Le Voyage de Charles Magius

This extraordinary volume, created in 1578, may be said to have contained the travels and adventures of Charles Magius (Carlo Maggio), a Venetian noble. The volume consists of only eighteen pages, and is composed of a series of highly-finished miniature paintings on vellum, some executed by the hand of Paul Veronese. Each page, however, may be said to contain many chapters; for, generally, it is composed of a large centre-piece, surrounded by ten small ones, with many apt inscriptions, allegories, and allusions; the whole exhibiting romantic incidents in the life of this Venetian nobleman. But it is not merely as a beautiful production of art that we are to consider it; it becomes associated with a more elevated feeling in the occasion which produced it. The author, who is himself the hero, after having been long calumniated, resolved to set before the eyes of his accusers the sufferings and adventures he could perhaps have but indifferently described: and instead of composing a tedious volume for his justification, invented this new species of pictorial biography. The author minutely described the remarkable situations in which fortune had placed him; and the artists, in embellishing the facts he furnished them with to record, emulated each other in giving life to their truth, and putting into action, before the spectator, incidents which the pen had less impressively exhibited. This unique production may be considered as a model to represent the actions of those who may succeed more fortunately by this new mode of perpetuating their history; discovering, by the aid of the pencil, rather than by their pen, the forms and colours of an extraordinary life. It was when the Ottomans, in about 1571, attacked Cyprus, that Magius was charged by his republic to review and repair the fortifications. He was afterwards sent to the pope to negotiate an alliance: he returned to the senate to give an account of his commission. Invested with the chief command, at the head of his troops, Magius threw himself into the island of Cyprus, and after a skilful defence, which could not prevent its fall, at Famagusta he was taken prisoner by the Turks, and made a slave. His age and infirmities induced his master, at length, to sell him to some Christian merchants; and after an absence of several years from his beloved Venice, he suddenly appeared, to the astonishment and mortification of a party who had never ceased to calumniate him; while his own noble family was compelled to preserve an indignant silence, having had no communications with their lost and enslaved relative. Magius now returned to vindicate his honour, to reinstate himself in the favour of the senate, and to be restored to a venerable parent amidst his family; to whom he introduced a fresh branch, in a youth of seven years old, the child of his misfortunes, who, born in trouble, and a stranger to domestic endearments, was at one moment united to a beloved circle of relations. The volume is held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.






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