawing and coloring of the old Egyptians and Mexicans, or the unskilful daubings of children, I received new impressions of the reality of the darkness of the dark ages. I saw how all that had been done in art in the previous ages by the Greeks, &c., had all as much perished out of the knowledge and memory of mankind as if it had never existed – and how it was no figure of speech that the people of those days had just awakened from the sound sleep of centuries. When Cimabue and Giotto first drew and painted, they were as ignorant as our North American savages that art had ever existed before. It was not till the accidental discovery of the treasures buried in the soil of Rome had furnished them with models, and it had also occurred to Giotto to make copies of his own sheep and goats, that art, from those two sources, received for the second time its birth.

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