"Andrea del Sarto (Called 'The Faultless Painter')"
This dramatic monologue is narrated by Renaissance painter Andrea del Sarto to his wife Lucrezia. They live in Florence. Andrea begs Lucrezia that they end a quarrel over whether the painter should sell his paintings to a friend of his wife's. He acquiesces to her wish and promises he will give her the money if she will only hold his hand and sit with him by the window from which they can survey Florence. He admits to feeling a deep melancholy, in which "a common grayness silvers everything" (line 35), and hopes she can pull him from it. He tells her that if she were to smile for him, he would be able to pull himself from such sadness. Andrea considers himself a failure as an artist, both because Lucrezia has lost her "first pride" (line 37) in him and because he has only one talent: the ability to create faultless paintings. Though many praise him for creating flawless reproductions, which he admits he does easily, with "no sketches first, no studies" (line 68), Andrea is aware that his work lacks the spirit and soul that bless his contemporaries Rafael and Michel Agnolo (Michelangelo). Considering himself only a "craftsman" (line 82), he knows they are able to glimpse heaven whereas he is stuck with earthly inspirations. He surveys a painting that has been sent to him and notes how it has imperfections he could easily fix, but a "soul" (line 108) he could never capture. He begins to blame Lucrezia for denying him the soul that could have made him great, and while he forgives her for her beauty, he accuses her of not having brought a "mind" (line 126) that could have inspired him. He wonders whether what makes his contemporaries great is their lack of a wife. Andrea then reminisces on their past. Long before, he had painted for a year in France for the royal court, producing work of which both he and Lucrezia were proud. But when she grew "restless" (line 165), they set off for Italy, where they bought a nice house with the money and he became a less inspired artist. However, he contemplates that it could have gone no other way, since fate intended him to be with Lucrezia, and he hopes future generations will forgive him his choices. As evidence of his talent, he recalls how Michelangelo once complimented his talent to Rafael, but quickly loses that excitement as he focuses on the imperfections of the painting in front of him and his own failings. He begs Lucrezia to stay with him more often, sure that her love will inspire him to greater achievements, and he could thereby "earn more, give [her] more" (line 207). Lucrezia is called from outside, by her cousin, who is implicitly her lover, and Andrea begs her to stay. He notes that the cousin has "loans" (line 221) that need paying, and says he will pay those if she stays. She seems to decline the offer and to insist she will leave. In the poem's final section, Andrea grows melancholy again and insists he does "regret little… would change still less" (line 245). He justifies having fled France and sold out his artistic integrity and praises himself for his prolific faultless paintings. He notes again that Lucrezia is a part of his failure, but insists that she was his choice. Finally, he gives her leave to go to her cousin. Analysis
"Andrea del Sarto" is unique in Browning's dramatic monologue oeuvre because of its incredibly melancholic tone and pessimistic view of art. The voice, as well-drawn as usual, falls into blank verse, unrhymed, mostly iambic lines, but lacks the charisma of most of Browning's speakers. It's a fitting choice, since the character's basic approach to his dilemma is a rational, dialectical one – he follows several lines of thought in trying to find who or what is to blame for his unhappiness, reasoning through each option until he wears himself out. The piece veers between extreme moods and thoughts without any clear separations, suggesting the rhythm of depressive, desperate thought....
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