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Title: Rembrandt
Author: Menpes, Mortimer Luddington, 1855-1938
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rembrandt" ***

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1637. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]









Although I am familiar with Rembrandt's work, through photographs and black
and white reproductions, I invariably experience a shock from the colour
standpoint whenever I come in touch with one of his pictures. I was
especially struck with that masterpiece of his at the Hermitage, called the
_Slav Prince_, which, by the way, I am convinced is a portrait of himself;
any one who has had the idea suggested cannot doubt it for a moment; it is
Rembrandt's own face without question. The reproductions I have seen of
this picture, and, in fact, of all Rembrandt's works, are so poor and so
unsatisfactory that I was determined, after my visit to St. Petersburg, to
devise a means by which facsimile reproductions in colour of Rembrandt's
pictures could be set before the public. The black and white reproductions
and the photographs I put on one side at once, because of the impossibility
of suggesting colour thereby.

Rembrandt has been reproduced in photograph and photogravure, and by every
mechanical process imaginable, but all such reproductions are not only
disappointing, but wrong. The light and shade have never been given their
true value, and as for colour, it has scarcely been attempted.

After many years of careful thought and consideration as to the best, or
the only possible, manner of giving to those who love the master a work
which should really be a genuine reproduction of his pictures, I have
adapted and developed the modern process of colour printing, so as to bring
it into sympathy with the subject. For the first time these masterpieces,
with all the rich, deep colouring, can be in the possession of every
one--in the possession of the connoisseur, who knows and loves the
originals but can scarcely ever see them, and in that of the novice, who
hardly knows the emotions familiar to those who have made a study of the
great masters, but is desirous of learning.

At the Hermitage in St. Petersburg I was specially privileged--I was
allowed to study these priceless works with the glass off and in moments of
bright sunlight--to see those sweeps of rich colour, so full, so clear, so
transparent, and broken in places, allowing the undertones to show through.

I myself have made copies of a hundred Rembrandts in order to understand
more completely his method of work. And in copying these pictures certain
qualities have been revealed to me which no one could possibly have learnt
except by this means. Rembrandt worked more or less in two stages: first,
by a carefully-painted monochrome, handled in such a way as to give texture
as well as drawing, and in which the masses of light and shade are defined
in a masterly manner; second, by putting on the rich, golden colour--mostly
in the form of glazes, but with a full brush. This method of handling
glazes over monochrome has given a gem-like quality to Rembrandt's work, so
much so that you might cut out any square inch from any portion of his
pictures and wear it as a jewel. And in all his paintings there is the same
decorative quality that I have before alluded to: any picture by Rembrandt
arrests you as a decorative patch--the grouping and design, and, above all,
the balance of light and shade, are perfect.


_July 1905._













1. Portrait of a Slav Prince    _Frontispiece_

2. Portrait of a Woman of Eighty-three

3. A Rabbi Seated, a Stick in his Hands and a High
Feather in his Cap

4. The Holy Family with the Angels

5. Portrait of a Savant

6. An Old Man with a Long White Beard, Seated, wearing
a Wide Cap, his Hands folded

7. Rembrandt leaning on a Stone Sill

8. Reconciliation between David and Absalom

9. An Old Woman in an Arm Chair, with a Black Head-cloth

10. Minerva

11. Titus in a Red Cap and a Gold Chain

12. Portrait of an Old Lady, Full Face, her Hands folded

13. Portrait of an Old Lady in a Velvet Hood, her Hands

14. Flora with a Flower-trimmed Crook

15. The Descent from the Cross

16. A Young Woman in a Red Chair holding a Pink in her
Right Hand

_The illustrations in this volume have been
engraved and printed at the Menpes Press._




Imagine a man, a citizen of London, healthy, middle-aged, successful in
business, whose interest in golf is as keen, according to his lights and
limitations, as the absorption of Rembrandt in art. Suppose this citizen,
having one day a loose half-hour of time to fill in the neighbourhood of
South Kensington, remembers the articles he has skimmed in the papers about
the Constantine Ionides bequest: suppose he strolls into the Museum and
asks his way of a patient policeman to the Ionides collection. Suppose he
stands before the revolving frame of Rembrandt etchings, idly pushing from
right to left the varied creations of the master, would he be charmed?
would his imagination be stirred? Perhaps so: perhaps not. Perhaps, being a
man of importance in the city, knowing the markets, his eye-brows would
unconsciously elevate themselves, and his lips shape into the position that
produces the polite movement of astonishment, if some one whispered in his
ear--"At the Holford sale the _Hundred Guilder Print_ fetched £1750, and
_Ephraim Bonus with the Black Ring_, £1950; and M. Edmund de Rothschild
paid £1160 for a first state of the _Dr. A. Tholinx_." Those figures might
stimulate his curiosity, but being, as I have said, a golfer, his interest
in Rembrandt would certainly receive a quick impulse when he observed in
the revolving frame the etching No. 683, 2-7/8 inches wide, 5-1/8 inches
high, called _The Sport of Kolef or Golf_.


1634. National Gallery, London.]

Is it fantastical to assume that his interest in Rembrandt dated from that
little golf etching? Great events ofttimes spring from small causes. We
will follow the Rembrandtish adventures of this citizen of London, and
golfer. Suppose that on his homeward way from the Museum he stopped at a
book shop and bought M. Auguste Bréal's small, accomplished book on
Rembrandt. Having read it, and being a man of leisure, means, and grip, he
naturally invested one guinea in the monumental tome of M. Émile Michel,
Member of the Institute of France--that mine of learning about Rembrandt in
which all modern writers on the master delve. Astonishment would be his
companion while reading its packed pages, also while turning the leaves of
_L'Oeuvre de Rembrandt_, décrit et commenté, par M. Charles Blanc, de
l'Academie Française. This sumptuous folio he picked up second hand and
conveyed home in a cab, because it was too heavy to carry. Now he is fairly
started on his journey through the Rembrandt country, and as he pursues his
way, what is the emotion that dominates him? Amazement, I think.

Let me illustrate the extent and character of his amazement by describing a
little incident that happened to him during a day's golfing at a seaside
course on the following Saturday.

The approach to the sixteenth green is undeniably sporting. Across the
course hangs the shoulder of a hill, and from the fastnesses of the hill a
brook gushes down to the sea through the boulders that bestrew its banks.
Obliged to wait until the preceding couple had holed out, our citizen and
golfer amused himself by upturning one of the great lichen-stained
boulders. He gazed into the dank pit thus disclosed to his eyes, and half
drew back dismayed at the extraordinary activity of insect life that was
revealed. It was so sudden, so unexpected. Beneath that grey and solemn
boulder that Time and man accepted as a freehold tenant of the world, that
our citizen had seen and passed a hundred times, a population of experts
were working, their deeds unseen by the wayfarer. Now what is the meaning
of this little story? How did the discovery of that horde of capable
experts strike the imagination of our golfer? The boulder was Rembrandt.
The busy insects were the learned and patient students working quietly on
his behalf--his discoverers and recoverers. He had passed that boulder a
hundred times, his eyes had rested cursorily upon it as often as the name
of Rembrandt in book or newspaper had met his indifferent gaze. Now he had
raised the boulder, as he had lifted the Rembrandt curtain, and lo! behind
the curtain, as beneath the boulder, he had discovered life miraculously

Reverence for the students of art, for the specialists, for the scientific
historians, was born within him as he pursued his studies in Rembrandt
lore. Also he was conscious of sorrow, anger, and pride: sorrow for the
artist of genius who goes down to his grave neglected, unwept, unhonoured,
and unsung: anger at the stupidity and blindness of his contemporaries:
pride at the unselfish industry and ceaseless activity of the men who, born
years after, raise the master to his throne.


1645. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

In the year 1669 an old Dutchman called Rembrandt dies in obscurity in
Amsterdam. So unmemorable was the death deemed that no contemporary
document makes mention of it. The passing of Rembrandt was simply noted,
baldly and briefly, in the death-register of the Wester Kerk: "Tuesday,
October 8, 1669; Rembrandt van Ryn, painter on the Roozegraft, opposite the
Doolhof. Leaves two children." Yet once, while he was alive, before he
painted _The Night Watch_, he had been the most famous painter in Holland.
Later, oblivion encompassed the old lion, and little he cared so long as he
could work at his art. Forty years after his death, Gerard de Lairesse, a
popular painter, now forgotten, wrote of Rembrandt--"In his efforts to
attain a yellow manner, Rembrandt merely achieved an effect of
rottenness.... The vulgar and prosaic aspects of a subject were the only
ones he was capable of noting." Poor Gerard de Lairesse!

To-day not a turn or a twist of his life, not a facet of his temperament,
not an individual of his family, friends, or acquaintances, not the
slightest scrap of paper bearing the mark of his hand, but has been peered
into, scrutinised, tracked to its source, and written about voluminously.
The bibliography of Rembrandt would fill a library. Several lengthy and
learned catalogues of his works have been published in volumes so large
that a child could not lift one of them. His 450 pictures, his
multitudinous drawings, his 270 etchings, their authenticity, their
history, their dates, the identification of his models, have been the
subjects of innumerable books and essays. Why, it would have taken our
golfer three months just to read what has been written about one of
Rembrandt's pictures--that known as _The Night Watch_. He might have begun
with Bredius and Meyer of Holland, and M. Durand-Greville of France, and
would then have been only at the beginning of his task. People make the
long journey to St. Petersburg for the sake of the 35 pictures by Rembrandt
that the Hermitage contains. He is hailed to-day as the greatest etcher the
world has ever known, and there are some who place him at the head of that
noble triumvirate who stand on the summit of the painters' Parnassus,
Velasquez, Titian, and Rembrandt. Having browsed and battened on Rembrandt,
and noted the countless cosmopolitan workers that for fifty years have been
excavating the country marked on the art map Rembrandt, you can perhaps
understand why our golfer likened the work of his commentators to the
incessant activity that his upturning of that grey, lichen-covered boulder


1645. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

But had our golfer, brimming with the modern passion for efficiency,
learned foreign tongues, and browsed in the musty archives, he would have
discovered that there was much to unlearn. The early scribes piled fancy
upon invention, believing or pretending that Rembrandt was a miser, a
profligate, a spendthrift, and so on. "Houbraken's facts," we read, "are
interwoven with a mass of those suspicious anecdotes which adorn the plain
tale of so many artistic biographies. Campo-Weyermann, Dargenville,
Descamps, and others added further embellishments, boldly piling fable upon
fable for the amusement of their readers, till legend gradually ousted

All this and much more he would have had to unlearn, discovering in the end
the simple truth that Rembrandt lived for his art; that he loved and was
kind to his wife and to the servant girl who, when Saskia died, filled her
place; that he was neither saint nor sinner; that he was extravagant
because beautiful things cost money; that being an artist he did not manage
his affairs with the wisdom of a man of the world; that he was hot-headed,
and played a hot-headed man's part in the family quarrels; and that he was
plucky and improvident, and probably untidy to the end, and that he did his
best work when the buffets of fate were heaviest.

The new era in Rembrandt literature began with Kolloff's _Rembrandt's Leben
und Werke_, published in 1854. This contribution to truth was followed by
the works of Messrs. Bürger and Vosmaer, by the lucubrations of other
meritorious bookworms, by the studies of Messrs. Bode and Bredius, and
finally by M. Émile Michel's Life, which is the definitive and standard
work on Rembrandt. Our golfer, whose French is a little rusty, was
delighted to find when he gave the order for this book that it had been
translated into English under the editorship of Mr. Frederick Wedmore. It
was in the third edition.

He learned much from M. Émile Michel--among other things the herculean
labour that is necessary if one desires to write a standard and definitive
book on a subject. Not only did M. Michel visit and revisit all the
galleries where Rembrandt's pictures are displayed in Russia, France,
England, Sweden, Denmark, and North Germany, but he lived for several years
with Rembrandt, surrounded by reproductions of his pictures, drawings, and
etchings, and by documents bearing on their history, his mind all the while
intently fixed on the facts of Rembrandt's life and the achievements of his
genius. Gradually the procession of dates and facts took on a new
significance; the heterogeneous threads of information wove themselves into
the fabric of a life. M. Michel is the recoverer-in-chief of all that truly
happened during the sixty-three years that Rembrandt passed upon this

Every dead painter, poet, or writer of genius, has had his Recoverer. A
searchlight has flashed upon all that Charles Lamb said, did, or wrote.
Every forerunner who inspired Keats, from the day when he took the _Faerie
Queene_ like a fever, and went through it "as a young horse through a
spring meadow, romping," has been considered and analysed. You could bury
Keats and Lamb in the tomes that have been written about them. With the
books of his commentators you could raise a mighty monument of paper and
bindings to Rembrandt.

All this is very right and most worthy of regard. We do not sing "For they
are jolly good fellows" in their honour, but we offer them our profound
respect and gratitude. And our golfer, in his amateurish way, belongs to
the tribe. He has approached Rembrandt through books. His temperament
enjoyed exploring the library hive marked Rembrandt. Now he feels that he
must study the works of the master, and while he is cogitating whether he
shall first examine the 35 pictures at St. Petersburg, or the 20 in the
Louvre, or the 20 at Cassel, or the 17 at Berlin, or the 16 at Dresden, or
the 12 in the National Gallery, or the etchings and drawings in the print
room of the British Museum, or the frame of etchings at South Kensington,
so accessible, I drop him. Yes: drop him in favour of another who did not
care two pins about the history or the politics of art, or the rights or
wrongs of Rembrandt's life, but went straight to his pictures and etchings,
wondered at them, and was filled with an incommunicable joy.



Suppose our citizen and golfer, deliberately dropped in the preceding
chapter, had a child, a son, who by a freak of heredity was brooding and
imaginative, fond, in a childish way, of pictures and books, but quite
indifferent to scientific criticism and the methods of the analytic men.
During his school holidays his mother would take him to the pantomime, and
to the National Gallery. Dazed, he would scan the walls of pictures,
wondering why so many of them dealt with Scriptural subjects, and why some
were so coloured, and others so dim.


1631. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

But after the third or fourth visit this child began to recognise
favourites among the pictures, and being somewhat melancholy and mystical
by nature, liking trees, beechwood glades, cathedral aisles, and the end of
day, he would drag upon his mother's arm when they passed two pictures
hanging together in the Dutch room. One was called _The Woman taken in
Adultery_, the other, _The Adoration of the Shepherds_. These pictures by
Rembrandt attracted him: they were so different from anything else in the
gallery. He did not trouble to understand their meaning; he did not dwell
upon the beauty of the still figure of Christ, or note that the
illumination in _The Adoration of the Shepherds_ proceeded from the
supernatural light that shines from the Infant Jesus. What captivated him
was the vastness contained in these small pictures, and the eerie way in
which the light was separated from the dark. He had never seen anything
like it before, but these pictures made him long to be grown up and able to
seek such sights. He could see the lurking shadows alone in his bed at
night, and held his breath when he thought of the great darkness that
stretched out to the frames of the pictures. He wondered if temples were
really as mysterious and dim as the great building that loomed above the
small dazzling figure of the kneeling penitent and that horrid man who, his
mother told him, was one of her accusers.

When she came into his bedroom to see that he was safely tucked up for the
night, this child asked his mother why Rembrandt's pictures were so
different from the pictures of other painters.

She explained that Rembrandt was a great master of _chiaroscuro_, making a
valiant attempt to pronounce the uncomfortable word.

"What does that mean?" asked the little boy.

"It--er--means--One moment, dear; I think I hear your father calling."

She ran downstairs and consulted the dictionary.

"A _chiaroscurist_," she told her little boy when she returned to the
bedroom, "is a painter who cares for and studies light and shade rather
than colour. Now go to sleep. You're too young to bother about such

This child's mother was an ardent Ruskinian. Observing that her husband,
the citizen and golfer, was asleep in his chair when she returned from her
son's bedroom, she stepped into the library, picked _Modern Painters_ from
the shelf, and read the following passages, gravely shaking her head
occasionally as she read.

"... Rembrandt always chooses to represent the exact force with which the
light on the most illumined part of an object is opposed to its obscurer
portions. In order to obtain this, in most cases, not very important truth,
he sacrifices the light and colour of five-sixths of his picture; and the
expression of every character of objects which depends on tenderness of
shape or tint. But he obtains his single truth, and what picturesque and
forcible expression is dependent upon it, with magnificent skill and

"... His love of darkness led also to a loss of the spiritual element, and
was itself the reflection of a sombre mind....

"... I cannot feel it an entirely glorious speciality to be distinguished,
as Rembrandt was, from other great painters, chiefly by the liveliness of
his darkness and the dulness of his light. Glorious or inglorious, the
speciality itself is easily and accurately definable. It is the aim of the
best painters to paint the noblest things they can see by sunlight. It was
the aim of Rembrandt to paint the foulest things he could see--by

Had Ruskin, one wonders, ever seen _The Syndics_ at Amsterdam, or the
_Portrait of his Mother_, and the _Singing Boy_ at Vienna, or _The Old
Woman_ at St. Petersburg, or the _Christ at Emmaus_ at the Louvre, or any
of the etchings?

The time came when the child was allowed to visit the National Gallery
unattended; but although he never lost his affectionate awe for the two dim
interiors, he did not really begin to appreciate Rembrandt until he had
reached manhood. Rembrandt is too learned in the pathos of life, too deeply
versed in realities, to win the suffrages of youth. But he was attracted by
another portrait in the National Gallery--that called _A Jewish Rabbi_.
This was the first likeness he had seen of a Rabbi, a personality dimly
familiar to him through the lessons in church and his school Scripture
class. Remembering what his mother had told him about _chiaroscuro_, he
noted how the golden-brown light is centred upon the lower part of the
face; how the forehead is in shadow, and how stealthily the black hat and
coat creep out from the dark background. He had never seen, and never could
have imagined, such a sad face. This Rabbi seemed to be crouching into the
picture as he dimly understood that Jews in all ages, except those who
owned diamond mines in South Africa, had cringed under the hand of their

He wondered how Rembrandt knew what a Rabbi was like. His father might have
told him that Rembrandt's pencil and brush were never idle, that he was for
ever making pictures of himself, of his father, of his mother, of his wife,
of his children and relations, of every interesting type that came within
the ken of his piercing eyes; that one day, when he was prowling about the
Jews' quarter at Amsterdam, he saw an old, tired, wistful Hebrew sitting in
the door of his shop, engaged him in conversation, persuaded him to sit for
his portrait, and lo! the nameless Amsterdam Jew became immortal.


1654. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

His father might also have told him (perhaps he did) that the artist,
wherever he goes, sometimes hardly aware of his preoccupation, is always
selecting subjects to paint, and brooding over the method of treatment;
that one day Rembrandt noted with amusement a man in the street shaking his
fist at the skull-capped head of an older man bobbing angrily from a
window. Rembrandt chuckled, remembered the incident, painted it, and
called it, for a picture must have a title, _Samson threatening his
Father-in-law_; that one day Rembrandt saw a fair-haired, chubby boy
learning his lessons at his mother's knee. The composition appealed to his
artist eye, he painted it, and the result is that beautiful and touching
picture in the Hermitage Gallery at St. Petersburg called _Hannah teaching
Samuel his Lessons_.

To a child, the portrait of a painter by himself has a human interest apart
altogether from its claim to be a work of art. Rembrandt's portrait of
himself at the National Gallery, painted when he was thirty-two, is not one
of his remarkable achievements. It is a little timid in the handling, but
that it is an excellent likeness none can doubt. This bold-eyed, quietly
observant, jolly-looking man was not quite the presentment of Rembrandt
that the child had imagined; but Rembrandt at this period was something of
a sumptuous dandy, proud of his brave looks and his fur-trimmed mantle.
Life was his province. No subject was vulgar to him so long as it presented
problems of light and construction and drawing. Rembrandt, like Montaigne,
was never didactic. He looked at life through his eyes and through his
imagination, and related his adventures. One day it was a flayed ox hanging
outside a butcher's shop, which he saw through his eyes; another day it was
Christ healing the sick, which he saw through his imagination. You can
imagine the healthy, full-blooded Rembrandt of this portrait painting the
_Carcase of a Bullock_ at the Louvre, or that prank called _The Rape of
Ganymede_, or that delightful, laughing picture of his wife sitting upon
his knee at Dresden, which Ruskin disliked.

The other portrait of Rembrandt by himself at the National Gallery shows
that he was not a vain man, and that he was just as honest with himself as
with his other sitters. It was painted when he was old and ailing and
time-marked, five years before his death. His hands are clasped, and he
seems to be saying--"Look at me! That is what I am like now, an old, much
bothered man, bankrupt, without a home, but happy enough so long as I have
some sort of a roof above me under which I can paint. I am he of whom it
was said that he was famous when he was beardless. Observe me now! What
care I so that I can still see the world and the men and women about
me--'When I want rest for my mind, it is not honours I crave, but


1640. National Gallery, London.]

Twenty-eight seemed a great age to the child; but he thought it wonderful
that the portrait of an _Old Lady_ at the National Gallery should have been
painted when Rembrandt was but twenty-eight. She was too strong and
determined for his liking, and he wondered why some of Rembrandt's
pictures, like _The Woman taken in Adultery_, should be so mysterious and
poetical, and others like this old lady so lifelike and straightforward. He
was too young to understand that the composition of the fortuitous
concourse of atoms called Rembrandt, included not only the power that
Velasquez possessed in so supreme a degree of painting just what his eyes
saw, exemplified by this portrait of _An Old Lady_, aged 83, and by the
portrait of _Elizabeth Bas_ at Amsterdam, but that it also included the
great gift of creative imagination, exemplified by the _Christ at Emmaus_,
and _The Good Samaritan_ of the Louvre, and in a way by the _Portrait of a
Slav Prince_ at the Hermitage, where a man in the alembic of Rembrandt's
imagination has become a type. Also in _The Reconciliation of David and
Absalom_ at the Hermitage, where behind the sham trappings of the figures
shine the eternal motives of reconciliation and forgiveness.

When the child was much older he saw the _Christ at Emmaus_, and _The Good
Samaritan_ in the little room at the Louvre, hanging side by side, and he
never forget the hour that he spent with them. He had seen, year by year,
many of the world's pictures; but at the sight of these two works, his
childish predilection for Rembrandt became a deep-rooted reverence and
admiration, which was never to pass from him.

Here was Rembrandt the seer, the man who had suffered. Saskia was dead,
his popularity gone; but the effect of these things was but to fill his
heart with a world sympathy, with pity for all who sorrow. Again and again
he treated the _Christ at Emmaus_, _The Good Samaritan_, and _The Prodigal
Son_ themes. "Some strange presentment of his own fate," says M. Michel,
"seems to have haunted the artist, making him keenly susceptible to the
story of _The Good Samaritan_. He too was destined to be stripped and
wounded by Life's wayside, while many passed him by unheeding."

The _Christ at Emmaus_ is a small picture, and small the figures appear in
that vast, dimly lighted chamber where the three are seated at table. The
spiritual significance of Christ is suggested by most simple means. Light,
and intensity of emotion, are the only aids. Rembrandt disdains all other
effects. Intense feeling pervades the picture, even in the bare feet of
Christ, even in the astonished hand of the disciple resting upon the chair;
even in the back of the other disciple who gazes, with clasped hands,
transfixed with amazement and love at the face of his Master, who has just
broken bread and thus revealed Himself.


1642. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

Of all Rembrandt's pictures, this was the one that made the profoundest
impression upon the child when he had become a man. Other works, such as
_The Shipbuilder and his Wife_ at Buckingham Palace, _The Syndics of the
Drapers_ at Amsterdam, that ripe expression of Rembrandt's ripest powers,
convinced him of the master's genius. He was deeply impressed by the range
of portraits and subject-pictures at the Hermitage Gallery, many of which,
by the art of Mr. Mortimer Menpes, have been brought to the fireside of the
untravelled; but the _Christ at Emmaus_ revealed to him the heart of
Rembrandt, and showed him, once and for all, to what heights a painter may
attain when intense feeling is allied with superb craftsmanship.

He found this intensity of emotion again in the _Portrait of his Mother_ at
Vienna. The light falls upon her battered, wrinkled face, the lips are
parted as in extreme age, the hands, so magnificently painted, are folded
upon her stick. When we look at Rembrandt's portrait of _An Old Woman_ at
the Hermitage Gallery, with that touch of red so artfully and fittingly
peeping out from between the folds of her white scarf, we feel that he can
say nothing more about old age, sad, quiescent, but not unhappy; when we
look at the portrait of _An Old Lady_ in the National Gallery (No. 1675) we
feel that he can tell us no more about old age that still retains something
that is petty and eager; but in the portrait of his mother at Vienna,
Rembrandt, soaring, gives us quite another view of old age. It is the
ancient face of a mother painted by a son who loved her, who had studied
that face a thousand times, every line, and light, and aspect of the
features, and who stated all his love and knowledge upon a canvas.

Rembrandt was always inspired when he painted his own family. There is a
quality about his portraits of father, mother, Saskia, Titus, and
Hendrickje, yes! and of himself, that speaks to us as if we were intimates.
It is a personal appeal. We find it in every presentment that Rembrandt
gives us of another figure which constantly inspired his brush--the figure
of Christ. In _The Woman taken in Adultery_, it is His figure that is
articulate: it is the figure of Christ in the Emmaus picture that amazes:
it is the figure of Christ that haunts us in a dozen of the etchings.

Slowly the child, now become a man, began, as he thought, to understand
Rembrandt. Why did _The Singing Boy_ at Vienna, apart from the quality of
the painting, and the joy depicted on that young smiling face, make a
personal appeal to him? Because he is Rembrandt's son, Titus; or if Titus
was not actually the model, the features and the smile of Titus hovered
between the father and the canvas.


1654. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

He found an authentic portrait of Titus in the Wallace collection, painted
in 1657, the year after Rembrandt had become bankrupt. It is one of the
most charming portraits the master ever produced, a picture that even the
most casual frequenter of galleries must pause before and love. A red cap
crowns his curly hair, which falls to his shoulders. The face has a sweet
expression; but the observant can detect traces of ill-health upon it.
Titus died before his father. Father, mother, Saskia, Hendrickje, Titus,
had all gone when the old man passed to his rest.

On the opposite wall at the Wallace collection is _The Parable of the
Unmerciful Servant_, a fine example of Rembrandt the _chiaroscurist_,
straightforward, but touched with that mystery so rare in painting, but
which, under certain conditions, was as natural to Rembrandt as drawing. It
is not always present in his work. None can say that there is any mystery
about the sober portrait pictures called _The Wife of Jan Pellicorne with
her Daughter_, and _Burgomaster Jan Pellicorne with his Son_, in the
Wallace collection. A scriptural subject was needed to inspire Rembrandt's
brush with the sense of mystery.

It was the mystery of two pictures at the National Gallery that first drew
the child to Rembrandt: it was the etchings that gave him a deeper insight
into Rembrandt's sense of mystery, and made of him a willing Gamaliel at
the master's feet.



The citizen and golfer, whose commerce with Rembrandt was narrated in the
first chapter, approached the master through the writings of his
Recoverers, certain art historians and scholars, who frequent libraries,
search archives, and peruse documents; men to whom a picture is a
scientific document rather than an emotional or intellectual experience. He
was well content to end his commerce with Rembrandt there. History
interested him: to art he was apathetic.

His son, as was indicated in the second chapter, was indifferent to art
history, and he would not have walked across the road to read an unedited
document; but I see him tramping ten miles to seek a picture that promised
to stir his emotions and stimulate his imagination. Rembrandt, the maker of
pictures, had become a vivid personality, a master whom he reverenced; but
Rembrandt the etcher was unknown to him.

There are authorities who assert that in etching Rembrandt's art found its
amplest and most exquisite expression. None will deny that his is the
greatest name in etching. If all Rembrandt's pictures were destroyed, if
every record of them by photograph or copy was blotted out, the etchings
alone would form so ample a testimony to his genius that the name of
Rembrandt would still remain among the foremost artists of the world.

Rembrandt enjoyed a period of popularity with his pictures, followed by
years of decline and neglect, when lesser and more accommodating men ousted
him from popular favour. But from first to last the products of his needle
were appreciated by his contemporaries, even if he himself did not set
great store by them. He began to etch early in life: he ceased only when
his eyesight failed. He found in etching a congenial and natural means of
self-expression. His artistic fecundity threw them off in regal profusion.
The mood seized him: he would take a prepared plate, and sometimes, having
swiftly spent his emotion, he did not trouble to do more than indicate the
secondary incidents in a composition. Often he gave them away to friends
and fellow-artists, or tossed them, when they had answered their purpose in
his art life, so continuously experimental, into one of the sixty
portfolios of leather recorded in the inventory of his property.

The history of _Christ Healing the Sick_, known as _The Hundred Guilder
Print_, now the most prized of all the etchings, shows that he did not
attach much value, either artistic or monetary, to this plate. He did not
even receive a hundred guilders (under £9) for it, but gave the etching to
his friend Jan Zoomer in exchange for _The Pest_, by M. Anthony. At the
Holford sale, as has already been noted, £1750 was given for the _Hundred
Guilder Print_.

It is supposed that only two of the etchings were made expressly for
publication--the _Descent from the Cross_, and the _Ecce Homo_; but
Rembrandt may have benefited from the sale of them through the partnership
that was formed in 1660 between his son Titus and Hendrickje Stoffels.

[Illustration: MINERVA

1655. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

In the eighteenth century certain connoisseurs had already made collections
of his etchings. Catalogues began to be published, and in 1797 Adam
Bartsch, keeper of the prints in the library at Vienna, issued the
well-known catalogue that bears his name in two octavo volumes. Since
Bartsch's monumental work many students of the etchings have striven to
sift the authentic from the false. Needless to say, they disagree. Here are
the figures:--

Bartsch            375    authentic etchings.
Wilson             366        "        "
Claussin           365        "        "
Blanc              353        "        "
Middleton-Wake     329        "        "
de Seidlitz        260        "        "
Legros             71-113     "        "

M. de Seidlitz's list of 260 was arrived at through consultation with
several authorities, and that number is now accepted as approximately

Our enthusiast knew nothing of the work of the labourers in Rembrandt's
etching vineyard. He was quite ignorant of the expert contributions of Sir
Francis Haden, P.G. Hamerton, and Mr. Frederick Wedmore, although his
father, had he been a communicative man, could have discoursed learnedly on
their efforts. Fate so willed it that he came to Rembrandt's etchings by
chance, and, being sensitively alive to beauty and idealism, they merged
into his life, and became as it were a personal possession.

On a certain day, in the window of one of those delightful London shops
where first editions, prints, pieces of pottery, and odds and ends tempting
to the virtuoso, are exposed for sale, he saw a small opulent picture by
Monticelli. Entering to inquire the price, he discovered, as he had feared,
that it was far beyond his bank balance. At the invitation of the
proprietor, who seemed delighted that his goods should be admired, he
stayed to "look round." Strewn upon a rosewood, inlaid table were a hundred
and more etchings. Many were quite small, heads of men and women minutely
and beautifully wrought; others, larger in size, were Biblical subjects;
some were weird and fantastical; one, for example, showed a foreshortened
figure lying before an erection, upon which a skinny bird stood with
outstretched wings, flanked by ugly angel boys blowing trumpets.


1657. The Wallace Collection, London.]

"The best are sold," said the gentle proprietor.

The enthusiast was about to ask the name of the artist, when he suddenly
caught sight of the _Christ at Emmaus_. His blood stirred in him. That
little shop became an altar of art, and he an initiate. It was not the same
version as the Louvre picture, but only one mind--the mind of Rembrandt,
only one heart--the heart of Rembrandt, could have so felt and stated the
pathos and emotion of that scene. Controlling his excitement, he turned
over the prints and paused, startled, before _Abraham's Sacrifice_. What
was it that moved him? He could hardly say. But he was moved to an
extraordinary degree by that angel standing, with outstretched wings, by
Abraham's side, hiding the kneeling boy's eyes with his hand, staying the
knife at the supreme moment. He turned the prints, and paused again before
_The Prodigal Son_. Some might call the face of the kneeling prodigal
hideous, might assert that the landscape was slight and unfinished, that
the figure in the doorway was too sketchy. Not so our enthusiast. This was
the Prodigal Son, and as for the bending, forgiving father, all that he
could imagine of forgiveness and pity was there realised in a few scratches
of the needle. He turned the prints and withdrew _Tobit Blind_. In every
line of this figure of the wandering old man, tapping his stick upon the
pavement, feeling his way by the wall, was blindness, actual blindness--all
the misery and loneliness and indignity of it.

"Are these for sale?" he asked the smiling proprietor, without the
slightest hope that he could afford one.

"Oh yes! _Tobit Blind_ you can have for two shillings and sixpence.
_Abraham's Sacrifice_, _Christ at Emmaus_, and _The Prodigal Son_ are four
shillings each."

The enthusiast could not conceal his astonishment. "I thought Rembrandt's
etchings cost hundreds of pounds," he said.

"They do, but these are merely reproductions. Only a millionaire could hope
to possess a complete collection of first states. These are the
reproductions that were issued with M. Blanc's catalogue. He made them from
the best proofs in his own collections, and from the public museums. You
should compare them with the originals. The difference will astonish you.
It's candle-light to sunlight, satinette to the finest silk."

"But where can I see the originals? I don't know any millionaires."

"Nothing easier! Go to the Print Room of the British Museum or to the
Ionides Collection."

A day or two later the enthusiast, carrying under his arm the roll of four
Rembrandt's etchings that he had purchased for fourteen shillings and
sixpence, ascended the stairs of the British Museum, and timidly opened the
door marked, "Print Room. Students only."

His reception agreeably surprised him. He, an obscure person, was treated
as if he were a M. Michel. An obliging boy requested him to hang his hat
and coat upon a peg, and to sign his name in a book. An obliging youth
waved him to a noble desk running at a right angle to a noble window, and
begged him to indicate his needs upon a slip of paper. He inscribed the
printed form with the words--"Rembrandt's Etchings and Drawings."

The obliging youth scanned the document and said--"Which do you wish to
see? There are many portfolios. I can bring you one at a time."

"Do so, if you please," said the enthusiast. "I should like to examine them
all, even if it takes a week."

The obliging youth inclined his head and departed.

There is a delightful air of leisure and learning about the Print Room, and
an entire absence of hustle. Two students besides himself were the only
other members of the public, one studying Holbein, the other Blake.


1641. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

The first portfolio that was brought to him contained the _Christ Healing
the Sick_, known as _The Hundred Guilder Print_, in several states. It was
the first large etching by Rembrandt that he had seen, and he gazed with
astonishment, admiration, and awe at the almost miraculous characterisation
of the figures, at the depth and richness of the blacks, and the nobility
of the conception. He passed from that to _The Three Crosses_, and was even
more moved by the dramatic intensity and realism of those burdened crosses
against the profound gloom, and the dim, poignantly realised figures in the
foreground. He saw the _Christ before Pilate_ and _The Death of the
Virgin_, lingering before them, studying every detail, realising to the
full, through these splendid impressions, the height and significance of
Rembrandt's genius. He compared the four prints he had purchased with their
originals, and understood why collectors were eager to pay enormous prices
for fine states, probably printed by the master himself.

As soon as he had finished one portfolio, the watchful attendant carried it
away, and substituted another. It was so easy, so restful, and so
invigorating to study a master under these conditions, that he wondered the
public did not flock to the Print Room as to a first night at a popular

On another day he studied the drawings and landscape etchings--that dark,
spacious design called _The Three Trees_, and a perfect little drawing of
_Joseph Consoling the Prisoners_. The large plates inspired him with
reverence and profound admiration for Rembrandt's genius as an etcher, but
it was the smaller etchings that won his love and held it. He promised
himself, when he came into certain family monies of which there was some
prospect, that instead of buying an automobile, he would make himself the
proud owner of _The Three Trees_, _The Prodigal Son_, _Abraham's
Sacrifice_, and _Tobit Blind_--perhaps one, perhaps two, perhaps three,
perhaps all four.



Suppose the admiration of our enthusiast for Rembrandt had been noted in
the select suburb where he lived: suppose his mother was one of those
estimable ladies who hold monthly Dorcas meetings in their drawing-rooms:
suppose that while the ladies were working at useful garments for the poor,
she persuaded her son to discourse on Rembrandt: suppose, because the
petition came from his mother that he, very much against his will,

It was not an easy task, as he took little or no interest in the life of
Rembrandt; his interests were entirely with the æsthetic appeal of his
work. What, he asked himself, can one say about the life of a man when that
life was wholly one with his art--mingling with it, ministering to it at
every point. A boy, the fifth child of a miller living at Leyden, is born
into the world, takes to art as a duck to water, becomes one of the
greatest painters of the world, dies in obscurity, is forgotten, and long
after his death is placed among his peers. What is there to say about such
a life? He made the attempt.


1650. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

At the age of fourteen Rembrandt entered at Leyden University, but showed
little inclination for books. He preferred Lucas van Leyden to Virgil, and
his parents, accepting the situation, allowed him to study painting under
Swanenburch, and later in the studio of Lastman at Amsterdam. After a few
months with Lastman he returned to Leyden, "to practise painting alone and
in his own way." So much for his schooling. At the age of twenty-one he
produced a picture called _St. Paul in Prison_, and Gerard Dou became his
pupil. In 1631 he left Leyden and settled in Amsterdam. In 1634 he married
Saskia van Uylenborch, who bore him three children, and Titus was the
youngest. Some years later he had two daughters by his servant, Hendrickje
Stoffels. Perhaps he married her. She was a kind, good soul, faithful and
loyal to her master. His friends do not seem to have disapproved of this
irregular union, but the Consistory of her church summoned Hendrickje
before them and forbade her to communicate. At the age of fifty Rembrandt
was declared bankrupt. From that date until his death troubles encompassed
him; but he was happy so long as he could paint undisturbed. His son Titus
died when he was sixty-two, and the following year Rembrandt died, and
was buried at a cost of thirteen florins.

Our enthusiast did not find it easy to manipulate these facts, and he
elected to slur over the Hendrickje episode; but he was able to interest
the ladies of the Dorcas meeting by showing them some of Rembrandt's
pictures. He collected a series of photographs of the portraits and
paintings, including his favourite pictures, such as _The Jewish Rabbi_ in
the National Gallery, _Titus_ and _The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant_
in the Wallace collection, _Rembrandt's Mother_ and _The Singing Boy_ at
Vienna; and he invested sixpence in a little manual recently published,
called _The Masterpieces of Rembrandt_, containing sixty excellent
reproductions of his portraits and pictures.

He also displayed photographs of the remarkable series in the Hermitage
Gallery at St. Petersburg: _The Descent from the Cross_, with the brilliant
light focussed on the body and winding sheet, and fading away into the
darkness of the background; that radiant portrait of Saskia painted just
before her marriage to Rembrandt, known as _Flora with a Flower-trimmed
Crook_, standing at the opening of a grotto, with a wreath of flowers upon
her head, and the light falling upon her face and gay attire; _The Holy
Family_, the father working at his daily task in the background, and the
Virgin, who has laid down her book, drawing aside the curtain from the cot
to gaze upon the Child. He explained that Rembrandt, in placing this scene
in a humble Dutch cottage, knew that he could express the Biblical story
better that way than if he had painted an imaginary scene after the manner
of the Italians.

"This great Dutch master" (he quoted from Mr. Colvin) "succeeded in making
as wonderful pictures out of spiritual abjectness and physical gloom as the
Italians out of spiritual exaltation and shadowless day."


1634. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

At this point of his discourse he began to feel more confidence, and he
proceeded to focus his remarks upon four periods in Rembrandt's
life--epochs that lend themselves to separate treatment, each epoch marked
by the production of a masterpiece, and one remarkable portrait that has a
particular and pathetic interest. Those four pictures are _The Anatomy
Lesson_, painted in 1632, when he was twenty-six; the _Sortie of a Company
of Amsterdam Musketeers_, known as _The Night Watch_, painted in 1642, when
he was thirty-six; _The Syndics of the Cloth Hall_, painted in 1662, when
he was fifty-six; and his own portrait, painted in 1667, two years before
his death. "His _Anatomy Lesson_," says M. Michel, "was the glorification
of Science itself; in his _Sortie of a Company of Amsterdam Musketeers_ he
embodied that civic heroism which had lately compassed Dutch independence;
and in a group of five cloth merchants seated round a table, discussing
the affairs of their guild, he summed up, as it were, in a few immortal
types, the noble sincerity of Dutch portraiture."

_The Anatomy Lesson_ was the picture that gave Rembrandt his opportunity,
and proclaimed his preeminence among the painters in Amsterdam. It was the
custom in those days for corporations, civic bodies, and associations of
various kinds, to commemorate their period of office by commissioning
portrait groups which should hand down their worthy faces to posterity. The
desire of the less prominent members of the associations thus painted was
that each head should be a likeness, plainly recognisable,--that one
burgher should not be treated with more importance than another. This
desire for present and posthumous commemoration extended to medical
circles. Portraits and portrait groups of famous physicians and surgeons
were painted and hung in the theatres where they lectured or operated. Dr.
Tulp, an eminent surgeon of the day, commissioned Rembrandt to represent
him performing an operation, proposing to present the picture to the
Surgeons' Guild in memory of his professorship. The grave, realistic
picture called _The Anatomy Lesson_, now hanging at the Hague Museum, was
the result. The corpse lies upon the dissecting table; before it stands Dr.
Tulp, wearing a broad-brimmed hat; around him are grouped seven elderly
students. Some are absorbed by the operation, others gaze thoughtfully at
the professor, or at the spectator. Dr. Tulp indicates with his forceps one
of the tendons of the subject's left arm, and appears to be addressing the
students, or practitioners, for these seven bearded men have long passed
the age of studentship. This picture made Rembrandt's reputation. He was
but twenty-six; the world seemed to be at his feet; in the two following
years he painted forty portraits.

It was not easy for our enthusiast to explain to the ladies of the Dorcas
meeting that the dissection of a body was a suitable subject for the brush
of a painter. The Dutchmen of Rembrandt's day were not so squeamish as we
have become since. They had a passion for the literal painting of literal
things, and this picture was destined not for a Tate Gallery, but for the
wall of an operating theatre. Dr. Tulp desired a picture of himself
performing an operation, and Rembrandt gave it to him, painted in a way
that pleased his contemporaries, and that has astonished the world ever

Ten years later Rembrandt painted another Doelen or Regent picture which,
under the erroneous title of _The Night Watch_, is to-day the chief
attraction of the Ryks Museum at Amsterdam. This time it was not a group of
surgeons, but a company of Amsterdam musketeers marching out under the
leadership of their captain, Frans Banning Cocq. In all these civic or
military Regent pictures, each member subscribed a sum towards the artist's
fee, and consequently each individual wished to have his money's worth in
the shape of an accurate presentation of his face and form. It is an old
quarrel between artist and public. Mr. Abbey had to face it in his
Coronation picture; Mr. Bacon had to face it in his _Return of the
C.I.V.'s_; perhaps the only folk who solved the problem were the
complaisant gentlemen who designed panoramas of cricket matches in the last
century, where each member of the company blandly faces the spectator. Much
water had flowed under Burgomaster Six's bridge since Rembrandt painted
_The Anatomy Lesson_. Then he was the obedient student. Now he was an
acknowledged master. He painted _The Sortie of the Company of Frans Banning
Cocq_ as an artist who was profoundly interested in problems of light and
shade, with strong views as to the composition of a picture, not as a
methodical and mediocre painter desirous of carrying out the commission in
a way to please his patrons. They wanted a presentment of the face and
figure of each member of the company who had subscribed a hundred florins.
Rembrandt gave them a work of art. No doubt the captain and his lieutenant
were well enough pleased, for they stride forth in the forefront of the
picture, but the rank and file were bitterly hostile. From the painting of
_The Night Watch_ his popularity began to wane.

The history of this picture, after it had been hung in the Doelen or
assembly hall belonging to Captain Cocq's company, was as troublous as the
later life of Rembrandt. Years afterwards when, blackened with smoke and
ill-usage, it was removed from the Doelen to the Hotel de Ville, the
authorities, finding that it was too large for the space it was destined to
occupy, deliberately cut a piece away from each side. This is proved by a
copy of the picture made by Lundens before the mutilation, now in the
National Gallery. When M. Hopman undertook the restoration of _The Night
Watch_ he discovered, when he had removed the surface of dirt, that the
sortie is taking place by daylight, and that the work contained something
that Rembrandt evidently intended should represent a ray of sunlight. But
the popular name of the picture is still _The Night Watch_.

The ladies of the Dorcas Society expressed in eyes and gestures their
disapproval of the Amsterdam vandals who mutilated _The Night Watch_. One
of them remarked: "It happened a long time ago. So gross a barbarity could
not be perpetrated now."

Twenty years later, at the age of fifty-six, Rembrandt, having known what
it was to be homeless and penniless, painted his masterpiece, _The Syndics
of the Cloth Hall_, merely five figures grouped round a table, with a
servant, uncovered, in attendance. It is an extraordinarily real picture,
the final statement of Rembrandt's knowledge of painting, combined with
that rare power of seeing things just as they are--the hundred subtleties
that the untrained eye never sees, as well as the accents that all see. It
is the perfect painter's vision--a scene grasped as a whole, character
searched out but not insistent, the most delicate suggestion of equally
diffused light knitting the figures together. He made no attempt to be
picturesque as in _The Night Watch_; he was content just to paint five men
dressed in black, with flat white collars and broad-brimmed hats, and a
servant. With these simple materials Rembrandt produced the picture that
the world has agreed to regard as his masterpiece. Contemporary criticism
says nothing about it. The place of honour at the Ryks Museum at Amsterdam
is given to _The Night Watch_, but it is _The Syndics of the Cloth Hall_--a
simple presentation of five grave men seated at a table--that we remember
with wonder and admiration.

Our enthusiast, having dwelt upon these three masterpieces, marking epochs
in Rembrandt's life, referred again to the magnificent array of portraits
scattered in such regal profusion through the thirty years that passed
between the painting of _The Anatomy Lesson_ and _The Syndics_. Then
noticing, while enlarging upon the etchings, that his mother was casting
anxious glances at the clock, he hurriedly referred to the last portrait
that Rembrandt painted of himself, two years before his death. He could not
describe this portrait, which is in a private collection in Berlin, as he
had never seen it, so he quoted M. Michel's description: "This
extraordinary work, perhaps the last Rembrandt painted, is modelled with
prodigious vigour and freedom. With superb audacity, the master shows us
once more the familiar features, on which age and sorrow have worked their
will. They are distorted, disfigured, almost unrecognisable. But the free
spirit is still unbroken. The eyes that meet ours are still keen and
piercing; they have even the old twinkle of good-humoured irony, and the
toothless mouth relaxes in frank laughter. What was the secret of this
gaiety? In spite of his poverty, he had still a corner in which to paint.
Beside him stand an easel and an antique bust, perhaps a relic of his
former wealth. He holds his maul-stick in his hand, and pauses for a moment
in his work. He is happy because he can give himself up to his art."


1634. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

It was the last of half a hundred portraits of himself, painted and etched
without vanity; painted because a man's self is such an accommodating
model, always ready and willing; painted because Rembrandt loved to
experiment with himself before a mirror, grimacing, angry, stern, "as an
officer," "with a casque," "with a gorget," or, as we see him in the
National Gallery, on one wall with the bloom of youth and health upon his
face, on the other, dulled, stained, and marked by the finger of time. This
we can say: that he was always true to himself.



It is generally acknowledged that the greatest masters of painting that the
world has known are Titian, Velasquez, and Rembrandt, and to each of the
triumvirate we apply the word genius. Among the many definitions of that
abused word is one which states that genius consists not in seeing more
than other people, but in seeing differently. We acknowledge genius in a
painter when, over and above masterly technical power, he presents to us a
view of life or of nature which we may never have seen, but which we are
convinced is the vision of deeper eyes than our own, and is true. The seer
has seen it, and it is only because of the dimness or narrowness or
worldliness of our outlook that we do not perceive it also.

A great painter writes us a letter, tells us of the things he has seen or
heard or felt, gives us news of the world wherein he lives. He expresses
his personality to us, and personality in art is a thing incalculable.
Corot's _Arcadia_ landscape delights us because it is the distilled essence
of the vision, heart, and character of the personality called Corot.
Personality may be expressed by a Rembrandt, abundantly. It may also be
expressed by a Velasquez, negatively.

We must be vigilant, in judging a painter, to distinguish between his own
personality and the personality of those who interpret him to us. The more
we give of ourselves to a painter or an author, the greater is the return
of his appeal and interest. Cleave the wood of your brain and you find him
brimming with communications, raise the stone of your imagination and he is

A certain critic, who had devoted his life to the study of Reynolds, while
lecturing upon the achievement of that master, threw upon the screen a
certain large subject-picture, not one of Reynold's happiest efforts, but a
laboured and unattractive design which, we know, gave Reynolds an infinity
of trouble.

So scientific, so interesting was this critic's analysis of the picture, so
absorbing the attributes he read into it, that many of his audience were
persuaded that they were looking upon a Reynolds masterpiece, whereas they
were but hypnotised by the subtleties of the critic's mind working upon

Conversely the criticism of some writers tends towards depreciation because
of their predilection for objective as opposed to subjective criticism. The
late P.G. Hamerton, writing upon Rembrandt, says, "The chiaroscuro of
Rembrandt is often false and inconsistent, and in fact he relied largely on
public ignorance. But though arbitrary, it is always conducive to his

"Conducive to his purpose!" There is much virtue in those four words.
Rembrandt probably knew as well as anybody that his lighting of a picture
was not a facsimile of the lighting of nature, or rather not the
chiaroscuro as seen by the average eye; but he had an aim, a vision before
him, and he did not hesitate to interpret that vision in his own way. Who
dares to say that Rembrandt was disloyal to nature? Our concern is not what
we should have done, but what Rembrandt did, seeing with his own eyes. And
the questions we should ask ourselves are:--Is the interpretation of the
world as seen through his eyes beautiful, suggestive, profound, and
stimulating? Does the statement of his personality in paint add to our
knowledge, educate our æsthetic perceptions, and extend our horizon by
showing us things that our imperfect vision does not see except through


1656. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.]

Comparisons are not only odious, but foolish. No sensible critic attempts a
comparison between Titian, Velasquez, and Rembrandt. He accepts them as
they are, and is grateful. But even the most obscure of mortals may have
his preferences, and a curious chapter in the lives of individuals who
have concerned themselves with painting would be the bewildering way in
which the pendulum of their appreciation and admiration has swung backwards
and forwards from Titian to Velasquez, from Velasquez to Rembrandt, and
sometimes back to Titian. It is often a question of mood.

There are moods when the regal abundance, the consummate craftsmanship of
Titian, the glow and splendour of his canvases, the range of them from _The
Man with the Glove_ in the Louvre to the _Bacchus and Ariadne_, force us to
place him on the summit of Parnassus. We are dazzled by this prince of
painters, dominating Venice at the height of her prosperity, inspired by
her, having around him, day by day, the glorious pictures that the genius
of Venice had produced. We follow his triumphant career, see him courted
and fêted, recognise his detachment from the sorrow and suffering of the
unfortunate and unclassed, and amid the splendour of his career note his
avidity for the loaves and fishes of the world. Unlike Rembrandt, fortune
favoured Titian to the end. His career was a triumphal progress. We stand
in that small room at the Prado Museum at Madrid and gaze upon his
canvases, sumptuous and opulent, diffusing colour like a sunset,
indifferent to their story or meaning, happy and content with the flaming
feast outspread for our enjoyment. We stand before his _Entombment_ at the
Louvre, dumb before its superlative painting, with hardly a thought for the
tragedy that it represents. Titian accepts the literary motive, and the
artist in him straight forgets it. We walk from _The Entombment_ to the
little chamber where Rembrandt's _Christ at Emmaus_ hangs, and the heart of
Rembrandt is beating there. To Titian the glory of the world, to Rembrandt
all that man has felt and suffered, parting and sorrow, and the awakening
of joy. We do not compare the one painter with the other; we say: "This is
Titian, that is Rembrandt; each gives us his emotion." Foolish indeed it
seems in the face of these two pictures, and a thousand others, to say that
art should be this or that,--that a picture should or should not have a
literary or a philosophical motive. Painters give us themselves. We amuse
ourselves by placing them in schools, by analysing their achievement, by
scientific explanations of what they did just by instinct, as lambs
gambol--and behind all stands the Sphinx called Personality.

There are moods when the appeal of Velasquez is irresistible. Grave and
reticent, a craftsman miraculously equipped, detached, but not with the
Jovian detachment of Titian, this Spanish gentleman stalks silently across
the art stage. Hundreds of drawings of Rembrandt's exhibit evidence of the
infinite extent of his experiments after perfection. The drawings of
Velasquez can be counted on the fingers of one hand. He drew in paint upon
the canvas. From his portraits and pictures we gather not the faintest idea
of what he felt, what he thought, what he believed. One thing we know
absolutely--that he saw as keenly and as searchingly as any painter who has
ever lived. What he saw before him he could paint, and in the doing of it
he was unrivalled. His hand followed and obeyed his eye. When the object
was not before him, he falls short of his superlative standard. The figures
of Philip IV., of Olivares, and of Prince Baltazar Carlos in the three
great equestrian portraits are as finely drawn as man could make them.
Velasquez saw them; he did not see the prancing horses which they ride,
consequently our eyes dropping from the consummate figures are disappointed
at the conventional attitudes of the steeds. Velasquez, like Titian, moved
from success to success; both were friends of kings, both basked in royal
favour, neither had the disadvantage, or perhaps the great advantage, like
Rembrandt, of the education of adversity. Velasquez made two journeys into
Italy; he knew what men had accomplished in painting, and if he was not
largely influenced by Titian and Tintoretto, their work showed him what man
had done, what man could do, and indicated to him his own dormant powers.

Rembrandt was sufficient unto himself. There are moods when one is sure
that he stands at the head of the painting hierarchy. In spite of his
greatness, we feel that he is very near to our comprehension. What a
picture of the old painter towards the end of his life that saying of
Baldinucci presents. We are told that near the close of his career,
absorbed in his art, indifferent to the world, "when he was painting at his
easel he had come to wipe his brushes on the hinder portions of his dress."

Rembrandt looms out like some amorphous boulder, stationary,
lichen-stained, gathering time unto itself. He travelled so little that it
can be said he was untravelled. The works of other painters affected him
not at all. We are without proof that he was even interested in the work of
his contemporaries or predecessors. Life was his passion. One model was as
good as another. He looked at life, and life fired his imaginations. He
painted himself fifty times; he painted his friends, his relations, and the
people he met while prowling about the streets. His pencil was never idle.
Imagination, which confuses the judgment of so many, aided him, for his
imagination was not nourished by vanity, or the desire to produce an
effect, but flowed from the greatness of his brooding heart. He stood alone
during his life, an absorbed man, uninfluenced by any school; he stands
alone to-day. The world about him, and his thoughts and reflections, were
his only influences. He read few books, and the chief among them was the
Bible. Mr. Berenson has written an exhaustive and learned work on Lorenzo
Lotto, analysing his pictures year by year, and exhuming the various
painters who influenced Lotto at the different periods of his life. Mr.
Berenson's book extends to nearly three hundred pages. The influences of
the painting fraternity upon Rembrandt would not provide material for the
first paragraph of the first page of such a book.

His fame is assured. He is one of the great triumvirate. "He was greater,
perhaps," says Mr. Clausen, "than any other painter in human feeling and
sympathy, in dramatic sense and invention; and his imagination seemed

The Ryks Museum at Amsterdam may be said to have been designed as a shrine
for his _Night Watch_. Near by it hangs _The Syndics of the Cloth Company_,
excelled, in this particular class of work, by no picture in the world; but
it is by the portraits and the etchings that the sweep, profundity, and
versatility of Rembrandt's genius is exemplified. Truly his imagination was

It is an education to stand before his portraits in the National Gallery.
Observe the _Old Lady_, aged 83, the massive painting of her face, and the
outline of her figure set so firmly against the background. Here is
Realism, frank and straightforward, almost defiant in its strength. Turn
to the portrait of _A Jewish Rabbi_. Here is Idealism. You peer and peer,
and from the brown background emerges a brown garment, relieved by the
black cap, and the black cloak that falls over his left shoulder. Luminous
black and luminous brown! Brown is the side of the face in shadow, brown is
the brow in shadow. All is tributary to the glory of the golden brown on
the lighted portion of the face. The portrait composes into a perfect
whole. The dim blacks and browns lead up to the golden brown illuminating
the old weary head, that wonderful golden brown--the secret of Rembrandt.
This old Jew lives through the magic art of Rembrandt. He crouches in the
frame, wistful and waiting, the eternal type, eternally dreaming the Jews'
dream that is still a dream.


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.




ORDINARY EDITION, 40s. NET. EDITION DE LUXE (limited to 500 Copies), 5

       *       *       *       *       *


HALDANE MACFALL in =The Academy=.--"No one who loves the Art of Whistler
should be without this handsome book; it contains works of Art of exquisite
beauty; it contains a delightful picture of the outward Whistler that the
man himself wished to be mistaken for the real thing--half butterfly, half
wasp, wholly laughing enigma."

=The Observer=.--"A singularly illuminating and intimate monograph."

=The Week's Survey=.--"Mr. Menpes gives us an extraordinarily vivid account
of the technical methods which Whistler employed. This in itself must make
his book a text-book for all time."

=The Magazine of Art=.--"It is all wonderfully true to life, obviously
sincere and convincing, and vastly entertaining."

=The Bystander=.--"One of the most delightful biographical sketches which
has appeared for a long time."

=To-day=.--"A deeply interesting and an extremely entertaining volume."

=The Daily News=.--"A quite miraculous study that, like Shallow, ought to
provide the world with laughter for the wearing out of six fashions. And
after that the pictures will still remain a permanent joy."

A.M.B. in =The King=.--"By far the most valuable and interesting book on
Whistler which has been written, or, indeed, is ever likely to be written."

=T.P.'s Weekly=.--"An honest and clear study of the great artist."

A.C.R.C. in =The Outlook=.--"It bears the impress of actuality, and is
probably the truest chain of living pictures of Whistler's personality that
any 'follower' could have made."

=Dundee Advertiser=.--"Told in a most fascinating manner."

=The World=.--"An extremely interesting and valuable historical document."

=Truth=.--"At once a superb and an amazing book--superb in the number and
excellence of its reproductions of Whistler's work, amazing in its
characteristic anecdotes of the Master."

=The Connoisseur=.--"The illustrations form an invaluable record of
Whistler's art, and they in themselves make Mr. Menpes's book a desirable

=The Studio=.--"Full of deeply interesting data respecting Whistler's
methods, of real revelation of his remarkable personality, and of pathetic
instances of the devotion of his followers."

=The Globe=.--"Eminently amusing and very instructive to boot."

=Aberdeen Free Press=.--"As literature it is vastly entertaining; as art it
is an extraordinarily brilliant and abundant collection representative of
the work of a remarkable man, in himself a 'school.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Non-Illustrated Edition





       *       *       *       *       *





       *       *       *       *       *


=Publishers' Note=.--This book treats of Venice not only at one time of the
day, but at all times. There is Venice at night; Venice in sunshine; Venice
in grey; it is a colour record of Venice, full of actuality. There are all
sides of Venice--old doorways; the Riva; the Rialto; St. Mark's before and
after the fall of the Campanile; the Doge's Palace; the Salute at dawn and
the Salute at sunset; Market Places; Fishing Villages, with their
vividly-coloured Fishing Boats--rich orange sails splashed with yellows and
vermilions; the Piazza; Churches; and the Islands of the Lagoon.

       *       *       *       *       *


=Morning Post.=--"This splendid book will be accepted by all as the best
realisation of an epoch-making ceremony that we are ever likely to get."

=The Academy.=--"Unquestionably the best pictorial representation of the
Durbar which has appeared."

=The Globe.=--"Likely to be the most brilliant and lasting record of the
historical occasion."

       *       *       *       *       *


=The Times.=--"Of the cleverness, both of the pictures and letter-press,
there can be no doubt. Miss Menpes's short papers on the children of
different lands are full of insight, human and fresh experience; and Mr.
Menpes's 100 pictures ... are above all remarkable for their extraordinary
variety of treatment, both in colour scheme and in the pose and
surroundings of the subject."

       *       *       *       *       *


=The Scotsman.=--"Mr. Menpes has been a wanderer over the face of the earth
armed with brush and pencil, and he has brought back with him portfolios
filled with samples of the colour and sunshine, and of the life and form,
quaint or beautiful, of the most famous countries of the East and of the
West, and his charming book is a kind of album into which he has gathered
the cream of an artist's memories and impressions of the many countries he
has visited and sketched in."

       *       *       *       *       *


=The Times.=--"Mr. Menpes's pictures are here given in most perfect
facsimile, and they form altogether a series of colour impressions of Japan
which may fairly be called unrivalled. Even without the narrative they
would show that Mr. Menpes is an enthusiast for Japan, her art and her
people; and very few European artists have succeeded in giving such
complete expression to an admiration in which all share."

       *       *       *       *       *


=Daily Telegraph.=--"One hardly knows which to admire the more--the skill
of the artist or the skill with which his studies have been reproduced, for
the colours of the originals are shown with marvellous fidelity, and the
delicate art of the impressionist loses nothing in the process. The book,
therefore, is a double triumph, and will therefore be prized by

       *       *       *       *       *


=Publishers' Note.=--Mr. Menpes is perhaps exceptionally capable of
producing a true and vivid description of Brittany. He has lived and
painted there for many years. Every aspect of the country has been
faithfully depicted by him; every mood of Breton life, every trait of
character. Whether it is a pig-market that is portrayed, or a dignified
Breton surrounded by his household gods of oak and blue china in the
atmosphere of his own home--whether it is a fleet of fishing boats hung
with cobalt-blue nets, or group of mediæval houses in some ancient
town--each and every picture bears the impress of actuality.

       *       *       *       *       *





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