Monday, March 11, 2013

The Children

Cantoria (singing gallery) by Luca della Robbia, from the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, now in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. Photographed in 2009.
      Longfellow said, "Ah, what would the world be to us if the children were no more?" for in their hearts "are the birds and the sunshine." in their thoughts "the brooklet's flow." In Florence there stands in the museum one of the best sermons in stone the world has ever enjoyed. "Frozen music" indeed are these exquisite "Singing Children" of Della Robbia.

      Just of the Via Propose, in Florence, that city called most appropriately the Lily of the Arno," is a narrow street wherein is located the Bargello. This building is veritable casket enclosing priceless treasures: a very sermon in stone, this mass of carving, this play of light and sunshine over the old columns and courts. Standing here since before the memory of man, history tells us it was erected for the chief magistrate of Florence and was renovated in 1373.
      Pass through the court of the stairway and loggia where Dante walked. Here we come to the superb Hall of the Judges, and find that for which we seek--the "Singing Children" of Luca Della Robbia. These exquisite carvings were executed for the organ loft of the cathedral. The choristers now rest in this magnificent hall. The figures of these animated children are an interesting study, separately or in groups. The merry faces; the dancing bodies; the eager fingers holding the choir books or instruments of music; the parted lips singing praises to the Lord.

Serene in the rapturous throng,
Unmoved by the rush of the song,
With eyes unimpassioned and slow,
Among the dead angels, the deathless
(Children) stand listening breathless
To sounds that ascend from below--
From the spirits on earth that adore,
From the souls that entreat and implore
In the fervor and passion of prayer;
From the hearts that are broken with 
And weary with dragging the crosses
Too heavy for mortals to bear.

      The creator of these exquisite carvings was Luca Della Robbia, born in 1388 in Florence. The world rolls on leaving behind a wide track of history. Here in the peaceful city, the quietly flowing river, the beautiful Arno, rolls murmuringly by this treasure-house on this narrow street, this home of the "Singing Chilren." Within, near the blue arch of heaven, the singing and dancing and playing girls and boys lift up their silent timbrels, as they have been doing during these centuries, as if in Easter rejoicing.
      The world rolls on, up the slopes of progression, and the world of art fills with pictures of beautiful children, good to look upon. Madonnas and the Christ child, playing children and singing children, mirthful children and sorrowful children. Truly what would this world be without children!

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