Letter from CHARLES ELIOT NORTON to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated February 2, 1871.
My dear Sir
A few weeks since, being at Orvieto, I went to the church of San Domenico in that city, for the purpose of seeing the famous monument of the Cardinal de Braye one of the finest & most interesting of the few authentic remains of the work of Arnolfo da Cambio. I found the church, no longer used for religious services, in a deplorable state of dirt & neglect, and the monument of the Cardinal bearing marks of recent injury. I was told that, on occasion of the late passage of troops through Orvieto on the expedition to Rome, the church had been occupied as barracks for the soldiers, and that the injury to the tomb was due to their hands.
A piece of the marble canopy above the body of the Cardinal was broken off, and numerous bits of the mosaic ornament had been picked out. The injury done is not yet irreparable, but it may soon become so if the tomb be left without proper protection, & if the church should again be occupied by soldiers.
I cannot doubt that the enlightened authorities who have in charge the historic monuments of Italian art would instantly see to the conservation of so precious a work of Italian genius, if their attention were called to the imminent peril of its destruction,--and I write to you in the hope that you may be able to present the facts in the proper quarter.
In the first volume of Crowe and Cavalcaselle's well known "New
of Painting in Italy, the authors say "Most of the works assigned to him, (Arnolfo) have perished, except the tomb of Cardinal de Braye, executed according to Della Valle in 1280, at S. Domenico of Orvieto." p. 138
And in a note to the life of Arnolfo in the first volume of Lemonnier's edition of Vasari (p. 256) the commentators say "Tra le opere degne di memoria, e certe, che fece Arnolfo una fu il deposito del Cardinal di Braye, in San Domenico di Orvieto; nel quale lavorò di musaico, di scultura e di architettura magnificamente."
I cite these passages merely to show the esteem in which the work is held by competent judges, and its importance as a memorial of the art of the good age.
I am, with the highest
respect & regard,
Faithfully YoursCharles Eliot Norton.His ExcellencyThe Hon. George P. Marshc.c.c.
References in this letter:
Arnolfo di Cambio (1232?-1300?), a Florentine architect, was responsible for the monument to Cardinal de Braye (died 1282) in the south transept of the church of San Domenico in Orvieto.
A New History of Painting in Italy, from the Second to the Sixteenth Century, was published by Joseph A. Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle in 1864. A German version is in Marsh's library.
Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) published Vite de' Pi Eccelenti Pittori, Scultori, ed Architetti Italiani, the most important source book for the history of Italian Renaissance artists, in 1550.