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Title: Great Pictures, As Seen and Described by Famous Writers
Author: Singleton, Esther, -1930 [Editor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Great Pictures, As Seen and Described by Famous Writers" ***

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Transcriber's note:

      Bracketted lower case letters refer to notes at the end of
      the text{a}

      At the end of this text I have provided some links to Internet
      sites which have more information about some of the artists,
      some of which may have color images similar to the ones presented
      in this book.


As Seen and Described by Famous Writers

Edited and Translated by


Author of "Turrets, Towers, and Temples" and
Translator of "The Music Dramas of Richard Wagner"

With Numerous Illustrations


New York
Dodd, Mead and Company
Copyright, 1899
By Dodd, Mead and Company


The cordial reception of "Turrets, Towers, and Temples" has encouraged
me to hope that a welcome may be given to a book treating the
masterpieces of painting in a similar manner.

Great writers and literary tourists have occasionally been inspired to
record the impressions of their saunterings among galleries and museums.
The most interesting of these, not necessarily professional, I have
tried to bring together in the following pages. My object has been not
to make a selection of the greatest pictures in the world, although many
that have that reputation will be found here, but rather to bring
together those that have produced a powerful impression on great minds.
Consequently, when the reader is disturbed at the omission of some
world-famous painting, I beg him to remember my plan and blame the great
writers instead of me for neglecting his favourite.

My task has not been a light one. A few words of rapturous admiration
are constantly to be met with in the pages of art-lovers, but a
sympathetic study of a single work is rarely found. General comment of a
given artist's work is also plentiful, while discriminating praise of
individual canvases is scanty. The literary selection has, therefore,
involved a great deal of research.

From time to time the relative popularity of painters shifts strangely,
but no matter what inconstant fashion may dictate, or what may be the
cult of the hour, certain paintings never lose their prestige, but
annually attract as many pilgrims as Lourdes or Fusi-San.

Of modern painters I have only included Turner and Rossetti.

It is interesting to compare the example I have chosen from Rossetti
with Leonardo's "Monna Lisa." Pater has admirably brought out, without
dwelling too much upon it, the charm that is eternal in her face as well
as the fantastic imagination of the great artist who created her for all
time. He says: "The fancy of a perpetual life, sweeping together ten
thousand experiences, is an old one.... Certainly Lady Lisa might stand
as the embodiment of the _old_ fancy, the symbol of the _modern_ idea."
In a similar sense Lilith the siren, the Lorelei, the eternal
enchantress, in her modern robe, is the embodiment of a _new_ fancy, the
symbol of the _ancient_ idea; and just here across four centuries the
thoughts of two great artists meet.

The types of beauty and women in this book offer no little suggestion to
the fancy. From Botticelli's "La Bella Simonetta," and Raphael's "La
Fornarina," through all the periods of painting the model has been a
great influence upon the painter's work, and upon this point nearly
every essayist and critic represented in these pages dwells. In many of
the essays, such as Pater's on Botticelli, and Swinburne's on Andrea del
Sarto, the author strays away from the painting to talk of the painter,
but in doing this he gives us so thoroughly the spirit of that painter
that a fuller light is thrown upon the picture before us.

I have included a few criticisms by modern French critics, MM.
Valabrègue, Lafond, Giron, Guiffrey, and Reymond, recognized authorities
upon the artists whose works they describe; and I have selected
Fromentin's valuable essay on "The Night Watch," feeling sure that this
thoughtful criticism would interest even the enthusiastic admirers of
this enigmatical work.

I have been careful to take no unnecessary liberties with the text. In
the translations from Gruyer, Goethe, Fromentin, and others, which were
unfortunately too long to be included entire, I have not allowed myself
to condense, but only to cut. This is true, also, of the English


NEW YORK, _September_, 1899.


  TO THE DOGE GRADENIGO          _Bordone_                  1
                     THÉOPHILE GAUTIER.

THE BIRTH OF VENUS               _Botticelli_               5
                     WALTER PATER.

THE QUEEN OF SHEBA               _Veronese_                16
                     JOHN RUSKIN.

THE LAST JUDGMENT                _Michael Angelo_          18

MAGDALEN IN THE DESERT           _Correggio_               27
                     AIMÉ GIRON.

BANQUET OF THE ARQUEBUSIERS      _Van der Helst_           33

  CYTHÈRE                        _Watteau_                 38
                     EDMOND AND JULES DE GONCOURT.

THE SISTINE MADONNA              _Raphael_                 45
                     F.A. GRUYER.

THE DREAM OF ST. URSULA          _Carpaccio_               58
                     JOHN RUSKIN.

THE DESCENT FROM THE CROSS       _Rubens_                  62
                     EUGÈNE FROMENTIN.

BACCHUS AND ARIADNE              _Titian_                  71
                      I. CHARLES LAMB.
                     II. EDWARD T. COOK.

THE CORONATION OF THE VIRGIN     _Fra Angelico_            77
                     THÉOPHILE GAUTIER.

JUDITH                           _Botticelli_              80
                     MAURICE HEWLETT.

THE AVENUE OF MIDDELHARNAIS      _Hobbema_                 88
                     PAUL LAFOND.

  HERODIAS                       _Andrea del Sarto_        93
                     ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE.

ADORATION OF THE MAGI            _Fabriano_                98
                     F.A. GRUYER.

PORTRAIT OF GEORG GISZE          _Holbein_                101
                     ANTONY VALABRÈGUE.

PARADISE                         _Tintoret_               106
                     JOHN RUSKIN.

AURORA                           _Guido Reni_             114
                      I. CHARLOTTE A. EATON.
                     II. JOHN CONSTABLE.

THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN     _Titian_                 119
                     THÉOPHILE GAUTIER.

THE NIGHT WATCH                  _Rembrandt_              124
                     EUGÈNE FROMENTIN.

THE RAPE OF HELEN                _Gozzoli_                138
                     COSMO MONKHOUSE

MONNA LISA                       _Leonardo da Vinci_      142
                     WALTER PATER.

THE ADORATION OF THE LAMB        _Van Eyck_               154

THE DEATH OF PROCRIS             _Piero di Cosimo_        168
                      I. EDWARD T. COOK.
                     II. JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS.

THE MARRIAGE IN CANA             _Tintoret_               172
                     JOHN RUSKIN.

MADAME DE POMPADOUR              _De la Tour_             177

THE HAY WAIN                     _Constable_              184
                     C.L. BURNS.

THE SURRENDER OF BREDA           _Velasquez_              191
                     THÉOPHILE GAUTIER.

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION        _Murillo_                196
                     AIMÉ GIRON.

ST. FRANCIS BEFORE THE SOLDAN    _Giotto_                 202
                     JOHN RUSKIN.

LILITH                           _Rossetti_               212
                     ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE.

ADORATION OF THE MAGI            _Dürer_                  215
                     MORIZ THAUSING.

MARRIAGE A-LA-MODE               _Hogarth_                218
                     AUSTIN DOBSON.

THE MADONNA OF THE ROCKS         _Leonardo da Vinci_      234
                     THÉOPHILE GAUTIER

BEATRICE CENCI                   _Guido Reni_             239
                     PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

THE TRANSFIGURATION              _Raphael_                249
                     MRS. JAMESON

THE BULL                         _Paul Potter_            256
                     EUGÈNE FROMENTIN

CORÉSUS AND CALLIRHOÉ            _Fragonard_              262
                     EDMOND AND JULES DE GONCOURT

THE MARKET-CART                  _Gainsborough_           268
                     RICHARD AND SAMUEL REDGRAVE

BACCHUS AND ARIADNE              _Tintoret_               273
                     HIPPOLYTE ADOLPHE TAINE

BACCHUS AND ARIADNE                                       278

LA CRUCHE CASSÉE                 _Greuze_                 280
                     THÉOPHILE GAUTIER

AND HER CHILDREN                 _Reynolds_               282
                     FREDERIC G. STEPHENS

ST. CECILIA                      _Raphael_                287
                     PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

THE LAST SUPPER                  _Leonardo da Vinci_      289
                     JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

THE CHILDREN OF CHARLES I.       _Van dyck_               300
                     JULES GUIFFREY

BROKEN UP, 1838                  _Turner_                 306
                     JOHN RUSKIN

SPRING                           _Botticelli_             313
                     MARCEL REYMOND


BORDONE           Fisherman presenting the Ring
                    to the Doge Gradenigo           _Venice_ Frontispiece

                                                              FACING PAGE

BOTTICELLI        The Birth of Venus                _Florence_          6

VERONESE          The Queen of Sheba                _Turin_            16

MICHAEL ANGELO    The Last Judgment                 _Rome_             18

CORREGGIO         Magdalen                          _Dresden_          28

VAN DER HELST     The Banquet of the Arquebusiers   _Amsterdam_        34

WATTEAU           L'Embarquement pour l'Île
                             de Cythère             _Paris_            38

RAPHAEL           The Sistine Madonna               _Dresden_          46

CARPACCIO         The Dream of St. Ursula           _Venice_           58

RUBENS            The Descent from the Cross        _Antwerp_          62

TITIAN            Bacchus and Ariadne               _London_           72

FRA ANGELICO      The Coronation of the Virgin      _Paris_            78

BOTTICELLI        Judith                            _Florence_         80

HOBBEMA           The Avenue of Middelharnais       _London_           88

ANDREA DEL SARTO  The Dance of the Daughter
                             of Herodias            _Florence_         94

FABRIANO          The Adoration of the Magi         _Florence_         98

HOLBEIN           Portrait of Georg Gisze           _Berlin_          102

TINTORET          Paradise                          _Venice_          106

GUIDO RENI        Aurora                            _Rome_            114

TITIAN            The Assumption of the Virgin      _Venice_          120

REMBRANDT         The Night Watch                   _Amsterdam_       124

GOZZOLI           The Rape of Helen                 _London_          138

L. DA VINCI       Monna Lisa                        _Paris_           142

VAN EYCK          The Adoration of the Lamb         _Ghent_           154

PIERO DI COSIMO   The Death of Procris              _London_          168

TINTORET          The Marriage in Cana              _Venice_          172

DE LA TOUR        Portrait of Madame de Pompadour   _Paris_           178

CONSTABLE         The Hay Wain                      _London_          184

VELASQUEZ         The Surrender of Breda            _Madrid_          192

MURILLO           The Immaculate Conception         _Paris_           196

GIOTTO            St. Frances before the Soldan     _Florence_        202

ROSSETTI          Lilith                            _Rockford, Del._  212

DÜRER             The Adoration of the Magi         _Florence_        216

HOGARTH           The Marriage A-la-Mode            _London_          218

L. DA VINCI       The Madonna of the Rocks          _Paris_           234

GUIDO RENI        Portrait of Beatrice Cenci        _Rome_            240

RAPHAEL           The Transfiguration               _Rome_            250

PAUL POTTER       The Bull                          _The Hague_       256

FRAGONARD         Corésus and Callirhoé             _Paris_           262

GAINSBOROUGH      The Market-Cart                   _London_          268

TINTORET          Bacchus and Ariadne               _Venice_          274

GREUZE            La Cruche Cassée                  _Paris_           280

REYNOLDS          Portrait of Lady Cockburn
                             and her Children       _London_          282

RAPHAEL           St. Cecilia                       _Naples_          288

L. DA VINCI       The Last Supper                   _Milan_           290

VAN DYCK          Portrait of the Children of
                             Charles I.             _Turin_           300

TURNER            The Fighting Téméraire            _London_          306

BOTTICELLI        Spring                            _Florence_        314






This picture, which represents a gondolier returning the ring of Saint
Mark to the Doge, treats of a legend, an episode of which Giorgione, as
we shall see in the next hall, has also painted in a somewhat singular
manner. Here is the story in a few words: One night while the gondolier
was sleeping in his gondola, waiting for custom along the canal of S.
Giorgio Maggiore, three mysterious individuals jumped into his boat and
bade him take them to the Lido; one of the three persons, as well as he
could be distinguished in the darkness, appeared to have the beard of an
apostle and the figure of a high dignitary of the Church; the two
others, by a certain sound as of armour rubbing beneath their mantles,
revealed themselves as men-at-arms. The gondolier turned his prow
towards the Lido and began to row; but the lagoon, so tranquil at their
departure, began to chop and swell strangely: the waves gleamed with
sinster{a} lights; monstrous apparitions were outlined menacingly around
the barque to the great terror of the gondolier; and hideous spirits of
evil and devils half man half fish seemed to be swimming from the Lido
towards Venice, making the waves emit thousands of sparks and exciting
the tempest with whistling and fiendish laughter in the storm; but the
appearance of the shining swords of the two knights and the extended
hand of the saintly personage made them recoil and vanish in sulphurous

The battle lasted for a long time; new demons constantly succeeded the
others; however, the victory remained with the personages in the boat,
who had themselves taken back to the landing of the Piazzetta. The
gondolier scarcely knew what to think of their strange conduct; until,
as they were about to separate, the oldest of the group, suddenly
causing his nimbus to shine out again, said to the gondolier: "I am
Saint Mark, the patron of Venice. I learned to-night that the devils
assembled in convention at the Lido in the cemetery of the Jews, had
formed the resolution of exciting a frightful tempest and overthrowing
my beloved city, under the pretext that many excesses are committed
there which give the evil spirits power over her inhabitants; but as
Venice is a good Catholic and will confess her sins in the beautiful
cathedral which she has raised to me, I resolved to defend her from this
peril of which she was ignorant, by the aid of these two brave
companions, Saint George and Saint Theodore, and I have borrowed thy
boat; now, as all trouble merits reward, and as thou hast passed a
boisterous night, here is my ring; carry it to the Doge and tell him
what thou hast seen. He will fill thy cap with golden sequins."

So saying, the Saint resumed his position on the top of the porch of
Saint Mark's, Saint Theodore climbed to the top of his column, where his
crocodile was grumbling with ill-humour, and Saint George went to squat
in the depths of his columned niche in the great window of the Ducal

The gondolier, rather astonished, and he had reason enough, would have
believed that he had been dreaming after drinking during that evening
several glasses too many of the wine of Samos, if the large and heavy
golden ring studded with precious stones which he held in his hand had
not prevented his doubting the reality of the events of the night.

Therefore, he went to find the Doge, who was presiding over the Senate
in his cap of office, and, respectfully kneeling before him, he related
the story of the battle between the devils and the patron saints of
Venice. At first this story seemed incredible; but the return of the
ring, which was in very sooth that of Saint Mark, and the absence of
which from the church treasury was established, proved the gondolier's
veracity. This ring, locked up under triple keys in a carefully-guarded
treasury, the bolts of which showed no trace of disturbance, could only
have been removed by supernatural means. They filled the gondolier's cap
with gold and celebrated a mass of thanksgiving for the peril they had
escaped. This did not prevent the Venetians from continuing their
dissolute course of life, from spending their nights in the haunts of
play, at gay suppers, and in love-making; in masking for intrigues, and
in prolonging the long orgy of their carnival for six months in the
year. The Venetians counted upon the protection of Saint Mark to go to
paradise and they took no other care of their salvation. That was Saint
Mark's affair; they had built him a fine church for that, and the Saint
was still under obligations to them.

The moment selected by Paris Bordone is that when the gondolier falls on
his knees before the Doge. The composition of the scene is very
picturesque; you see in perspective a long row of the brown or grey
heads of senators of the most magisterial character. Curious spectators
are on the steps, forming happily-contrasted groups: the beautiful
Venetian costume is displayed here in all its splendour. Here, as in all
the canvases of this school, an important place is given to
architecture. The background is occupied by fine porticos in the style
of Palladio, animated with people coming and going. This picture
possesses the merit, sufficiently rare in the Italian school, which is
almost exclusively occupied with the reproduction of religious or
mythological subjects, of representing a popular legend, a scene of
manners, in a word, a romantic subject such as Delacroix or Louis
Boulanger might have chosen and treated according to his own special
talent; and this gives it a character of its own and an individual

    _Voyage en Italie_ (Paris, new ed., 1884).




In Leonardo's treatise on painting only one contemporary is mentioned by
name--Sandro Botticelli. This pre-eminence may be due to chance only,
but to some will rather appear a result of deliberate judgment; for
people have begun to find out the charm of Botticelli's work, and his
name, little known in the last century, is quietly becoming important.
In the middle of the Fifteenth Century he had already anticipated much
of that meditative subtlety which is sometimes supposed peculiar to the
great imaginative workmen of its close. Leaving the simple religion
which had occupied the followers of Giotto for a century, and the simple
naturalism which had grown out of it, a thing of birds and flowers only,
he sought inspiration in what to him were works of the modern world, the
writings of Dante and Boccaccio, and in new readings of his own of
classical stories; or if he painted religious subjects, painted them
with an undercurrent of original sentiment which touches you as the real
matter of the picture through the veil of its ostensible subject. What
is the peculiar sensation, what is the peculiar quality of pleasure
which his work has the property of exciting in us, and which we cannot
get elsewhere? For this, especially when he has to speak of a
comparatively unknown artist, is always the chief question which a
critic has to answer.

In an age when the lives of artists were full of adventure, his life is
almost colourless. Criticism indeed has cleared away much of the gossip
which Vasari accumulated, has touched the legend of Lippo and Lucrezia,
and rehabilitated the character of Andrea del Castagno; but in
Botticelli's case there is no legend to dissipate. He did not even go by
his true name: Sandro is a nickname, and his true name is Filipepi,
Botticelli being only the name of the goldsmith who first taught him
art. Only two things happened to him, two things which he shared with
other artists--he was invited to Rome to paint in the Sistine Chapel,
and he fell in later life under the influence of Savonarola, passing
apparently almost out of men's sight in a sort of religious melancholy
which lasted till his death in 1515, according to the received date.
Vasari says that he plunged into the study of Dante, and even wrote a
comment on the _Divine Comedy_. But it seems strange that he should have
lived on inactive so long; and one almost wishes that some document
might come to light which, fixing the date of his death earlier, might
relieve one, in thinking of him, of his dejected old age.

[Illustration: THE BIRTH OF VENUS.

He is before all things a poetical painter, blending the charm of story
and sentiment, the medium of the art of poetry, with the charm of line
and colour, the medium of abstract painting. So he becomes the
illustrator of Dante. In a few rare examples of the edition of 1481, the
blank spaces left at the beginning of every canto for the hand of the
illuminator have been filled as far as the nineteenth canto of the
_Inferno_, with impressions of engraved plates, seemingly by way of
experiment, for in the copy in the Bodleian Library, one of the three
impressions it contains has been printed upside down and much awry in
the midst of the luxurious printed page. Giotto, and the followers of
Giotto, with their almost childish religious aim, had not learned to put
that weight of meaning into outward things, light, colour, every-day
gesture, which the poetry of the _Divine Comedy_ involves, and before
the Fifteenth Century Dante could hardly have found an illustrator.
Botticelli's illustrations are crowded with incident, blending with a
naïve carelessness of pictorial propriety three phases of the same scene
into one plate. The grotesques, so often a stumbling-block to painters
who forget that the words of a poet, which only feebly present an image
to the mind, must be lowered in key when translated into form, make one
regret that he has not rather chosen for illustration the more subdued
imagery of the _Purgatorio_. Yet in the scene of those who go down quick
into hell there is an invention about the fire taking hold on the
up-turned soles of the feet, which proves that the design is no mere
translation of Dante's words, but a true painter's vision; while the
scene of the Centaurs wins one at once, for, forgetful of the actual
circumstances of their appearance, Botticelli has gone off with delight
on the thought of the Centaurs themselves, bright small creatures of the
woodland, with arch baby faces and mignon forms, drawing tiny bows.

Botticelli lived in a generation of naturalists, and he might have been
a mere naturalist among them. There are traces enough in his work of
that alert sense of outward things which, in the pictures of that
period, fills the lawns with delicate living creatures, and the
hill-sides with pools of water, and the pools of water with flowering
reeds. But this was not enough for him; he is a visionary painter, and
in his visionariness he resembles Dante. Giotto, the tried companion of
Dante, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio even, do but transcribe with more or less
refining the outward image; they are dramatic, not visionary painters;
they are almost impassive spectators of the action before them. But the
genius of which Botticelli is the type usurps the data before it as the
exponents of ideas, moods, visions of its own; with this interest it
plays fast and loose with those data, rejecting some and isolating
others, and always combining them anew. To him, as to Dante, the scene,
the colour, the outward image or gesture, comes with all its incisive
and importunate reality; but awakes in him, moreover, by some subtle
structure of his own, a mood which it awakes in no one else, of which it
is the double or repetition, and which it clothes, that all may share
it, with sensuous circumstances.

But he is far enough from accepting the conventional orthodoxy of Dante
which, referring all human action to the easy formula of purgatory,
heaven, and hell, leaves an insoluble element of prose in the depths of
Dante's poetry. One picture of his, with the portrait of the donor,
Matteo Palmieri, below, had the credit or discredit of attracting some
shadow of ecclesiastical censure. This Matteo Palmieri--two dim figures
move under that name in contemporary history--was the reputed author of
a poem, still unedited, _La Città Divina_, which represented the human
race as an incarnation of those angels who, in the revolt of Lucifer,
were neither for God nor for his enemies, a fantasy of that earlier
Alexandrian philosophy, about which the Florentine intellect in that
century was so curious. Botticelli's picture may have been only one of
those familiar compositions in which religious reverie has recorded its
impressions of the various forms of beatified existence--_Glorias_, as
they were called, like that in which Giotto painted the portrait of
Dante; but somehow it was suspected of embodying in a picture the
wayward dream of Palmieri, and the chapel where it hung was closed.
Artists so entire as Botticelli are usually careless about philosophical
theories, even when the philosopher is a Florentine of the Fifteenth
Century, and his work a poem in _terza rima_. But Botticelli, who wrote
a commentary on Dante and became the disciple of Savonarola, may well
have let such theories come and go across him. True or false, the story
interprets much of the peculiar sentiment with which he infuses his
profane and sacred persons, comely, and in a certain sense like angels,
but with a sense of displacement or loss about them--the wistfulness of
exiles conscious of a passion and energy greater than any known issue of
them explains, which runs through all his varied work with a sentiment
of ineffable melancholy.

So just what Dante scorns as unworthy alike of heaven and hell,
Botticelli accepts, that middle world in which men take no side in great
conflicts, and decide no great causes, and make great refusals. He thus
sets for himself the limits within which art, undisturbed by any moral
ambition, does its most sincere and surest work. His interest is neither
in the untempered goodness of Angelico's saints, nor the untempered evil
of Orcagna's _Inferno_; but with men and women in their mixed and
uncertain condition, always attractive, clothed sometimes by passion
with a character of loveliness and energy, but saddened perpetually by
the shadow upon them of the great things from which they shrink. His
morality is all sympathy; and it is this sympathy, conveying into his
work somewhat more than is usual of the true complexion of humanity,
which makes him, visionary as he is, so forcible a realist.

It is this which gives to his Madonnas their unique expression and
charm. He has worked out in them a distinct and peculiar type, definite
enough in his own mind, for he has painted it over and over again,
sometimes one might think almost mechanically, as a pastime during that
dark period when his thoughts were so heavy upon him. Hardly any
collection of note is without one of these circular pictures, into which
the attendant angels depress their heads so naïvely. Perhaps you have
sometimes wondered why those peevish-looking Madonnas, conformed to no
acknowledged or obvious type of beauty, attract you more and more, and
often come back to you when the Sistine Madonna and the virgins of Fra
Angelico are forgotten. At first, contrasting them with those, you may
have thought that there was even something in them mean or abject, for
the abstract lines of the face have little nobleness and the colour is
wan. For with Botticelli she too, though she holds in her hands the
"Desire of all nations," is one of those who are neither for God nor
for his enemies; and her choice is on her face. The white light on it is
cast up hard and cheerless from below, as when snow lies upon the
ground, and the children look up with surprise at the strange whiteness
of the ceiling. Her trouble is in the very caress of the mysterious
child, whose gaze is always far from her, and who has already that sweet
look of devotion which men have never been able altogether to love, and
which still makes the born saint an object almost of suspicion to his
earthly brethren. Once, indeed, he guides her hand to transcribe in a
book the words of her exaltation, the _Ave_ and the _Magnificat_, and
the _Gaude Maria_, and the young angels, glad to rouse her for a moment
from her dejection, are eager to hold the inkhorn and support the book;
but the pen almost drops from her hand, and the high cold words have no
meaning for her, and her true children are those others, in the midst of
whom, in her rude home, the intolerable honour came to her, with that
look of wistful inquiry on their irregular faces which you see in
startled animals--gipsy children, such as those who, in Apennine
villages, still hold out their long brown arms to beg of you, but on
Sundays become _enfants du choeur_ with their thick black hair nicely
combed and fair white linen on their sunburnt throats.

What is strangest is that he carries this sentiment into classical
subjects, its most complete expression being a picture in the Uffizi, of
Venus rising from the sea, in which the grotesque emblems of the middle
age, and a landscape full of its peculiar feeling, and even its strange
draperies powdered all over in the Gothic manner with a quaint conceit
of daisies, frame a figure that reminds you of the faultless nude
studies of Ingres. At first, perhaps, you are attracted only by a
quaintness of design, which seems to recall all at once whatever you
have read of Florence in the Fifteenth Century; afterwards you may think
that this quaintness must be incongruous with the subject, and that the
colour is cadaverous, or at least cold. And yet the more you come to
understand what imaginative colouring really is, that all colour is no
mere delightful quality of natural things, but a spirit upon them by
which they become expressive to the spirit, the better you will like
this peculiar quality of colour; and you will find that quaint design of
Botticelli's a more direct inlet into the Greek temper than the works of
the Greeks themselves even of the finest period. Of the Greeks as they
really were, of their difference from ourselves, of the aspects of their
outward life, we know far more than Botticelli, or his most learned
contemporaries; but for us, long familiarity has taken off the edge of
the lesson, and we are hardly conscious of what we owe to the Hellenic
spirit. But in pictures like this of Botticelli's you have a record of
the first impression made by it on minds turned back towards it in
almost painful aspiration from a world in which it had been ignored so
long; and in the passion, the energy, the industry of realization, with
which Botticelli carries out his intention, is the exact measure of the
legitimate influence over the human mind of the imaginative system of
which this is the central myth. The light is, indeed, cold--mere sunless
dawn; but a later painter would have cloyed you with sunshine; and you
can see the better for that quietness in the morning air each long
promontory as it slopes down to the water's edge. Men go forth to their
labours until the evening; but she is awake before them, and you might
think that the sorrow in her face was at the thought of the whole long
day of love yet to come. An emblematical figure of the wind blows hard
across the grey water, moving forward the dainty-lipped shell on which
she sails, the sea "showing his teeth" as it moves in thin lines of
foam, and sucking in one by one the falling roses, each severe in
outline, plucked off short at the stalk, but embrowned a little, as
Botticelli's flowers always are. Botticelli meant all that imagery to be
altogether pleasurable; and it was partly an incompleteness of
resources, inseparable from the art of that time, that subdued and
chilled it; but his predilection for minor tones counts also; and what
is unmistakable is the sadness with which he has conceived the goddess
of pleasure as the depository of a great power over the lives of men.

I have said that the peculiar character of Botticelli is the result of a
blending in him of a sympathy for humanity in its uncertain condition,
its attractiveness, its investiture at rarer moments in a character of
loveliness and energy, with his consciousness of the shadow upon it of
the great things from which it shrinks, and that this conveys into his
work somewhat more than painting usually attains of the true complexion
of humanity. He paints the story of the goddess of pleasure in other
episodes besides that of her birth from the sea, but never without some
shadow of death in the grey flesh and wan flowers. He paints Madonnas,
but they shrink from the pressure of the divine child, and plead in
unmistakable undertones for a warmer, lower humanity. The same
figure--tradition connects it with Simonetta, the mistress of Giuliano
de' Medici--appears again as Judith returning home across the hill
country when the great deed is over, and the moment of revulsion come,
and the olive branch in her hand is becoming a burthen; as Justice,
sitting on a throne, but with a fixed look of self-hatred which makes
the sword in her hand seem that of a suicide; and again as Veritas in
the allegorical picture of Calumnia, where one may note in passing the
suggestiveness of an accident which identifies the image of Truth with
the person of Venus. We might trace the same sentiment through his
engravings; but his share in them is doubtful, and the object of this
fragment has been attained if I have defined aright the temper in which
he worked.

But, after all, it may be asked, is a painter like Botticelli, a
second-rate painter, a proper subject for general criticism? There are a
few great painters, like Michael Angelo or Leonardo, whose work has
become a force in general culture, partly for this very reason that they
have absorbed into themselves all such workmen as Sandro Botticelli;
and, over and above mere technical or antiquarian criticism, general
criticism may be very well employed in that sort of interpretation which
adjusts the position of these men to general culture, whereas smaller
men can be the proper subjects only of technical or antiquarian
treatment. But, besides those great men, there is a certain number of
artists who have a distinct faculty of their own by which they convey to
us a peculiar quality of pleasure which we cannot get elsewhere, and
these, too, have their place in general culture, and have to be
interpreted to it by those who have felt their charm strongly, and are
often the objects of a special diligence and a consideration wholly
affectionate, just because there is not about them the stress of a great
name and authority. Of this select number Botticelli is one; he has the
freshness, the uncertain and diffident promise which belongs to the
earlier Renaissance itself, and makes it perhaps the most interesting
period in the history of the mind; in studying his work one begins to
understand to how great a place in human culture the art of Italy had
been called.

    _Studies in the History of the Renaissance_ (London, 1873).




This picture is at Turin, and is of quite inestimable value. It is hung
high; and the really principal figure--the Solomon, being in the shade,
can hardly be seen, but is painted with Veronese's utmost tenderness, in
the bloom of perfect youth, his hair golden, short, crisply curled. He
is seated high on his lion throne; two elders on each side beneath him,
the whole group forming a tower of solemn shade. I have alluded,
elsewhere, to the principle on which all the best composers act, of
supporting these lofty groups by some vigorous mass of foundation. This
column of noble shade is curiously sustained. A falconer leans forward
from the left-hand side, bearing on his wrist a snow-white falcon, its
wings spread, and brilliantly relieved against the purple robe of one of
the elders. It touches with its wings one of the golden lions of the
throne, on which the light also flashes strongly; thus forming, together
with it, the lion and eagle symbol, which is the type of Christ,
throughout mediæval work. In order to show the meaning of this symbol,
and that Solomon is typically invested with the Christian royalty, one
of the elders by a bold anachronism, holds a jewel in his hand in the
shape of a cross, with which he (by accident of gesture) points to
Solomon; his other hand is laid on an open book.

[Illustration: THE QUEEN OF SHEBA.

The group opposite, of which the Queen forms the centre, is also painted
with Veronese's highest skill; but contains no point of interest bearing
on our present subject, except its connection by a chain of descending
emotion. The Queen is wholly oppressed and subdued; kneeling, and nearly
fainting, she looks up to Solomon with tears in her eyes; he, startled
by fear for her, stoops forward from the throne, opening his right hand,
as if to support her, so as almost to drop the sceptre. At her side her
first maid of honour is kneeling also, but does not care about Solomon;
and is gathering up her dress that it may not be crushed; and looking
back to encourage a negro girl, who, carrying two toy-birds, made of
enamel and jewels, for presentation to the King, is frightened at seeing
her Queen fainting, and does not know what she ought to do; while
lastly, the Queen's dog, another of the little fringy paws, is wholly
unabashed by Solomon's presence, or anybody else's; and stands with his
forelegs well apart, right in front of his mistress, thinking everybody
has lost their wits; and barking violently at one of the attendants, who
has set down a golden vase disrespectfully near him.

    _Modern Painters_ (London, 1860).




While Michael Angelo worked upon his _Moses_, Clement VII., following
the example of Julius II., would not leave him alone for a moment. It
was a trick of all these Popes to exact from the poor artist something
different to what he was doing at the time. To obtain some respite, he
was forced to promise the Pope that he would occupy himself at the same
time with the cartoon of _The Last Judgment_. But Clement VII. was not a
man to be put off with words; he supervised the work in person, and
Buonarroti was obliged to pass continually from the chisel to the pencil
and from the pen to the mallet. _The Last Judgment!_ _Moses!_ these are
two works of little importance and easy to do off-hand! And yet he had
to. His Holiness would not listen to reason.

One day it was announced to Michael Angelo that he would not receive his
accustomed visit: Clement VII. was dead. The artist breathed freely just
during the Conclave.

The new Pope, Paul III., had nothing more pressing to do than to present
himself in Buonarroti's studio, followed pompously by ten cardinals. The
newly-elected Pope was easily recognized there!

[Illustration: THE LAST JUDGMENT.
        _Michael Angelo_.]

"Ah!" said the Holy Father, in a tone of firm decision, "I hope that
henceforth the whole of your time will belong to me, Maestro

"May your Holiness deign to excuse me," replied Michael Angelo, "but I
have just signed an engagement with the Duke of Urbino, which forces me
to finish the tomb of Pope Julius."

"What!" exclaimed Paul III.: "for thirty years I have had a certain wish
and now that I am Pope I cannot realize it!"

"But the contract, Holy Father, the contract!"

"Where is this contract? I will tear it up."

"Ah!" exclaimed in his turn the Cardinal of Mantua, who was one of the
suite, "your Holiness should see the _Moses_ which Maestro Michael
Angelo has just finished: that statue alone would more than suffice to
honour the memory of Julius."

"Cursed flatterer!" muttered Michael Angelo in a low voice.

"Come, come, I will take charge of this matter myself," said the Pope.
"You shall only make three statues with your own hand: the rest shall be
given to other sculptors, and I will answer for the Duke of Urbino's
consent. And now, Maestro, to the Sistine Chapel. A great empty wall is
waiting for you there."

What could Michael Angelo reply to such an emphatic wish expressed so
distinctly? He finished in his best style his two statues of _Active
Life_ and _Contemplative Life_--Dante's symbolical Rachel and Leah--and
not wishing to profit by this new arrangement to which he was forced to
submit, he added fifteen hundred and twenty-four ducats to the four
thousand he had received, to pay with his own gains for the works
confided to the other artists.

Having thus terminated this unfortunate affair, which had caused him so
much worry and fatigue, Michael Angelo was at last enabled to occupy
himself exclusively with the execution of his _Last Judgment_, to which
he devoted no less than eight to nine years.

This immense and unique picture, in which the human figure is
represented in all possible attitudes, where every sentiment, every
passion, every reflection of thought, and every aspiration of the soul
are rendered with inimitable perfection, has never been equalled and
never will be equalled in the domain of Art.

This time the genius of Michael Angelo simply attacked the infinite. The
subject of this vast composition, the manner in which it is conceived
and executed, the admirable variety and the learned disposition of the
groups, the inconceivable boldness and firmness of the outlines, the
contrast of light and shade, the difficulties, I might almost say the
impossibilities vanquished, as if it were all mere play, and with a
happiness that savours of prodigy, the unity of the whole and the
perfection of the details, make _The Last Judgment_ the most complete
and the greatest picture in existence. It is broad and magnificent in
effect, and yet each part of this prodigious painting gains infinitely
when seen and studied quite near; and we do not know of any
easel-picture worked upon with such patience and finished with such

The painter could only choose one scene, several isolated groups, in
this appalling drama which will be enacted on the last day in the Valley
of Jehoshaphat, where all the generations of man shall be gathered
together. And yet, admire the omnipotence of genius! With nothing but a
single episode in a restricted space, and solely by the expression of
the human body, the artist has succeeded in striking you with
astonishment and terror, and in making you really a spectator of the
supreme catastrophe.

At the base of the picture, very nearly in the centre, you perceive the
boat of the _Inferno_, a fantastic reminiscence borrowed from Pagan
tradition, in accordance with which first the poet and then the painter
were pleased to clothe an accursed being with the form and occupation of

"Charon with the eyes of burning embers gathering together with a
gesture all these souls, and striking with his oar those who

It is impossible to form an idea of the incredible science displayed by
Michael Angelo in the varied contortions of the damned, heaped one upon
the other in the fatal bark. All the violent contractions, all the
visible tortures, all the frightful shrinkings that suffering, despair,
and rage can produce upon human muscles are rendered in this group with
a realism that would make the most callous shudder. To the left of this
bark you see the gaping mouth of a cavern; this is the entrance to
Purgatory, where several demons are in despair because they have no more
souls to torment.

This first group, which very naturally attracts the spectator's
attention, is that of the dead whom the piercing sound of the eternal
trumpet has awakened in their tombs. Some of them shake off their
shrouds, others with great difficulty open their eyelids made heavy by
their long sleep. Towards the angle of the picture there is a monk who
is pointing out the Divine Judge with his left hand; this monk is the
portrait of Michael Angelo.

The second group is formed of the resuscitated ones who ascend of
themselves to the Judgment. These figures, many of which are sublime in
expression, rise more or less lightly into space, according to the
burden of their sins, of which they must render account.

The third group, also ascending to the right of Christ, is that of the
Blessed. Among all these saints, some of whom show the instrument of
their execution, others the marks of their martyrdom, there is one head
especially remarkable for beauty and tenderness: it is that of a mother
who is protecting her daughter, turning her eyes, filled with faith and
hope, towards the Christ.

Above the host of saints, you see a fourth group of angelic spirits,
some bearing the Cross, others the Crown of Thorns,--instruments and
emblems of the Saviour's Passion.

The fifth group, parallel to the fourth which we have just pointed out,
is composed of angels; such, at least, they seem to be by the splendour
of their youth and the aërial lightness of their movements; and these
also bear, as if in triumph, other emblems of the divine expiation--the
column, the ladder, and the sponge.

Above these angels, on the same plane as the saints and to the left of
Christ, is the choir of the just; the patriarchs, the prophets, the
apostles, the martyrs, and the holy personages form this sixth group.

The seventh is the most horrible of all and the one in which the art of
Michael Angelo has displayed itself in all its terrific grandeur: it is
composed of the rejected ones, overwhelmed by the decree and led away to
punishment by the rebel angels. The very coldest spectator could not
remain unmoved by this spectacle. You believe yourself in hell; you hear
the cries of anguish and the gnashing of the teeth of the wretched, who,
according to the terrible Dantesque expression, vainly desire a second

The eighth, ninth, and tenth groups, occupying the base of the
composition, are composed, as we have already said, of the bark of
Charon, the grotto of Purgatory, and the Angels of Judgment, eight in
number, blowing their brazen trumpets with all their might to convoke
the dead from the four quarters of the earth.

Finally, in the eleventh group, in the centre, very near the upper part
of the picture, between the two companies of the blessed, and seated
upon the clouds, the sovereign Judge with a terrible action hurls his
malediction upon the condemned: _"Ite maledicti in ignem aeternum."_ The
Virgin turns away her head and trembles. On Christ's right is Adam, and
on his left, St. Peter. They have exactly the same positions assigned to
them by Dante in his _Paradiso_.

This immense work was exhibited to the public on Christmas Day, 1541. It
had cost eight years of work. Michael Angelo was then sixty-seven years

Several anecdotes relating to this great picture have come down to us.

It is related that the Pope, scandalized at the nudity of certain
figures, a nudity which Daniele da Volterra was afterwards charged to
clothe, sent word to Michael Angelo that he must cover them.

Michael Angelo replied with his usual brusqueness:

"Tell the Pope that he must employ himself a little less in correcting
my pictures, which is very easy, and employ himself a little more in
reforming men, which is very difficult."

It is said that Maestro Biaggio, master of ceremonies to Paul III.,
having accompanied the Pope on a visit that His Holiness made to see
Michael Angelo's fresco when it was about half finished, allowed himself
to express his own opinion upon _The Last Judgment_.

"Holy Father," said the good Messer Biaggio, "if I dare pronounce my
judgment, this picture seems more appropriate to figure in a tavern than
in the chapel of a Pope."

Unfortunately for the master of ceremonies, Michael Angelo was behind
him and did not lose a word of Messer Biaggio's compliment. The Pope had
scarcely gone before the irritated artist, wishing to make an example as
a warning for all future critics, placed this Messer Biaggio in his
hell, well and duly, under the scarcely flattering guise of Minos. That
was always Dante's way when he wanted to avenge himself upon an enemy.

I leave you to imagine the lamentations and complaints of the poor
master of ceremonies when he saw himself damned in this manner. He threw
himself at the Pope's feet, declaring that he would never arise unless
His Holiness would have him taken out of hell: that was the most
important thing. As for the punishment, that the painter deserved for
this dreadful sacrilege, Messer Biaggio would leave that entirely to the
high impartiality of the Holy Father.

"Messer Biaggio," replied Paul III. with as much seriousness as he could
maintain, "you know that I have received from God an absolute power in
heaven and upon the earth, but I can do nothing in hell; therefore you
must remain there."

While Michael Angelo was working at his picture of _The Last Judgment_,
he fell from the scaffold and seriously injured his leg. Soured by pain
and seized with an attack of misanthropy, the painter shut himself up in
his house and would not see any one.

But he reckoned without his physician; and the physician this time was
as stubborn as the invalid.

This excellent disciple of Æsculapius was named Baccio Rontini. Having
learned by chance of the accident that had befallen the great artist, he
presented himself before his house and knocked in vain at the door.

No response.

He shouted, he flew into a passion, and he called the neighbours and the
servants in a loud voice.

Complete silence.

He goes to find a ladder, places it against the front of the house, and
tries to enter by the casements. The windows are hermetically sealed and
the shutters are fast.

What is to be done? Any one else in the physician's place would have
given up; but Rontini was not the man to be discouraged for so little.
With much difficulty he enters the cellar and with no less trouble he
goes up into Buonarroti's room, and, partly by acquiescence and partly
by force, he triumphantly tends his friend's leg.

It was quite time: exasperated by his sufferings, the artist had
resolved to let himself die.

    _Trois Maîtres_ (Paris, 1861).


[1] Dante, _Inferno_ III.




Correggio was a painter and a poet at the same time, interpreting
Nature, flattering her, idealizing her, and realizing her creations in
their double æsthetic expression, with undulating outlines and tender
tones. His drawing was modelled and supple, with a certain vigour of
line and a certain solidity of relief. He had a charming imagination of
conception and a voluptuous grace in its accomplishment, which are
requisites in the painting of women and children. He therefore excelled
in rendering _bambini_. With a note-book in his hand, he studied them
everywhere. This explains why his Loves and his Cherubs have such rare
truth of mien, of flesh, and of life. His knowledge of anatomy is great
and he foreshortens on canvas and ceiling astonishingly before the
advent of Michael Angelo. His enchanting colouring, impasted like that
of Giorgione, vivid as that of Titian, ran through the most delicate
gradations and melted into the most elusive harmonies. Beneath his
facile brush, soft and thick, the transparencies of the skin and the
morbidezza of the flesh become ideal.

He was the first to apply himself to the choice of fabrics, and one of
the first in Italy to attend to the scientific distribution of light.
But, in the famous _chiaroscuro_ he does not get his effects by
contrasts, but by analogies, superimposing shadow upon shadow and light
upon light, both being disposed in large masses and graduated in
progression. This process occurs at its fullest in the _Christmas
Night_, where the moon shines, and the child glows with radiance, in a
kind of symbolic struggle between the natural light of this world and
the supernatural light of the other. The effect is such that the
spectator is forced instinctively to blink his eyes, as does the
Shepherdess herself entering the stable.

"When Correggio excels he is a painter worthy of Athens," wrote Diderot,
whose art criticism had in it more of sentiment than knowledge.

"With Correggio everything is large and graceful," said Louis Carrache,
who gave Correggio a large place in his eclecticism. But after studying
and weighing everything, from his somewhat excessive qualities it
follows that Correggio was more of an idealist than a mystic and obeyed
Art more than Faith, with a leaning towards the apotheosis of form. He
painted _Io and Jupiter_ for Frederick Gonzaga of Mantua. This picture
having passed to the son of the Regent, the two passionate heads so
strongly troubled his prudery that he cut them out and burned them.
Coypel then begged the Prince to spare the rest and to give it to him.
He obtained it on condition that "he would make good use of it," and on
the death of Coypel, M. Pasquier, _député du Commerce de Rouen_, paid
16,500 _livres_ for the mutilated remains, as I find in a very old

[Illustration: MAGDALEN.

All the great museums of the world possess Correggios, and I will only
mention the exquisite _Saint Catherine_ and the resplendent _Antiope_ of
the Louvre; the _Danaë_ of the Borghese Gallery, a _chef-d'oeuvre_ of
grace and delicacy; and, finally, in the Dresden Gallery, our _Magdalen
in the Desert_, that jewel so well-known and so often reproduced.

This Magdalen as a matter of fact holds the first place among the small
Correggios. There are two kinds of Magdalens in art: I. the Repentant,
emaciated, growing ugly, disfigured by tears and penitence at the end of
her life, with a skull in her hand or before her eyes, not having had
even--like the one sculptured in the Cathedral of Rouen--"for three
times ten winters any other vesture than her long hair," according to
Petrarch's verse; II. the Sinner, always young, always beautiful, always
seductive, who has not lost any of her charms nor even of her coquetry,
and with whom the Book of Life takes the place of the Death's Head.

Our Magdalen belongs to the latter class. In a solitary spot, but
attractive with its verdure and rocks, on a grassy knoll the saint is
stretched out at full length, with her shoulder, her bosom, her arms,
and her feet adorably bare. A blue fabric drapes the rest of her body
and forms a coquettish hood for her head and neck. Her flesh has a
robust elegance of line. Leaning on her right elbow, her hand, half
hidden in her hair, supports a charming and meditative head, while her
other arm is slipped under an open manuscript. Her hair, long and
blonde, according to legend--which she loves and still cares for because
it once wiped the feet of her Saviour--falls in thick curls, or strays
at will with a premeditated abandon. On the ground, to her right, stands
the vase of perfumes of her first adoration; to the left are the stones
of her supreme expiation.

What grace in her attitude! What beauty of form! She is thrown in with a
rare happiness and painted with an exquisite delicacy of touch and tint.
The blue drapery upon the green landscape defines her sufficiently
without making her stand out too much, leaving the figure and the
landscape to mingle without disturbing each other in skilful harmony.
All of this is in most finished execution, a little elaborate, perhaps,
and the expression of the face reflects the sweet, sad memory of the
Beloved, whose Gospels she is reading, just as one reads again tender
letters of the past.

This work was executed for the Dukes of Este, who kept it in a silver
frame studded with precious stones and used it as an ornament for their
bedrooms, and when they travelled, they took it with them in a casket.
When the King of Poland became its possessor, he gave it a second boxing
of glass with lock and key. In 1788, this masterpiece having been
stolen, 1,000 ducats were promised for its discovery, and, in
consideration of that sum, the thief denounced himself. Cristofano
Allori, the greatest Florentine painter of the Decadence, made a superb
copy for the Offices, I believe.

This Magdalen of Correggio's, "the least converted of sinners and the
most adorable of penitents," is she really, historically and
liturgically the Magdalen of the House of Bethany, of the grotto de la
Sainte-Baume in Provence? No. She recalls rather "_cette dame de
marque_" who was evoked in the Seventeenth Century by the Carmelite
Father Pierre de Saint-Louis in his sublime poem of accomplished
burlesque; and does not the following verse hum in your ear:

  _"Lèvres dont l'incarnat faisant voir à la fois
  Un rosier sans épine, un chapelet sans croix,"_

while the sinner

            _" ... s'occupe à punir le forfait
  De son temps prétérit qui ne fut qu'imparfait"?_

This evidently is not at all the art of the Middle Ages, nor its saints,
whose vestment was sackcloth and whose body was a mere lay figure for a
soul devoted entirely to purity, to simplicity, to mysticism, and to the
other world. In the Sixteenth Century, however, people took the
sackcloth from the saints and dressed them in flesh. Then was produced a
kind of revival of paganism, of naturalism, of life; and religious art,
in its flesh and colouring, no longer created anything but an Olympus of
beautiful maidens, or, at least, noble goddesses. Correggio's Magdalen
belongs to this artistic cycle and the painter executed it in the
noonday splendour of those qualities, the dawn of which glows in Parma
at St. Paul's. Correggio is not a mystic, he is a voluptuous naturalist,
and from him to the realist Caravaggio, "the grinder of flesh," and the
exuberant Rubens, who gave much study to Correggio, the distance is not
very great and the decline is fatal. But, in the meantime, where shall
we find more grace, or seductiveness--under this conversion complicated
with memories--than in Correggio's Magdalen?

In hagiographal literature we find a work of similar tone and charm:
_Marie Madeleine_, by P. Lacordaire, an exquisite little book written
with tenderness and piety, which deliciously calls up before us the
Magdalen of repentance and love, "the loving woman accustomed to the
delights of contemplation and needing only to see in her heart him whom
in other days she saw under the transparent veil of mortal flesh."

It must be confessed that Correggio was constantly preoccupied with
_charm_ and with that skilful coquetry that sports with every grace.
This is a subtlety of purely personal qualities; but let others beware
of a systematic affectation! In this way Correggio did not found a
school, but he had imitators, among whom was Parmigiano, who by dint of
study and in search for grace--the most natural thing in the world--most
often fell into affected and conventional ways.

    Jouin, _Chefs-d'oeuvre: Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture_
    (Paris, 1895-7).




The _Night-Watch_ at Amsterdam is magnificent in parts, but on the side
to the spectator's right, smoky and dim. The _Five Masters of the
Drapers_ is wonderful for depth, strength, brightness, massive power.
What words are these to express a picture! to describe a description! I
once saw a moon riding in the sky serenely, attended by her sparkling
maids of honour, and a little lady said, with an air of great
satisfaction, "_I must sketch it_." Ah, my dear lady, if with an H.B., a
Bristol board, and a bit of india-rubber, you can sketch the firmament
on high, and the moon in her glory, I make you my compliment! I can't
sketch _The Five Drapers_ with any ink or pen at present at command--but
can look with all my eyes, and be thankful to have seen such a

They say he was a moody, ill-conditioned man, the old tenant of the
mill. What does he think of the "Van der Helst" which hangs opposite his
_Night-Watch_, and which is one of the great pictures of the world? It
is not painted by so great a man as Rembrandt; but there it is--to see
it is an event of your life. Having beheld it you have lived in the
year 1648, and celebrated the Treaty of Münster. You have shaken the
hands of the Dutch Guardsmen, eaten from their platters, drunk their
Rhenish, heard their jokes, as they wagged their jolly beards. The
Amsterdam Catalogue discourses thus about it:--a model catalogue: it
gives you the prices paid, the signatures of the painters, a succinct
description of the work.

"This masterpiece represents a banquet of the Civic Guard, which took
place on the 18th of June, 1648, in the great hall of the St. Joris
Doele, on the Singel at Amsterdam, to celebrate the conclusion of the
Peace at Münster. The thirty-five figures composing the picture are all

"'The Captain Witse' is placed at the head of the table, and attracts
our attention first. He is dressed in black velvet, his breast covered
with a cuirass, on his head a broad-brimmed black hat with white plumes.
He is comfortably seated on a chair of black oak, with a velvet cushion,
and holds in his left hand, supported on his knee, a magnificent
drinking-horn, surrounded by a St. George destroying the dragon, and
ornamented with olive-leaves. The captain's features express cordiality
and good-humour; he is grasping the hand of 'Lieutenant Van Wavern'
seated near him in a habit of dark grey, with lace and buttons of gold,
lace-collar and wrist-bands, his feet crossed, with boots of yellow
leather, with large tops, and gold spurs, on his head a black hat and
dark-brown plumes. Behind him, at the centre of the picture, is the
standard-bearer, 'Jacob Banning,' in an easy martial attitude, hat in
hand, his right hand on his chair, his right leg on his left knee. He
holds the flag of blue silk, in which the Virgin is embroidered" (such a
silk! such a flag! such a piece of painting!), "emblematic of the town
of Amsterdam. The banner covers his shoulder, and he looks towards the
spectator frankly and complacently.

        _Van der Helst._]

"The man behind him is probably one of the sergeants. His head is bare.
He wears a cuirass, and yellow gloves, grey stockings, and boots with
large tops, and knee-caps of cloth. He has a napkin on his knees, and in
his hand a piece of ham, a slice of bread and a knife. The old man
behind is probably 'William the Drummer.' He has his hat in his right
hand, and in his left a gold-footed wineglass, filled with white wine.
He wears a red scarf, and a black satin doublet, with little slashes of
yellow silk. Behind the drummer, two matchlock-men are seated at the end
of the table. One in a large black habit, a napkin on his knee, a
_hausse-col_ of iron, and a linen scarf and collar. He is eating with
his knife. The other holds a long glass of white wine. Four musketeers,
with different shaped hats, are behind these, one holding a glass, the
three others with their guns on their shoulders. Other guests are placed
between the personage who is giving the toast and the standard-bearer.
One with his hat off, and his hand uplifted, is talking to another. The
second is carving a fowl. A third holds a silver plate; and another, in
the background, a silver flagon, from which he fills a cup. The corner
behind the captain is filled by two seated personages, one of whom is
peeling an orange. Two others are standing, armed with halberts, of whom
one holds a plumed hat. Behind him are other three individuals, one of
them holding a pewter pot on which the name 'Poock,' the landlord of the
'Hotel Doele,' is engraved. At the back, a maid-servant is coming in
with a pasty, crowned with a turkey. Most of the guests are listening to
the captain. From an open window in the distance, the façades of two
houses are seen, surmounted by stone figures of sheep."

There, now you know all about it: now you can go home and paint just
such another. If you do, do pray remember to paint the hands of the
figures as they are here depicted; they are as wonderful portraits as
the faces. None of your slim Van Dyck elegancies, which have done duty
at the cuffs of so many doublets; but each man with a hand for himself,
as with a face for himself. I blushed for the coarseness of one of the
chiefs in this great company, that fellow behind "William the Drummer,"
splendidly attired, sitting full in the face of the public; and holding
a pork-bone in his hand. Suppose the _Saturday Review_ critic were to
come suddenly on this picture? Ah! what a shock it would give that noble
nature! Why is that knuckle of pork not painted out? at any rate, why is
not a little fringe of lace painted round it? or a cut pink paper? or
couldn't a smelling-bottle be painted in instead, with a crest and a
gold top, or a cambric pocket-handkerchief in lieu of the horrid pig,
with a pink coronet in the corner? or suppose you covered the man's hand
(which is very coarse and strong), and gave him the decency of a kid
glove? But a piece of pork in a naked hand? O nerves and eau de Cologne,
hide it, hide it!

In spite of this lamentable coarseness, my noble sergeant, give me thy
hand as nature made it! A great, and famous, and noble handiwork I have
seen here. Not the greatest picture in the world--not a work of the
highest genius--but a performance so great, various, and admirable, so
shrewd of humour, so wise of observation, so honest and complete of
expression, that to have seen it has been a delight, and to remember it
will be a pleasure for days to come. Well done, Bartholomeus Van der
Helst! Brave, meritorious, victorious, happy Bartholomew, to whom it has
been given to produce a masterpiece!

... Was it a dream? It seems like one. Have we been to Holland? Have we
heard the chimes at midnight at Antwerp? Were we really away for a week,
or have I been sitting up in the room dozing, before this stale old
desk? Here's the desk; yes. But if it has been a dream, how could I have
learned to hum that tune out of _Dinorah?_ Ah, is it that tune, or
myself that I am humming? If it was a dream how comes this yellow NOTICE
me, and this signature of the gallant

  Bartholomeus van der Helst fecit A; 1648.

Yes, indeed, it was a delightful little holiday; it lasted a whole

    _Roundabout Papers_ (London, 1863).




Watteau is the great poet of the Eighteenth Century. A creation, a whole
creation of poetry and dreams, emanated from his brain and filled his
work with the elegance of a supernatural life. From the fantasies of his
brain, from the caprice of his art, from his perfectly original genius,
not one but a thousand fairies took their flight. From the enchanted
visions of his imagination, the painter has drawn an ideal world, and,
superior to his own time, he has created one of those Shakespearian
realms, one of those countries of love and light, one of those paradises
of gallantry that Polyphile built upon the cloud of dreams for the
delicate joy of poetic mortals.

Watteau revived grace. Grace with Watteau is not the antique grace--a
rigid and solid charm, the perfection of the marble of a Galatea, the
entirely plastic and the material glory of a Venus. Grace with Watteau
is grace. It is that nothing that invests a woman with an attraction, a
coquetry, a more than physical beauty. It is that subtile quality which
seems the smile of a line, the soul of form, the spiritual physiognomy
of matter.


All the fascinations of a woman in repose: languor, idleness, abandon,
leaning back, reclining at full length, nonchalance, the cadences of
pose, the pretty air of profiles bending over the scales of love
(_gammes d'amour_), the receding curves of the bosom, the serpentine
lines and undulations, the suppleness of the female body, the play of
slender fingers on the handle of a fan and the indiscretions of high
heels beyond the skirts, and the happy fortune of deportment, and the
coquetry of actions, and the management of the shoulders, and all that
knowledge that was taught to women by the mirrors of the last
century,--the mimicry of grace!--lives in Watteau with its blossom and
its accent, immortal and fixed in a more vital proof than the bosom of
the wife of Diomedes moulded by the ashes of Pompeii. And if this grace
is animated by Watteau, if he looses it from repose and immobility, if
he renders it active and moving, it seems that it works with a rhythm
and that its measured pace is a dance led by some harmony.

How decorative is the form of woman, and her grace! O nature, wherein
the painter's poetic fancies wander! O landscape! O stage fit for a
desirable life! a helpful land, gallant woods, meadows full of music,
groves propitious to the sports of Echo! cradling trees hung with
baskets of flowers! desert places far from the jealous world, touched by
the magic brush of a Servandoni, refreshed with fountains, peopled with
marbles and statues, and Naiads, that spot the trembling shadow of the
leaves! jets of water suddenly springing up in the midst of farm-yards!
an amiable and radiant countryside! Suns of apotheosis, beautiful lights
sleeping on the lawns, penetrating and translucent verdure without one
shadow where the palette of Veronese, the riot of purple, and of blonde
tresses may find sleep. Rural delights! murmurous and gorgeous
decorations! gardens thick with brier and rose! French landscapes
planted with Italian pines! villages gay with weddings and carriages,
ceremonies, toilettes, and fêtes stunned with the noise of violins and
flutes leading the bridal of Nature and the Opera to a Jesuit fane!
Rustic scene on the green curtain, on the flowery slope up which the
_Comédie Française_ climbs and the _Comédie Italienne_ gambols.

Quick! to array the spring in ball costume, Watteau's heavens and earth,
quick. _Gelosi!_ A bergomask laugh shall be the laughter, animation, and
action, and movement of the piece. Look where Folly, capped and belled,
runs and wakes gaiety, zephyrs, and noise! Ruffs and caps, belts and
daggers, little vests and short mantles, go and come. The band of
buffoons comes running, bringing beneath the shady boughs the carnival
of human passions and its rainbow-hued garb. Variegated family, clothed
with sunlight and brilliant silk! that masks with the night! that
patches and paints with the moon! Harlequin, as graceful as a product of
the pencil of Parmesan! Pierrot, with his arms at his side, as straight
as an I, and the Tartaglias, and the Scapins, and the Cassandras, and
the Doctors, and the favourite Mezzetin "the big brown man with the
laughing face" always in the foreground with his cap on the back of his
head--striped all over like a zebra, proud as a god, and drunk as a
Silenus! It is the _Comédie Italienne_ that plays the guitar in all
these landscapes....

Here is the new Olympus and the new mythology; the Olympus of all the
demi-gods forgotten by antiquity. Here is the deification of the ideas
of the Eighteenth Century, the soul of Watteau's world and time led to
the Pantheon of human passions and fashions. These are the new humours
of aging humanity--Languor, Gallantry, and Reverie, which Watteau
incarnates as clothed allegories, and which he rests upon the _pulvinar_
of a divine nature; these are the moral muses of our age out of which he
has created the women, or, we might say, the goddesses of these divine

Love is the light of this world, it penetrates and fills it. It is the
youth and serenity of it; and amidst rivers and mountains, promenades
and gardens, lakes and fountains, the Paradise of Watteau unfolds; it is
Cythera. Under a sky painted with the colours of summer, the galley of
Cleopatra swings at the bank. The waves are stilled. The woods are
hushed. From the grass to the firmament, beating the motionless air with
their butterfly wings, a host of Cupids fly, fly, play and dance, here
tying careless couples with roses, and tying above a circlet of kisses
that has risen from earth to the sky. Here is the temple, here is the
end of this world: the painter's _L'Amour paisible_, Love disarmed,
seated in the shadows, which the poet of Theos wished to engrave upon a
sweet cup of spring; a smiling Arcadia; a Decameron of sentiment; a
tender meditation; attentions with vague glances; words that lull the
soul; a platonic gallantry, a leisure occupied by the heart, an idleness
of youthful company; a court of amorous thoughts; the emotional and
playful courtesy of the young newly married leaning upon the offered
arm; eyes without fever, desire without appetite, voluptuousness without
desire, audacious gestures regulated like the ballet for a spectacle,
and tranquil defences disdainful of haste through their security; the
romance of the body and the mind, soothed, pacified, resuscitated,
happy; an idleness of passion at which the stone satyrs lurking in the
green _coulisses_ laugh with their goat-laughter. Adieu to the
bacchanales led by Gillot, that last pagan of the Renaissance, born of
the libations of the Pleiad to the rustic gods of Arcueil! Adieu to the
Olympus of the _Io Pæan_, the hoarse pipe and the goat-footed Gods, the
laughter of the _Cyclops_ of Euripides and the _Evohe_ of Ronsard, the
licentious triumphs, the ivy-crowned Joys;

  "_Et la libre cadence
  De leur danse._"

These gods have gone, and Rubens, who lives again in that palette of
light and rosy flesh, wanders bewildered in these _fêtes_, where the
riot of the senses is stilled,--animated caprices which seem to await
the crack of a whip to dissolve and disappear in the realm of fancy like
a mid-summer night's dream! It is Cythera; but it is Watteau's. It is
love, but it is a poetic love, a love that dreams and thinks; modern
love, with its aspirations and its crown of melancholy.

Yes, at the heart of this work of Watteau's, I do not know what slow and
vague harmony murmurs behind those laughing words; I do not know what
musical and sweetly contagious sorrow is diffused throughout these
gallant _fêtes_. Like the fascination of Venice, I do not know what
veiled and sighing poetry in low tones holds here the charmed spirit.
The man has passed across his work; and this work you come to regard as
the play and distraction of a suffering thought, like the playthings of
a sick child who is now dead....

But let us speak of that masterpiece of French masterpieces, that canvas
which has held a distinguished place on one of the walls of the _salon
carré_ for fifty years, _L'Embarquement de Cythère_.

Observe all that ground lightly coated with a transparent and golden
varnish, all that ground covered with rapid strokes of the brush lightly
laid on with a delicate touch. Notice that green of the trees shot
through with red tones, penetrated with quivering air, and the vaporous
light of autumn. Notice the delicate water-colour effect of thick oil,
the general smoothness of the canvas, the relief of this pouch or hood;
notice the full modelling of the little faces with their glances in the
confused outlines of the eye and their smiles in the suggested outlines
of the mouth. The beautiful and flowing sweep of the brush over those
_décolletages_, the bare flesh glowing with voluptuous rose among the
shadows of the wood! The pretty crossings of the brush to round a neck!
The beautiful undulating folds with soft breaks like those which the
modeller makes in the clay! And the spirit and the gallantry of touch of
Watteau's brush in the feminine trifles and headdresses and
finger-tips,--and everything it approaches! And the harmony of those
sunlit distances, those mountains of rosy snow, those waters of
verdurous reflections; and again those rays of sunlight falling upon
robes of rose and yellow, mauve petticoats, blue mantles, shot-coloured
vests, and little white dogs with fiery spots. For no painter has
equalled Watteau in rendering beautifully coloured objects transfigured
by a ray of sunlight, their soft fading and that kind of diffused
blossoming of their brilliancy under the full light. Let your eyes rest
for a moment on that band of pilgrims of both sexes hurrying, beneath
the setting sun, towards the galley of Love that is about to set sail:
there is the joyousness of the most adorable colours in the world
surprised in a ray of the sun, and all that haze and tender silk in the
radiant shower involuntarily remind you of those brilliant insects that
we find dead, but with still living colours, in the golden glow of a
piece of amber.

This picture, the _Embarquement de Cythère_, is the wonder of wonders of
this master.

    _L'Art du Dix-huitième Siècle_ (3d ed., Paris, 1880).




Raphael seemed to have attained perfection in the _Virgin with the
Fish_; however, four or five years later, he was to rise infinitely
higher and display something superior to art and inaccessible to

It was in 1518 that the Benedictines of the monastery of St. Sixtus
ordered this picture. They had required that the Virgin and the Infant
Jesus should be in the company of St. Sixtus and St. Barbara. This is
how Raphael entered into their views.

Deep shadows were veiling from us the majesty of the skies. Suddenly
light succeeds the obscurity, and the Infant Jesus and Mary appear
surrounded by a brightness so intense that the eyes can scarcely bear
it. Between two green curtains drawn to either side of the picture, amid
an aureole of innumerable cherubin, the Virgin is seen standing upon the
clouds, with her son in her arms, showing him to the world as its
Redeemer and Sovereign Judge. Lower down, St. Sixtus and St. Barbara are
kneeling on the clouds on either side. Nothing is visible of the earth,
but it is divined by the gestures and glances of the two saints, who are
pointing to the multitude for whom they are imploring the divine mercy.
Two angels are leaning on a kind of balustrade whose horizontal line
forms a solid plane at the base of the composition. Nothing could be
more elementary than the idea of such a picture; the ancient symmetry
and the most rigid parallelism are scrupulously observed. Raphael
becomes almost archaic, and, while returning to the simplicity of
primitive traditions, by the force of genius he confounds the scientific
exaggeration that is already so close to decadence. Doubtless he had
raised his eyes high every time he had taken antiquity as a model, but
he raised them much higher still by becoming exclusively Christian
again, and by comprehending that the humblest way is not only the
surest, but also the most sublime. Why is such simple means so highly
successful in exalting our feelings? Why is it, when looking at this
picture, we have moments of divine oblivion in which we fancy ourselves
in Heaven? That is what we must try to penetrate and comprehend.


The principal figure of the picture is the Infant Jesus. He is no longer
the graceful _Bambino_ that we have so often seen in the arms of
Raphael's Madonnas, gentle and encouraging to the eyes of mankind, or
again he who, erewhile, in the _Virgin with the Fish_, leaned towards
the young Tobit; it is the God himself, it is the God of Justice and of
the Last Day. In the most humble state of our flesh, beneath the veil of
infancy, we see the terrifying splendour of infinite majesty in this
picture. The divine Infant leaves between himself and us a place for
fear, and in his presence we experience something of the fear of God
that Adam felt and that he transmitted to his race. For attaining such
heights of impression the means employed by Raphael are of an
incomprehensible simplicity. The Infant Jesus nestles familiarly in his
mother's arms. Sitting on a fold of the white veil that the Virgin
supports with her left hand, he leans against the Madonna's right arm;
his legs are crossed one above the other; the whole of the left arm
follows the bend of the body and the left hand rests upon the right leg;
at the same time, the right shoulder being raised by Mary's hand, the
right arm is bent at the elbow and the hand grasps the Virgin's veil.
This attitude, so natural, so true, so unstudied, expresses grandeur and
sovereignty. Nothing can be more elementary nor more powerful. The light
rests calmly upon every part of this beautiful body and all its members
in such fine repose. Humanity was never seen under such radiance. The
Son of God, in transporting to Heaven the terrestrial form of his
infancy, has made it divine for all eternity. Raphael doubtless owed to
antiquity something of the power that enabled him spontaneously to
create such a masterpiece; but in this case he has far surpassed his
models, and we should search vainly in antique art for a more ideal and
grand figure than that of this marvellous infant. However, hitherto we
have only examined the body, what shall we say about the head to give a
true idea of it? In fact, that is perhaps the most extraordinary and
most indescribable part of the whole picture. The Infant Jesus seems to
recoil from the spectacle of human shame; he lovingly presses against
the Virgin's breast, softly rests his forehead against his Mother's
cheek, and darts towards the world one of those flaming and terrible
glances at which, it is said, everything in heaven, on earth, and in
hell trembles. His disordered hair stands upright and quivers as in the
breath of the tempest, and sombre clouds pass across the widely modelled
forehead; the brows are frowning, the pupils dilate and the flame is
ready to dart forth; the eyes, profound and terrible, are preparing to
flash with lightning; they still withhold it, but we feel that it may
break forth, and we tremble. This glance is truly splendid; it
fascinates you, attracts you, and, at the same time, fills you with
terror. The lips are quivering, and, from the point of view of line,
that is the great mystery, I think; the upper lip, visibly lifted on the
left side, assumes a strange accent of anger and indignation. This
deviation of a single feature is materially a small matter, and yet it
suffices to stamp the whole countenance with irresistible action. The
Infant Jesus assumes a formidable aspect; we recognize in him the
Sovereign Judge; his power is infinite and one act of his will be
sufficient to condemn or absolve. The _Virgin of the Chair_ had given us
a presentiment of this image in 1516; the _Virgin of St. Sixtus_ shows
it to us in 1518, in its eternal grandeur and sublime reality. But the
Word of God would scarcely leave room for anything but fear, if the
Virgin did not immediately come to shed hope in the soul terrified at
the idea of justice.

In fact, the Virgin remains calm and serene beside her enraged son, and
reassures our heart also with her confidence. If she presents the Son of
God to the world under a terrifying aspect, at the same time she presses
him so tenderly against her breast, and her features, under the
splendour of the divine radiance, shine with such purity that we feel
the flame that purifies all passing within ourselves. The Virgin
appears here like the dawning light. She advances from right to left,
beautiful as the skies, light as the cloud that bears her. Her gait, or
rather her flight through the air, is stamped with royal nobleness and
dignity. Her right hand, raised as high as the shoulder, holds the body
of Jesus under his right arm, and the Saviour lies back against his
Mother's right arm, while Mary's left arm is placed under the Infant's
body to support and carry him. The Virgin of St. Sixtus, like every
Madonna, wears a red robe and a white mantle; and Art has never done
greater things with drapery with such simple elements. The mantle falls
with a beautiful movement over the lower part of the body and floats in
wide folds, which, while sharply defining the form and movement of the
lower limbs, reveals the bare feet which are of admirable form and
colour. The robe, ornamented only with a little gold embroidery on the
sleeve, is of a purple tint in the shadows and becomes rose in the
light; it is girdled below the breast like the antique statues, and
reveals the neck as well as the top of the shoulders, which are
surrounded by a veil of white gauze. A long scarf of the same colour as
the veil but tinted with bistre, is placed on the crown of the head,
and, distending like a sail above the left shoulder, returns to the left
hand to serve as a support for the Infant, and runs along the body of
Jesus, who grasps it with his right hand. The Virgin's head appears in
full illumination without any artifice, and glows solely with its own
beauty. It is three quarters left, indeed almost full face, in a similar
position but in opposition to the Saviour's head, which, as we have
seen, is three quarters right and almost full face also. The hair, a
light chestnut, is arranged simply in smooth and flat bands lightly
waved above the brow, leaving the ears, cheeks, and temples completely
uncovered, and not interfering in any way with the outlines of the face.
The forehead, of a medium height, presents a widely developed surface,
in the centre of which glows a light that is continued down the bridge
of the nose. The eyes, of irreproachable shape, are full of brilliance,
and their gaze sheds over all it illumines an infinite softness mingled
with an indefinable exaltation. The mouth trembles with divine emotion
and seems to quiver with celestial bliss.

Another remarkable thing in this supreme manifestation of genius is that
in the Virgin and the Infant, of such different, we might almost say
such opposite expressions, the same features are noticeably repeated.
Raphael has been faithful to the last to the system he adopted in almost
his earliest pictures, and to make this intentional resemblance more
noticeable here he has placed the two heads close together, and shown
them almost full face, so that there shall be no distracting element;
and has opposed them to each other by turning them in different ways so
that they may complement each other and be reflected in one another as
in a mirror. Therefore, as the same glory surrounds both Mother and Son
at the same time, so the same character of beauty is found faithfully
reproduced in each. The skulls of both have the same general
conformation, the same intelligence shines upon the two brows, although
the Saviour's is dark and menacing whilst the Virgin's remains radiant
and clear; the eyes have also the same shape and are full of the same
fire, though the glance of the one is terrible and of the other,
reassuring; the mouth has the same lines, the same nobility, and the
same quiver that has the power of alternately inspiring terror and
tranquillity; and the cleft in the chin is identical. The colour also
helps to make an almost perfect unity of these two figures--we have the
same white and solid flesh tints, strong and delicate; the same warm and
always luminous shadows. Indeed, Jesus is confounded with Mary, so to
speak, so that the two forms together make one and the same body, and,
moreover, the Saviour at need may get rid of his majestic nakedness
beneath the veil and in the mantle of Mary.

This Virgin, in which Raphael has surpassed himself, was painted in a
moment of veritable exaltation of genius. It was not laboriously
conceived; it was born of itself, spontaneously complete, like the
antique Minerva, with its perfect form and beauty, and it was the
recompense for an entire life consecrated without intermission to the
search after nature and truth, to the study of the masters and all the
traditions, to the cult of the ideal and especially of the Virgin.

After having produced so many rare masterpieces, his love and faith were
carried to such a pitch of power and enthusiasm that he seemed to be
borne up by them, and, suddenly penetrating into a sphere superior to
all he had hitherto visited, he painted a Virgin incomparably more
beautiful than all the admirable Virgins he had painted before. Not a
single design, nor preparatory study, puts us on the trace of any
bringing forth of any of the parts of this picture.

However, if the image of this Virgin was traced on the canvas by a hand
suddenly inspired, I think that at the same time Raphael confronted his
inspiration with nature, and that, whilst resolutely springing towards
the infinite, he yet set himself face to face with reality. Perhaps,
strictly, he would have had no need of that; he had amassed so much, his
memory placed such numerous, varied, and exact documents at the service
of his will, that he had only to remember in order almost immediately to
produce an accomplished whole. Moreover, he had the model he wanted,
possessing without dominating it; and without losing sight of his ideal,
it was to this model that he applied himself for the embodiment of his
idea. Thus, in the Virgin of St. Sixtus, we recognize, not the image of
La Fornarina, but the transfiguration of her image. None of her features
are left and yet it is she, but so purified that no trouble nor shadow
comes to dim the radiant and virginal brightness of the picture. In
every human creature there is a divine germ that cannot flourish on
earth and whose blossoming is only in the skies; this is the flowering,
the splendour of which is shown in the Virgin of St. Sixtus. We care
very little about Raphael's private life; we only affirm in the presence
of his work that as a painter he did not love for this life only, and
that from the beginning to the end of his career he had the respect and
the taste for eternal love. Since the day when the Virgin appeared
transfigured to the seer of the Apocalypse, she had never revealed
herself in such effulgence. Before this picture, we lose every memory of
earth and see nothing but the Queen of Heaven and of the angels, the
creature elect and blessed above all creatures. In thus painting the
Virgin, Raphael has almost reached the confines of divinity.

But everything in this picture is food for admiration, even the
atmosphere that envelops it and those innumerable and endless legions of
cherubin that gravitate around the Virgin and the Word of God. The
aureole that encircles the divine group shows nothing at first but
dazzling and golden light; then, as it recedes from the centre, this
light gradually pales and insensibly merges from the most intense gold
into the purest blue, and is filled with those heads, chaste, innocent,
and fervent, that spring beneath the brush of Raphael like the flowers
at the breath of Spring. These aërial creatures throng to contemplate
the Virgin, and their forms recall those radiances in the shape of
crowns that fill the Dantesque Paradise, making the name of Mary resound
with their praises. Our eyes and mind lose themselves in the immense
multitude of these happy spirits. "Number if you can the sands of the
sea or the stars in the sky, those that are visible and invisible, and
still believe that you have not attained the number of the angels. It
costs God nothing to multiply the most excellent things, and it is the
most beautiful of which he is most prodigal." We cannot keep our eyes
away from that sky; we gaze at it and love to dazzle and weary our eyes
with it.

On either side of the Virgin, kneel St. Sixtus and St. Barbara. Placed
also amid the clouds, but below the Madonna, they are near the sovereign
mediatrix, as mediators also between the world and the Sovereign Judge.
St. Sixtus is seen on the right in profile, his head is raised towards
the Infant Jesus, his left hand is placed devoutly on his breast while
his right is foreshortened and points towards the spectator. He wears a
white rochet tied by a girdle with golden tassels, a white amice around
his neck, a magnificent pallium woven with gold falling to his feet, and
a long chasuble embroidered with gold and lined with red enveloping his
shoulders and arms, the wide folds of which are lost amid the clouds.
His head is bare, and his white tiara, adorned with the triple crown, is
placed on the balustrade that runs horizontally across the base of the
picture. It is impossible to find a representation of pontifical
sovereignty of greater fervour, grandeur, and truth. His cranium is bald
and has only a crown of grey hair remaining. His emaciated face is full
of ardour and power: his eyes penetrate straight into the splendour of
God; and his mouth, although partially hidden by the grey beard that
covers the lower part of his face, is praying with extraordinary
fervour. His gesture, so resolute and respectful, is in itself an act of
love and charity, and his very hands, so true in drawing and so bold in
action, have their special eloquence. It seems impossible that the
divine justice will not allow itself to be swayed by such intercession.

St. Barbara is opposite St. Sixtus. Her body is in left profile, towards
the Virgin, while her head, turned over her left shoulder towards the
spectator, appears almost in full face. Only her left arm and hand are
visible, pressed against her breast. Her left knee, directly resting
upon the cloud, sustains the weight of her body; her right leg, which
is raised, only touches the clouds with the foot. Her head is as
beautiful, youthful, and fresh as the action of her whole figure is
easy, elegant, and noble. Then where did Raphael find this serenity if
not in himself? The saint, gently bending towards the earth, seems to
want to receive our hopes and vows to bear them to Heaven. She is one of
those virgins who are created in the image of the Virgin par excellence.
Nevertheless, here she affects certain worldly appearances which, beside
the severe simplicity of the Mother of the Word, establish a hierarchy
between the two figures and a sort of line of demarcation that cannot be
crossed. The higher we soar the more is grandeur simplified in

St. Barbara's hair is arranged with a certain elegance; it is very
abundant, of an ash blonde, and forms thick waving bands that are
gathered off the temples and are crossed by two white fillets, one of
which crosses the top of the forehead like a diadem. Her eyes, lowered
towards the earth, are perfectly beautiful; her mouth is calm and sweet;
and purity shines in all her features. Her shoulders are bare, only
covered with a veil of white gauze which falls down her back, passes
under her arm and returns to her breast where her left hand holds it.
Her robe of violet shading into a neutral tint, is only visible where it
covers her leg; for a green mantle, thrown over it, envelops the body,
only revealing the arm, the sleeve of which is blue on the upper arm,
yellow, and slightly puffed at the shoulder, and yellow also on the
forearm. All this is of a grand air and in exquisite taste. Thus draped,
the figure has a charming effect which, without detracting from the
religious idea, leaves room also for a more human sentiment.

Raphael, doubtless, had thought that the figures of the Virgin, the
Infant Jesus, St. Sixtus, and St. Barbara would alone be sufficient for
his picture; but the empty space remaining beneath the feet of the
Madonna was too considerable to be filled up simply by clouds: and
therefore he added that rigid and horizontal supporting bar on which two
angels lean upon their elbows, contemplating the glory of the Virgin
with such rapture. In fact, these angels seem to be painted as an
afterthought, for, laid in with a light brush, they scarcely cover the
clouds, but allow the underlying pigment to show through.

Little wings of vivid tint complete these aërial creatures, always
living around Raphael and always ready to come from his brush. Although
held to nature by the most intimate ties, although perhaps too familiar
in attitude and manner, they are yet supernatural by the clearness of
their intelligence and by the power of their admiration. We are
enchanted with their candour and beauty. They are full of zeal and
enthusiasm; they possess the grace of the Pagan Loves merged into
Christian innocence and chastity. Their faith is as beautiful as the
sky, and in loving them it is almost for God himself that we feel the

Such are the various parts of this work; their union forms the most
sublime harmony, and each in particular brings a divine note to this
celestial concert. By what process was this picture produced? We can
scarcely say, so greatly does the inspiration predominate over the

Raphael aimed at the sublime; and the rest was given to him as increase.
The colour is just what it should be in such a subject; whilst keeping
to a sweet, calm, and peaceful scale, it is resplendent with light, and
we ask ourselves whether it is not the hand of an angel rather than that
of a man that has been able to realize such a marvel.

The _Virgin of St. Sixtus_ is the most beautiful picture in the world.
To copy this Virgin is to attempt the impossible. Study it a hundred
times and a hundred times it will reveal itself under a new aspect. It
was before this picture, it is said, that Correggio cried: "And I also,
I am a painter."

The _Virgin of St. Sixtus_ was immediately placed where it was meant to
be; it was present in triumph every day for two hundred and thirty-six
years at the divine sacrament; and never was a human work so worthy of
that signal honour.

In 1734 the degenerate monks of St. Sixtus preferred a little gold to
their inestimable masterpiece, and for a miserable sum of a hundred and
some thousands of francs (110,000 to 120,000), they sold their Virgin to
Augustus III., Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. That day the
barbarians were not those the Italians think....

At Dresden, the Madonna was received with great pomp. Augustus III. had
it brought in haste into the reception hall of his palace; as the place
of honour was occupied by the throne, he, himself, seized the royal
chair, and relegating it to a less conspicuous station, he cried: "Room
for the great Raphael." If this is historic, it does honour to the
prince; if legendary, it is to the glory of the people whose sentiment
it translates.

    _Les Vierges de Raphaël_ (Paris, 1869).




In the year 1869, just before leaving Venice I had been carefully
looking at a picture by Victor Carpaccio, representing the dream of a
young princess. Carpaccio has taken much pains to explain to us, as far
as he can, the kind of life she leads, by completely painting her little
bedroom in the light of dawn, so that you can see everything in it. It
is lighted by two doubly-arched windows, the arches being painted
crimson round their edges, and the capitals of the shafts that bear
them, gilded. They are filled at the top with small round panes of
glass; but beneath, are open to the blue morning sky, with a low lattice
across them; and in the one at the back of the room are set two
beautiful white Greek vases with a plant in each; one having rich dark
and pointed green leaves, the other crimson flowers, but not of any
species known to me, each at the end of a branch like a spray of heath.

[Illustration: THE DREAM OF ST. URSULA.

These flower-pots stand on a shelf which runs all round the room, and
beneath the window, at about the height of the elbow, and serves to put
things on anywhere: beneath it, down to the floor, the walls are covered
with green cloth; but above are bare and white. The second window is
nearly opposite the bed, and in front of it is the princess's
reading-table, some two feet and a half square, covered by a red
cloth with a white border and dainty fringe; and beside it her seat, not
at all like a reading chair in Oxford, but a very small three-legged
stool like a music stool, covered with crimson cloth. On the table are a
book, set up at a slope fittest for reading, and an hour-glass. Under
the shelf near the table so as to be easily reached by the outstretched
arm, is a press full of books. The door of this has been left open, and
the books, I am grieved to say, are rather in disorder, having been
pulled about before the princess went to bed, and one left standing on
its side.

Opposite this window, on the white wall, is a small shrine or picture (I
can't see which, for it is in sharp retiring perspective), with a lamp
before it, and a silver vessel hung from the lamp, looking like one for
holding incense.

The bed is a broad four-poster, the posts being beautifully wrought
golden or gilded rods, variously wreathed and branched, carrying a
canopy of warm red. The princess's shield is at the head of it, and the
feet are raised entirely above the floor of the room, on a dais which
projects at the lower end so as to form a seat, on which the child has
laid her crown. Her little blue slippers lie at the side of the
bed,--her white dog beside them, the coverlid is scarlet, the white
sheet folded half way back over it; the young girl lies straight,
bending neither at waist nor knee, the sheet rising and falling over her
in a narrow unbroken wave, like the shape of the coverlid of the last
sleep, when the turf scarcely rises. She is some seventeen or eighteen
years old, her head is turned towards us on the pillow, the cheek
resting on her hand, as if she were thinking, yet utterly calm in sleep,
and almost colourless. Her hair is tied with a narrow riband, and
divided into two wreaths, which encircle her head like a double crown.
The white nightgown hides the arm raised on the pillow, down to the

At the door of the room an angel enters; (the little dog, though lying
awake, vigilant, takes no notice.) He is a very small angel, his head
just rises a little above the shelf round the room, and would only reach
as high as the princess's chin, if she were standing up. He has soft
grey wings, lustreless; and his dress, of subdued blue, has violet
sleeves, open above the elbow, and showing white sleeves below. He comes
in without haste, his body, like a mortal one, casting shadow from the
light through the door behind, his face perfectly quiet; a palm-branch
in his right hand--a scroll in his left.

So dreams the princess, with blessed eyes, that need no earthly dawn. It
is very pretty of Carpaccio to make her dream out the angel's dress so
particularly, and notice the slashed sleeves; and to dream so little an
angel--very nearly a doll angel,--bringing her the branch of palm, and
message. But the lovely characteristic of all is the evident delight of
her continual life. Royal power over herself, and happiness in her
flowers, her books, her sleeping and waking, her prayers, her dreams,
her earth, her heaven....

"How do I know the princess is industrious?"

Partly by the trim state of her room,--by the hour-glass on the
table,--by the evident use of all the books she has, (well bound, every
one of them, in stoutest leather or velvet, and with no dog's-ears,) but
more distinctly from another picture of her, not asleep. In that one a
prince of England has sent to ask her in marriage: and her father,
little liking to part with her, sends for her to his room to ask her
what she would do. He sits, moody and sorrowful; she, standing before
him in a plain house-wifely dress, talks quietly, going on with her
needlework all the time.

A work-woman, friends, she, no less than a princess; and princess most
in being so. In like manner, is a picture by a Florentine, whose mind I
would fain have you know somewhat, as well as Carpaccio's--Sandro
Botticelli--the girl who is to be the wife of Moses, when he first sees
her at the desert well, has fruit in her left hand, but a distaff in her

"To do good work, whether you live or die," it is the entrance to all
Princedoms; and if not done, the day will come, and that infallibly,
when you must labour for evil instead of good.

    _Fors Clavigera_ (Sunnyside, Orpington, Kent, 1872).


[2] More accurately a rod cloven into three at the top, and so holding
the wool. The fruit is a bunch of apples; she has golden sandals, and a
wreath of myrtle round her hair.




Many people say _Antwerp_; but many also say _the country of Rubens_,
and this mode of speech more exactly expresses all the things that
constitute the magic of the place: a great city, a great personal
destiny, a famous school, and ultra-celebrated pictures. All this is
imposing, and our imagination becomes excited rather more than usual
when, in the centre of the _Place Vert_, we see the statue of Rubens
and, farther on, the old basilica where are preserved the triptychs
which, humanly speaking, have consecrated it.

The statue is not a masterpiece; but it is he, in his own home. Under
the form of a man, who was nothing but a painter, with the sole
attributes of a painter, in perfect truth it personifies the sole
Flemish sovereignty which has neither been contested nor menaced, and
which certainly never will be.


At the end of the square is seen Notre Dame; it presents itself in
profile, being outlined by one of its lateral faces, the darkest one, on
account of the rains beating on that side. It is made to look blacker
and bigger by being surrounded with light and low buildings. With its
carved stonework, its rusty tone, its blue and lustrous roof, its
colossal tower where the golden disk and the golden needles of its
dial glitter in the stone discoloured by the vapours from the Scheldt
and by the winters, it assumes monstrous proportions. When the sky is
troubled, as it is to-day, it adds all its own strange caprices to the
grandeur of the lines. Imagine then the invention of a Gothic Piranesi,
exaggerated by the fancy of the North, wildly illuminated by a stormy
day, and standing out in irregular blotches against the scenic
background of a sky entirely black or entirely white, and full of
tempest. A more original or more striking preliminary stage-setting
could not be contrived. Thus it is vain for you to have come from
Mechlin or Brussels, to have seen the _Magi_ and the _Calvary_, to have
formed an exact and measured idea of Rubens, or even to have taken
familiarities in examining him that have set you at your ease with him,
for you cannot enter Notre Dame as you enter a museum.

It is three o'clock; the clock high up has just struck. Scarcely even a
sacristan makes a sound in the tranquil, clean and clear naves, as
Pieter Neefs has represented them, with an inimitable feeling for their
solitude and grandeur. It is raining and the light is fading. Shadows
and gleams succeed each other upon the two triptychs in their thin
framing of brown wood fastened without any pomp to the cold and smooth
walls of the transepts, and this proud painting only stands out the more
amid the violent lights and obscurities contending around it. German
copyists have placed their easels before the _Descent from the Cross_;
there is nobody before the _Elevation to the Cross_. This simple fact
expresses the world's opinion as to these two works.

They are greatly admired, almost unreservedly so, and the fact is rare
in the case of Rubens, but the admiration is divided. The chief renown
has fallen upon the _Descent from the Cross_. The _Elevation to the
Cross_ has the gift of touching still more the impassioned, or more
deeply convinced, friends of Rubens. No two works, in fact, could
resemble each other less than these that were conceived at an interval
of two years, that were inspired by the same effort of mind, and that,
nevertheless, so plainly bear the marks of two separate tendencies. The
date of the _Descent from the Cross_ is 1612; that of the _Elevation to
the Cross_ is 1610. I insist upon the date, for it is important. Rubens
was returning to Antwerp, and it was on his disembarkation, so to speak,
that he painted them. His education was finished. At that moment he had
even an excess of studies that were somewhat heavy for him and of which
he was going to make free use once for all and then get rid of almost
immediately. Of all the Italian masters he had consulted, each one, be
it understood, gave him advice of a sufficiently exclusive nature. The
hot-headed masters authorized him to dare greatly; the severe masters
recommended him to keep himself under strong restraint.

His nature, character, and native faculties all tended to a division.
The task itself exacted that he should make two parts of his beautiful
gifts. He felt the expediency of this, took advantage of it, treated of
the subjects in accordance with their spirit, and gave two contrary and
two just ideas of himself: on the one hand the most magnificent example
we possess of his wisdom, and on the other one of the most astonishing
visions of his fire and ardour. To the personal inspiration of the
painter add a very marked Italian influence and you will still better be
able to explain to yourself the extraordinary value that posterity
attaches to pages which may be regarded as his diploma works and which
were the first public acts of his life as the head of a school.

I will tell you how this influence manifests itself and by what
characteristics it may be recognized. But first it is enough for me to
remark that it exists, in order that the physiognomy of the talent of
Rubens may not lose any of its features at the moment when we examine
it. This is not that he should be positively cramped in canonical
formulæ in which others would find themselves imprisoned.

On the other hand, with what ease he moves among these formulæ, with
what freedom he makes use of them, with what tact he disguises or
confesses them, according as he takes pleasure in revealing the
well-informed man or the novice. However, whatever he may do, we feel
the _Romanist_ who has just spent some years on classic ground, who has
just arrived and has not yet changed his atmosphere. There is some
unknown quality remaining with him that reveals travel, such as a
foreign odour about his clothes. It is certainly to this fine Italian
scent that the _Descent from the Cross_ owes the extreme favour that it
enjoys. For those indeed who would like Rubens to be somewhat as he is,
but very much also as they imagine him, there is here a seriousness in
youth, a frank and studious flower of maturity which is about to
disappear and which is unique.

I need not describe the composition. You could not mention a more
popular composition as a work of art or as an example of religious
style. There is nobody who has not in his mind the ordering and the
effect of the picture, its great central light cast against a dark
background, its grandiose masses, its distinct and massive divisions. We
know that Rubens got the first idea of it from Italy, and that he made
no attempt to conceal the loan. The scene is powerful and grave. It acts
on one from afar, it stands out strikingly upon a wall: it is serious
and enforces seriousness. When we remember the carnage with which the
work of Rubens is crimsoned, the massacres, the executioners torturing,
martyring, and making their victims howl, we recognize that here we have
a noble _execution_. Everything in it is restrained, concise, and
laconic, as in a page of Holy Writ.

There are neither gesticulations, cries, horrors, nor too many tears.
The Virgin hardly breaks into a single sob, and the intense suffering of
the drama is expressed by scarce a gesture of inconsolable motherhood, a
tearful face, or red eyes. The Christ is one of the most elegant figures
that Rubens ever imagined for the painting of a God. It possesses some
peculiar extended, pliant, and almost tapering grace, that gives it
every natural delicacy and all the distinction of a beautiful academic
study. It is subtly proportioned and in perfect taste: the drawing does
not fall far short of the sentiment.

You have not forgotten the effect of that large and slightly hip-shot
body, with its small, thin, and fine head slightly fallen to one side,
so livid and so perfectly limpid in its pallor, neither shrivelled nor
drawn, and from which all suffering has disappeared, as it descends
with so much beatitude to rest for a moment among the strange beauties
of the death of the just! Recollect how heavily it hangs and how
precious it is to support, in what a lifeless attitude it glides along
the sudarium, with what agonized affection it is received by the
outstretched hands and arms of the women. Is there anything more
touching? One of his feet, livid and pierced, encounters at the foot of
the Cross the bare shoulder of Magdalen. It does not rest upon it, but
grazes it. The contact is scarcely noticeable, we divine it rather than
see it. It would have been profane to insist upon it, it would have been
cruel not to have made us believe in it. All Rubens's furtive
sensitiveness is in this imperceptible contact that says so many things,
respects them all, and makes them affecting.

The sinner is admirable. She is incontestably the best piece of work in
the picture, the most delicate, the most personal, one of the best
figures of women, moreover, that Rubens ever executed in his career that
was so fertile in feminine creations. This delicious figure has its
legend; how should it not have, its very perfection having become
legendary! It is probable that this beautiful maiden with the black
eyes, with the firm glance, with the clear-cut profile, is a portrait,
and the portrait is that of Isabella Brandt, whom he had married two
years before, and who had also sat for him for the Virgin in the wing of
the _Visitation_. However, while observing her ample figure, powdered
hair, and plump proportions, we reflect what must some day be the
splendid and individual charms of that beautiful Helen Fourment whom he
is to marry twenty years later.

From his earliest to his latest years, one tenacious type seems to have
taken up its abode in Rubens's heart; one fixed idea haunted his amorous
and constant imagination. He delights in it, he completes it, he
achieves it; to some extent he pursues it in his two marriages, just as
he never ceases to repeat it throughout his works. There is always
something both of Isabella and of Helen in the women whom Rubens painted
from either one of them. In the first he puts a sort of preconceived
trait of the second; into the second glides a kind of ineffaceable
memory of the first. At the date of which we treat, he possesses the
first and is inspired by her; the other is not yet born, and still he
divines her. The future already mingles with the present; the real with
the ideal. As soon as the image appears it has this double form. Not
only is it exquisite, but not a feature is wanting. Does it not seem as
if in thus fixing it from the first day, Rubens intended that neither he
nor anyone else should forget it?

As for the rest, this is the sole mundane grace with which he has
embellished this austere picture, slightly monkish, and absolutely
evangelical in character, if by that is meant the gravity of sentiment
and style, and if we remember the rigours that such a spirit must impose
upon itself. In that case, you will understand, a great part of his
reserve is as much the result of his Italian education as of the
attention he gave to his subject.

The canvas is sombre, notwithstanding its high lights and the
extraordinary whiteness of the winding-sheet. In spite of its reliefs,
the painting is _flat_. It is a picture of blackish grounds on which are
disposed broad strong lights of no gradations. The colouring is not
very rich: it is full, well-sustained, and clearly calculated to be
effective from a distance. It makes the picture, frames it, expresses
its weakness and its strength, and makes no attempt to beautify it. It
is composed of an almost black green, an absolute black, a rather heavy
red, and a white. These four tones are placed side by side as frankly as
is possible with four notes of such violence. The contact is brusque and
yet they do not suffer. In the great white, the corpse of Christ is
drawn with a delicate and supple line and modelled by its own reliefs
without any effort of _nuances_, thanks to deviations of imperceptible
values. No shining, no single division in the lights, and scarcely a
detail in the dark parts. All that is of a singular breadth and
rigidity. The outlines are narrow, the half-tints limited except in the
Christ, where the under layer of ultramarine has worn through and to-day
forms blemishes. The pigment is smooth, compact, flowing easily and

At the distance from which we examine it, the work of the hand
disappears, but it is easy to guess that it is excellent and directed
with full confidence by a mind broken into good habits, that conforms to
them, applies itself, and wishes to do well. Rubens remembers, observes,
restrains himself, possesses all his forces, subordinates them, and only
half makes use of them.

In spite of these drawbacks, this is a singularly original, attractive,
and strong work. Van Dyck will derive his best religious inspirations
from it. Philippe de Champagne will not imitate it, I am afraid, except
in its weak points, and from it will compose his French style. Otto Van
Veen should certainly applaud it. What should Van Oort think of it? As
for Jordaens, he is waiting for his fellow student to become more
distinctly and expressly Rubens before following him in these new ways.

    _Les Maîtres d' Autrefois_ (Paris, 1876).




Hogarth excepted, can we produce any one painter within the last fifty
years, or since the humour of exhibiting began, that has treated a story
_imaginatively_? By this we mean, upon whom has subject so acted that it
has seemed to direct _him_--not to be arranged by him? Any upon whom its
leading or collateral points have impressed themselves so tyrannically,
that he dared not treat it otherwise, lest he should falsify a
revelation? Any that has imparted to his compositions, not merely so
much truth as is enough to convey a story with clearness, but that
individualizing property, which should keep the subject so treated
distinct in feature from every other subject, however similar, and to
common apprehensions almost identical; so as that we might say this and
this part could have found an appropriate place in no other picture in
the world but this? Is there anything in modern art--we will not demand
that it should be equal--but in any way analogous to what Titian has
effected, in that wonderful bringing together of two times in the
_Ariadne_, in the National Gallery? Precipitous, with his reeling Satyr
rout about him, repeopling and re-illuming suddenly the waste places,
drunk with a new fury beyond the grape, Bacchus, born in fire, fire-like
flings himself at the Cretan. This is the time present. With this
telling of the story an artist, and no ordinary one, might remain richly
proud. Guido in his harmonious version of it, saw no farther. But from
the depths of the imaginative spirit Titian has recalled past time, and
laid it contributory with the present to one simultaneous effect. With
the desert all ringing with the mad symbols of his followers, made lucid
with the presence and new offers of a god,--as if unconscious of
Bacchus, or but idly casting her eyes as upon some unconcerning
pageant--her soul undistracted from Theseus--Ariadne is still pacing the
solitary shore, in as much heart-silence, and in almost the same local
solitude, with which she awoke at daybreak to catch the forlorn last
glances of the sail that bore away the Athenian.

Here are two points miraculously co-uniting; fierce society, with the
feeling of solitude still absolute; noon-day revelations, with the
accidents of the dull grey dawn unquenched and lingering; the _present_
Bacchus with the _past_ Ariadne; two stories, with double Time;
separate, and harmonizing. Had the artist made the woman one shade less
indifferent to the God; still more, had she expressed a rapture at his
advent, where would have been the story of the mighty desolation of the
heart previous? merged in the insipid accident of a flattering offer met
with a welcome acceptance. The broken heart for Theseus was not lightly
to be pieced up by a God.

    _Lamb's Complete Works_, edited by R.H. Shepherd (London, 1875).





But though as yet half unconscious, Ariadne is already under her fated
star: for above is the constellation of Ariadne's crown--the crown with
which Bacchus presented his bride. And observe in connection with the
astronomical side of the allegory the figure in Bacchus's train with the
serpent round him: this is the serpent-bearer (Milton's "Ophiuchus
huge") translated to the skies with Bacchus and Ariadne. Notice too
another piece of poetry: the marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne took place
in the spring, Ariadne herself being the personification of its return,
and Bacchus of its gladness; hence the flowers in the foreground which
deck his path.

The picture is as full of the painter's art as of the poet's. Note first
the exquisite painting of the vine leaves, and of these flowers in the
foreground, as an instance of the "constant habit of the great masters
to render every detail of their foreground with the most laborious
botanical fidelity." "The foreground is occupied with the common blue
iris, the _aquilegia_, and the wild rose (more correctly the _Capparis
Spinosa_); _every stamen_ of which latter is given, while the blossoms
and leaves of the columbine (a difficult flower to draw) have been
studied with the most exquisite accuracy." But this detail is sought not
for its own sake, but only so far as is necessary to mark the typical
qualities of beauty in the object. Thus "while every stamen of the rose
is given because this was necessary to mark the flower, and while the
curves and large characters of the leaves are rendered with exquisite
fidelity, there is no vestige of particular texture, of moss, bloom,
moisture, or any other accident, no dewdrops, nor flies, nor trickeries
of any kind: nothing beyond the simple forms and hues of the flowers,
even those hues themselves being simplified and broadly rendered. The
varieties of _aquilegia_ have in reality a greyish and uncertain tone of
colour, and never attain the purity of blue with which Titian has gifted
his flower. But the master does not aim at the particular colour of
individual blossoms; he seizes the type of all, and gives it with the
utmost purity and simplicity of which colour is capable." A second point
to be noticed is the way in which one kind of truth has often to be
sacrificed in order to gain another. Thus here Titian sacrifices truth
of aërial effect to richness of tone--tone in the sense, that is, of
that quality of colour which makes us feel that the whole picture is in
one climate, under one kind of light, and in one kind of atmosphere. "It
is difficult to imagine anything more magnificently impossible than the
blue of the distant landscape; impossible, not from its vividness, but
because it is not faint and aërial enough to account for its purity of
colour; it is too dark and blue at the same time; and there is indeed so
total a want of atmosphere in it, that, but for the difference of form,
it would be impossible to tell the mountains intended to be ten miles
off, from the robe of Ariadne close to the spectator. Yet make this blue
faint, aërial, and distant; make it in the slightest degree to resemble
the tint of nature's colour; and all the tone of the picture, all the
intensity and splendour will vanish on the instant."[3] We may notice
lastly what Sir Joshua Reynolds points out (Discourse VIII.), that the
harmony of the picture--that wonderful bringing together of two times of
which Lamb speaks above, is assisted by the distribution of colours. "To
Ariadne is given (say the critics) a red scarf to relieve the figure
from the sea, which is behind her. It is not for that reason alone, but
for another of much greater consequence; for the sake of the general
harmony and effect of the picture. The figure of Ariadne is separated
from the great group, and is dressed in blue, which, added to the colour
of the sea, makes that quantity of cold colour which Titian thought
necessary for the support and brilliancy of the great group; which group
is composed, with very little exception, entirely of mellow colours. But
as the picture in this case would be divided into two distinct parts,
one half cold, and the other warm; it was necessary to carry some of the
mellow colours of the great group into the cold part of the picture, and
a part of the cold into the great group; accordingly, Titian gave
Ariadne a red scarf, and to one of the Bacchante a little blue drapery."

It is interesting to know that this great picture took Titian three
years, off and on, to finish. It was a commission from the Duke of
Ferrara, who supplied canvas and frame for it, and repeatedly wrote to
press for its delivery; it reached him in 1523.

    _A Popular Handbook to the National Gallery_ (London and New York,


[3] _Modern Painters_, Vols. I., XXVII., XXX. (Preface to Second
Edition), pt. i. sec. ii. ch. 1 § 5, pt. ii. sec. ii. ch. 1. § 15; Vol.
III. pt. iv. ch. ix. § 18; Vol. V. pt. ix. ch. iii. § 31; _Arrows of the
Chace_, I. 58.




_The Coronation of the Virgin_, by Fra Beato Angelico, seems to have
been painted by an angel rather than by a mortal. Time has not tarnished
the ideal freshness of this painting, delicate as a miniature in a
missal, and whose tints are borrowed from the whiteness of the lily, the
rose of the dawn, the blue of the sky, and the gold of the stars. No
muddy tones of earth dull these seraphic beings composed of luminous
vapours. Upon a throne with marble steps, the varied colours of which
are symbolic, Christ is seated, holding a crown of rich workmanship
which he is about to place upon the head of his divine mother, kneeling
before him, with her head modestly inclined and her hands crossed upon
her breast. Around the throne, throng a choir of angel-musicians,
playing the trumpet, the theorbo, the _angelot_, and the _viola d'
amore_. A light flame flutters about their heads and their great wings
palpitate with joy at this glorious coronation which will transform the
humble handmaid of the Lord into the Lady of Paradise. To the left, an
angel kneels in prayer. In the lower part of the painting with faces
uplifted to the sky the hosts of the blessed, distributed in two
groups, adore and contemplate. On one side, are Moses, Saint John the
Baptist, the apostles, the bishops, and the founders of orders,
distinguished by some emblem, and for greater certainty bearing their
names inscribed around their nimbus, or upon the embroideries of their
vestments. Saint Dominick holds a branch of lilies and a book. A sun
forms the agrafe of Saint Thomas Aquinas's mantle; Charlemagne,
"_l'empereur à la barbe fleurie_," is recognizable by his crown of
_fleur-de-lis_. Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra, has by his side the
three balls of gold, symbolic of the three purses which he gave to a
poor gentleman to dower his three daughters whose beauty exposed them to
dangers. On the other side, throng King David, apostles, martyrs, Saint
Peter the Dominican with his wounded head, Saint Laurence holding his
gridiron, Saint Stephen with a palm in his hand, and Saint George armed
from head to foot; then, in the foreground of the picture, is the
charming group of saints of perfectly celestial grace: the kneeling
Magdalen offers her vase of perfumes; Saint Cæcilia advances, crowned
with roses; Saint Clara gleams through her veil, constellated with
crosses and golden stars; Saint Catherine of Alexandria leans upon the
wheel, the instrument of her execution, as calmly and peacefully as if
it were a spinning-wheel; and Saint Agnes holds in her arms a little
white lamb, the symbol of innocent purity.

        _Fra Angelico._]

Fra Beato Angelico has given to these youthful saints a celestial and
ideal beauty, whose type exists not upon this earth: they are visible
souls, rather than bodies, they are thoughts of human form enveloped in
these chaste draperies of white, rose, and blue, sown with stars and
embroidered, clothed as might be the happy spirits who rejoice in the
eternal light of Paradise. If there be paintings in Heaven, surely they
must resemble those of Fra Angelico.

    _Guide de l'Amateur au Musée du Louvre_ (Paris, 1882).




In the days when it was verging on a question whether a man could be at
the same time a good Christian and an artist the chosen subjects of
painting were significant of the approaching crisis--those glaring moral
contrasts in history which, for want of a happier term, we call
dramatic. Why this was so, whether Art took a hint from Politics, or had
withdrawn her more intimate manifestations to await likelier times, is a
question it were long to answer. The subjects, at any rate, were such as
the Greeks, with their surer instincts and saving grace of sanity in
matters of this kind, either forbore to meddle with or treated as
decoratively as they treated acanthus-wreaths. To-day we call them
"effective" subjects; we find they produce shocks and tremors; we think
it braces us to shudder, and we think that Art is a kind of emotional
pill; we measure it quantitatively, and say that we "know what we like."
And doubtless there is something piquant in the quivering produced, for
example, by the sight of white innocence fluttering helpless in a grey
shadow of lust. So long as the Bible remained a god that piquancy was
found in a _Massacre of the Innocents_; in our own time we find it in a
_Faust and Gretchen_, in the Doré Gallery, or in the Royal Academy.
It was a like appreciation of the certain effect of vivid contrasts as
powerful didactic agents (coupled with, or drowning, a something purer
and more devout) which had inspired those most beautiful and distinctive
of all the symbols of Catholicism, the _Adoration of the Kings_, the
Christ-child cycle, and which raised the Holy Child and Maid-Mother to
their place above the mystic tapers and the Cross. Naturally the Old
Testament, that garner of grim tales, proved a sick wine: _David and
Golias_, _Susanna and the Elders_, the _Sacrifice of Isaac_, _Jethro's
Daughter_. But the story of Judith did not come to be painted in Tuscan
sanctuaries until Donatello of Florence had first cast her in bronze at
the prayer of Cosimo _pater patriæ_. Her entry was dramatic enough at
least: Dame Fortune may well have sniggered as she spun round the city
on her ball. Cosimo the patriot and his splendid grandson were no sooner
dead and their brood sent flying, than Donatello's _Judith_ was set up
in the Piazza as a fit emblem of rescue from tyranny, with the vigorous
motto, to make assurance double, "EXEMPLVM SALVTIS PVBLICAE CIVES
POSVERE." Savonarola, who knew his Bible, saw here a keener application
of Judith's pious sin. A few years later that same _Judith_ saw him
burn. Thus, as an incarnate cynicism, she will pass; as a work of art
she is admittedly one of her great creator's failures. Her neighbour
_Perseus_ of the Loggia makes this only too plain! For Cellini has
seized the right moment in a deed of horror, and Donatello, with all his
downrightness and grip of the fact, has hit upon the wrong. It is fatal
to freeze a moment of time into an eternity of writing. His _Judith_
will never strike: her arm is palsied where it swings. The Damoclean
sword is a fine incident for poetry; but Holofernes was no Damocles, and
if he had been, it were intolerable to cast his experience in bronze.
Donatello has essayed that thing impossible for sculpture, to arrest a
moment instead of denote a permanent attribute. Art is adjectival, is it
not, O Donatello? Her business is to qualify facts, to say what things
are, not to state them, to affirm that they are. A sculptured _Judith_
was done not long afterwards, carved, as we shall see, with a burin on a
plate; and the man who so carved her was a painter.

[Illustration: JUDITH.

Meantime, _pari passu_, almost, a painter who was a poet was trying his
hand; a man who knew his Bible and his mythology and was equally at home
with either. Perhaps it is not extravagant to say that you cannot be an
artist unless you are at home with mythology, unless mythology is the
swiftest and most direct expression of your being, so that you can be
measured by it as a man is known by his books, or a woman by her
clothes, her way of bowing, her amusements, or her charities. For
mythopoeia is just this, the incarnating the spirit of natural fact;
and the generic name of that power is Art. A kind of creation, a
clothing of essence in matter, an hypostatizing (if you will have it) of
an object of intuition within the folds of an object of sense. Lessing
did not dig so deep as his Greek Voltaire (whose "dazzling antithesis,"
after all, touches the root of the matter), for he did not see that
rhythmic extension in time or space, as the case may be, with all that
that implies--colour, value, proportion, all the convincing incidents of
form--is simply the mode of all arts, the thing with which Art's
substance must be interpenetrated, until the two form a whole, lovely,
golden, irresistible, and inevitable as Nature's pieces are. This
substance, as I have said, is the spirit of natural fact. And so
mythology is Art at its simplest and barest (where the bodily medium is
neither word, nor texture of stone, nor dye), the parent art from which
all the others were, so to speak, begotten by man's need. This much of
explanation, I am sorry to say, is necessary, before we turn to our
mytho-poet of Florence, to see what he made out of the story of Judith.

First of all, though, what has the story of Judith to do with mythology?
It is a legend, one of the finest of Semitic legends; and between legend
and myth there is as great a gulf as between Jew and Greek. I believe
there are no myths proper to Israel--I do not see how such magnificent
egoists could contract to the necessary state of awe--and I do not know
that there are any legends proper to Greece which are divorced from real
myths. For where a myth is the incarnation of the spirit of natural
fact, a legend is the embellishment of an historical event: a very
different thing. A natural fact is permanent and elemental, an
historical event is transient and superficial. Take one instance out of
a score. The rainbow links heaven and earth. Iris, then, to the
myth-making Greek, was Jove's messenger, intermediary between God and
Man. That is to incarnate a constant, natural fact. Plato afterwards,
making her a daughter of Thaumas, incarnated a fact, psychological, but
none the less constant, none the less natural. But, to say, as the
legend-loving Jew said, that Noah floated his ark over a drowning world
and secured for his posterity a standing covenant with God, who then and
once for all set his bow in the heavens; that is to indicate, somewhere,
in the dim backward and abysm of time, an historical event. The rainbow
is suffered as the skirt of the robe of Noah, who was an ancestor of
Israel. So the Judith poem may be a decorated event, or it may be the
barest history in a splendid epical setting: the point to remember is
that it cannot be, as legend, a subject for creative art. The artist, in
the language of Neo-Platonism, is a demiurge; he only of men can convert
dead things into life. And now we will go into the Uffizi.

Mr. Ruskin, in his petulant-playful way, has touched upon the feeling of
amaze most people have who look for the first time at Botticelli's
_Judith_ tripping smoothly and lightly over the hill-country, her
steadfast maid dogging with intent patient eyes every step she takes.
You say it is flippant, affected, pedantic. For answer, I refer you to
the sage himself, who, from his point of view--that painting may fairly
deal with a chapter of history--is perfectly right. The prevailing
strain of the story is the strength of weakness--_ex dulci fortitudo_,
to invert the old enigma. "O God, O my God, hear me also, a widow. Break
down their stateliness by the hand of a woman!" It is the refrain that
runs through the whole history of Israel, that reasonable complacency of
a little people in their God-fraught destiny. And, withal, a streak of
savage spite: that the audacious oppressor shall be done scornfully to
death. There is the motive of Jael and Sisera too. So "she smote twice
upon his neck with all her might, and she took away his head from him,
and tumbled his body down from the bed." Ho! what a fate for the
emissary of the Great King. Wherefore, once more, the jubilant paradox,
"The Lord hath smitten him by the hand of a woman!" That is it: the
amazing, thrilling antithesis insisted on over and over again by the old
Hebrew bard. "Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty took his mind
prisoner, and the fauchion passed through his neck." That is the
_leit-motif_: Sandro the poet knew it perfectly well and taught it to
the no small comfort of Mr. Ruskin and his men. Giuditta, dainty,
blue-eyed, a girl still and three years a widow, flits homeward through
a spring landscape of grey and green and the smile of a milky sky, being
herself the dominant of the chord, with her bough of slipt olive and her
jagged scimitar, with her pretty blue fal-lals smocked and puffed, and
her yellow curls floating over her shoulders. On her slim feet are the
sandals that ravished his eyes; all her maiden bravery is dancing and
fluttering like harebells in the wind. Behind her plods the slave girl
folded in an orange scarf, bearing that shapeless, nameless burden of
hers, the head of the grim Lord Holofernes. Oh, for that, it is the
legend itself! For look at the girl's eyes. What does their dreamy
solemnity mean if not, "the Lord hath smitten him by the hand of a
woman"? One other delicate bit of symbolizing he has allowed himself,
which I may not omit. You are to see by whom this deed was done: by a
woman who has unsexed herself. Judith is absorbed in her awful service;
her robe trails on the ground and clings about her knees; she is
unconscious of the hindrance. The gates of Bethulia are in sight; the
Chaldean horsemen are abroad, but she has no anxiety to escape. She is
swift because her life just now courses swiftly; but there is no haste.
The maid, you shall mark, picks up her skirts with careful hand, and
steps out the more lustily for it.

So far Botticelli the poet, and so far also Mr. Ruskin, reader of
pictures. What says Botticelli the painter? Had he no instincts to tell
him that his art could have little to say to a legend? Or that a legend
might be the subject of an epic (here, indeed, was an epic ready made),
might, under conditions, be the subject of a drama; but could not, under
any conditions, be alone the subject of a picture? I don't for a moment
suggest that he had, or that any artist ever goes to work in this
double-entry, methodical way, but are we entitled to say that he was not
influenced by his predilections, his determinations as a draughtsman,
when he squared himself to illustrate the Bible? We say that the subject
of a picture is the spirit of natural fact. If Botticelli was a painter,
_that_ is what he must have looked for, and must have found, in every
picture he painted. Where, then, was he to get his natural facts in the
story of Judith? What is, in that story, the natural, essential (as
opposed to the historical, fleeting) fact? It is murder. Judith's deed
was what the old Scots law incisively calls _slauchter_. It may be
glossed over as assassination or even execution--in fact, in Florence,
where Giuliano was soon to be taken off, it did not fail to be so
called: it remains, however, just murder. Botticelli, not shirking the
position at all, judged murder to be a natural fact, and its spirit or
essence swiftness and stealth. Chaucer, let us note, had been of the
same mind:

  "The smyler with the knyf under his cloke,"

and so on, in lines not be matched for hasty and dreadful suggestion.
Swiftness and stealth, the ambush, the averted face and the sudden stab,
are the standing elements of murder: pare off all the rest, you come
down to that. Your staring looks, your blood, your "chirking," are
accidentals. They may be there (for each of us carries a carcase), but
the horror of sudden death is above them: a man may strangle with his
thoughts cleaner than with his pair of hands. And as "matter" is but the
stuff wherewith Nature works, and she is only insulted, not defied, when
we flout or mangle it, so it is against the high dignity of Art to
insist upon the carrion she must use. She will press, here the terror,
there the radiance, of essential fact; she will leave to us, seeing it
in her face, to add mentally the poor stage properties we have grown to
trust. No blood, if you please. Therefore, in Botticelli's _Judith_,
nothing but the essentials are insisted on; the rest we instantly
imagine, but it is not there to be sensed. The panel is in a tremor. So
swift and secret is Judith, so furtive the maid, we need no hurrying
horsemen to remind us of her oath,--"Hear me, and I will do a thing
which shall go throughout all generations to the children of our
nation." Sudden death in the air; nature has been outraged. But there is
no drop of blood--the thin scarlet line along the sword-edge is a symbol
if you will--the pale head in the cloth is a mere "thing:" yet we all
know what has been done.

    _Earthwork out of Tuscany_ (London, 1895).




Some small and slender trees, branchless almost to their tops, border
the two sides of a road, which occupies the centre of the picture, and
extend all the way to a village which closes the horizon with several
masts and hulls of ships in profile against a sky where the sun is
veiled; to the right, a nursery-garden of shrubs and rose-trees
separated from the road by a wide ditch full of water; then, in the
middle distance, the buildings of a farm; to the left, a clump of trees
and another ditch, and further back the spire of a church; a huntsman,
with a gun on his shoulder and preceded by his dog, is walking on the
road, and two peasants--a man and a woman--have stopped to chat on the
path that leads across to the farm; a horticulturist is grafting the
shrubs in the nursery-garden; and this corner of a landscape has
sufficed for Hobbema to produce a masterpiece which the National Gallery
of London is justly proud to possess. This youngest of the great
European Museums is not the poorest and owns very considerable works of
every school.


What is most admired in this picture of the Dutch Master? The firmness
of touch, the brilliancy of the key, the ease and breadth of execution
without the slightest sign of hesitation or alteration, or the
extraordinary perfection with which the perspective is rendered? We do
not know. Despite the complexity of the subject, the one defect of which
may be a slight lack of unity in the composition, the general effect of
the picture is simple and powerful, and the gradation of colour
harmonious and correct. It would be impossible to go any farther than
this artist has done in the interpretation of this tranquil Dutch
landscape. The deep values of the trees, the yellowish greys of the
road, and the sluggish water of the ditches, together with the blue sky
flecked with little grey and white clouds produce an ensemble of
absolute calm. The little figures which give life to this canvas are so
fine and delicate in execution that they leave nothing to be desired.
Here, as very rarely happens, the multiplication of details does not
spoil the effect of the whole.

This is a picture absolutely without a peer, and a page by itself in
Hobbema's work. This is true in every sense, even in the choice of
subject; for most frequently the painter borrows the motives for his
pictures from a different phase of nature. Ordinarily he interprets
forest-clearings; the skirts of a wood with poor huts hidden by great
trees; calm and fresh pools; and streams feeding humble mills. Witness
the one in the Louvre for which he showed so great a predilection and
which he reproduced under so many varied aspects.

But whatever may be the subject he treats, he always remains the happy
interpreter of the calm scenery of his own country of low and drowned
horizons; the painter attracted by the light which with him envelops
everything it approaches--trees, cottages, ground, waters, and
distances bathed in delicious depths.

Nature, gentle and friendly to man, which he saw with a simplicity and a
clearness approached by no other painter, attracted and charmed him
above all else, in contrast to his contemporary and friend, J. Ruysdael,
who, led away by heart-breaking melancholy, would never see any side of
her but the energetic and lugubrious, the sad and troubled.

In his forests, on the banks of his ponds and rivers, in the
neighbourhood of his huts and mills, Hobbema wants to have company; so
he has sown his landscapes with figures, and they are constantly
animated with people and animals. Are these figures always his own? It
would be imprudent to affirm this, although they harmonize in most cases
so marvellously with the rest of the picture, and it would therefore
seem difficult for them to be by another hand. However, if we must defer
to his historian, von Wurzbach, they are very frequently the work of
Nicholaas Berghem, Adriaen Van de Velde, Lingelbach, Philip Wouwerman,
Isack van Ostade, Pijnacker, etc., which would prove, at least, that he
knew how to select his collaborators.

The painter of the _Avenue of Middelharnais_ in the National Gallery, of
the _Mill_ in our Louvre, and of many other masterpieces was yet
unknown, or rather despised, not very long ago, and it is quite recently
that his name has emerged from the unjust neglect in which it was
buried. This great name of Hobbema had fallen into such discredit that
when one of his pictures fell by chance into the hands of an amateur or
merchant the signature would be effaced as quickly as possible and
replaced by that of J. Ruysdael, the sole painter worthy of entering
into competition with him.

Who then is this Meindert Hobbema? Where was he born? Where did he live?
What was his life? Alas, we know very little concerning this impeccable
master, one of the greatest glories of Dutch painting. The principal
historians of the Netherland school are ignorant of him or pass him by
in silence. Houbraken, Descamps, and d'Argenville are dumb regarding
him. Those who, by chance, treat of him, commit so many errors that it
is best to take no account of their words. Three cities, Amsterdam,
Koeverden, and a village, Middelharnais, in the province of Guelder,
which he has made famous by the marvellous picture, the subject of our
notice, dispute the honour of being his birthplace. But, it seems,
although nothing can be affirmed with certainty, that he first saw the
light in Amsterdam in 1638. He was the son of a sergeant in the
Netherland army and spent his early life in Koeverden, where he was
baptized and where his father was in garrison. At a later period he
established himself in Amsterdam, where he became the pupil and soon the
comrade and friend of J. Ruysdael, who served as witness to his marriage
with Eeltie Vinck, celebrated in this same city, Oct. 2, 1668. From that
time he scarcely ever left Amsterdam, where he died, Dec. 14, 1709, five
years after his wife, in the sad Roosegraft, which had seen Rembrandt
expire thirty years before. He was sixty-seven years of age. Have we any
need to add that, like Rembrandt, the painter of painters, he died

That is all we know of Meindert Hobbema. It is little enough, but quite
sufficient. Have we not the man complete in his work? What more could we

    Jouin, _Chefs-d'oeuvre: Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture_
    (Paris, 1895-97).




With the majestic and tragic things of art we began, at the landmarks
set by Leonardo and Michael Angelo; and are come now, not quite at
random, to the lyric and elegiac loveliness of Andrea del Sarto. To
praise him would need sweeter and purer speech than this of ours. His
art is to me as the Tuscan April in its temperate days, fresh and tender
and clear, but lulled and kindled by such air and light as fills the
life of the growing year with fire. At Florence only can one trace and
tell how great a painter and how various he was. There only, but surely
there, can the influence and pressure of the things of time on his
immortal spirit be understood; how much of him was killed or changed,
how much of him could not be. There are the first-fruits of his
flowering manhood, when the bright and buoyant genius in him had free
play and large delight in its handiwork; when the fresh interest of
invention was still his, and the dramatic sense, the pleasure in the
play of life, the power of motion and variety; before the old strength
of sight and of flight had passed from weary wing and clouding eye, the
old pride and energy of enjoyment had gone out of hand and heart. How
the change fell upon him, and how it wrought, any one may see who
compares his later with his earlier works, with the series, for
instance, of outlines representing the story of St. John Baptist in the
desolate little cloister of Lo Scalzo. In these mural designs there is
such exultation and exuberance of young power, of fresh passion and
imagination, that only by the innate grace can one recognize the hand of
the master whom hitherto we know by the works of his after life, when
the gift of grace had survived the gift of invention. This and all other
gifts it did survive; all pleasure of life and power of mind, all the
conscience of the man, his will, his character, his troubles, his
triumphs, his sin and honour, heart-break and shame. All these his charm
of touch, his sweetness of execution, his "Elysian beauty, melancholy
grace," outlived, and blossomed in their dust. Turn from that cloistral
series to those later pictures, painted when he was "faultless" and
nothing more; and seeing all the growth and all the gain, all the change
and all the loss, one to whom the second was unknown would feel and
foreknow his story and his sorrow. In the cloister, what life and
fullness of growing and strengthening genius, what joyous sense of its
growth and the fair field before it, what dramatic delight in character
and action! where St. John preaches in the wilderness and the few first
listeners are gathered together at his feet, old people and poor,
soul-stricken, silent--women with worn still faces, and a spirit in
their tired aged eyes that feeds heartily and hungrily on his words--all
the haggard funereal group filled from the fountain of his faith with
gradual fire and white-heat of soul; or where Salome dances before
Herod, an incarnate figure of music, grave and graceful, light and
glad, the song of a bird made flesh, with perfect poise of her sweet
slight body from the maiden face to the melodious feet; no tyrannous or
treacherous goddess of deadly beauty, but a simple virgin, with the cold
charm of girlhood and the mobile charm of childhood; as indifferent and
innocent when she stands before Herodias and when she receives the
severed head of John with her slender and steady hands; a pure bright
animal, knowing nothing of man, and of life nothing but instinct and
motion. In her mother's mature and conscious beauty there is visible the
voluptuous will of a harlot and a queen; but, for herself, she has
neither malice nor pity; her beauty is a maiden force of nature, capable
of bloodshed without bloodguiltiness; the King hangs upon the music of
her movement, the rhythm of leaping life in her fair fleet limbs, as one
who listens to a tune, subdued by the rapture of sound, absorbed in
purity of passion. I know not where the subject has been touched with
such fine and keen imagination as here. The time came when another than
Salome was to dance before the eyes of the painter; and she required of
him the head of no man, but his own soul; and he paid the forfeit into
her hands. With the coming of that time upon him came the change upon
his heart and hand; "the work of an imperious whorish woman." Those
words, set by the prophet as a brand upon the fallen forehead of the
chosen bride, come back to mind as one studies in her husband's pictures
the full calm lineaments, the large and serene beauty of Lucrezia del
Fede; a predominant and placid beauty, placid and implacable, not to be
pleaded with or fought against. Voluptuous always and slothful, subtle
at times no doubt and sweet beyond measure, full of heavy beauty and
warm, slow grace, her features bear no sign of possible love or
conscience. Seen side by side with his clear sad face, hers tells more
of the story than any written record, even though two poets of our age
have taken it up. In the feverish and feeble melodrama of Alfred de
Musset there is no touch of tragedy, hardly a shadow of passionate and
piteous truth; in Mr. Browning's noblest poem--his noblest it seems to
me--the whole tragedy is distilled into the right words, the whole man
raised up and reclothed with flesh. One point only is but lightly
touched upon--missed it could not be by an eye so sharp and skilful--the
effect upon his art of the poisonous solvent of love. How his life was
corroded by it and his soul burnt into dead ashes, we are shown in full;
but we are not shown in full what as a painter he was before, what as a
painter he might have been without it. This is what I think the works of
his youth and age, seen near together as at Florence, make manifest to
any loving and studious eye. In those later works, the inevitable and
fatal figure of the woman recurs with little diversity or change. She
has grown into his art, and made it even as herself; rich, monotonous in
beauty, calm, complete, without heart or spirit. But his has not been
always "the low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand" it was then. He had
started on his way towards another goal than that. Nothing now is left
him to live for but his faultless hand and her faultless face--still and
full, suggestive of no change in the steady deep-lidded eyes and heavy
lovely lips without love or pudency or pity. Here among his sketches we
find it again and ever the same, crowned and clothed only with the
glory and the joy and the majesty of the flesh. When the luxurious and
subtle sense which serves the woman for a soul looks forth and speaks
plainest from those eyes and lips, she is sovereign and stately still;
there is in her beauty nothing common or unclean. We cannot but see her
for what she is; but her majestic face makes no appeal for homage or

    _Essays and Studies_ (London, 1875).

        _Andrea del Sarto._]




At the beginning of the Fifteenth Century, Gentile da Fabriano[4]
painted an _Adoration of the Magi_,[5] in which the faithful
representation of contemporary scenes is again found. The Virgin,
completely enveloped in a large blue cloak, is seated in front of the
stable, with her head piously inclined towards her Son whom she is
regarding with tender gaze. St. Joseph is at her side and behind her are
two young women who are holding and admiring the gifts offered to the
Saviour. The infant Jesus has laid his hand on the head of the oldest of
the Magi, who, prostrated, kisses his feet with devotion. The two other
Kings are much younger than the first one. They are presenting their
offerings to the Son of God, and are about to lay their crowns before
him. Then follows the retinue of these Magi; and in this throng, where
may be counted at least seventy figures on foot and on horseback, of all
ranks, of all ages, and of all sizes, it is easy to recognize a trace of
those popular festivals instituted in the preceding century. Despite
some slight Oriental disguises, one may easily recognize the bearing,
the general features, and the costumes of the Italy of the first years
of the Fifteenth Century. Gentile was also pleased to add to the "superb
chargers" mentioned by Lattuda, all kinds of animals, especially the
apes that the Milanese loved to include in their pompous processions.
Finally, in the background of this picture he has painted the embattled
walls of a Guelph city with two massive gates; the one through which the
Magi have entered, the other through which they will take their
departure. Is there anything here, either in the foreground or the
background that suggests Jerusalem? Do you not notice rather a
resemblance to the fortifications of Milan, with the Porta Romana and
the Porta San-Lorenzo?


After having painted the frescoes of the Cathedral of Orvieto, Gentile
lived for a long time in the north of Italy, particularly in Venice. It
is very likely that while there, closer to the Orient and more
especially nearer to Milan, he painted his _Adoration of the Magi_. We
may then certainly consider this as a faithful portrayal of one of those
public ceremonials, which without doubt he had witnessed, and in which
he had most likely participated. Only, ignoring the passions and
violence of the period, he left everywhere in this painting the imprint
of his own gentle and tender nature. We know that Michael Angelo
remarked of Gentile that his name was in perfect harmony with the tone
of his works. None of them can more thoroughly convince us of the
justice of this observation than this picture. From the Virgin herself
to the most humble of the servants of the Magi, and indeed even to the
animals, that beautiful soul which had for its servant a talent replete
with delicacy and suavity may be traced.[6]

    _Les Vierges de Raphaël_ (Paris, 1869).


[4] One of the founders of the Roman School.

[5] This painting is in the gallery of the Accademia delle Belle Arti,
Florence. At its base on one side one may read: OPVS: GENTILIS, DE:
FABRIANO; and on the other side: MCCCC.X.X.III: MENSIS: MAII.

[6] In a predella below this picture may be seen _The Adoration of the
Shepherds_ and _The Flight into Egypt_. Gentile da Fabriano also painted
an _Adoration of the Magi_ at San-Domenico, Perugia. This second picture
is of less value than the one at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in




When Holbein returned to London towards the end of 1531, leaving Basle,
where he had worked for nearly three years, he found himself immediately
occupied with several portraits of the merchants of the Hanseatic
League. During his first sojourn in England, he had painted the
chancellor, Sir Thomas More, his protector and friend, and he had traced
the features of several members of the aristocracy. On his return,
circumstances for his gaining access to the court were less favourable.
Henry VIII. was obeying his own good pleasure and satisfying all his
caprices, and the chancellor was holding aloof, and could not exert his
influence. Holbein did not now possess the title of Painter to the King,
consequently he had to consider himself happy in obtaining the favour of
his compatriots.

The German merchants had formed themselves into a powerful association;
they found themselves united in a kind of city, which went by the name
of Stahlhof. There they had their Guildhall, their Bourse, the place
where their affairs were managed and which contained their stores of
merchandise, and their counting-houses. It was a separate quarter, where
each one could also have his own dwelling.

The company was opulent; the industry of the members of the Hanseatic
League was chiefly in iron and the precious metals; among them were
armourers, watch-makers, and goldsmiths. In the Stahlhof, called in
English the Steelyard, and which the founders themselves had designated
the Palace of Steel, was to be noted a certain opulence and pursuit of
comfort which is to be found in all ages. After having finished their
business, the merchants formed a social circle of their own. They had a
festival-hall of their own, and they could walk about in spacious
gardens which extended along the banks of the Thames.

Among these representatives of high finance a painter might find a
choice _clientèle_ that would never care about the price of an order. We
know that Holbein painted the portraits of many of these rich merchants,
for to-day we find these canvases, whose authenticity has been
established, in Museums and important collections. We may therefore
suppose that the German merchants appreciated Holbein at his true value;
doubtless they disputed the honour of having their features reproduced
by a master of such remarkable talent.

The portrait of Georg Gisze, which is before our readers, is certainly
the finest work of this series. When we saw this masterly work in the
Museum of Berlin, to which it belongs, it left an indelible impression
upon us which we still feel at this distance. It is incontestably a
masterpiece from every point of view; in the Gallery there is but one
other picture of the same kind which may be compared to it, a painting
which suggests a parallel in a single detail,--_The Man with the Pinks_,
by Van Eyck.


Holbein has represented Georg Gisze in his mercantile office, at a
table, holding a letter which he is about to open, and surrounded by
small objects, articles for which he has use in his business and in his
every-day life. This man appears before us in a marvellous pose, among
these material surroundings and in this professional scene. Observe his
calm attitude and his almost placid physiognomy: we notice, however, the
firm and decided air of a wealthy and elegant merchant. And, at the same
time, we are sure that the type represented here is not of sudden
growth: everything about him reveals intelligence.

Georg Gisze is young; the painter has told us his name and his age in an
inscription on the wall: he is thirty-four. We do not lack information
about him. We like him under that air of youthful seriousness; we see
upon his face that dawning gravity in which the blossom of feeling
already exists, but its plenitude and maturity are still to come. And in
attentively examining our personage we are struck with his reflective
and searching glance. We seem to have a glimpse in him of an undefined
melancholy. This expression surprises us in this man, who ought to be
happy at living and who lacks no pleasures that Fortune can procure.

This is a state of mind which is indicated to us, moreover, by a motto
traced above his name on one of the walls of his office: _Nulla sine
mærore voluptas_. Why this thought? Is it purely emblematic, or does it
contain an allusion to some private matter? We are led to believe that
it is intended as a complementary explanation, that it was placed upon
the picture because it was in sympathy with a train of ideas special to
the model. Perhaps it recalls some domestic sorrow, the lively grief
left by an absent one, or by some eternal separation. A moral mystery,
which seems to us very attractive, hovers around Georg Gisze.

He has long fair hair confined beneath a black cap; his smooth-shaven
face is rather thin. He wears a rich costume, a pourpoint of cerise silk
with puffed sleeves, and, over this pourpoint, a cloak of black wool
lined with fur. The table on which he is leaning is covered with a
Persian rug, and, beside the various objects scattered upon it, you
notice a bunch of carnations in an artistically wrought Venetian glass.
These carnations, like the motto, awake in us an image, a poetical
reminiscence. Sentiment, Germanic in its essence, mingled with dreams
and vague ideals, is introduced into this merchant's office.

The master has fully displayed with supreme power, and with all the
resources of his art, the colours of the costume, the paleness of the
face, and the freshness of the flesh standing out from the background of
green panels. He has played with all the various tones of the
accessories, book and registers, inkstand, watch, and scales for
weighing the gold. Every detail, with no link missing, contributes to
form the perfect harmony of the whole.

We cannot too greatly admire the singular clearness and extraordinary
precision with which the artist has placed in relief every detail that
can make a figure live and render a work essentially eloquent.[7]

People have tried to make out that Georg Gisze was a merchant of Basle.
He would then have been of the race connected most closely with the
Master's life. This opinion has been discussed by Woltmann, Holbein's
historian. The superscriptions on the sufficiently numerous letters,
which are reproduced in this painting, must be especially noticed; they
are written in an ancient dialect which seems rather to be that of
central Germany.[8]

    Jouin, _Chefs-d'oeuvre: Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture_
    (Paris, 1895-97).


[7] In one corner of the picture is found this inscription with its
Latin distich:

          Imaginem Georgii Gysenii
  Ista refert vultus, quâ cernis Imago Georgi
    Sic oculos vivos, sic habet ille genas.
           Anno ætatis suæ XXXIII.
               Anno dom. 1532.

[8] We read on one of these letters: _Dem erszamen Jergen Gisze to
Lunden in Engelant, mynem broder to handen._




The chief reason why we all know the _Last Judgment_ of Michael Angelo,
and not the _Paradise_ of Tintoret, is the same love of sensation which
makes us read the _Inferno_ of Dante, and not his _Paradise_; and the
choice, believe me, is our fault, not his; some farther evil influence
is due to the fact that Michael Angelo had invested all his figures with
picturesque and palpable elements of effect, while Tintoret has only
made them lovely in themselves and has been content that they should
deserve, not demand, your attention.

You are accustomed to think the figures of Michael Angelo
sublime--because they are dark, and colossal, and involved, and
mysterious--because, in a word, they look sometimes like shadows, and
sometimes like mountains, and sometimes like spectres, but never like
human beings. Believe me, yet once more, in what I told you long
since--man can invent nothing nobler than humanity. He cannot raise his
form into anything better than God made it, by giving it either the
flight of birds or strength of beasts, by enveloping it in mist, or
heaping it into multitude. Your pilgrim must look like a pilgrim in a
straw hat, or you will not make him into one with cockle and nimbus;
an angel must look like an angel on the ground, as well as in the
air; and the much-denounced pre-Raphaelite faith that a saint cannot
look saintly unless he has thin legs, is not more absurd than Michael
Angelo's, that a Sibyl cannot look Sibylline unless she has thick ones.

[Illustration: PARADISE.

All that shadowing, storming, and coiling of his, when you look into it,
is mere stage decoration, and that of a vulgar kind. Light is, in
reality, more awful than darkness--modesty more majestic than strength;
and there is truer sublimity in the sweet joy of a child, or the sweet
virtue of a maiden, than in the strength of Antæus, or thunder-clouds of

Now, though in nearly all his greater pictures, Tintoret is entirely
carried away by his sympathy with Michael Angelo, and conquers him in
his own field;--outflies him in motion, outnumbers him in multitude,
outwits him in fancy, and outflames him in rage,--he can be just as
gentle as he is strong: and that _Paradise_, though it is the largest
picture in the world, without any question, is also the thoughtfullest,
and most precious.

The Thoughtfullest!--it would be saying but little, as far as Michael
Angelo is concerned.

For consider it of yourselves. You have heard, from your youth up (and
all educated persons have heard for three centuries), of this _Last
Judgment_ of his, as the most sublime picture in existence.

The subject of it is one which should certainly be interesting to you in
one of two ways.

If you never expect to be judged for any of your own doings, and the
tradition of the coming of Christ is to you as an idle tale--still,
think what a wonderful tale it would be, were it well told. You are at
liberty, disbelieving it, to range the fields--Elysian and Tartarean, of
all imagination. You may play with it, since it is false; and what a
play would it not be, well written? Do you think the tragedy, or the
miracle play, or the infinitely Divina Commedia of the Judgment of the
astonished living who were dead;--the undeceiving of the sight of every
human soul, understanding in an instant all the shallow and depth of
past life and future,--face to face with both,--and with God:--this
apocalypse to all intellect, and completion to all passion, this minute
and individual drama of the perfected history of separate spirits, and
of their finally accomplished affections!--think you, I say, all this
was well told by mere heaps of dark bodies curled and convulsed in
space, and fall as of a crowd from a scaffolding, in writhed concretions
of muscular pain?

But take it the other way. Suppose you believe, be it never so dimly or
feebly, in some kind of Judgment that is to be;--that you admit even the
faint contingency of retribution, and can imagine, with vivacity enough
to fear, that in this life, at all events, if not in another--there may
be for you a Visitation of God, and a questioning--What hast thou done?
The picture, if it is a good one, should have a deeper interest, surely
on _this_ postulate? Thrilling enough, as a mere imagination of what is
never to be--now, as a conjecture of what _is_ to be, held the best that
in eighteen centuries of Christianity has for men's eyes been
made;--Think of it so!

And then, tell me, whether you yourselves, or any one you have known,
did ever at any time receive from this picture any, the smallest vital
thought, warning, quickening, or help? It may have appalled, or
impressed you for a time, as a thunder-cloud might: but has it ever
taught you anything--chastised in you anything--confirmed a
purpose--fortified a resistance--purified a passion? I know that for
you, it has done none of these things; and I know also that, for others,
it has done very different things. In every vain and proud designer who
has since lived, that dark carnality of Michael Angelo's has fostered
insolent science, and fleshly imagination. Daubers and blockheads think
themselves painters, and are received by the public as such, if they
know how to foreshorten bones and decipher entrails; and men with
capacity of art either shrink away (the best of them always do) into
petty felicities and innocencies of genre painting--landscapes, cattle,
family breakfasts, village schoolings, and the like; or else, if they
have the full sensuous art-faculty that would have made true painters of
them, being taught from their youth up, to look for and learn the body
instead of the spirit, have learned it and taught it to such purpose,
that at this hour, when I speak to you, the rooms of the Royal Academy
of England, receiving also what of best can be sent there by the masters
of France, contain _not one_ picture honourable to the arts of their
age; and contain many which are shameful in their record of its manners.

Of that, hereafter. I will close to-day by giving you some brief account
of the scheme of Tintoret's _Paradise_, in justification that it is the
thoughtfullest as well as mightiest picture in the world.

In the highest centre is Christ, leaning on the globe of the earth,
which is of dark crystal. Christ is crowned with a glory as of the sun,
and all the picture is lighted by that glory, descending through circle
beneath circle of cloud, and of flying or throned spirits.

The Madonna, beneath Christ, and at some interval from Him, kneels to
Him. She is crowned with the Seven stars, and kneels on a cloud of
angels, whose wings change into ruby fire where they are near her.

The three great Archangels, meeting from three sides, fly
towards Christ. Michael delivers up his scales and sword. He
is followed by the Thrones and Principalities of the Earth; so
inscribed--Throni--Principatus. The Spirits of the Thrones bear scales
in their hands; and of the Princedoms, shining globes: beneath the wings
of the last of these are the four great teachers and lawgivers, St.
Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Gregory, St. Augustine, and behind St.
Augustine stands his mother, watching him, her chief joy in Paradise.

Under the Thrones are set the Apostles, St. Paul separated a little from
the rest, and put lowest, yet principal; under St. Paul, is St.
Christopher, bearing a massive globe, with a cross upon it: but to mark
him as the Christ-bearer, since here in Paradise he cannot have the
child on his shoulders, Tintoret has thrown on the globe a flashing
stellar reflection of the sun round the head of Christ.

All this side of the picture is kept in glowing colour--the four Doctors
of the church have golden mitres and mantles; except the Cardinal, St.
Jerome, who is in burning scarlet, his naked breast glowing, warm with
noble life,--the darker red of his robe relieved against a white glory.

Opposite to Michael, Gabriel flies towards the Madonna, having in his
hand the Annunciation lily, large and triple-blossomed. Above him, and
above Michael equally, extends a cloud of white angels, inscribed
"Serafini;" but the group following Gabriel, and corresponding to the
Throni following Michael, is inscribed "Cherubini." Under these are the
great prophets, and singers, and foretellers of the happiness or of the
sorrow of time. David, and Solomon, and Isaiah, and Amos of the
herdsmen. David has a colossal golden psaltery laid horizontally across
his knees;--two angels behind him dictate to him as he sings, looking up
towards Christ; but one strong angel sweeps down to Solomon from among
the cherubs, and opens a book, resting it on the head of Solomon, who
looks down earnestly, unconscious of it;--to the left of David, separate
from the group of prophets, as Paul from the apostles, is Moses,
dark-robed;--in the full light, withdrawn far behind him, Abraham,
embracing Isaac with his left arm, and near him, pale St. Agnes. In
front, nearer, dark and colossal, stands the glorious figure of Santa
Giustina of Padua; then a little subordinate to her, St. Catharine, and,
far on the left, and high, Saint Barbara leaning on her tower. In front,
nearer, flies Raphael; and under him is the four-square group of the
Evangelists. Beneath them, on the left, Noah; on the right, Adam and
Eve, both floating unsupported by cloud or angel; Noah buoyed by the
Ark, which he holds above him, and it is _this_ into which Solomon gazes
down, so earnestly. Eve's face is, perhaps, the most beautiful ever
painted by Tintoret--full in light, but dark-eyed. Adam floats beside
her, his figure fading into a winged gloom, edged in the outline of
fig-leaves. Far down, under these, central in the lowest part of the
picture, rises the Angel of the Sea, praying for Venice; for Tintoret
conceives his Paradise as existing now, not as in the future. I at first
mistook this soft Angel of the Sea for Magdalene, for he is sustained by
other three angels on either side, as the Magdalen is, in designs of
earlier time, because of the verse, "There is joy in the presence of the
angels over one sinner that repenteth." But the Magdalen is on the
right, behind St. Monica; and on the same side, but lowest of all,
Rachel, among the angels of her children gathered now again to her for

I have no hesitation in asserting this picture to be by far the most
precious work of art of any kind whatsoever, now existing in the world;
and it is, I believe, on the eve of final destruction; for it is said
that the angle of the great council-chamber is soon to be rebuilt; and
that process will involve the destruction of the picture by removal,
and, far more, by repainting. I had thought of making some effort to
save it by an appeal in London to persons generally interested in the
arts; but the recent desolation of Paris has familiarized us with
destruction, and I have no doubt the answer to me would be, that Venice
must take care of her own. But remember, at least, that I have borne
witness to you to-day of the treasures that we forget, while we amuse
ourselves with the poor toys, and the petty, or vile, arts, of our own

The years of that time have perhaps come, when we are to be taught to
look no more to the dreams of painters, either for knowledge of
Judgment, or of Paradise. The anger of Heaven will not longer, I think,
be mocked for our amusement; and perhaps its love may not always be
despised by our pride. Believe me, all the arts, and all the treasures
of men, are fulfilled and preserved to them only, so far as they have
chosen first, with their hearts, not the curse of God, but His blessing.
Our Earth is now encumbered with ruin, our Heaven is clouded by Death.
May we not wisely judge ourselves in some things now, instead of amusing
ourselves with the painting of judgments to come?

    _The Relation Between Michael Angelo and Tintoret_ (London, 1872).




On the roof of the summer-house of the Palazzo Rospigliosi, is painted
the celebrated fresco of Guido's _Aurora_. Its colouring is clear,
harmonious, airy, brilliant--unfaded by time; and the enthusiastic
admirer of Guido's genius may be permitted to hope that this, his
noblest work, will be immortal as his fame.

[Illustration: AURORA.
        _Guido Reni_.]

Morghen's fine engraving may give you some idea of the design and
composition of this beautiful painting; but it cannot convey the soft
harmony of the tints, the living touches, the brilliant forms, the
realized dream of the imagination, that bursts, with all its magic, upon
your enraptured sight in the matchless original. It is embodied poetry.
The Hours, that hand-in-hand encircle the car of Phoebus, advance with
rapid pace. The paler, milder forms of those gentler sisters who rule
over declining day, and the glowing glance of those who bask in the
meridian blaze, resplendent in the hues of heaven,--are of no mortal
grace and beauty; but they are eclipsed by Aurora herself, who sails on
the golden clouds before them, shedding "showers of shadowing roses" on
the rejoicing earth; her celestial presence diffusing gladness, and
light, and beauty around. Above the heads of the heavenly coursers,
hovers the morning star, in the form of a youthful cherub, bearing his
flaming torch. Nothing is more admirable in this beautiful composition,
than the motion given to the whole. The smooth and rapid step of the
circling Hours as they tread on the fleecy clouds; the fiery steeds; the
whirling wheels of the car; the torch of Lucifer, blown back by the
velocity of his advance; and the form of Aurora, borne through the
ambient air, till you almost fear she should float from your sight; all
realize the illusion. You seem admitted into the world of fancy, and
revel in its brightest creations.

In the midst of such youth and loveliness, the dusky figure of Phoebus
appears to great disadvantage. It is not happily conceived. Yet his air
is noble and godlike, and his free commanding action, and conscious
ease, as he carelessly guides, with one hand, the fiery steeds that are
harnessed to his flaming car, may, perhaps, compensate in some degree
for his want of beauty; for he certainly is not handsome; and I looked
in vain for the youthful majesty of the god of day, and thought on
Apollo Belvedere. Had Guido thought of it too, he never could have made
this head, which is, I think, the great and only defect of this
exquisite painting; and what makes it of more importance, is, that
Apollo, not Aurora, is the principal figure--the first that catches the
eye, and which, in spite of our dissatisfaction, we are to the last
obliged to contemplate. The defects of his Apollo are a new proof of
what I have very frequently observed, that Guido succeeded far better in
feminine than in masculine beauty. His female forms, in their
loveliness, their delicacy, their grace and sweetness are faultless; and
the beauty and innocence of his infants have seldom been equalled; but
he rarely gave to manly beauty and vigour a character that was noble.

From the _Aurora_ of Guido, we must turn to the rival _Aurora_ of
Guercino, in the Villa Ludovisi. In spite of Guido's bad head of Apollo,
and in spite of Guercino's magic chiaroscuro, I confess myself disposed
to give the preference to Guido. In the first place, there is not the
same unity of composition in Guercino's. It is very fine in all its
parts; but still it _is_ in parts. It is not so fine a _whole_, nor is
it so perfect a composition, nor has it the same charm as Guido's.
Neither is there the same ideal beauty in the Aurora. Guercino's is a
mortal--Guido's a truly ethereal being. Guercino's Aurora is in her car,
drawn by two heavenly steeds, and the shades of night seem to dissipate
at her approach. Old Tithonus, whom she has left behind her seems half
awake; and the morning star, under the figure of a winged genius bearing
his kindled torch, follows her course. In a separate compartment, Night,
in the form of a woman, is sitting musing, or slumbering, over a book.
She has much of the character of a Sibyl. Her dark cave is broken open,
and the blue sky and the coming light break beautifully in upon her and
her companions, the sullen owl and flapping bat, which shrink from its
unwelcome ray. The Hours are represented under the figure of children,
fluttering about before the goddess, and extinguishing the stars of
night--a beautiful idea; but one, perhaps, better adapted to poetry than
painting. The Hours of Guercino are, however, infinitely less poetic
and less beautiful than the bright female forms which encircle the car
of day in Guido's _Aurora_. Yet it is a masterpiece of painting; and but
for the _Aurora_ of Guido, we could have conceived nothing beyond the
_Aurora_ of Guercino.

    _Rome in the Nineteenth Century_ (5th edition, London, 1852).




Although no distinct landscape is known by the hand of Guido, yet in a
history of this particular branch it may not be improper to notice its
immense importance as an accessory in his picture of _Aurora_. It is the
finest instance I know of the beauty of natural landscape brought to aid
a mythological story, and to be sensible of its value we have only to
imagine a plain background in its stead. But though Guido has placed us
in the heavens, we are looking towards the earth, where seas and
mountain-tops are receiving the first beams of the morning sun. The
chariot of Apollo is borne on the clouds, attended by the Hours and
preceded by Aurora, who scatters flowers, and the landscape, instead of
diminishing the illusion, is the chief means of producing it, and is
indeed most essential to the story.

    Leslie, _Life and Letters of John Constable, R.A._ (London, new
    ed., 1896).




The pearl of the Museum at Madrid is a Raphael; that of Venice is a
Titian, a marvellous canvas, forgotten and afterwards recovered, which
has its legend also. For many long years Venice possessed this
masterpiece without knowing it. Relegated to an old and seldom
frequented church it had disappeared under a slow coating of dust and
behind a network of spider-webs. The subject could scarcely be made out.
One day, Count Cicognora, a great connoisseur, noticing that these rusty
figures had a certain air, and scenting the master under this livery of
neglect and misery, wetted his finger and rubbed the canvas, an action
which is not one of exquisite propriety, but which an expert on pictures
cannot help doing when he is face to face with a dirty canvas, be he
twenty times a count and a thousand times a dandy. The noble picture,
preserved intact under this layer of dust, like Pompeii under its mantle
of ashes, appeared so young and fresh that the count never doubted but
that he had discovered the canvas of a great master, an unknown
_chef-d'oeuvre_. He had the strength of mind to control his
excitement, and proposed to the _curé_ to exchange this great
dilapidated painting for a beautiful picture, quite new, perfectly
clean, very brilliant, and well framed, which would do honour to the
church and give pleasure to the faithful. The _curé_ joyfully accepted
it, smiling to himself at the eccentricity of the count, who gave new
for old and demanded nothing in return.

When relieved of its dirt and stains, Titian's _Assunta_ appeared
radiant as the sun when it bursts through the clouds. Parisian readers
may form an idea of the importance of this discovery by going to see the
beautiful copy, recently made by Serrur and placed in the Beaux Arts.
The _Assunta_ is one of Titian's greatest works, the one in which he
attains his highest flight: the composition is balanced and distributed
with infinite art. The upper portion, which is arched, represents
Paradise, Glory, as the Spanish say in their ascetic language: garlands
of angels floating and submerged in a wave of light of uncalculable
depth, stars scintillating in the flame, and brighter glints of the
everlasting light form the aureole of the Father, who arrives from the
depths of the infinite with the action of a hovering eagle, accompanied
by an archangel and a seraph whose hands support the crown and the

This Jehovah, like a divine bird appearing head-foremost and with body
horizontally foreshortened beneath a wave of drapery flying open like
wings, astonishes us by its sublime boldness; if it is possible for the
brush of a human being to give a countenance to divinity, certainly
Titian has succeeded. Unlimited power and imperishable youth radiate
from that white-bearded face that need only nod for the snows of
eternity to fall: not since the Olympian Jove of Phidias has the lord of
heaven and earth been represented more worthily.


The centre of the picture is occupied by the Virgin Mary, who is lifted
up, or rather who is surrounded by a wreath of angels and souls of the
blessed: for she has no need of any aid to mount to Heaven; she rises by
the springing upward of her robust faith, by the purity of her soul,
which is lighter than the most luminous ether. Truly there is in this
figure an unheard-of force of ascension, and in order to obtain this
effect Titian has not had recourse to slender forms, diaphanous
draperies, and transparent colours. His Madonna is a very true, very
living, and very real woman, with a beauty as solid as that of the Venus
de Milo, or the sleeping woman in the Tribune of Florence. Large, full
drapery flows about her in numerous folds; her flanks are wide enough to
have contained a God, and, if she was not on a cloud, the Marquis du
Guast might have put his hand on her beautiful bosom, as in the picture
in our Museum. Yet nothing is of more celestial beauty than this great
and strong figure in its rose-coloured tunic and azure mantle;
notwithstanding the powerful voluptuousness of the body, the radiant
glance is of the purest virginity.

At the base of the picture, the apostles are grouped in
happily-contrasted attitudes of rapture and surprise. Two or three
little angels, who link them to the intermediary zone of the
composition, seem to be explaining to them the miracle that is taking
place. The heads of the apostles, who are of various ages and
characters, are painted with a surprising force of vitality and reality.
The draperies are of that fullness and abundant flow that characterize
Titian as the richest and at the same time the simplest of all

In studying this Virgin and mentally comparing her with other Virgins of
different masters, we reflected what a marvellous and ever new thing is
art. What Catholic painting has embroidered with variations upon this
theme of the Madonna, without ever exhausting it, astonishes and
confuses the imagination; but, in reflecting, we comprehend that under
the conventional type each painter conveyed secretly, at the same time,
his dream of love and the personification of his talent.

The Madonna of Albrecht Dürer in her sad and somewhat constrained
gracefulness, with her tired features, interesting rather than
beautiful, her air of a matron rather than a Virgin, her German and
_bourgeoise_ frankness, her tight garments and her symmetrically broken
folds, almost always accompanied by a rabbit, an owl, or an ape, through
some vague memory of Germanic pantheism, may she not be the woman whom
he would have loved and preferred to all others, and does she not also
exceedingly well represent the very genius of the artist? As she is his
Madonna, she might easily be his Muse.

The same resemblance exists in Raphael. The type of his Madonna, in
whom, mingled with old memories, the features of the Fornarina are
always found, sometimes suggested, sometimes copied, most frequently
idealized, is she not the most perfect symbol of his talent,--elegant,
graceful, and penetrated throughout with a chaste voluptuousness? The
Christian nourished on Plato and Greek Art, the friend of Leo X., the
dilettante Pope, the artist who died of love while painting the
_Transfiguration_, did he not live entirely in these modest Venuses
holding on their knees a child who is Love? If we wished to symbolize
the genius of every painter in an allegorical picture, would it be any
other than the angel of Urbino?

The Virgin of the _Assunta_, big, strong, highly-coloured, with her
robust and beautiful grace, her fine bearing, and her simple and natural
beauty,--is she not Titian's painting with all its qualities? We might
carry our researches still further; but we have said enough as a

Thanks to the dusty shroud which covered it for so long, the _Assunta_
glows with a quite youthful brilliancy; the centuries have not elapsed
for it, and we enjoy the supreme pleasure of seeing a picture of
Titian's just it came fresh from the palette.

    _Voyage en Italie_ (new ed., Paris, 1884).




We know how the _Night Watch_ is hung. It faces the _Banquet of
Arquebusiers_ by Van der Helst, and, no matter what has been said, the
two pictures do not hurt each other. They oppose each other like day and
night, like the transfiguration of things and their literal imitation,
slightly vulgar and clever. Admit that they are as perfect as they are
celebrated and you will have before your eyes a unique antithesis, what
La Bruyère calls "opposition truths that illuminate one another."

I shall not astonish anyone in saying that the _Night Watch_ possesses
no charm, and the fact is without example among the fine works of
pictorial art. It is amazing, it is disconcerting, it is imposing, but
it absolutely lacks that insinuating quality that convinces us, and it
almost always fails to please us at first. In the first place, it shocks
our logical sense and that habitual visual rectitude that loves clear
forms, lucid ideas, and clearly formulated boldness; something warns us
that our imagination as well as our reason will be only half satisfied
and that even the mind that is most easily won over will not submit till
the last and will not surrender without dispute. This is due to various
causes that do not all arise from the picture,--the light is
detestable; the frame of dark wood in which the painting is drowned
spoils its middle values, and its bronze scale of colour, and its force,
and makes it look much more smoked than it is; and, lastly and above
all, the exigencies of the place prevent the picture from being hung at
the proper height, and, against all the laws of the most elementary
perspective, oblige you to look at it from the same level.

[Illustration: THE NIGHT WATCH.

You are aware that the _Night Watch_, rightly or wrongly, passes for an
almost incomprehensible work, and that constitutes its chief prestige.
Perhaps it would have made far less noise in the world, if for two
centuries people had not kept up the habit of trying to find out its
meaning instead of examining its merits, and persisted in the mania of
regarding it as a picture enigmatical above all.

Taking it literally, what we know of the subject seems to me sufficient.
In the first place, we know the names and quality of the personages,
thanks to the care with which the painter has inscribed them on a plate
at the bottom of the picture; which proves that if the painter's fancy
has transfigured many things, the chief idea at least deals with the
customs of local life. It is true that we cannot tell for what purpose
these men are going out armed, whether they are going to practise
shooting, or on parade, or what; but, as there is no matter here for the
deeper mysteries, I am persuaded that if Rembrandt has failed to be more
explicit it is because either he did not wish or he did not know how to
be, and there is a whole series of hypotheses that might be very simply
explained by some such matter as inability or intentional reticence. As
for the time of day (the most vexed question of all and the only one,
moreover, that could have been settled when first it arose), for fixing
that we have no need to discover that the Captain's outstretched arm
casts a shadow upon the skirt of his coat. It suffices to remember that
Rembrandt never treated light otherwise; that nocturnal obscurity is his
habit; that shadow is the ordinary form of his poetic feeling and his
usual means of dramatic expression; and that in his portraits, in his
interiors, in his legends, in his anecdotes, in his landscapes, and in
his etchings, as in his paintings, it is generally with night that he
makes day.

It is agreed that the composition does not constitute the principal
merit of the picture. The subject had not been selected by the painter,
and the manner in which he intended to treat it did not allow of its
first sketch being very spontaneous, nor very lucid. Therefore the scene
is indecisive, the action almost null, and, consequently, the interest
is greatly divided. From the very beginning is betrayed an inherent vice
in the first idea, and a kind of irresolution in the manner of
conceiving, distributing, and placing it. Some men marching, others
standing still, one priming his musket, another loading his, another
firing, a drummer who poses for the head while beating his instrument, a
somewhat theatrical standard-bearer, and, finally, a crowd of figures
fixed in the requisite immobility of portraits,--so far as action is
concerned, these, if I am not mistaken, are the sole picturesque
features of the painting.

Is this indeed sufficient to give it the facial, anecdotal, and local
feeling that we expect from Rembrandt when he paints the places, things,
and men of his time? If Van der Helst instead of seating his
arquebusiers had made them move in any manner whatever, do not doubt
that he would have given us the truest if not the finest indications of
their ways. And as for Frans Hals, you may imagine with what clearness
and order, and how naturally he would have disposed the scene; how
piquant, lively, ingenious, abundant, and magnificent he would have
been. The idea conceived by Rembrandt then is one of the most ordinary,
and I would venture to say that the majority of his contemporaries
considered it poor in resources; some because its abstract line is
uncertain, scanty, symmetrical, meagre, and singularly incoherent;
others, the colourists, because this composition, so full of gaps and
ill-occupied spaces, did not lend itself to that broad and generous
employment of colours which is usual with able palettes....

Thus there is no truth and very little pictorial invention in the
general disposition. Is there more in the individual figures?

What immediately strikes us is that they are unreasonably
disproportioned and that many of them have shortcomings and so to speak
an embarrassment of characterization that nothing can justify. The
captain is too big and the lieutenant too small, not only by the side of
Captain Kock, whose stature crushes him, but also beside accessory
figures whose height or breadth gives this somewhat plain young man the
air of a youth who has grown a moustache too soon. Regarding the two as
portraits, they are scarcely successful ones of doubtful likeness and
thankless physiognomy, which is surprising in a portrait-painter who had
made his mark in 1642, and which affords some excuse for Captain Kock's
having a little later applied to the infallible Van der Helst. Is the
guard loading his musket rendered any better? Moreover, what do you
think of his right-hand neighbour, and of the drummer? One might say
that all these portraits lack hands, so vaguely are they sketched and so
insignificant is their action. It follows that what they hold is also
ill rendered: muskets, halberds, drum-sticks, canes, lances, and
flag-pole; and that the gesture of an arm is impotent when the hand that
ought to act does not do so clearly, quickly, or with energy, precision,
or intelligence. I will not speak of the feet, which, in most cases, are
lost in shadow. Such in reality are the necessities of the system of
envelopment adopted by Rembrandt, and such is the imperious foregone
conclusion of his method, that one general dark cloud invades the base
of the picture and that the forms float in it to the great detriment of
their points of support.

Must we add that the clothes are very similar to the likenesses,
sometimes uncouth and unnatural, sometimes rigid and rebellious to the
lines of the body? One would say that they are not worn properly. The
helmets are stupidly put on, the hats are outlandish and ungracefully
worn. The scarfs are in their place and yet they are awkwardly tied.
Here is none of that unique ease of carriage, that natural elegance,
that _négligé_ dress, caught and rendered to the life in which Frans
Hals knows how to attire every age, every stature, every stage of
corpulence, and, certainly also, every rank. We are not reassured on
this point more than on many others. We ask ourselves whether there is
not here a laborious fantasy, like an attempt to be strange, which is
not at all pleasing or striking.

Some of the heads are very handsome, I have mentioned those that are
not. The best, the only ones in which the hand of the master and the
feeling of a master are to be recognized, are those which, from the
depths of the canvas, shoot their vague eyes and the fine spark of their
mobile glances at you; do not severely examine their construction, nor
their plan, nor their bony structure; accustom yourself to the greyish
pallor of their complexion, question them from afar as they also look at
you from a distance, and if you want to know how they live, look at them
as Rembrandt wants us to look at his human effigies, attentively and
long, at their lips and eyes.

There remains an episodical figure which has hitherto baffled all
conjectures, because it seems by its traits, its carriage, its odd
splendour, and its inappropriateness, to personify the magic, the
romantic feeling, or, if you prefer, the misrepresentation of the
picture; I mean that little witch-like personage, child-like and
crone-like at the same time, with her hair streaming and adorned with
pearls, gliding among the guards for no apparent reason, and who, a not
less inexplicable detail, has a white cock, that at need might be taken
for a purse, hanging from her girdle.

Whatever right she has to join the troop, this little figure seems to
have nothing human about her. She is colourless and almost shapeless.
Her figure is that of a doll and her gait is automatic. She has the air
of a beggar, something like diamonds covers her whole body, and an
accoutrement resembling rays. You would say that she came from some
jewry, or old clothes market, or Bohemia, and that, awaking from a
dream, she had attired herself in the most singular of all worlds. She
has the light, the uncertainty, and the wavering of a pale fire. The
more we examine her, the less we can grasp the subtle lineaments that
serve as envelope for her uncorporeal existence. We end by seeing in her
nothing but a kind of extraordinarily strange phosphorescence which is
not the ordinary light of things, nor yet the ordinary brilliance of a
well-regulated palette, and this adds more sorcery to the peculiarities
of her countenance. Notice that in the place she occupies, one of the
dark corners of the canvas, rather low in the middle distance, between a
man in deep red and the captain dressed in black, this eccentric light
has much greater force than the most sudden contrast with a neighbouring
tint, and without extreme care this explosion of accidental light would
have sufficed to disorganize the whole picture.

What is the meaning of this little imaginary or real being, who,
however, is only a supernumerary while yet holding, so to speak, the
chief rôle? I shall not attempt to tell you. Abler people than I have
allowed themselves to inquire what it was and what it was doing there,
without coming to any satisfactory conclusion.

But if to all these somewhat vain questions Rembrandt replied: "This
child is a caprice no less strange than and quite as plausible as many
others in my engraving or painting. I have placed it as a narrow ray
amid great masses of shadow because its exiguity rendered it more
vibrating and it suited me to awaken with a ray one of the dark corners
of my picture. It also wears the usual costume of my female figures,
great or small, young or old, and in it you will find the type
frequently occurring in my works. I love what glitters, and that is why
I have clothed her in brilliant materials. As for those phosphorescent
gleams that astonish you here, whilst elsewhere they pass unnoticed, it
is only the light in its colourless splendour and supernatural quality
that I habitually give to my figures when I illuminate them at all
strongly."--Do you not think that such a reply ought to satisfy the most
difficult, and that finally, the rights of the stage-setter being
reserved, he need only render account of one point: the manner in which
he has treated the picture?

We know what to think of the effect produced by the _Night Watch_ when
it appeared in 1642. This memorable attempt was neither understood nor
relished. It added noise to Rembrandt's glory, increased it in the eyes
of his faithful admirers, and compromised it in the eyes of those who
had only followed him with some effort and attended him to this decisive
point. It made him a painter more peculiar and a master less sure. It
heated and divided men of taste according to the heat of their blood, or
the stiffness of their reason. In short, it was regarded as an
absolutely new but dangerous adventure which brought him applause and
some blame, and which at heart did not convince anybody. If you know the
judgment expressed on this subject by Rembrandt's contemporaries, his
friends and his pupils, you know that opinion has not sensibly varied
for two centuries, and that we repeat almost the same thing that this
great daring man might have heard during his lifetime....

Save one or two frank colours, two reds and a deep violet, except one or
two flashes of blue, you cannot perceive anything in this colourless and
violent canvas to recall the palette and ordinary method of any of the
known colourists. The heads have the appearance rather than the
colouring proper to life. They are red, purple, or pale, without for all
that having the true paleness Velasquez gives to his faces, or those
sanguine, yellowish, greyish, or purplish shades that Frans Hals renders
with such skill when he desires to specify the temperaments of his
personages. In the clothes and hair and various parts of the
accoutrements, the colour is no more exact nor expressive than is, as I
have said, the form itself. When a red appears, it is not of a delicate
nature and it indistinctly expresses silk, cloth, or satin. The guard
loading his musket is clothed in red from head to foot, from his hat to
his boots. Do you perceive that Rembrandt has occupied himself for a
moment with the varied physiognomy of this red, its nature or substance,
as a true colourist would not have failed to do?...

I defy any one to tell me how the lieutenant is dressed and in what
colour. Is it white tinged with yellow? Is it yellow faded to white? The
truth is that this personage having to express the central light of the
picture, Rembrandt has clothed him with light, very ably with regard to
brilliance and very negligently with regard to colour.

Now, and it is here that Rembrandt begins to show himself, for a
colourist there is no light in the abstract. Light of itself is nothing:
it is the result of colours diversely illumined and diversely radiating
in accordance with the nature of the ray that they transmit or absorb.
One very deep tint may be extraordinarily luminous; another very light
one on the contrary may not be at all luminous. There is not a student
in the schools who does not know that. With the colourists, then, the
light depends exclusively upon the choice of the colours employed to
render it and is so intimately connected with the tone that we may
truthfully say that with them light and colour are one. In the _Night
Watch_ there is nothing of the kind. Tone disappears in light as it does
in shade. The shade is blackish, the light whitish. Everything is
brilliant or dull, radiant or obscure, by an alternative effacement of
the colouring principle. Here we have different values rather than
contrasted tones. And this is so true that a fine engraving, a good
drawing, a Mouilleron lithograph, or a photograph will give an exact
idea of the picture in its important effects, and a copy simply in
gradations from light to dark would destroy none of its arabesque.

What is his execution in the picture before us? Does he treat a stuff
well? No. Does he express it ingeniously, or with liveliness, with its
seams, folds, breaks, and tissue. Assuredly not. When he places a
feather at the brim of a hat, does he give it the lightness and floating
grace that we see in Van Dyck, or Hals, or Velasquez? Does he indicate
by a little gloss on a dead ground, in their form, or feeling of the
body, the human physiognomy of a well adjusted coat, rubbed by a
movement or worn with use? Can he, with a few masterly touches and
taking no more trouble than things are worth, indicate lace-work, or
suggest jewellery, or rich embroidery?

In the _Night Watch_ we have swords, muskets, partisans, polished
casques, damascened cuirasses, high boots, tied shoes, a halberd with
its fluttering blue silk, a drum, and lances. Imagine with what ease,
with what carelessness, and with what a nimble way of making us believe
in things without insisting upon them, Rubens, Veronese, Van Dyck,
Titian himself, and lastly Frans Hals, that matchless workman, would
have summarily indicated and superbly carried off all these accessories.
Do you maintain in good faith that Rembrandt in the _Night Watch_ excels
in treating them thus? I pray you, look at the halberd that the little
lieutenant Ruijtenberg holds at the end of his stiff arm; look at the
foreshortened steel, look especially at the floating silk, and tell me
if an artist of that value has ever allowed himself more pitifully to
express an object that ought to spring forth beneath his brush without
his being aware of it. Look at the slashed sleeves that have been so
highly praised, the ruffles, the gloves; examine the hands! Consider
well how in their affected or unaffected negligence their form is
accentuated and their foreshortening is expressed. The touch is thick,
embarrassed, awkward, and blundering. We might truly say that it goes
astray, and that applied crosswise when it should be applied lengthwise,
made flat when any other than he would have rounded it, it confuses
instead of determining the form....

At length I come to the incontestable interest of the picture, to
Rembrandt's great effort in a new field: I am going to speak of the
application on a large scale of that way of looking at things which is
proper to him and which is called chiaroscuro.

No mistake is possible here. What people attribute to Rembrandt is
really his. Without any doubt chiaroscuro is the native and necessary
form of his impressions and ideas. Others have made use of it; but
nobody has employed it so constantly and ingeniously as he. It is the
supremely mysterious form, the most enveloped, the most elliptic, and
the richest in hidden meanings and surprises that exists in the
pictorial language of the painter. In this sense it is more than any
other the form of intimate feelings or ideas. It is light, vaporous,
veiled, discreet; it lends its charm to hidden things, invites
curiosity, adds an attraction to moral beauties, and gives a grace to
the speculations of conscience. In short, it partakes of sentiment,
emotion, uncertainty, indefiniteness, and infinity; of dreams and of the
ideal. And this is why it is, as it ought to be, the poetic and natural
atmosphere in which Rembrandt's genius never ceased to dwell.

In very ordinary language and in its action common to all schools,
chiaroscuro is the art of rendering the atmosphere visible, and painting
an object enveloped with air. Its aim is to render all the picturesque
accidents of shadow, of half-tints, of light, of relief, and of
distance; and to give in consequence more variety, more unity of effect,
more caprice and more relative truth either to forms or to colours. The
contrary is a more ingenuous and more abstract acceptation, by virtue of
which objects are shown as they are, viewed close at hand, the
atmosphere being suppressed, and consequently without any other than
linear perspective, which results from the diminishing of objects and
from their relation to the horizon. When we speak of aërial perspective,
we already presuppose a little chiaroscuro.

Any other than Rembrandt, in the Dutch school, might sometimes make us
forget that he was obeying the fixed laws of chiaroscuro; with him this
forgetfulness is impossible: he has so to speak framed, co-ordinated and
promulgated its code, and if we might believe him a _doctrinaire_ at
this moment of his career, when instinct swayed him much more than
reflection, the _Night Watch_ would have a redoubled interest, for it
would assume the character and the authority of a manifesto.

To envelop and immerse everything in a bath of shadow; to plunge light
itself into it only to withdraw it afterwards to make it appear more
distant and radiant; to make dark waves revolve around illuminated
centres, grading them, sounding them, thickening them; to make the
obscurity nevertheless transparent, the half gloom easy to pierce, and
finally to give a kind of permeability to the strongest colours that
prevents their becoming blackness,--this is the prime condition, and
these also are the difficulties of this very special art. It goes
without saying, that if anyone ever excelled in this, it was Rembrandt.
He did not invent, he perfected everything; and the method that he used
oftener and better than anyone else bears his name.

When explained according to this tendency of the painter to express a
subject only by the brilliance and obscurity of objects, the _Night
Watch_ has, so to speak, no more secrets for us. Everything that might
have made us hesitate is made clear. Its qualities have their _raison
d'être_; and we even come to comprehend its errors. The embarrassment of
the practitioner as he executes, of the designer as he constructs, of
the painter as he colours, of the costumer as he attires, the
inconsistency of the tone, the amphibology of the effect, the
uncertainty of the time of day, the strangeness of the figures, their
flashing apparition in deep shadow,--all this results here by chance
from an effect conceived contrary to probability, and pursued in spite
of all logic, not at all necessary, and with the following purpose: to
illuminate a real scene with unreal light, that is to say, to clothe a
fact with the ideal character of a vision. Do not seek for anything
beyond this audacious project that mocked the painter's aims, clashed
with received ideas, set up a system in opposition to customs, and
boldness of spirit in opposition to manual dexterity; and the temerity
of which certainly did not cease to spur him on until the day when I
believe insurmountable difficulties revealed themselves, for, if
Rembrandt resolved some of them, there are many that he could not

    _Maîtres d'Autrefois_ (Paris, 1876).




Though the patronage of art had shifted partly from the Church to the
great magnates, especially the great commercial princes like the Medici
at Florence, her influence was still paramount, and though secular
subjects were not uncommon, the vast majority of paintings executed for
patrons, whether clerical or lay, were still religious in subject. It is
not therefore, surprising that among the artists of the Fifteenth
Century, many of whom were monks and all Church painters, we find a
distinct cleavage dividing artists whose aim was to break away from all
traditions--realists--classicists--in a word, reformers, from artists
who clung tenaciously to the old ideals, and whose main aim was still
the perfection of devotional expression.

[Illustration: THE RAPE OF HELEN.

It was to the former class that Benozzo Gozzoli belonged, pupil though
he was of Fra Angelico. Although his special quality may be partly
discerned in the altar-piece that hangs above his master's _predella_,
in the strongly marked character of the saints, and perhaps more in the
carefully studied goldfinches, there was little scope in such a subject
for the exercise of his imagination or the display of his individuality.
It is different with the little panel opposite, _The Rape of Helen_
(No. 591), in which he has depicted with great liveliness and gusto a
scene from a classical legend. Possibly, to Fra Angelico, who regarded
painting only as a means of edification, its employment on such a
subject may have seemed little less than sacrilege, not unlike the use
of a chancel for the stabling of horses. Such views can scarcely be said
to be extinct now, and this is the more remarkable as no one has the
same feeling with regard to the other arts, such as sculpture or poetry.
To a young man like Benozzo, and many others of his day, not monks, nor
specially devout in disposition, it must, nevertheless, have been a
change which was welcome. To paint the _Virgin enthroned with Saints_
over and over again, must have been a little wearisome to men conscious
of a fancy to which they could give no scope except by putting S.
Jerome's hat in a new place, or introducing a couple of goldfinches. One
likes to think of the pleasure with which Gozzoli received his
commission one morning, perhaps from Cosimo de' Medici himself, for whom
his master was adorning a cell in the Convent of San Marco, recently
rebuilt at the great man's expense. Did he know the legend of Helen of
Troy, or had he to seek the advice of some scholar like Nicolli or
Poggio for the right tradition? He seems, indeed, to have been rather
mixed in his ideas on the subject. Did he consult Brunellesco in the
construction of his Greek Temple, or Donatello or Ghiberti for the
statue inside? Whence came that wonderful landscape with its mountains
and cypress trees and strange-shaped ships? From his imagination, or
from some old missal or choir-book illumination? At all events, pleasure
evidently went to the making of it, for his fancy had full scope. His
costumes he adopted frankly from those of his day, adding some features
in the way of strange headgear, much like those in Fra Angelico's
_Adoration_ (in which he possibly had a hand), to give an Eastern colour
to the group of boyish heroes on the left; not knowing or considering
that the robes in which he was accustomed to drape his angels were much
nearer to, were indeed derived from, the costume of the Greeks. For his
ideal of female beauty he seems to have been satisfied with his own
taste. One can scarcely imagine a face or figure much less classical
than that of the blonde with the _retroussé_ nose (presumably Helen
herself), who is riding so complacently on the neck of the long-legged
Italian in the centre. The figures in the Temple are of a finer type,
and the lady in the sweeping robe, with the long sleeves, who turns her
back to us, has a simple dignity which reminds one less of Gozzoli's
master than of Lippo Lippi or Masaccio, whose frescoes in the Carmine
he, in common with all other artists, had doubtless studied. There is
nothing so classical or so natural in the picture as the beautiful
little bare-legged boy that is running away in the foreground. This
little bright panel--so gay, so naïve, so ignorant, and withal so
charming--is of importance in the history of art as illustrated in the
National Gallery. It is the first in which the artist has given full
play to his imagination, and entered the romantic world of classic
legend, and, with one exception, the first which is purely secular in
subject, and was designed for a "secular" purpose. It probably once
formed part of a marriage-chest. The important share which the
landscape has in the composition, and its serious attempt at
perspective, are also worthy of note. As an example of the master
himself, of the painter of the great panoramic procession of the
notables of his day, which under the title of the _Adoration of the
Kings_, covers the walls of the chapel in the Medici Palace at Florence,
of the designs of the history of S. Agostino at San Gemignano, and of
the frescoes in Campo Santo at Pisa, it is of course extremely
inadequate, but it suffices to indicate many paths which the young
artist was to strike out from the old track which sufficed for his
saint-like master.

    _In the National Gallery_ (London, 1895).




In Vasari's life of Leonardo da Vinci as we now read it there are some
variations from the first edition. There, the painter who has fixed the
outward type of Christ for succeeding centuries was a bold speculator,
holding lightly by other men's beliefs, setting philosophy above
Christianity. Words of his, trenchant enough to justify this impression,
are not recorded, and would have been out of keeping with a genius of
which one characteristic is the tendency to lose itself in a refined and
graceful mystery. The suspicion was but the time-honoured form in which
the world stamps its appreciation of one who has thoughts for himself
alone, his high indifferentism, his intolerance of the common forms of
things; and in the second edition the image was changed into something
fainter and more conventional. But it is still by a certain mystery in
his work, and something enigmatical beyond the usual measure of great
men, that he fascinates, or perhaps half repels. His life is one of
sudden revolts, with intervals in which he works not at all, or apart
from the main scope of his work. By a strange fortune the works on which
his more popular fame rested disappeared early from the world, as the
_Battle of the Standard_; or are mixed obscurely with the work of
meaner hands, as the _Last Supper_. His type of beauty is so exotic that
it fascinates a larger number than it delights, and seems more than that
of any other artist to reflect ideas and views and some scheme of the
world within; so that he seemed to his contemporaries to be the
possessor of some unsanctified and secret wisdom; as to Michelet and
others to have anticipated modern ideas. He trifles with his genius, and
crowds all his chief work into a few tormented years of later life; yet
he is so possessed by his genius that he passes unmoved through the most
tragic events, overwhelming his country and friends, like one who comes
across them by chance on some secret errand....

[Illustration: MONNA LISA.
        _L. da Vinci_.]

His art, if it was to be something in the world, must be weighted with
more of the meaning of nature and purpose of humanity. Nature was "the
true mistress of higher intelligences." So he plunged into the study of
nature. And in doing this he followed the manner of the older students;
he brooded over the hidden virtues of plants and crystals, the lines
traced by stars as they moved in the sky, over the correspondences which
exist between the different orders of living things, through which, to
eyes opened, they interpret each other; and for years he seemed to those
about him as one listening to a voice silent for other men.

He learned here the art of going deep, of tracking the sources of
expression to their subtlest retreats, the power of an intimate presence
in the things he handled. He did not at once or entirely desert his art;
only he was no longer the cheerful objective painter, through whose
soul, as through clear glass, the bright figures of Florentine life,
only made a little mellower and more pensive by the transit, passed on
to the white wall. He wasted many days in curious tricks of design,
seeming to lose himself in the spinning of intricate devices of lines
and colours. He was smitten with a love of the impossible--the
perforation of mountains, changing the course of rivers, raising great
buildings, such as the church of San Giovanni, in the air; all those
feats for the performance of which natural magic professes to have the
key. Later writers, indeed, see in these efforts an anticipation of
modern mechanics; in him they were rather dreams, thrown off by the
over-wrought and labouring brain. Two ideas were especially fixed in
him, as reflexes of things that had touched his brain in childhood
beyond the measure of other impressions--the smiling of women and the
motion of great waters....

The science of that age was all divination, clairvoyance, unsubjected to
our exact modern formulas, seeking in an instant of vision to
concentrate a thousand experiences. Later writers, thinking only of the
well-ordered treatise on painting which a Frenchman, Raffaelle du
Fresne, a hundred years afterwards, compiled from Leonardo's bewildered
manuscripts, written strangely as his manner was, from right to left,
have imagined a rigid order in his inquiries. But this rigid order was
little in accordance with the restlessness of his character; and if we
think of him as the mere reasoner who subjects design to anatomy, and
composition to mathematical rules, we shall hardly have of him that
impression which those about him received from him. Poring over his
crucibles, making experiments with colour, trying by a strange variation
of the alchemist's dream to discover the secret, not of an elixir to
make man's natural life immortal, but rather giving immortality to the
subtlest and most delicate effects of painting, he seemed to them rather
the sorcerer or the magician, possessed of curious secrets and a hidden
knowledge, living in a world of which he alone possessed the key. What
his philosophy seems to have been most like is that of Paracelsus or
Cardan; and much of the spirit of the older alchemy still hangs about
it, with its confidence in short cuts and odd byways to knowledge. To
him philosophy was to be something giving strange swiftness and double
sight, divining the sources of springs beneath the earth or of
expression beneath the human countenance, clairvoyant of occult gifts in
common or uncommon things, in the reed at the brook-side or the star
which draws near to us but once in a century. How in this way the clear
purpose was overclouded, the fine chaser's head perplexed, we but dimly
see; the mystery which at no point quite lifts from Leonardo's life is
deepest here. But it is certain that at one period of his life he had
almost ceased to be an artist.

The year 1483--the year of the birth of Raffaelle and the thirty-first
of Leonardo's life--is fixed as the date of his visit to Milan by the
letter in which he recommends himself to Ludovico Sforza, and offers to
tell him for a price strange secrets in the art of war. It was that
Sforza who murdered his young nephew by slow poison, yet was so
susceptible to religious impressions that he turned his worst passions
into a kind of religious cultus, and who took for his device the
mulberry tree--symbol, in its long delay and sudden yielding of flowers
and fruit together, of a wisdom which economizes all forces for an
opportunity of sudden and sure effect. The fame of Leonardo had gone
before him, and he was to model a colossal statue of Francesco, the
first duke. As for Leonardo himself he came not as an artist at all, or
careful of the fame of one; but as a player on the harp, a strange harp
of silver of his own construction, shaped in some curious likeness to a
horse's skull. The capricious spirit of Ludovico was susceptible to the
charm of music, and Leonardo's nature had a kind of spell in it.
Fascination is always the word descriptive of him. No portrait of his
youth remains; but all tends to make us believe that up to this time
some charm of voice and aspect, strong enough to balance the
disadvantage of his birth, had played about him. His physical strength
was great; it was said that he could bend a horseshoe like a coil of

The Duomo, the work of artists from beyond the Alps, so fantastic to a
Florentine used to the mellow unbroken surfaces of Giotto and Arnolfo,
was then in all its freshness; and below, in the streets of Milan, moved
a people as fantastic, changeful, and dreamlike. To Leonardo least of
all men could there be anything poisonous in the exotic flowers of
sentiment which grew there. It was a life of exquisite amusements,
(Leonardo became a celebrated designer of pageants,) and brilliant sins;
and it suited the quality of his genius, composed in almost equal parts
of curiosity and the desire of beauty, to take things as they came.

Curiosity and the desire of beauty--these are the two elementary forces
in Leonardo's genius; curiosity often in conflict with the desire of
beauty, but generating, in union with it, a type of subtle and curious

The movement of the Fifteenth Century was two-fold: partly the
Renaissance, partly also the coming of what is called the "modern
spirit," with its realism, its appeal to experience; it comprehended a
return to antiquity, and a return to nature. Raffaelle represents the
return to antiquity, and Leonardo the return to nature. In this return
to nature he was seeking to satisfy a boundless curiosity by her
perpetual surprises, a microscopic sense of finish by her finesse, or
delicacy of operation, that _subtilitas naturæ_ which Bacon notices. So
we find him often in intimate relations with men of science, with Fra
Luca Paccioli the mathematician, and the anatomist Marc Antonio della
Torre. His observations and experiments fill thirteen volumes of
manuscript; and those who can judge describe him as anticipating long
before, by rapid intuition, the later ideas of science. He explained the
obscure light of the unilluminated part of the moon, knew that the sea
had once covered the mountains which contain shells, and the gatherings
of the equatorial waters above the polar.

He who thus penetrated into the most secret parts of nature preferred
always the more to the less remote, what, seeming exceptional, was an
instance of law more refined, the construction about things of a
peculiar atmosphere and mixed lights. He paints flowers with such
curious fidelity that different writers have attributed to him a
fondness for particular flowers, as Clement the cyclamen, and Rio the
jasmine; while at Venice there is a stray leaf from his portfolio
dotted all over with studies of violets and the wild rose. In him first,
appears the taste for what is _bizarre_ or _recherché_ in landscape:
hollow places full of the green shadow of bituminous rocks, ridged reefs
of trap-rock which cut the water into quaint sheets of light--their
exact antitype is in our own western seas; all solemn effects of moving
water; you may follow it springing from its distant source among the
rocks on the heath of the _Madonna of the Balances_, passing as a little
fall into the treacherous calm of the _Madonna of the Lake_, next, as a
goodly river below the cliffs of the _Madonna of the Rocks_, washing the
white walls of its distant villages, stealing out in a network of
divided streams in _La Gioconda_, to the sea-shore of the _Saint
Anne_--that delicate place, where the wind passes like the hand of some
fine etcher over the surface, and the untorn shells lie thick upon the
sand, and the tops of the rocks, to which the waves never rise, are
green with grass grown fine as hair. It is the landscape, not of dreams
or fancy, but of places far withdrawn, and hours selected from a
thousand with a miracle of finesse. Through his strange veil of sight
things reach him so; in no ordinary night or day, but as in faint light
of eclipse, or in some brief interval of falling rain at daybreak, or
through deep water.

And not into nature only; but he plunged also into human personality,
and became above all a painter of portraits; faces of a modelling more
skilful than has been seen before or since, embodied with a reality
which almost amounts to illusion on dark air. To take a character as it
was, and delicately sound its stops, suited one so curious in
observation, curious in invention. So he painted the portraits of
Ludovico's mistresses, Lucretia Crivelli and Cecilia Galerani the
poetess, of Ludovico himself, and the Duchess Beatrice. The portrait of
Cecilia Galerani is lost, but that of Lucretia Crivelli has been
identified with _La Belle Ferronnière_ of the Louvre, and Ludovico's
pale, anxious face still remains in the Ambrosian. Opposite is the
portrait of Beatrice d'Este, in whom Leonardo seems to have caught some
presentiment of early death, painting her precise and grave, full of the
refinement of the dead, in sad earth-coloured raiment, set with pale

The _Last Supper_ was finished in 1497; in 1498 the French entered
Milan, and whether or not the Gascon bowmen used it as a mark for their
arrows, the model of Francesco Sforza certainly did not survive.
Ludovico became a prisoner, and the remaining years of Leonardo's life
are more or less years of wandering. From his brilliant life at court he
had saved nothing, and he returned to Florence a poor man. Perhaps
necessity kept his spirit excited: the next four years are one prolonged
rapture or ecstasy of invention. He painted the pictures of the Louvre,
his most authentic works, which came there straight from the cabinet of
Francis the First, at Fontainebleau. One picture of his, the _Saint
Anne_--not the _Saint Anne_ of the Louvre, but a mere cartoon now in
London--revived for a moment a sort of appreciation more common in an
earlier time, when good pictures had still seemed miraculous; and for
two days a crowd of people of all qualities passed in naïve excitement
through the chamber where it hung, and gave Leonardo a taste of
Cimabue's triumph. But his work was less with the saints than with the
living women of Florence; for he lived still in the polished society
that he loved, and in the houses of Florence, left perhaps a little
subject to light thoughts by the death of Savonarola (the latest gossip
is of an undraped Monna Lisa, found in some out-of-the-way corner of the
late Orleans collection), he saw Ginevra di Benci, and Lisa, the young
third wife of Francesco del Giocondo. As we have seen him using
incidents of the sacred legend, not for their own sake, or as mere
subjects for pictorial realisation, but as a symbolical language for
fancies all his own, so now he found a vent for his thoughts in taking
one of those languid women, and raising her, as Leda or Pomona, Modesty
or Vanity, to the seventh heaven of symbolical expression.

_La Gioconda_ is, in the truest sense, Leonardo's masterpiece, the
revealing instance of his mode of thought and work. In suggestiveness,
only the _Melancholia_ of Dürer is comparable to it; and no crude
symbolism disturbs the effect of its subdued and graceful mystery. We
all know the face and hands of the figure, set in the marble chair, in
that cirque of fantastic rocks, as in some faint light under sea.
Perhaps of all ancient pictures time has chilled it least.[10] As often
happens with works in which invention seems to reach its limit, there is
an element in it given to, not invented by, the master. In that
inestimable folio of drawings, once in the possession of Vasari, were
certain designs by Verrocchio, faces of such impressive beauty that
Leonardo in his boyhood copied them many times. It is hard not to
connect with these designs of the elder by-past master, as with its
germinal principle, the unfathomable smile, always with a touch of
something sinister in it, which plays over all Leonardo's work. Besides,
the picture is a portrait. From childhood we see this image defining
itself on the fabric of his dreams; and but for express historical
testimony, we might fancy that this was but his ideal lady, embodied and
beheld at last. What was the relationship of a living Florentine to this
creature of his thought? By what strange affinities had she and the
dream grown thus apart, yet so closely together? Present from the first,
incorporeal in Leonardo's thought, dimly traced in the designs of
Verrocchio, she is found present at last in Il Giocondo's house. That
there is much of mere portraiture in the picture is attested by the
legend that by artificial means, the presence of mimes and flute
players, that subtle expression was protracted on the face. Again, was
it in four years and by renewed labour never really completed, or in
four months and as by stroke of magic, that the image was projected?

The presence that thus so strangely rose beside the waters is expressive
of what in the ways of a thousand years man had come to desire. Hers is
the head upon which all "the ends of the world are come," and the
eyelids are a little weary. It is a beauty wrought out from within upon
the flesh, the deposit, little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and
fantastic reveries and exquisite passions. Set it for a moment beside
one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women of antiquity, and
how would they be troubled by this beauty into which the soul with all
its maladies has passed? All the thoughts and experience of the world
have etched and moulded there in that which they have of power to refine
and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust
of Rome, the reverie of the middle age with its spiritual ambition and
imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the
Borgias. She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the
vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the
grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day
about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and,
as Leda, was mother of Helen of Troy, and as Saint Anne, the mother of
Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes,
and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing
lineaments and tinged the eyelids and the hands. The fancy of a
perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old
one; and modern thought has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought
upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life.
Certainly Lady Lisa might stand as the embodiment of the old fancy, the
symbol of the modern idea.

During these years at Florence Leonardo's history is the history of his
art; he himself is lost in the bright cloud of it. The outward history
begins again in 1502, with a wild journey through central Italy, which
he makes as the chief engineer of Cæsar Borgia. The biographer, putting
together the stray jottings of his manuscripts, may follow him through
every day of it, up the strange tower of Sienna, which looks towards
Rome, elastic like a bent bow, down to the sea-shore at Piombino, each
place appearing as fitfully as in a fevered dream.... We catch a glimpse
of him again at Rome in 1514, surrounded by his mirrors and vials and
furnaces, making strange toys that seemed alive of wax and quicksilver.
The hesitation which had haunted him all through life, and made like one
under a spell, was upon him now with double force. No one had ever
carried political indifferentism farther; it had always been his
philosophy to "fly before the storm;" he is for the Sforzas or against
them, as the tide of their fortune turns. Yet now he was suspected by
the anti-Gallian society at Rome of French tendencies. It paralyzed him
to find himself among enemies; and he turned wholly to France, which had
long courted him.

France was about to become an Italy more Italian than Italy itself.
Francis the First, like Lewis the Twelfth before him, was attracted by
the finesse of Leonardo's work; _La Gioconda_ was already in his
cabinet, and he offered Leonardo the little Château de Clou, with its
vineyards and meadows, in the soft valley of the Masse, and not too far
from the great outer sea. M. Arsène Houssaye has succeeded in giving a
pensive local colour to this part of his subject, with which, as a
Frenchman, he could best deal. "A Monsieur Lyonard, peinteur du Roy pour
Amboyse,"--so the letter of Francis the First is headed. It opens a
prospect, one of the most attractive in the history of art, where, under
a strange mixture of lights, Italian art dies away as a French exotic.

    _Studies in the History of the Renaissance_ (London, 1873).


[9] The spelling commonly used is "Mona Lisa." The editor has thought
best, however, to keep the form of spelling used by Walter Pater.

[10] Yet for Vasari there was some further magic of crimson in the lips
and cheeks, lost for us.




Hubert van Eyck was born, according to the common acceptation, in 1366.
John van Eyck was his junior by some unknown number of years.
Chroniclers of the Sixteenth Century vaguely suggest that the two
brothers settled at Ghent in 1410. There is every reason to believe that
all these dates are incorrect; that Hubert was born after 1366, and that
the date of his migration to Ghent must be placed later in the century.
It is credible that both the brothers were court painters to Philip of
Charolois, heir apparent to the throne of Burgundy, who lived with his
wife Michelle de France at Ghent between 1418 and 1421. In the service
of the prince, painters were free from the constraint of their guild,
but on the withdrawal of the court the privilege would cease; and this
explains how the names of the Van Eycks were not recorded in the
register of the corporation of St. Luke till 1421, when, on the death of
the Countess Michelle, and as a tribute to her memory, they were
registered as masters without a fee. John van Eyck soon found employment
in the court atmosphere, which seemed congenial to him, whilst Hubert
remained at Ghent, received commissions from the municipality (1424),
and became acquainted with Jodocus Vydts, for whom he composed the
vast altar-piece known as the _Adoration of the Lamb_. It was not fated
that he should finish the great work which he was then induced to begin.
He probably sketched the subjects that were to adorn the panels, and
completed some of the more important of them. At his death in 1426 he
was buried in the chapel, the decoration of which had been the last
occupation of his life. We may sum up the qualities which distinguished
him, and the services which he rendered to the art of his country, in
the following sentences:--

        _Van Eyck_.]

He carried the realistic tendency, already existing in the Flemish
masters, to an extraordinary pitch of excellence, whilst in many
essential respects he adhered to the more ideal feeling of the previous
period, imparting to this, by the means of his far richer powers of
representation, greater distinctness, truth of nature, and variety of
expression. Throughout his works he displayed an elevated and highly
energetic conception of the stern import of his labours in the service
of the Church. The prevailing arrangement of his subject is symmetrical,
holding fast the early architectonic rules which had hitherto presided
over ecclesiastic art. The later mode of arrangement, in which a freer
and more dramatic and picturesque feeling was introduced, is only seen
in Hubert van Eyck's works in subjection to these rules. Thus his heads
exhibit the aim at beauty and dignity belonging to the earlier period,
only combined with more truth of nature. His draperies unite its pure
taste and softness of folds with greater breadth; the realistic
principle being apparent in that greater attention to detail which a
delicate indication of the material necessitates. Nude figures are
studied from nature with the utmost fidelity; undraped portions are also
given with much truth, especially the hands; only the feet remain
feeble. That, however, which is almost the principal quality of his art,
is the hitherto unprecedented power, depth, transparency, and harmony of
his _colouring_. To attain this he availed himself of a mode of painting
in oil which he and his brother had perfected. Oil painting, it is true,
had long been in use, but only in a very undeveloped form, and for
inferior purposes. According to the most recent and thorough
investigations, the improvement introduced by the Van Eycks, and which
they doubtless only very gradually worked out, were the following.
First, they removed the chief impediment which had hitherto obstructed
the application of oil-paint to pictures properly so called. For, in
order to accelerate the slow drying of the oil colours, it had been
necessary to add a varnish to them, which consisted of oil boiled with a
resin. Owing to the dark colour of this varnish, in which amber, or more
frequently sandarac, was used, this plan, from its darkening effect on
most colours, had hitherto proved unsuccessful. The Van Eycks, however,
succeeded in preparing so colourless a varnish that they could apply it
without disadvantage, to all colours. In painting a picture they
proceeded on the following system. The outline was drawn on a _gesso_
ground, so strongly sized that no oil could penetrate the surface. The
under painting was then executed in a generally warm brownish glazing
colour, and so thinly that the light ground was clearly seen through it.
They then laid on the local colours, thinner in the lights, and, from
the quantity of vehicle used, more thickly in the shadows; in the latter
availing themselves often of the under painting as a foil. In all other
parts they so nicely preserved the balance between the solid and the
glazing colours as to attain that union of body and transparency which
is their great excellence. Finally, in the use of the brush they
obtained that perfect freedom which the new vehicle permitted; either
leaving the touch of the brush distinct, or fusing the touches tenderly
together, as the object before them required. Of all the works which are
now attributed to Hubert, but one is genuine and historically
authenticated. This noble work is certified by an inscription. It is a
large altar picture, consisting of two rows of separate panels, once in
the Cathedral of St. Bavon at Ghent. It was painted, as before remarked,
for Jodocus Vydts, Seigneur of Pamele, and Burgomaster of Ghent, and his
wife Elizabeth, of the then distinguished family of Burlunt, for their
mortuary chapel in that cathedral.[11] When the wings were opened, which
occurred only on festivals, the subject of the upper centre picture was
seen, consisting of three panels, on which were the Triune God--the King
of heaven and earth--and at his side the Holy Virgin and the Baptist; on
the inside of the wings were angels, who with songs and sacred music
celebrate the praises of the Most High: at the two extremities, each
inside the half-shutters which covered the figure of God the Father,
were Adam and Eve, the representatives of fallen man. The lower central
picture shows the Lamb of the Revelation, whose blood flows into a cup;
over it is the dove of the Holy Spirit; angels, who hold the
instruments of the Passion, worship the Lamb, and four groups, each
consisting of many persons, advance from the sides: they comprise the
holy martyrs, male and female, with priests and lay-men; in the
foreground is the fountain of life; in the distance the towers of the
heavenly Jerusalem. On the wing pictures, other groups are coming up to
adore the Lamb; on the left, those who have laboured for the kingdom of
the Lord by worldly deeds--the soldiers of Christ, and the righteous
judges; on the right, those who, through self-denial and renunciation of
earthly good, have served Him in the spirit--holy hermits and pilgrims;
a picture underneath, which represented hell, finished the whole.

This work is now dispersed: the centre pictures and the panels of Adam
and Eve only being in Ghent.[12] The lower picture of hell was early
injured and lost, and the others form some of the greatest ornaments of
the gallery of the Berlin Museum.[13]

The three figures of the upper centre picture are designed with all the
dignity of statue-like repose belonging to the early style; they are
painted, too, on a ground of gold and tapestry, as was constantly the
practice in earlier times: but united with the traditional type we
already find a successful representation of life and nature in all their
truth. They stand on the frontier of two different styles, and, from the
excellence of both, form a wonderful and most impressive whole. In all
the solemnity of antique dignity the Heavenly Father sits directly
fronting the spectator--his right hand raised to give the benediction to
the Lamb, and to all the figures below; in his left is a crystal
sceptre; on his head the triple crown, the emblem of the Trinity. The
features are such as are ascribed to Christ by the traditions of the
Church, but noble and well-proportioned; the expression is forcible,
though passionless. The tunic of this figure, ungirt, is of a deep red,
as well as the mantle, which last is fastened over the breast by a rich
clasp, and, falling down equally from both shoulders, is thrown in
beautiful folds over the feet. Behind the figure, and as high as the
head, is a hanging of green tapestry adorned with a golden pelican (a
well-known symbol of the Redeemer); behind the head the ground is gold,
and on it, in a semicircle, are three inscriptions, which again describe
the Trinity, as all-mighty, all-good, and all-bountiful. The two other
figures of this picture display equal majesty; both are reading holy
books and are turned towards the centre figure. The countenance of John
expresses ascetic seriousness, but in the Virgin's we find a serene
grace, and a purity of form, which approach very nearly to the happier
efforts of Italian art.

On the wing next to the Virgin stand eight angels singing before a
music-desk. They are represented as choristers in splendid vestments and
crowns. The brilliancy of the stuffs and precious stones is given with
the hand of a master, the music-desk is richly ornamented with Gothic
carved work and figures, and the countenances are full of expression and
life; but in the effort to imitate nature with the utmost truth, so as
even to enable us to distinguish with certainty the different voices of
the double quartet, the spirit of a holier influence has already passed
away. On the opposite wing, St. Cecilia sits at an organ, the keys of
which she touches with an expression of deep meditation: other angels
stand behind the organ with different stringed instruments. The
expression of these heads shows far more feeling, and is more gentle;
the execution of the stuffs and accessories is equally masterly. The two
extreme wings of the upper series, the subjects of which are Adam and
Eve, are now in the Museum at Brussels. The attempt to paint the nude
figure of the size of life, with the most careful attention to minute
detail, is eminently successful, with the exception of a certain degree
of hardness in the drawing. Eve holds in her right hand the forbidden
fruit. In the filling up, which the shape of the altar-piece made
necessary over these panels, there are small subjects in chiaroscuro:
over Adam, the sacrifice of Cain and Abel; over Eve, the death of
Abel--death, therefore, as the immediate consequence of original sin.

The arrangement of the lower middle picture, the worship of the Lamb, is
strictly symmetrical, as the mystic nature of the allegorical subject
demanded, but there is such beauty in the landscape, in the pure
atmosphere, in the bright green of the grass, in the masses of trees and
flowers, even in the single figures which stand out from the four great
groups, that we no longer perceive either hardness or severity in this
symmetry. The wing picture on the right, representing the holy pilgrims,
is, in the figures, less striking than the others. Here St. Christopher,
who wandered through the world seeking the most mighty Lord, strides
before all, a giant in stature, whilst a host of smaller pilgrims, of
various ages, follow him. A fruitful valley, with many details, showing
a surprising observation of nature, is seen through the slender trees.
The cast of the folds in the ample red drapery of St. Christopher, as in
the upper picture, reminds us still of the earlier style. The whimsical
and singular expression in the countenances of the pilgrims is also very
remarkable. The picture next to the last described is more pleasing; it
represents the troop of holy anchorites passing out of a rocky defile.
In front are St. Paul the Hermit and St. Anthony, the two who set the
first example of retirement from the world; and the procession closes
with the two holy women who also passed the greater part of their lives
in the wilderness, Mary Magdalen and St. Mary of Egypt. The heads are
full of character, with great variety of expression: on every
countenance may be traced the history of its life. Grave old men stand
before us, each one differing from the other; one is firm and strong,
another more feeble; one cheerful and single-minded, another less open.
Some inspired fanatics wildly raise their heads, whilst others with a
simple and almost humorous expression walk by their side, and others
again are still struggling with their earthly nature. It is a remarkable
picture, and leads us deep into the secrets of the human heart--a
picture which in all times must be ranked amongst the master-works of
art, and which to be intelligible needs no previous inquiry into the
relative period and circumstances of the artists who created it. The
landscape background, the rocky defile, the wooded declivity, and the
trees laden with fruit, are all eminently beautiful. The eye would
almost lose itself in this rich sense of still life if it were not
constantly led back to the interest of the foreground.

The opposite wing pictures differ essentially in conception from those
just described. Their subject did not in itself admit such varied
interest, and it is rather the common expression of a tranquil harmony
of mind, and of the consciousness of a resolute will, which attracts the
spectator, combined at the same time with a skilful representation of
earthly splendour and magnificence. Inside the wing to the right we see
the soldiers of the Lord on fine chargers, simple and noble figures in
bright armour, with surcoats of varied form and colour. The three
foremost with the waving banners appear to be St. Sebastian, St. George,
and St. Michael, the patron saints of the old Flemish guilds, which
accompanied their earls to the Crusades. In the head of St. George, the
painter has strikingly succeeded in rendering the spirit of the chivalry
of the Middle Ages--that true heroic feeling and sense of power which
humbles itself before the higher sense of the Divinity. Emperors and
kings follow after him. The landscape is extremely beautiful and highly
finished, with rich and finely-formed mountain ridges, and the fleecy
clouds of spring floating lightly across. The second picture (the last
to the left) represents the righteous judges; they also are on
horseback, and are fine and dignified figures. In front, on a splendidly
caparisoned grey horse, rides a mild benevolent old man, in blue velvet
trimmed with fur. This is the likeness of Hubert, to whom his brother
has thus dedicated a beautiful memorial. Rather deeper in the group is
John himself, clothed in black, with his shrewd, sharp countenance
turned to the spectator. We are indebted to tradition for the knowledge
of these portraits.

Both these wing pictures have the special interest of showing us, by
means of armour, rich costumes, and caparisons, a true and particular
representation of the Court of Burgundy in the time of Philip the
Good--when it was confessedly the most superb court in Europe.

The upper wings, when closed, represented the Annunciation, and this was
so arranged that on the outer and wider ones (the backs of the two
pictures of angels singing and playing) were the figures of the Virgin
and the Angel Gabriel,--on the inner narrower ones (that is, on the back
of the Adam and Eve), a continuation of the Virgin's chamber. Here, as
was often the case in the outside pictures of large altar-pieces, the
colouring was kept down to a more uniform tone, in order that the full
splendour might be reserved to adorn with greater effect the principal
subject within. The angel and the Holy Virgin are clothed in flowing
white drapery, but the wings of the angel glitter with a play of soft
and brilliant colour, imitating those of the green parrot. The heads are
noble and well painted; the furniture of the room is executed with great
truth, as well as the view through the arcade which forms the background
of the Virgin's chamber, into the streets of a town, one of which we
recognize as a street in Ghent.

In the semicircles which close these panels above, on the right and
left, are the prophets Micah and Zechariah, whose heads have great
dignity, but are somewhat stiff and unsatisfactory in their attitudes.
In the centre (corresponding with the figures in chiaroscuro over Adam
and Eve) are two kneeling female figures represented as sibyls.

The exterior portion of the lower wings contains the statues of the two
St. Johns. These display a heavy style of drapery, and there is
something peculiarly angular in the breaks of the folds, imitated
perhaps from the sculpture of the day, which had also already abandoned
the older Northern mould. This peculiarity by degrees impressed itself
more and more on the style of painting of the Fifteenth Century, and the
drapery of the figures in the Annunciation already betrays a tendency
towards it. The heads exhibit a feeling for beauty of form which is rare
in this school. John the Baptist, who is pointing with his right hand
to the Lamb on his left, is appropriately represented, as the last of
the Prophets, as a man of earnest mien and dignified features, with much
hair and beard. John the Evangelist, on the other hand, appears as a
tender youth with delicate features, looking very composedly at the
monster with four snakes which, at his benediction, rises from the
chalice in his hand.

The likenesses of the donors are given with inimitable life and
fidelity. They show the careful hand of Jan van Eyck, but already
approach that limit within which the imitation of the accidental and
insignificant in the human countenance should be confined. The whole,
however, is in admirable keeping, and the care of the artist can hardly
be considered too anxiously minute, since feeling and character are as
fully expressed as the mere bodily form. The aged Jodocus Vydts, to
whose liberality posterity is indebted for this great work of art, is
dressed in a simple red garment trimmed with fur; he kneels with his
hands folded, and his eyes directed upwards. His countenance, however,
is not attractive; the forehead is low and narrow, and the eye without
power. The mouth alone shows a certain benevolence, and the whole
expression of the features denotes a character capable of managing
worldly affairs. The idea of originating so great a work as this picture
is to be found in the noble, intellectual, and expressive features of
his wife, who kneels opposite to him in the same attitude, and in still
plainer attire.

At Hubert van Eyck's death, on the 16th of September, 1426, Jodocus
Vydts engaged Jan van Eyck, the younger brother and scholar of Hubert,
to finish the picture in the incomplete parts.[14] A close comparison
of all the panels of this altar-piece with the authentic works of Jan
van Eyck shows that the following portions differ in drawing, colouring,
cast of drapery, and treatment, from his style, and may therefore with
certainty be attributed to the hand of Hubert:--of the inner side of the
upper series, the Almighty, the Virgin, St. John the Baptist, St.
Cecilia with the angels playing on musical instruments, and Adam and
Eve; of the inner side of the lower series, the side of the centre
picture with the apostles and saints, and the wings with the hermits and
pilgrims, though with the exception of the landscapes. On the other
hand, of the inner side of the upper series, the wing picture with the
singing angels is by Jan van Eyck; of the inner side of the lower
series, the side of the centre picture of the Adoration of the Lamb,
containing the patriarchs and prophets, etc., and the entire landscape;
the wing with the soldiers of Christ and the Righteous Judges, and the
landscapes to the wing with the hermits and pilgrims; finally, the
entire outer sides of the wings, comprising the portraits of the
founders, and the Annunciation. The Prophet Zechariah and the two
sibyls alone show a feebler hand.[15]

About one hundred years after the completion of this altar-piece an
excellent copy of it was made by Michael Coxis for Philip II. of Spain.
The panels of this work, like those of the original, are dispersed; some
are in the Berlin Museum, some in the possession of the King of Bavaria,
and others in the remains of the King of Holland's collection at the
Hague. A second copy, which comprises the inside pictures of this great
work, from the chapel of the Town-house at Ghent, is in the Antwerp

    _Handbook of Painting: the German, Flemish, and Dutch Schools_,
    based on the handbook of Kugler remodelled by Dr. Waagen and
    revised by J.A. Crowe (London, 1874).


[11] Carton, _Les Trois Frères van Eyck_, p. 36.

[12] Marc van Vaernewijck in a MS. of 1566-8, describing the Ghent
troubles, states that on the 19th of August, two days before the
iconoclasts plundered St. Bavon, the picture of the Mystic Lamb was
removed from the Vijdts chapel and concealed in one of the towers. See
the MS., _Van die Beroerlicke Tijden in die Nederlanden_{b}, recently
printed at Ghent (1872), p. 146. On the same page in which Vaernewijck
relates this story he says that he refers his readers, for the lives of
the Van Eycks to his book, _Mijn leecken Philosophie int xx^e bouck_.
This book, which probably still exists on the shelves of some library,
has not as yet been discovered.

[13] "The pictures here exhibited as the works of Hemmelinck, Messis,
Lucas of Holland, A. Dürer, and even Holbein, are inferior to those
ascribed to Eyck in colour, execution, and taste. The draperies of the
three on a gold ground, especially that of the middle figure, could not
be improved in simplicity, or elegance, by the taste of Raphael himself.
The three heads of God the Father, the Virgin, and St. John the Baptist,
are not inferior in roundness, force, or sweetness to the heads of L. da
Vinci, and possess a more positive principle of colour."--_Life of
Fuseli_, i. p. 267. This is a very remarkable opinion for the period
when it was written.

[14] This appears from the following inscription of the time, on the
frame of the outer wing:--

  "Pictor Hubertus ab Eyck, major quo nemo repertus
   Incepit; pondusque Johannes arte secundus
   Frater perfecit, Judoci Vyd prece fretus
   [VersV seXta MaI Vos CoLLoCat aCta tVerI]."

[The last verse gives the date of May 6, 1432.] The discovery of this
inscription, under a coating of green paint, was made in Berlin in 1824,
when the first word and a half of the third line, which were missing,
were [imperfectly] supplied [with "frater perfectus"] by an old copy of
this inscription, found by M. de Bast, the Belgian connoisseur.

[15] [Dr. Waagen did not always hold decided opinions as to what
portions of the altar-piece of Ghent are by Hubert and John van Eyck,
respectively. There is no doubt that some of "the sublime earnestness"
which Schlegel notes in the Eternal, the Virgin, and John the Baptist,
and much of the stern realism which characterizes those figures, is to
be found in the patriarchs and prophets, and in the hermits and
pilgrims, and in the Adam and Eve; but it is too much to say that these
wing pictures can "with certainty be assigned to Hubert," and it is not
to be forgotten that John van Eyck worked in this picture on the lines
laid down by his elder brother, and must have caught some of the spirit
of his great master.]




A very characteristic work by Piero, called di Cosimo, after his
godfather and master, Cosimo Rosselli. Piero's peculiarities are well
known to all readers of George Eliot's _Romola_, where everything told
us about him by Vasari is carefully worked up. The first impression left
by this picture--its quaintness--is precisely typical of the man. He
shut himself off from the world, and stopped his ears; lived in the
untidiest of rooms, and would not have his garden tended, "preferring to
see all things wild and savage about him." He took his meals at times
and in ways that no other man did, and Romola used to coax him with
sweets and hard-boiled eggs. His fondness for quaint landscape ("he
would sometimes stand beside a wall," says Vasari, "and image forth the
most extraordinary landscapes that ever were") may be seen in this
picture: so also may his love of animals, in which, says Vasari, he took
"indescribable pleasure."

[Illustration: THE DEATH OF PROCRIS.
        _Piero di Cosimo._]

The subjects of his pictures were generally allegorical. In _Romola_ he
paints Tito and Romola as Bacchus and Ariadne; here he shows the death
of Procris, the story in which the ancients embodied the folly of
jealousy. For Procris being told that Cephalus was unfaithful,
straight-way believed the report and secretly followed him to the
woods, for he was a great hunter. And Cephalus called upon "aura," the
Latin for breeze, for Cephalus was hot after the chase: "Sweet air, O
come," and echo answered, "Come, sweet air." But Procris, thinking that
he was calling after his mistress, turned to see, and as she moved she
made a rustling in the leaves, which Cephalus mistook for the motion of
some beast of the forest, and let fly his unerring dart, which Procris
once had given him.

    But Procris lay among the white wind-flowers,
    Shot in the throat. From out the little wound
    The slow blood drained, as drops in autumn showers
    Drip from the leaves upon the sodden ground.
    None saw her die but Lelaps, the swift hound,
    That watched her dumbly with a wistful fear,
    Till at the dawn, the hornèd wood-men found
    And bore her gently on a sylvan bier,
  To lie beside the sea,--with many an uncouth tear.

AUSTIN DOBSON: _Old World Lyrics_.

    _A Popular Handbook to the National Gallery_ (London and New York,




The point that connects him with Botticelli is the romantic treatment of
his classical mythology, best exemplified in his pictures of the tale of
Perseus and Andromeda.[16] Piero was by nature and employment a
decorative painter; the construction of cars for pageants, and the
adornment of dwelling rooms and marriage chests, affected his whole
style, rendering it less independent and more quaint than that of
Botticelli. Landscape occupies the main part of his compositions, made
up by a strange amalgam of the most eccentric details--rocks toppling
over blue bays, sea-caverns and fantastic mountain ranges. Groups of
little figures upon these spaces tell the story, and the best invention
of the artist is lavished on the form of monstrous creatures like the
dragon slain by Perseus. There is no attempt to treat the classic
subject in a classic spirit: to do that and to fail in doing it,
remained for Cellini....[17] The same criticism applies to Piero's
picture of the murdered Procris watched by a Satyr of the woodland.[18]
In creating his Satyr the painter has not had recourse to any antique
bas-relief, but has imagined for himself a being half human, half
bestial, and yet wholly real; nor has he portrayed in Procris a nymph of
Greek form, but a girl of Florence. The strange animals and gaudy
flowers introduced into the landscape background further remove the
subject from the sphere of classic treatment. Florentine realism and
quaint fancy being thus curiously blended, the artistic result may be
profitably studied for the light it throws upon the so-called Paganism
of the earlier Renaissance. Fancy at that moment was more free than when
superior knowledge of antiquity had created a demand for reproductive
art, and when the painters thought less of the meaning of the fable for
themselves than of its capability of being used as a machine for the
display of erudition.

    _The Renaissance in Italy_ (London, 1877).


[16] Uffizi Gallery.

[17] See the bas-relief upon the pedestal of his 'Perseus' in the Loggia
de' Lanzi.

[18] In the National Gallery.




The Church of the Salute is farther assisted by the beautiful flight of
steps in front of it down to the canal; and its façade is rich and
beautiful of its kind, and was chosen by Turner for the principal object
in his well known view of the Grand Canal. The principal faults of the
building are the meagre windows in the sides of the cupola, and the
ridiculous disguise of the buttresses under the form of colossal
scrolls; the buttresses themselves being originally a hypocrisy, for the
cupola is stated by Lazari to be of timber, and therefore needs none.
The sacristy contains several precious pictures: the three on its roof
by Titian, much vaunted, are indeed as feeble as they are monstrous; but
the small Titian, _St. Mark with Sts. Cosmo and Damian_, was, when I
first saw it, to my judgment, by far the first work of Titian's in
Venice. It has since been restored by the Academy, and it seemed to me
entirely destroyed, but I had not time to examine it carefully.

[Illustration: THE MARRIAGE IN CANA.

At the end of the larger sacristy is the lunette which once decorated
the tomb of the Doge Francesco Dandolo, and, at the side of it, one of
the most highly finished Tintoret's in Venice, namely: _The Marriage in
Cana_. An immense picture, some twenty-five feet long by fifteen
high, and said by Lazari to be one of the few which Tintoret signed with
his name. I am not surprised at his having done so in this case.
Evidently the work has been a favourite with him, and he has taken as
much pains as it was ever necessary for his colossal strength to take
with anything. The subject is not one which admits of much singularity
or energy in composition. It was always a favourite one with Veronese,
because it gave dramatic interest to figures in gay costumes and of
cheerful countenances; but one is surprised to find Tintoret, whose tone
of mind was always grave, and who did not like to make a picture out of
brocades and diadems, throwing his whole strength into the conception of
a marriage feast; but so it is, and there are assuredly no female heads
in any of his pictures in Venice elaborated so far as those which here
form the central light. Neither is it often that the works of this
mighty master conform themselves to any of the rules acted upon by
ordinary painters; but in this instance the popular laws have been
observed, and an academy student would be delighted to see with what
severity the principal light is arranged in a central mass, which is
divided and made more brilliant by a vigorous piece of shadow thrust
into the midst of it, and which dies away in lesser fragments and
sparkling towards the extremities of the picture. This mass of light is
as interesting by its composition as by its intensity. The cicerone who
escorts the stranger round the sacristy in the course of five minutes
and allows him some forty seconds for the contemplation of a picture
which the study of six months would not entirely fathom, directs his
attention very carefully to the "bell' effetto di prospettivo," the
whole merit of the picture being, in the eyes of the intelligent public,
that there is a long table in it, one end of which looks further off
than the other; but there is more in the "bell' effetto di prospettivo"
than the observance of the common law of optics. The table is set in a
spacious chamber, of which the windows at the end let in the light from
the horizon, and those in the side wall the intense blue of an Eastern
sky. The spectator looks all along the table, at the farther end of
which are seated Christ and the Madonna, the marriage guests on each
side of it,--on one side men, on the other women; the men are set with
their backs to the light, which passing over their heads and glancing
slightly on the table-cloth, falls in full length along the line of
young Venetian women, who thus fill the whole centre of the picture with
one broad sunbeam, made up of fair faces and golden hair. Close to the
spectator a woman has risen in amazement, and stretches across the table
to show the wine in her cup to those opposite; her dark red dress
intercepts and enhances the mass of gathered light. It is rather
curious, considering the subject of the picture, that one cannot
distinguish either the bride or the bride-groom; but the fourth figure
from the Madonna in the line of women, who wears a white head-dress of
lace and rich chains of pearls in her hair, may well be accepted for the
former, and I think that between her and the woman on the Madonna's left
hand the unity of the line of women is intercepted by a male figure: be
this as it may, this fourth female face is the most beautiful, as far as
I recollect, that occurs in the works of the painter, with the
exception only of the Madonna in the _Flight into Egypt_. It is an ideal
which occurs indeed elsewhere in many of his works, a face at once dark
and delicate, the Italian cast of feature moulded with the softness and
childishness of English beauty some half a century ago; but I have never
seen the ideal so completely worked out by the master. The face may best
be described as one of the purest and softest of Stothard's conceptions,
executed with all the strength of Tintoret. The other women are all made
inferior to this one, but there are beautiful profiles and bendings of
breasts and necks along the whole line. The men are all subordinate,
though there are interesting portraits among them; perhaps the only
fault of the picture being that the faces are a little too conspicuous,
seen like balls of light among the crowd of minor figures which fill the
background of the picture. The tone of the whole is sober and majestic
in the highest degree; the dresses are all broad masses of colour, and
the only parts of the picture which lay claim to the expression of
wealth or splendour are the head-dresses of the women. In this respect
the conception of the scene differs widely from that of Veronese, and
approaches more nearly to the probable truth. Still the marriage is not
an important one; an immense crowd, filling the background, forming
superbly rich mosaic of colour against the distant sky. Taken as a whole
the picture is perhaps the most perfect example which human art has
produced of the utmost possible force and sharpness of shadow united
with richness of local colour. In all the other works of Tintoret, and
much more of other colourists, either the light and shade or the local
colour is predominant; in the one case the picture has a tendency to
look as if painted by candle-light, in the other it becomes daringly
conventional, and approaches the conditions of glass-painting. This
picture unites colour as rich as Titian's with light and shade as
forcible as Rembrandt's, and far more decisive.

There are one or two other interesting pictures of the early Venetian
school in this sacristy, and several important tombs in the adjoining
cloister; among which that of Francesco Dandolo, transported here from
the Church of the Frari, deserves especial attention.

    _Stones of Venice_ (London, 1853).




Madame de Pompadour was not exactly a _grisette_, as her enemies
affected to say and as Voltaire has said in a malicious moment: she was
a _bourgeoise_, a blossom of finance, the most lovely woman in Paris,
witty, elegant, adorned with a thousand gifts and a thousand talents,
but with a way of feeling that did not have the grandeur and coldness of
an aristocratic ambition. She loved the King for his own sake, as the
handsomest man in his realm, as the one who had seemed the most amiable
to her; she loved him sincerely, sentimentally, if not with a profound
passion. On her arrival at court, her ideal would have been to amuse him
with a thousand entertainments borrowed from the arts, or even from
matters of the intellect, to make him happy and constant in a circle of
varied enchantments and pleasures. A Watteau landscape, sports,
comedies, pastorals in the shade, a continual Embarkation for Cythera,
that would have been the round she would have preferred. But once
transported into the slippery enclosure of the court, she could realize
her ideal very imperfectly. Kind and obliging by nature, she had to take
up arms to defend herself against enmity and perfidy and to take the
offensive to avoid being overthrown; necessity led her into politics and
induced her to make herself Minister of State.

She loved the arts and intellectual things far above the comprehension
of any of the ladies of quality. On her arrival at her eminent and
dishonourable post--much more dishonourable than she thought--she at
first only thought of herself as destined to aid, to call to her side,
and to encourage struggling merit and men of talent of all kinds. This
is her sole glory, her best title, and her best excuse. She did her best
to advance Voltaire and to make him agreeable to Louis XV., whom the
petulant poet so strongly repelled by the vivacity and even the
familiarity of his praises. She thought she had found a genius in
Crébillon and honoured him accordingly. She showed favour to Gresset;
she protected Marmontel; she welcomed Duclos; she admired Montesquieu
and plainly showed it. She would have liked to serve Jean-Jacques
Rousseau. When the King of Prussia ostentatiously gave d'Alembert a
modest pension and Louis XV. was scoffing in her presence at the amount
(1200 livres), in comparison with the term _sublime genius_, for which
it was given, she advised him to forbid the philosopher to accept it and
to double it himself; which Louis XV. did not dare to do; his religious
principles would not permit it on account of the _Encyclopédie_. It was
not her fault that we cannot say _the century of Louis XV._, as we say
_the century of Louis XIV_.

        _De la Tour._]

There are then in the career and power of Madame de Pompadour two
distinct periods: the first, the most brilliant and most greatly
favoured, was that following the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748): in
this, she completely played her rôle of a youthful favourite, fond of
peace, the arts, the pleasures of the mind, and advising and protecting
all things happily. There was a second period, greatly checkered, but
more frequently disastrous and fatal; this was the whole period of the
Seven Years' War, the attempted assassination by Damiens, the defeat of
Rosbach, and the insults of the victorious Frederick. These were harsh
years which prematurely aged this weak and graceful woman, who was drawn
into a struggle beyond her strength.... However, my impression is that
things might have been worse, and that, with the aid of M. de Choiseul,
by means of the Family Compact she again covered her own mistakes and
the humiliation of the French monarchy with a certain amount of

It seems that the nation itself felt this and felt more especially that
after this brilliant favourite there would be a greater fall; for when
she died at Versailles, April 15, 1764, the regret of the Parisian
populace, which some years before would have stoned her, was

The one who seemed to regret her the least was Louis XV.; it is related
that seeing from a window the hearse on its way from Versailles to
Paris, the weather being dreadful, he only said:

"The Marquise will not have very fine weather for her journey."

All the masters of the French school of her time painted a portrait of
Madame de Pompadour: we have one by Boucher, and another by Drouais
which Grimm preferred to all others; but the most admirable of all is
certainly La Tour's pastel owned by the Louvre. To this we go in order
to see _la marquise_ before we allow ourselves to judge of her, or to
form the least idea of her personality.

She is represented as seated in an arm-chair, holding in one hand a book
of music, and with her left arm resting on a marble table on which are
placed a globe and several volumes. The largest one of these books,
which is next to the globe, is Volume IV. of the _Encyclopédie_; next to
it in a row are the volumes of _L'Esprit des Lois_, _La Henriade_, and
_Pastor Fido_, indicative of the tastes at once serious and sentimental
of the queen of this spot. Upon the table also and at the base of the
globe is seen a blue book upside down, its cover is inscribed: _Pierres
gravées_; this is her work. Underneath it and hanging down over the
table is a print representing an engraver of precious stones at work
with these words: _Pompadour sculpsit_. On the floor, by the foot of the
table, is a portfolio marked with her arms and containing engravings and
drawings; we have here a complete trophy. In the background, between the
feet of the consol-table, is seen a vase of Japanese porcelain: why not
of Sèvres? Behind her arm-chair and on the side of the room opposite the
table is another arm-chair, or an ottoman, on which lies a guitar. But
it is the person herself who is in every respect marvellous in her
extreme delicacy, gracious dignity, and exquisite beauty. Holding her
music-book in her hand lightly and carelessly, her attention is suddenly
called away from it; she seems to have heard a noise and turns her head.
Is it indeed the King who has arrived and is about to enter? She seems
to be expecting him with certainty and to be listening with a smile. Her
head, thus turned aside, reveals the outline of the neck in all its
grace, and her very short but deliciously-waved hair is arranged in
rows of little curls, the blonde tint of which may be divined beneath
the slight covering of powder. The head stands out against a light-blue
background, which in general dominates the whole picture. Everything
satisfies and delights the eye; it is a melody, perhaps, rather than a
harmony. A bluish light, sifting downwards, falls across every object.
There is nothing in this enchanted boudoir which does not seem to pay
court to the goddess,--nothing, not even _L'Esprit des Lois_ and
_L'Encyclopédie_. The flowered satin robe makes way along the
undulations of the breast for several rows of those bows, which were
called, I believe, _parfaits contentements_, and which are of a very
pale lilac. Her own flesh-tints and complexion are of a white lilac,
delicately azured. That breast, those ribbons, and that robe--all blend
together harmoniously, or rather lovingly. Beauty shines in all its
brilliance and in full bloom. The face is still young; the temples have
preserved their youth and freshness; the lips are also still fresh and
have not yet withered as they are said to have become from having been
too frequently puckered or bitten in repressing anger and insults.
Everything in the countenance and in the attitude expresses grace,
supreme taste, and affability and amenity rather than sweetness, a
queenly air which she had to assume but which sits naturally upon her
and is sustained without too much effort. I might continue and describe
many lovely details, but I prefer to stop and send the curious to the
model itself: there they will find a thousand things that I scarcely
dare to touch upon.

Such in her best days was this ravishing, ambitious, frail, but sincere
woman, who in her elevation remained good, faithful (I love to believe)
in her sin, obliging, so far as she could be, but vindictive when driven
to it; who was quite one of her own sex after all, and, finally, whose
intimate life her lady-in-waiting has been able to show us without being
too heavy or crushing a witness against her.

In spite of everything, she was exactly the mistress to suit this reign,
the only one who could have succeeded in turning it to account in the
sense of opinion, the only one who could lessen the crying discord
between the least literary of kings and the most literary of epochs. If
the Abbé Galiani, in a curious page, loudly preferring the age of Louis
XV. to that of Louis XIV., has been able to say of this age of the human
mind so fertile in results: "Such another reign will not be met with
anywhere for a long time," Mme. de Pompadour certainly contributed to
this to some extent. This graceful woman rejuvenated the court by
bringing into it the vivacity of her thoroughly French tastes, tastes
that were Parisian. As mistress and friend of the Prince, as protectress
of the arts, her mind found itself entirely on a level with her rôle and
her rank: as a politician, she bent, she did ill, but perhaps not worse
than any other favourite in her place would have done at that period
when a real statesman was wanting among us.

When she found herself dying after a reign of nineteen years; when at
the age of forty-two years she had to leave these palaces, these riches,
these marvels of art she had amassed, this power so envied and disputed,
but which she kept entirely in her own hands to her last day, she did
not say with a sigh, like Mazarin, "So I must leave all this!" She
faced death with a firm glance, and as the _curé_ of the Madeleine, who
had come to visit her at Versailles, was about to depart, she said:
"Wait a moment, _Monsieur le Curé_, we will go together."

Madame de Pompadour may be considered the last in date of the Kings'
mistresses who were worthy of the name: after her it would be impossible
to descend and enter with any decency into the history of the Du Barry.
The kings and emperors who have succeeded in France, from that day to
this, have been either too virtuous, or too despotic, or too gouty, or
too repentant, or too much the paterfamilias, to allow themselves such
useless luxuries: at the utmost, only a few vestiges have been
observable. The race of Kings' mistresses, therefore, may be said to be
greatly interrupted, even if not ended, and Mme. de Pompadour stands
before our eyes in history as the last as well as the most brilliant of

    _Causeries de Lundi_ (Paris, 1851-57), Vol. II.


[19] Here is an exact statement of the civil register of the State
relating to Mme. de Pompadour: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, marquise de
Pompadour, born in Paris, Dec. 29, 1721 (Saint-Eustache);--married March
9, 1741, to Charles-Guillaume Lenormant, seigneur d'Étioles
(Saint-Eustache); died April 15, 1764; interred on the 17th at the
Capucines de la place Vendôme. Her parish in Paris was la Madeleine; her
hôtel, in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, now l'Élysée.

M. Le Roi, librarian of Versailles, has published, after an authentic
manuscript the _Relevé des dépenses de Mme. de Pompadour depuis la
première année de sa faveur jusqu'à sa mort_. This statement, which
mentions the sums and their uses, presents a complete picture of the
marquise's varied tastes, and does not try too much to dishonour her




A little strip of country on the borders of Essex and Suffolk, not ten
miles in length, and but two or three in breadth, presenting to the
casual observer few features more striking than are to be seen in many
other parts of England, but hailed with delight by painters for its
simple charm, has exercised a wider influence upon modern landscape
painting than all the noble scenery of Switzerland or the glories of
Italy; for here was nurtured that last and greatest master of that
school of English landscape painting, which made the Eastern Counties
famous in the annals of art. He was so essentially English, it might be
said local, in his feeling, that he never left his country, and produced
his greatest works within the narrow limits of his native valley; in
whom love of locality was indeed the very basis of his art.

[Illustration: THE HAY WAIN.]

Constable, for it was he, like Rembrandt, was the son of a miller, and
was born at a time when the winds and flowing waters were powers in the
land, bearing a golden harvest on their health-giving and invisible
currents, turning sails upon countless hill-tops, and wheels in every
river--before the supplanter, steam, was even dreamed of. His earliest
recollections were mingled with the busy clatter of wheels, and the
whirr of sails, as they sped round before the wind, was the music of his
boyhood. His father, good man of the world as he was, holding a high
opinion of the solid comforts gained by following his own profitable
calling, placed his son, at the age of seventeen, in charge of a
windmill, hoping thereby to curb his rising enthusiasm for the more
glorious but less substantial pursuit of art. Alas! how little can we
predict the effect of our actions. This one, framed to divert his
purpose in life, was the very means of leading him to study more closely
the ever-varying beauties of the sky, with its matchless combinations of
form and colour, and all the subtle differences of atmosphere, which in
after-life formed a distinctive feature in his work; and, for a
landscape-painter, perhaps no early training could have been better. His
daily occupation by bringing him continually face to face with Nature,
and necessitating a constant observance of all her changing phenomena,
trained his heart and eye to discover her secrets, hidden from the
careless, but revealed to all true lovers of her wisdom.

The effect upon a temperament so artistic as Constable's was as
permanent as it was quickly apparent. In less than a year we find his
father reluctantly converted to his son's views in the choice of a
career, and consenting to his sojourn in London, to learn the principles
and technicalities of his profession, which he soon strove to forget and
subsequently set at defiance. Two years of studio work was sufficient to
convince him that his school was the open air; and in his own country,
amid the scenes of his boyhood, he could shake off the chains of
fashion, which bound the landscape-painter of that day, and go straight
to nature for his inspiration. Concerning this he writes: "For the last
two years I have been running after pictures, and seeing truth at
second-hand. I have not endeavoured to represent nature with the same
elevation of mind with which I set out, but have rather tried to make my
performances look like the work of other men; I shall return to
Bergholt, where I shall get a pure and unaffected manner of representing
the scenes which may employ me--there is room for a _natural_ painter;"
a prediction which was hardly fulfilled in his lifetime, for, with the
majority of even intelligent lovers of art, his works were rarely
understood and never popular, though the appreciative sympathy of an
enlightened few kept him from despair. But, appreciated or not, he had
found his life's work, and henceforth his mission was to depict the
scenes around his old home, and to express the love he felt so keenly
for "every stile and stump, and every lane in dear Bergholt."

"Painting," he writes, "is with me but another word for feeling, and I
associate my careless boyhood with all that lies on the banks of the
Stour--those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful."

How lovingly he repaid this debt of gratitude to his native valley will
be seen by the tender care he bestowed in depicting its beauties;
indeed, the strongest impression produced after visiting Constable's
country and again turning to a study of his works, is the marvellous
sense of locality he has embodied in them. You seem to breathe the very
air of Suffolk and hear again the "sound of water escaping from
mill-dams," and see once more "the willows, the old rotten planks, the
slimy posts, and brickwork," he delighted in. In spite of the fifty
years which have elapsed since he laid aside his brush for ever, with
all the accidents of time and season, the subjects he painted are still
to be easily found, and clearly distinguished by anyone at all
acquainted with his works. The only exception is in the original of the
famous _Cornfield_, now in the National Gallery. Here the enemy has been
busy, and by the aid of his children Growth and Decay, has succeeded in
transforming the subject out of all recognition, tearing down the trees
on the left, enlarging the group on the right, shutting out the view of
Stratford Church, and choking up the brook from which the boy is
drinking. Nor has Time been idle with this same boy, who six years ago,
was carried to his last resting-place in Bergholt Churchyard, aged

It is not, however, in Bergholt village that we must seek for the scenes
which made Constable a painter, but down in the quiet hollow a mile and
a half to the eastward on the banks of his much-loved Stour, and around
the paternal mill of Flatford, not improved as is the one at Dedham into
hideousness, but remaining much as it was in the artist's day. Both
mills were the property of Golding Constable, witnessed thereto in the
latter, the initials G.C., carved in irregular characters deep in the
huge mill scales, still legible beneath the dust of a century, as
enduring almost as the memory of his gifted son.

A low uneven structure is Flatford Mill, with many gables and queer
outbuildings; standing on an island, the millhouse backing the main
stream and facing a pool formed by the mill-tail, which, flowing
through the mill, rejoins the main stream a hundred yards below. To this
spot came Constable many a hundred times, we may be sure, fishing in the
stream, or sketching with his close ally, John Dunthorne, the village
plumber, and a lover of nature; their performances with the brush
doubtless puzzling old Willy Lott--whose farmhouse occupies the opposite
side of the pool; but though his judgment might not have been so
technically sound upon art matters as upon the merits of those hornless
Suffolk cattle, said to have been unconsciously introduced by Constable
into pictures painted in far distant countries, yet his criticisms would
have been worth hearing by virtue of their originality. Willy cared but
little for the outer world and its mode of thinking, any curiosity he
may have ever had concerning it being amply satisfied by the experiences
of four nights, separated by long intervals, spent away from his
ancestral roof in four-score years. That this house of his possessed a
peculiar fascination for Constable is evident from its forming an
important feature in two of his best known works, the _Hay Wain_ and the
_Valley Farm_, besides appearing in numerous sketches.

Every foot of ground round the old mill seems to have imparted a
yearning in him to paint it. The lock in the main stream, with its tide
of life passing through, busier then than in these days of railways; the
bridge above, with the picturesque cottages still standing, all were
lingered over, studied, and painted with an affection inspired by the
recollection of those golden hours of his boyhood. Here, doubtless, was
the scene of those stolen interviews with his future wife, following
the ecclesiastical ban placed on his suit by the lady's grandfather, Dr.
Rhudde, the Rector, whose belief in the preordination of marriage was
tempered in this case by a wise discretion on the subject of
settlements. To the young painter's inability to satisfy this scruple
may be attributed the Doctor's discouragement of any practical
application of the theory. The marriage duly took place despite the old
gentleman, who, although not apparently reconciled during the remainder
of his life, pleasantly surprised the young couple by leaving his
granddaughter four thousand pounds when he died.

The mill-tail is used as a thoroughfare, up which the hay is carted,
from the meadows on the opposite bank of the river, a shallow and stony
bedded back-water meeting it at its junction with the main stream. Down
this back-water in July the heavy cart-horses drag the sweet-scented
haywains knee deep and axle deep in water, leaving feathery wisps of hay
hanging from the willows, and clinging to the tall rushes upon either
hand, the waggoner bravely astride the leader, while haymakers and
children are seated on top of the load, not a little nervous in
mid-stream, and clinging tightly when the horses are struggling up the
deep ascent into the stack-yard.

A contrast, indeed, is the bustle of the hay-making with the splash of
the teams and the merry voices of the children to the solitude which
reigns supreme in this silent, currentless backwater during the rest of
the year. Winding between the long flat meadows away from the traffic of
the river it becomes in early summer a veritable museum of aquatic
plants: lilies choke its passage, and the ancient gates, giving access
to the adjoining fields, lie lost in creamy meadow-sweet, their sodden
and decaying posts wreathed in sweet forget-me-nots, while sword-like
rushes rear their points till they part the grey-green willow leaves
above. The silence would become oppressive were it not for an indistinct
murmur from the working world, which forms a fitful background to the
prevailing stillness; the distant roar of a train as it rushes on its
journey to the palpitating heart of London, the faint sound of a mowing
machine in the meadows, or the crack of a whip up the tow-path as a
barge moves up to the primitive lock, add a touch of human interest
without disturbing the sense of restfulness from the eager hurry of
Nineteenth Century existence....

Constable's country may be said to extend along the Stour valley,
anywhere within walking distance of his home, Neyland, Stoke, Langham,
Stratford, and in the opposite direction, Harwich, all having furnished
material for his fruitful pencil. But, despite much admirable work done
in each of these places, it was to the few acres of river and meadow
round the old mill at Flatford that he owed his first awakening to the
wonders of nature around him. To these, his first and truest masters,
his memory was ever turning for inspiration; and during the life-long
battle he waged with all that was untrue, he was certain of finding
there encouragement to victory and solace in disappointment.

    _Magazine of Art_ (1891).




_The Surrender of Breda_, better known under the name of _Las Lanzas_,
mingles in the most exact proportion realism and grandeur. Truth pushed
to the point of portraiture does not diminish in the slightest degree
the dignity of the historical style.

A vast and spacious sky full of light and vapour, richly laid in with
pure ultramarine, mingles its azure with the blue distances of an
immense landscape where sheets of water gleam with silver. Here and
there incendiary smoke ascends from the ground in fantastic wreaths and
joins the clouds of the sky. In the foreground on each side, a numerous
group is massed: here the Flemish troops, there the Spanish troops,
leaving for the interview between the vanquished and victorious generals
an open space which Velasquez has made a luminous opening with a glimpse
of the distance where the glitter of the regiments and standards is
indicated by a few masterly touches.

The Marquis of Spinola, bareheaded with hat and staff of command in
hand, in his black armour damascened with gold, welcomes with a
chivalrous courtesy that is affable and almost affectionate, as is
customary between enemies who are generous and worthy of mutual esteem,
the Governor of Breda, who is bowing and offering him the keys of the
city in an attitude of noble humiliation.

Flags quartered with white and blue, their folds agitated by the wind,
break in the happiest manner the straight lines of the lances held
upright by the Spaniards. The horse of the Marquis, represented almost
foreshortened from the rear and with its head turned, is a skilful
invention to tone down military symmetry, so unfavourable to painting.

It would not be easy to convey in words the chivalric pride and the
Spanish grandeur which distinguish the heads of the officers forming the
General's staff. They express the calm joy of triumph, tranquil pride of
race, and familiarity with great events. These personages would have no
need to bring proofs for their admittance into the orders of Santiago
and Calatrava. Their bearing would admit them, so unmistakably are they
hidalgos. Their long hair, their turned-up moustaches, their pointed
beards, their steel gorgets, their corselets or their buff doublets
render them in advance ancestral portraits to hang up, with their arms
blazoned on the corner of the canvas, in the galleries of old castles.
No one has known so well as Velasquez how to paint the gentleman with
such superb familiarity, and, so to speak, as equal to equal. He is by
no means a poor, embarrassed artist who only sees his models while they
are posing and has never lived with them. He follows them in the privacy
of the royal apartments, on great hunting-parties, and in ceremonies of
pomp. He knows their bearing, their gestures, their attitudes, and their
physiognomy; he himself is one of the King's favourites (_privados del
rey_). Like themselves, and even more than they, he has _les grandes
et les petites entrées_.[20] The nobility of Spain having Velasquez for
a portrait-painter could not say, like the lion of the fable: "Ah! if
the lions only knew how to paint."


Velasquez takes his place naturally between Titian and Van Dyck as a
painter of portraits. His colour is solidly and profoundly harmonious,
without any false luxury and with no need of glitter. His magnificence
is that of ancient hereditary fortunes. It has tranquillity, equality,
and intimacy. We find no violent reds, greens, nor blues, no upstart
glitter, no brilliant gew-gaws. All is restrained and subdued, but with
a warm tone like that of old gold, or with a grey tone like the dead
sheen of family silver. Gaudy and loud things will do for upstarts, but
Don Diego Velasquez de Silva is too true a gentleman to make himself an
object of remark in that manner, and, let us say, too good a painter
also. Although a realist, he brings to his art a lofty grandeur, a
disdain of useless detail, and an intentional sacrifice that plainly
reveal the sovereign master. These sacrifices were not always those that
another painter would have made. Velasquez chose to put in evidence
what, it sometimes seems, should have been left in shadow. He
extinguishes and he illuminates with apparent caprice, but the effect
always justifies him.

The correctness of his eye was such that while he only pretended to be
copying, he brought the soul to the surface and painted the inner and
the outer man at the same time. His portraits relate the secret
_Mémoires_ of the Spanish court better than all the chroniclers. Let him
represent them in gala dress, riding their genets, in hunting-costume,
an arquebuse in their hand, a greyhound at their feet, and we recognize
in these wan figures of kings, queens, and infantas, with pale faces,
red lips, and massive chins the degeneracy of Charles V. and the falling
away of exhausted dynasties. Although a court-painter, he has not
flattered his royal models. However, despite the brainlessness of the
type, the quality of these high personages would never be doubted. It is
not that he did not know how to paint genius; the portrait of the
Count-Duke of Olivares, so noble, so imperious, and so full of
authority, unanswerably proves that, unable to lend any fire to these
sad lords, he gives them a cold majesty, a wearied dignity, a gesture
and pose of etiquette, and then envelops all with his magnificent
colour; that was full payment for the protection of his crowned friend.
M. Paul de Saint-Victor has somewhere called Victor Hugo "The Spanish
Grandee of poetry;" may we not be permitted to call Velasquez "The
Spanish Grandee of painting"? No qualification would suit him better.

As we have said, Velasquez was Court Chamberlain, and it was he who was
charged with the preparation of the lodgings of the King in the trip
that Philip IV. made to Irun to deliver the Infanta Doña Maria-Teresa to
the King of France. It was he who had decorated and ornamented the
pavilion where the interview of the two kings took place in the Île des
Faisans. Velasquez was distinguished among the crowd of courtiers by his
personal dignity, the elegance, the richness, and the good taste of his
costumes on which he arranged with art the diamonds and jewels,--gifts
of the sovereigns; but on his return to Madrid, he fell ill with
fatigue and died on the 7th of August, 1660. His widow, Doña Juana
Pacheco, only survived him seven days and was interred near him in the
parish of San Juan. The funeral of Velasquez was splendid; great
personages, knights of the military orders, the King's household, and
the artists were present sad and pensive, as if they felt that with
Velasquez they were interring Spanish art.

    _Guide de l'Amateur au Musée du Louvre_ (Paris, 1882).


[20] Private audiences of the King.




After her 3,700 battles with the Moors and the conquest of Granada,
Spain had a splendid outburst of literary and artistic glory. In
painting, the four schools of Valencia, Toledo, Madrid, and Seville
suddenly shone forth with that conception of the real and that care for
sharp relief which they owed to the brilliancy of their sunshine, while
amid the fogs of the North the outline is more wavering and the vision
less clear. Under the influence of this original realism, their works
instinctively reproduced that two-fold character which the land of
Spain, smiling in her valleys and savage in her mountains, shows in
sharp contrast. But the Spaniards are, in truth, much more realistic in
their execution than in their inspiration.

The school of Seville, founded by Luis de Vargas, counted among its
illustrious masters the greatest painter of that sunlit and passionate
Andalusia, Murillo (Bartolomé-Estéban), 1617-1682, Spain's most popular
painter, "the painter of the Conceptions," as she called him.


His uncle, Juan del Castillo, a mediocre artist but a good teacher,
initiated him into his dry, stiff, and hard manner,--that of the old
Florentine school. In his studio young Estéban Murillo had young Pedro
de Moya as a fellow-student. One day the former took a fancy to go to
Cadiz, where, miserable enough, he painted on pieces of serge some
Madonnas for traffic in the West Indies, while the latter went to London
to work in Van Dyck's studio. On his return Pedro de Moya brought
several studies of the Flemish master, and Murillo, suddenly
revolutionized and suddenly illuminated, no longer dreamed of anything
but of going to Flanders or Italy, passing--happily--through Madrid. In
Madrid, the Velasquez of the Court of Charles II. stopped him on the
way, gave him admission to the royal collections, where he copied
Titian, Veronese, and Rubens, and then opened his purse to him, and,
lastly, revealed the secrets of his mighty art.

Thus taught and thus inspired, Murillo returned to Seville, where he
settled once for all, immuring himself in his studio, where--modest,
timid, and gentle--he lived with that single love for his art which soon
enriched him, two years later adding to it the adoration of his wife, a
noble lady of Pilas. It was from this studio that almost all of his
laborious, numerous, and superb works issued, sometimes scarcely signed.
From the very beginning, Murillo possessed all the qualities of a great
master, and henceforth we have only to separate his own personality and

Murillo had three periods, as he also had three styles according to the
nature of the subjects he had to treat: the first period, under the
influence of the Florentine formulas of Juan del Castillo, was somewhat
that of happy and masterly imitations; the second, under the memories of
Van Dyck, brought back by Pedro de Moya and of the copies painted at
Madrid, belongs to the Flemish school. But, at thirty-five, in full
possession of his genius, he reveals _himself_, with his superb
colouring, his consummate ease, his great science, his rich and
inexhaustible imagination, his exquisite and tender sentiment, and his
harmony, often produced with feminine delicacy and childish grace, with
his vigour, his trivialities, and his mysticism.

The genius of Murillo, in fact, obeyed a double current, which carried
him forward, on the one hand towards the sky, and on the other towards
the earth, towards the Catholic ideal or towards vulgar realities,
gentle Madonnas alternately with knavish beggars. Very sincerely and
observantly religious, with the contemplative soul of the land of great
men and great mysteries, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Theresa, this
chaste artist, who never painted a nude woman, has the exalted sentiment
of faith of the Spanish artists, a sentiment which is somewhat ennobled
by their realism of nature.

"Why don't you finish that Christ?" asked one of his friends.

"I am waiting until he comes to speak to me," replied Murillo.

With these works he enriched the chapter-house of the Seville Cathedral,
the Hospital de la Caridad, that of the Hospital de los Venerables, the
convents of the Capuchins, the Augustines, etc.

I have said that Murillo had three styles, almost three pencils, not
like the pencils of gold, of silver, and of iron that the Venetians
attributed to the unequal genius of Tintoret, but in sympathy with the
subjects he had to treat. The Spaniards have distinguished and
qualified these styles as follows: _Frio, calido y vaporoso_, cold,
warm, and vaporous.

In the cold style he painted broadly, boldly, and frankly his beggars
and his _muchachos_, so true to life and in strong relief, with a
certain brutality almost approaching triviality. A very well-known work
of this kind is the _Pouilleux_ in the Museum of the Louvre, and a
masterpiece in the Pinacothek of Munich, the Grandmother and Infant. He
sought these types in some old Moorish dwelling, on the deck of a ship
from Tunis or Tripoli anchored in a Spanish harbour, or in among a band
of wandering _Gitanos_ on the banks of the Guadalquivir.

In the vaporous manner, which he used in rendering the ecstasies of the
saints, he painted (under indescribable transparencies of light and
atmospheric shade which is really only extinguished light), _Saint
Francis in Ecstasy_, _The Angel Kitchen_ (Miracle of San Diego) running
through several scales of tones in a marvellous chord and softening all
the outlines "dulcemente perdidos," as Céan Bermudez says.

In his warm style, come his _Annunciations_, _Conceptions_, and all
those gentle and graceful Madonnas, sweet and poetic young mothers
rather than divine Virgins "whom Jews might kiss and Infidels adore," as
Pope says, and which remind us of Correggio's effeminacy, unknown to
Murillo, and in which he plays with ease with harmonies, contrasts, and
reflections of colour.

_The Immaculate Conception_, in the National Museum of the Louvre, is of
this style. Certainly it is not more beautiful than the _Conception_ in
Madrid, of such extraordinary brilliance, and of such a virginal
expression of innocence, piety, and melancholy; and above all not more
beautiful than that of Seville--_The Great Conception_, or the _Pearl of
Conceptions_, making the Virgin Mother's face into a beautiful and
intense face of an archangel. That had its day of resounding triumph.

Every one knows that Marshal Soult accepted this work in Spain for the
pardon of two monks condemned to be hanged as spies. On the 29th of May,
1852, this canvas was sold at auction. Around it the greatest nations
were represented with their rival gold, and loud applause accompanied
each royal bid. When, for the sum of 615,300 francs, it was knocked
down--"To France, gentlemen!" cried the Count de Nieuwerkerke--then
broke forth the delirium of a battle won.

In a diaphanous atmosphere gilded with an invisible clearness as of
Paradise, the winged heads and bodies of little angels are moving: the
former gracefully grouped, the latter boldly and skilfully disposed. The
celestial infants have followed all the way to the earth the rays of
celestial light in its elusive gradations of colour under its
imperceptible glazing. In the centre, in the act of ascent, the Virgin
rises in ecstasy. One corner of a cloud, the crescent moon, and a
masterly group of little angels, naked and enraptured, bear the
Immaculate aloft. Gracefully and statuesquely posed, and broadly draped
in a white robe with sober folds enriched by an ample scarf of light
blue, she modestly hides her feet under the drapery and chastely crosses
her hands over the breast in which she feels the conception of the Son
of God operating. Her head under its dishevelled waves of black hair, a
little turned back and bending slightly to one side, is raised to heaven
with uplifted eyes and open mouth, as if to receive in every sense the
flow of the spirit. The face, in the exquisite sweetness of a surrender
to piety, reflects the bliss of Faith, of mystical voluptuousness, and
divine ecstasy. The expression is religious, but the Virgin is human,
and full of life in the firmness of her lines and the warmth of her
flesh-tints. Beneath the suppleness of the drawing and the soft touches
we recognize in Mary the Immaculate, the woman and even the Andalusian.

The whole work is a most harmonious and well-balanced composition, of
the greatest opulence of colour, solidly laid in, and here and there
lightly glazed over in the Venetian manner; a superb work this, in which
Murillo has found the right point where his idealism and his materialism
meet and mingle.

If I remember rightly, we know one hundred and thirty canvases of
Murillo, to any one of which our admiration hesitates to award the
pre-eminence,--and if the crown of laurels which a Pope laid upon the
funeral couch of Raphael is the consecration of the sovereignty of the
painter of Urbino for History, the universally popular name of Murillo
has also sanctified the incontestable genius of the painter of Seville.

    Jouin, _Chefs-d'oeuvre: Peinture, Sculpture Architecture_
    (Paris, 1895-97).




It is a characteristic--(as far as I know, quite a universal one)--of
the great masters, that they never expect you to look at them;--seem
always rather surprised if you want to; and not overpleased. Tell them
you are going to hang their picture at the upper end of the table at the
next great City dinner, and that Mr. So-and-So will make a speech about
it;--you produce no impression upon them whatever, or an unfavourable
one. The chances are ten to one they send you the most rubbishy thing
they can find in their lumber-room. But send for one of them in a hurry,
and tell him the rats have gnawed a nasty hole behind the parlour door,
and you want it plastered and painted over;--and he does you a
masterpiece which the world will peep behind your door to look at for

I have no time to tell you why this is so; nor do I know why,
altogether, but so it is.

Giotto, then, is sent for, to paint this high chapel: I am not sure if
he chose his own subjects from the life of St. Francis: I think so,--but
of course can't reason on the guess securely. At all events, he would
have much of his own way in the matter.


Now you must observe that painting a Gothic chapel rightly is just the
same thing as painting a Greek vase rightly. The chapel is merely the
vase turned upside-down, and outside-in. The principles of decoration
are exactly the same. Your decoration is to be proportioned to the size
of your vase; to be together delightful when you look at the cup, or
chapel, as a whole; to be various and entertaining when you turn the cup
round; (you turn _yourself_ round in the chapel;) and to bend its heads
and necks of figures about, as best it can, over the hollows, and ins
and outs, so that anyhow, whether too long or too short--possible or
impossible--they may be living, and full of grace. You will also please
take it on my word to-day--in another morning walk you shall have proof
of it--that Giotto was a pure Etruscan-Greek of the Thirteenth Century:
converted indeed to worship St. Francis instead of Heracles; but as far
as vase-painting goes, precisely the Etruscan he was before. This is
nothing else than a large, beautiful, coloured Etruscan vase you have
got, inverted over your heads like a diving-bell. The roof has the
symbols of the three virtues of labour--Poverty, Chastity, Obedience.

A. Highest on the left side, looking to the window. The life of St.
Francis begins in his renunciation of the world.

B. Highest on the right side. His new life is approved and ordained by
the authority of the church.

C. Central on the left side. He preaches to his own disciples.

D. Central on the right side. He preaches to the heathen.

E. Lowest on the left side. His burial.

F. Lowest on the right side. His power after death.

Besides these six subjects, there are, on the sides of the window, the
four great Franciscan saints, St. Louis of France, St. Louis of
Toulouse, St. Clare, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The Soldan, with an
ordinary opera-glass, you may see clearly enough; and I think it will be
first well to notice some technical points in it.

If the little virgin on the stairs of the temple reminded you of one
composition of Titian's, this Soldan should, I think, remind you of all
that is greatest in Titian; so forcibly, indeed, that for my own part,
if I had been told that a careful early fresco by Titian had been
recovered in Santa Croce, I could have believed both report and my own
eyes, more quickly than I have been able to admit that this is indeed by
Giotto. It is so great that--had its principles been understood--there
was in reality nothing more to be taught of art in Italy; nothing to be
invented afterwards except Dutch effects of light.

That there is "no effect of light" here arrived at, I beg you at once to
observe as a most important lesson. The subject is St. Francis
challenging the Soldan's Magi,--fire-worshippers--to pass with him
through the fire, which is blazing red at his feet. It is so hot that
the two Magi on the other side of the throne shield their faces. But it
is represented simply as a red mass of writhing forms of flame; and
casts no firelight whatever. There is no ruling colour on anybody's
nose; there are no black shadows under anybody's chin; there are no
Rembrandtesque gradations of gloom, or glitterings of sword-hilt and

Is this ignorance, think you, in Giotto, and pure artlessness? He was
now a man in middle life, having passed all his days in painting, and
professedly, and almost contentiously, painting things as he saw them.
Do you suppose he never saw fire cast firelight?--and he the friend of
Dante! who of all poets is the most subtle in his sense of every kind of
effect of light--though he has been thought by the public to know that
of fire only. Again and again, his ghosts wonder that there is no shadow
cast by Dante's body; and is the poet's friend _because_ a painter,
likely, therefore, not to have known that mortal substance casts shadow,
and terrestrial flame, light? Nay, the passage in the _Purgatorio_ where
the shadows from the morning sunshine make the flames redder, reaches
the accuracy of Newtonian science, and does Giotto, think you, all the
while, see nothing of the sort?

The fact was, he saw light so intensely that he never for an instant
thought of painting it. He knew that to paint the sun was as impossible
as to stop it; and he was no trickster, trying to find out ways of
seeming to do what he did not. I can paint a rose,--yes; and I will. I
can't paint a red-hot coal; and I won't try to, nor seem to. This was
just as natural and certain a process of thinking with _him_, as the
honesty of it, and true science, were impossible to the false painters
of the Sixteenth Century.

Nevertheless, what his art can honestly do to make you feel as much as
he wants you to feel, about this fire, he will do; and that studiously.
That the fire be _luminous_ or not, is no matter just now. But that the
fire is _hot_, he would have you to know. Now, will you notice what
colours he has used in the whole picture. First, the blue background,
necessary to unite it with the other three subjects, is reduced to the
smallest possible space. St. Francis must be in grey, for that is his
dress; also the attendant of one of the Magi is in grey; but so warm,
that, if you saw it by itself, you would call it brown. The shadow
behind the throne, which Giotto knows he _can_ paint, and therefore
does, is grey also. The rest of the picture[21] in at least six-sevenths
of its area--is either crimson, gold, orange, purple, or white, all as
warm as Giotto could paint them; and set off by minute spaces only of
intense black,--the Soldan's fillet at the shoulders, his eyes, beard,
and the points necessary in the golden pattern behind. And the whole
picture is one glow.

A single glance round at the other subjects will convince you of the
special character in this; but you will recognize also that the four
upper subjects in which St. Francis's life and zeal are shown, are all
in comparatively warm colours, while the two lower ones--of the death,
and the visions after it--have been kept as definitely sad and cold.

Necessarily, you might think, being full of monks' dresses. Not so. Was
there any need for Giotto to have put the priest at the foot of the dead
body, with the black banner stooped over it in the shape of a grave?
Might he not, had he chosen, in either fresco, have made the celestial
visions brighter? Might not St. Francis have appeared in the centre of a
celestial glory to the dreaming Pope, or his soul been seen of the poor
monk, rising through more radiant clouds? Look, however, how radiant,
in the small space allowed out of the blue, they are in reality. You
cannot anywhere see a lovelier piece of Giottesque colour, though here
you have to mourn over the smallness of the piece, and its isolation.
For the face of St. Francis himself is repainted, and all the blue sky;
but the clouds and four sustaining angels are hardly retouched at all,
and their iridescent and exquisitely graceful wings are left with really
very tender and delicate care by the restorer of the sky. And no one but
Giotto or Turner could have painted them.

For in all his use of opalescent and warm colour, Giotto is exactly like
Turner, as, in his swift expressional power, he is like Gainsborough.
All the other Italian religious painters work out their expression with
toil; he only can give it with a touch. All the other great Italian
colourists see only the beauty of colour, but Giotto also its
brightness. And none of the others, except Tintoret, understood to the
full its symbolic power; but with those--Giotto and Tintoret--there is
always, not only a colour harmony, but a colour secret. It is not merely
to make the picture glow, but to remind you that St. Francis preaches to
a fire-worshipping king, that Giotto covers the wall with purple and
scarlet;--and above, in the dispute at Assisi, the angry father is
dressed in red, varying like passion; and the robe with which his
protector embraces St. Francis, blue, symbolizing the peace of Heaven.
Of course certain conventional colours were traditionally employed by
all painters; but only Giotto and Tintoret invent a symbolism of their
own for every picture. Thus in Tintoret's picture of the fall of the
manna, the figure of God the Father is entirely robed in white, contrary
to all received custom; in that of Moses striking the rock, it is
surrounded by a rainbow. Of Giotto's symbolism in colour at Assisi I
have given account elsewhere.[22]

You are not to think, therefore, the difference between the colour of
the upper and lower frescos unintentional. The life of St. Francis was
always full of joy and triumph. His death, in great suffering,
weariness, and extreme humility. The tradition of him reverses that of
Elijah: living, he is seen in the chariot of fire; dying, he submits to
more than the common sorrow of death.

There is, however, much more than a difference in colour between the
upper and lower frescos. There is a difference in manner which I cannot
account for; and above all, a very singular difference in
skill,--indicating, it seems to me, that the two lower were done long
before the others, and afterwards united and harmonized with them. It is
of no interest to the general reader to pursue this question; but one
point he can notice quickly, that the lower frescos depend much on a
mere black or brown outline of the features, while the faces above are
evenly and completely painted in the most accomplished Venetian
manner:--and another, respecting the management of the draperies,
contains much interest for us.

Giotto never succeeded, to the very end of his days, in representing a
figure lying down, and at ease. It is one of the most curious points in
all his character. Just the thing which he could study from nature
without the smallest hindrance, is the thing he never can paint; while
subtleties of form and gesture, which depend absolutely on their
momentariness, and actions in which no model can stay for an instant he
seizes with infallible accuracy.

Not only has the sleeping Pope, in the right hand lower fresco, his head
laid uncomfortably on his pillow, but all the clothes on him are in
awkward angles, even Giotto's instinct for lines of drapery failing him
altogether when he has to lay it on a reposing figure. But look at the
folds of the Soldan's robe over his knees. None could be more beautiful
or right; and it is to me wholly inconceivable that the two paintings
should be within even twenty years of each other in date--the skill in
the upper one is so supremely greater. We shall find, however, more than
mere truth in its casts of drapery, if we examine them.

They are so simply right, in the figure of the Soldan, that we do not
think of them;--we see him only, not his dress. But we see dress first,
in the figures of the discomfited Magi. Very fully draped personages
these, indeed,--with trains, it appears four yards long, and bearers of

The one nearest the Soldan has done his devoir as bravely as he could;
would fain go up to the fire, but cannot; is forced to shield his face,
though he has not turned back. Giotto gives him full sweeping breadth of
fold; what dignity he can;--a man faithful to his profession, at all

The next one has no such courage. Collapsed altogether, he has nothing
more to say for himself or his creed. Giotto hangs the cloak upon him in
Ghirlandajo's fashion, as from a peg, but with ludicrous narrowness of
fold. Literally, he is a "shut-up" Magus--closed like a fan. He turns
his head away, hopelessly. And the last Magus shows nothing but his
back, disappearing through the door.

Opposed to them, in a modern work, you would have had a St. Francis
standing as high as he could in his sandals, contemptuous, denunciatory;
magnificently showing the Magi the door. No such thing, says Giotto. A
somewhat mean man; disappointing even in presence--even in feature; I do
not understand his gesture, pointing to his forehead--perhaps meaning,
"my life, or my head, upon the truth of this." The attendant monk behind
him is terror-struck; but will follow his master. The dark Moorish
servants of the Magi show no emotion--will arrange their masters' trains
as usual, and decorously sustain their retreat.

Lastly, for the Soldan himself. In a modern work, you would assuredly
have had him staring at St. Francis with his eyebrows up, or frowning
thunderously at the Magi, with them bent as far down as they would go.
Neither of these aspects does he bear according to Giotto. A perfect
gentleman and king, he looks on his Magi with quiet eyes of decision; he
is much the noblest person in the room--though an infidel, the true hero
of the scene, far more so than St. Francis. It is evidently the Soldan
whom Giotto wants you to think of mainly, in this picture of Christian
missionary work.

He does not altogether take the view of the Heathen which you would get
in an Exeter Hall meeting. Does not expatiate on their ignorance, their
blackness, or their nakedness. Does not at all think of the Florentine
Islington and Pentonville, as inhabited by persons in every respect
superior to the Kings of the East; nor does he imagine every other
religion but his own to be log-worship. Probably the people who really
worship logs--whether in Persia or Pentonville--will be left to worship
logs to their hearts' content, thinks Giotto. But to those who worship
_God_, and who have obeyed the laws of heaven written in their hearts,
and numbered the stars of it visible to them,--to these, a nearer star
may rise; and a higher God be revealed.

You are to note, therefore, that Giotto's Soldan is the type of all
noblest religion and law, in countries where the name of Christ has not
been preached. There was no doubt what king or people should be chosen:
the country of the three Magi had already been indicated by the miracle
of Bethlehem; and the religion and morality of Zoroaster were the
purest, and in spirit the oldest, in the heathen world. Therefore, when
Dante in the nineteenth and twentieth books of the Paradise, gives his
final interpretation of the law of human and divine justice in relation
to the gospel of Christ--the lower and enslaved body of the heathen
being represented by St. Philip's convert ("Christians like these the
Ethiop shall condemn")--the noblest state of heathenism is at once
chosen, as by Giotto: "What may the _Persians_ say unto _your_ kings?"
Compare also Milton,--

        "At the Soldan's chair,
  Defied the best of Paynim chivalry."

    _Mornings in Florence_ (Sunnyside, Orpington, Kent, 1875).


[21] The floor has been repainted; but though its grey is now heavy and
cold, it cannot kill the splendour of the rest.

[22] _Fors Clavigera_ for September, 1874.




  "Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
    (The witch he loved before the gift of Eve),
    That, ere the snake's her sweet tongue could deceive,
  And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
  And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
    And, subtly by herself contemplative,
    Draws men to watch the bright net she can weave,
  Till heart and body and life are in its hold.

  "The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
    Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
  And soft-shed kisses and soft-shed sleep shall snare?
    Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
    Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
  And round his heart one strangling golden hair."
                         _Dante Gabriel Rossetti._

It is well-known that the painter of whom I now propose to speak has
never suffered exclusion or acceptance at the hand of any academy. To
such acceptance or such rejection all other men of any note have been
and may be liable. It is not less well known that his work must always
hold its place as second in significance and value to no work done by
any painter of his time. Among the many great works of Mr. D.G.
Rossetti, I know of none greater than his two latest. These are types of
sensual beauty and spiritual, the siren and the sibyl. The one is a
woman of the type of Adam's first wife; she is a living Lilith with
ample splendour of redundant hair;

                       "She excels
  All women in the magic of her locks;
  And when she winds them round a young man's neck
  She will not ever set him free again."

[Illustration: LILITH.

Clothed in soft white garments, she draws out through a comb the heavy
mass of hair like thick spun gold to fullest length; her head leans back
half sleepily, superb and satiate with its own beauty; the eyes are
languid, without love in them or hate; the sweet luxurious mouth has the
patience of pleasure fulfilled and complete, the warm repose of passion
sure of its delight. Outside, as seen in the glimmering mirror, there is
full summer; the deep and glowing leaves have drunk in the whole
strength of the sun. The sleepy splendour of the picture is a fit
raiment for the idea incarnate of faultless fleshly beauty and peril of
pleasure unavoidable. For this serene and sublime sorceress there is no
life but of the body; with spirit (if spirit there be) she can dispense.
Were it worth her while for any word to divide those terrible tender
lips, she too might say with the hero of the most perfect and exquisite
book of modern times--_Mademoiselle de Maupin--"Je trouve la terre aussi
belle que le ciel, et je pense que la correction de la forme est la
vertu."_ Of evil desire or evil impulse she has nothing; and nothing of
good. She is indifferent, equable, magnetic; she charms and draws down
the souls of men by pure force of absorption, in no wise wilful or
malignant; outside herself she cannot live, she cannot even see: and
because of this she attracts and subdues all men at once in body and in
spirit. Beyond the mirror she cares not to look, and could not.

  _"Ma mia suora Rahel mai non si smaga,
  Dal suo miraglio, e siede tutto 'l giorno."_

So, rapt in no spiritual contemplation, she will sit to all time,
passive and perfect: the outer light of a sweet spring day flooding and
filling the massive gold of her hair. By the reflection in a deep mirror
of fervent foliage from without, the chief chord of stronger colour is
touched in this picture; next in brilliance and force of relief is the
heap of curling and tumbling hair on which the sunshine strikes; the
face and head of the siren are withdrawn from the full stroke of the

    _Essays and Studies_ (London, 1875).




Italy, that beautiful enchantress, whose irresistible charms have caused
many of Germany's greatest men to forget their native land, and array
themselves beneath her colours, did not fail to exercise over Dürer, in
the course of the year and more that he spent beyond the Alps, that
subtle influence which elevates the understanding and expands the mind.
He thought, as did Goethe after him, with a sort of shudder, of his
return to cloudy skies, and of the less easy nature of the life which
awaited him at home. But, though he enjoyed himself very much at Venice,
and gave in willingly in many external things to the prevailing taste
there, the essential nature of his art remained untouched by foreign
influences, and he returned to Nuremberg unitalianized, and true to his
original principles. The fame which his works enjoyed in Italy only
encouraged him to continue in the path he had already chosen. Perhaps
the exuberance of life displayed in Venetian painting inspired him, even
under the altered circumstances of his home life, with the determination
to devote all his energies to large easel pictures. To the _Adoration of
the Magi_ in 1504, and the _Feast of the Rosary_ in 1506, succeeded the
_Adam and Eve_ in 1507, the _Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand Saints_ in
1508, the _Assumption of the Virgin_ in 1509, and the All Saints picture
or _Adoration of the Trinity_ of 1511. Dürer was at the height of his
power when he created these masterpieces, small, indeed, in number, but
remarkable for their conception, composition, and entire execution by
his own hand. To complete a large picture to his satisfaction, Dürer
required the same time as Schiller did for a tragedy, viz., a whole

It was in the year 1504 that Dürer finished the first great picture,
which, from its excellent state of preservation, must have been entirely
executed with the greatest care by his own hand, even to the most minute
detail. This picture is the _Adoration of the Magi_, now in the Tribune
of the Uffizi at Florence. Mary sits on the left, looking like the
happiest of German mothers, with the enchantingly naïve Infant on her
knees; the three Wise Men from the East, in magnificent dresses
glittering with gold, approach, deeply moved, and with various emotions
depicted on their countenances, while the whole creation around seems to
share their joyous greeting, even to the flowers and herbs, and to the
great stag-beetle and two white butterflies, which are introduced after
the manner of Wolgemut. The sunny green on copse and mountain throws up
the group better than the conventional nimbus could have done. The
fair-haired Virgin, draped entirely in blue with a white veil, recalls
vividly the same figure in the Paumgärtner altarpiece. Aërial and linear
perspective are still imperfect, but the technical treatment of the
figures is as finished as in Dürer's best pictures of the later period.
The outlines are sharp, the colours very liquid, laid on without
doubt in tempera, and covered with oil glazes; the whole tone
exceedingly fresh, clear, and brilliant. If it was Barbari's fine work
which incited Dürer to this delicate and careful method of execution, he
has certainly far surpassed the Venetian, not only in form and ideas,
but also in the solidity of his technique. This technique is undoubtedly
of Northern origin, as is also the harmony of colour, which Dürer here
realizes, and does not soon again abandon. It must not be forgotten,
however, that the difference between this technique and that practised
by Giovanni Bellini is one of degree and not of principle; judging at
least by the unfinished painting of Giovanni's in the Uffizi, in which
the design is sketched either with the pencil or brush, and the colours
then laid on in tempera, and afterwards repeatedly covered with oil
glazes. Dürer appears to have owed the opportunity of producing this his
first masterpiece in painting to a commission from the Elector Frederick
of Saxony. Christian II. presented it to the Emperor Rudolph II. in
1603, and in the last century it was sent from the imperial gallery, in
exchange for the _Presentation in the Temple_, by Fra Bartolomeo, to
Florence, where it now shines as a gem of German art amongst the
renowned pictures in the Tribune of the Uffizi.


    _The Life and Works of Albert Dürer_, translated from the German
    and edited by Fred. A. Eaton (London, 1882).




Nevertheless, if the main circumstances of the painter's career should
still remain unaltered, there must always be a side of his work which
will continue to need interpretation. In addition to painting the faults
and follies of his time, he was pre-eminently the pictorial chronicler
of its fashions and its furniture. The follies endure; but the fashions
pass away. In our day--a day which has witnessed the demolition of
Northumberland House, the disappearance of Temple Bar, and the removal
of we know not what other time-honoured and venerated landmarks--much in
Hogarth's plates must seem as obscure as the cartouches on Cleopatra's
Needle. Much more is speedily becoming so; and without some guidance the
student will scarcely venture into that dark and doubtful rookery of
tortuous streets and unnumbered houses--the London of the Eighteenth

[Illustration: MARRIAGE A-LA-MODE.

Were it not beyond the reasonable compass of a methodical memoir, it
would be a pleasant task to loiter for a while in that vanished London
of Hogarth, of Fielding, of Garrick;--that London of Rocque's famous map
of 1746, when "cits" had their country-boxes and "gazebos" at Islington
and Hackney, and fine gentlemen their villas at _Marybone_ and
_Chelsey_; when duels were fought in the "fields" behind the British
Museum, and there was a windmill at the bottom of Rathbone Place. We
should find the Thames swarming with noisy watermen, and the streets
with thick-calved Irish chairmen; we should see the old dusky oil-lamps
lighted feebly with the oil that dribbled on the Rake when he went to
Court; and the great creaking sign-boards that obscured the sky, and
occasionally toppled on the heads of his Majesty's lieges beneath. We
should note the sluggish kennels and the ill-paved streets; and rejoice
in the additional facilities afforded for foot-passengers at the "new
Buildings near _Hanover_ Square." We might watch King George II. yawning
in his Chapel Royal of St. James's, or follow Queen Caroline of Anspach
in her walk on Constitution Hill. Or we might turn into the Mall, which
is filled on summer evenings with a _Beau-Monde_ of cinnamon-coloured
coats and pink _négligés_. But the tour of Covent Garden (with its
column and dial in the centre) would take at least a chapter, and the
pilgrimage of Leicester Fields another. We should certainly assist at
the Lord Mayor's Show; and we might, like better folks before us, be
hopelessly engulfed in that westward-faring crowd, which, after due
warning from the belfry of St. Sepulchre's, swept down the old Tyburn
Road on "Execution Day" to see the last of Laurence Shirley, Earl
Ferrers, or the highwayman James M'Lean. It is well, perhaps, that our
limits are definitely restricted.

Moreover, much that we could do imperfectly with the pen, Hogarth has
done imperishably with the graver. Essentially metropolitan in his
tastes, there is little notable in the London of his day of which he has
not left us some pictorial idea. He has painted the Green Park, the
Mall, and Rosamond's Pond. He has shown us Covent Garden and St. James's
Street; Cheapside and Charing Cross; Tottenham-Court Road and Hog-Lane,
St. Giles. He has shown us Bridewell, Bedlam, and the Fleet Prison.
Through a window in one print we see the houses on old London Bridge; in
another it is Temple Bar, surmounted by the blackened and ghastly relics
of Jacobite traitors. He takes us to a cock-fight in Bird Cage Walk, to
a dissection in Surgeons' Hall. He gives us reception-rooms in Arlington
Street, counting-houses in St. Mary Axe, sky-parlours in Porridge
Island, and night-cellars in Blood-Bowl Alley. He reproduces the
decorations of the Rose Tavern or of the Turk's Head Bagnio as
scrupulously as the monsters at Dr. Misaubin's museum in St. Martin's
Lane, or the cobweb over the poor-box in Mary-le-bone Old Church. The
pictures on the walls, the Chinese nondescripts on the shelves, the
tables and chairs, the pipes and punch-bowls, nay, the very tobacco and
snuff, have all their distinctive physiognomy and prototypes. He gives
us, unromanced and unidealized, "the form and pressure," the absolute
details and accessories, the actual _mise-en-scène_, of the time in
which he lived.[23]

But he has done much more than this. He has peopled his canvas with its
_dramatis personæ_,--with vivid portraits of the more strongly-marked
actors in that cynical and sensual, brave and boastful, corrupt and
patriotic age. Not, be it understood, with its Wolfes and Johnsons,--he
was a humourist and a satirist, and goodness was no game for his
pencil,--rather with its Lovats and Chartres, its Sarah Malcolms and its
Shebbeares. He was a moralist after the manner of eighteenth-century
morality, not savage like Swift, not ironical like Fielding, not
tender-hearted at times like Johnson and Goldsmith; but unrelenting,
uncompromising, uncompassionate. He drew vice and its consequences in a
thoroughly literal and business-like way, neither sparing nor
extenuating its details, wholly insensible to its seductions, incapable
of flattering it even for a moment, preoccupied simply with catching its
precise contortion of pleasure or of pain. In all his delineations, as
in that famous design of Prud'hon's, we see Justice and Vengeance
following hard upon the criminal....

A hint of the new series had already been given in the _Battle of the
Pictures_, where the second scene, still inoffensively reposing upon the
easel, is wantonly assaulted by a copy of the _Aldobrandini Marriage_.
In April following the set of engravings was issued, the subscription
ticket being the etching of heads known as _Characters and Caricaturas_.
Plates I. and VI. were engraved by Scotin, Plates II. and III. by Baron,
and Plates IV. and V. by Ravenet. Exactly two years earlier, Hogarth had
heralded them by the following notification in the _London Daily Post,
and General Advertiser_ of April 2nd, 1743:

"Mr. HOGARTH intends to publish by Subscription, SIX PRINTS from
Copper-Plates, engrav'd by the best Masters in Paris, after his own
Paintings; representing a Variety of _Modern Occurrences in High-Life_,
and called MARRIAGE A-LA-MODE. Particular Care will be taken, that there
may not be the least Objection to the Decency or Elegancy of the whole
Work, and that none of the Characters represented shall be personal."
Then follow the terms of subscription. The last quoted lines are
probably a bark at some forgotten detraction, and if not actually
ironical, doubtless about as sincere as Fielding's promise, in the
Prologue to his first comedy, not to offend the ladies. Those who had
found inelegancy and indecency in the previous productions of the
painter, would still discover the same defects in the masterpiece he now
submitted to the public. And although it may be said that the
"characters" represented are not "personal" in a satirical sense, his
precautions, as he himself tells us, "did not prevent a likeness being
found for each head, for a general character will always bear some
resemblance to a particular one."

But what, no doubt, interested his critical contemporaries even more
than these preliminary protestations, was the painter's promise to
represent, in his new work, "a variety of modern occurrences in
high-life." Here, it may be admitted, was a proposition which certainly
savoured of temerity. What could one whose pencil had scarcely travelled
beyond the limits of St. Giles's, know of the inner secrets of St.
James's? A Hervey or a Beauclerk, or even a Fielding, might have
sufficed; but a Hogarth of Leicester Fields, whose only pretence to
distinction (as High Life conceives it) was that he had run away with
Thornhill's handsome daughter,--what special title had he to depict that
charmed region of cards and folly, ringed with its long-resounding
knockers, and flambeau-carrying footmen! This was, however, to reckon
without genius, which over-leaps loftier barriers than these. It is true
that the English Novel of Manners, which has since stimulated so many
artists, had only just made its appearance; and _Pamela_ and _Joseph
Andrews_ but falteringly foreshadowed _Clarissa_ and _Tom Jones_. Yet
there is nothing in the story of _Marriage A-la-Mode_ which was beyond
the powers of a _spectator ab extra_, always provided he were fairly
acquainted with the Modelys and Wildairs of the stage, and the satires
of Johnson and Pope. The plot, like that of all masterpieces, is
extremely simple. An impoverished nobleman who marries his son to a rich
citizen's daughter; a husband who, pursuing his own equivocal pleasures,
resigns his wife to the temptations of opportunity; a foregone sequel
and a tragic issue:--this material is of the oldest, and could make but
slender claim to originality. Submitted to Colman or Garrick as the
_scenario_ of a play for Yates and Mrs. Woffington, it would probably
have been rejected as pitifully threadbare. Yet combined and developed
under the brush of Hogarth, set in an atmosphere that makes it as vivid
as nature itself, decorated with surprising fidelity, and enlivened by
all the resources of the keenest humour, it passes out of the line of
mere transcripts of life, and, retaining the merits of the specific and
particular, becomes a representative and typical work, as articulate
to-day, as direct and unhesitating in its teaching, as it was when it
was first offered to the world.

How well-preserved, even now, these wonderful pictures are! It would
almost seem as if Time, unreasoning in his anger, had determined to
ignore in every way the audacious artist who treated him with such
persistent indignity. Look at them in the National Gallery. Look, too,
at the cracks and fissures in the Wilkies, the soiled rainbows of
Turner,--the bituminous riding-habit of Lady Douro in Sir Edwin's _Story
of Waterloo_. But these paintings of William Hogarth are well-nigh as
fresh to-day as when, new from the easel, they found their fortunate
purchaser in Mr. Lane of Hillingdon. They are not worked like a Denner,
it is true, and the artist is often less solicitous about his method
than about the result of it; yet they are soundly, straight-forwardly,
and skilfully executed. Lady Bingley's red hair, Carestini's nostril,
are shown in the simplest and directest manner. Everywhere the desired
effect is exactly produced, and without effort. Take, as an
illustration, the inkstand in the first scene, with its bell and
sand-caster. In these days it would be a patient _trompe-l'oeil_,
probably better done than the figures using it. Here it is merely
indicated, not elaborated; it holds its exact place as a piece of
furniture, and nothing more. And at this point it may be observed that
if in the ensuing descriptions we should speak of colour, the reader
will remember we are describing, not the performances of Messrs. Ravenet
and the rest, but Hogarth's original pictures at Trafalgar Square. It is
the more necessary to bear this in mind, because, besides being
reversed, the paintings frequently differ in detail from the engravings.

The first of the series represents the signing of the marriage
contract. The scene, as the artist is careful to signify by the
ostentatious coronets on the furniture and accessories (they are to be
discerned even on the crutches), is laid in the house of an earl, who,
with his gouty foot swathed in flannels, seems with a superb--if
somewhat stiff-jointed--dignity to be addressing certain pompous
observations respecting himself and his pedigree (dating from William
the Conqueror) to a sober-looking personage opposite, who,
horn-spectacles on nose, is peering at the endorsement of the "Marriage
Settlem^t of the R^t Hon^ble. Lord Vincent [Squanderfield]."[24] This
second figure, which is that of a London merchant, with its turned-in
toes, the point of the sword-sheath between the legs, and the awkward
constraint of its attitude, forms an admirable contrast to the other. A
massive gold chain denotes the wearer to be an alderman. Between the two
is a third person, perhaps the merchant's confidential clerk or cashier,
who holds out a "Mortgage" to the Earl. Gold and notes lie upon the
table, where are also an inkstand, sealing-wax, and a lighted candle in
which a "thief" is conspicuous. At the back of this trio is the
betrothed couple--the earl's son and the alderman's daughter. It is, in
fact, an alliance of _sacs et parchemins_, in which the young people are
involved rather than interested. The lady, who looks young and pretty in
her bridal-dress, wears a mingled expression of _mauvaise honte_ and
distaste for her position, and trifles with the ring, which she has
strung upon her handkerchief, while a brisk and well-built young lawyer,
who trims a pen, bends towards her with a whispered compliment. Meantime
the Viscount--a frail, effeminate-looking figure, holding an open
snuff-box, from which he affectedly lifts a pinch--turns from his
_fiancée_ with a smirk of complacent foppery towards a pier-glass at his
side. His wide-cuffed coat is light blue, his vest is loaded with
embroidery. He wears an enormous _solitaire_, and has high red heels to
his shoes. Before him, in happy parody of the ill-matched pair, are two
dogs in coupling-links:--the bitch sits up, alert and curious, her
companion is lying down. The only other figure is that of an old lawyer,
who, with a plan in his hand, and a gesture of contempt or wonder, looks
through an open window at an ill-designed and partly-erected building,
in front of which several idle servants are lounging or sitting. Like
Pope's "Visto," the Earl has "a taste," and his taste, interrupted for
the moment by lack of funds, is the ruinous one of bricks and mortar.

The pictures on the wall exemplify and satirize the fashion of the time.
The largest is a portrait in the French style of one of the earl's
ancestors, who traverses the canvas triumphantly. A cannon explodes
below him, a comet is seen above; and in his right hand, notwithstanding
his cuirass and voluminous Queen-Anne peruke, he brandishes the
thunderbolt of Jupiter. _Judith and Holofernes_, _St. Sebastian_, _The
Murder of Abel_, _David and Goliath_, _The Martyrdom of St. Laurence_,
are some of the rest, all of which, it is perhaps needless to note,
belong to those "dismal dark subjects, neither entertaining nor
ornamental," against which we have already heard the painter inveigh.
Upon the ceiling, with a nice sense of decorative fitness, is _Pharaoh
in the Red Sea_. From a sconce at the side, a Gorgon surveys the
proceedings with astonishment. Hogarth has used a similar idea in the
_Strolling Actresses_, where the same mask seems horrified at the airy
freedom of the lightly-clad lady who there enacts the part of Diana.

In the picture of the _Contract_, the young people and "Counsellor
Silvertongue," as he has been christened by the artist, are placed in
close proximity. These are the real actors in the drama. Building
_immemor sepulcri_, the old earl had but few years to live. Henceforth
he is seen no more; and the alderman reappears only at the end of the

We have only dealt briefly with these concluding pictures, the
decorations and accessories of which are to the full as minute and
effective as those of the one that precede them. The furniture of the
bagnio, with its portrait of Moll Flanders humorously continued by the
sturdy legs of a Jewish soldier in the tapestry _Judgment of Solomon_
behind, the half-burned candle flaring in the draught of the open door
and window, the reflection of the lantern on the ceiling and the shadow
of the tongs on the floor, the horror-stricken look on the mask of the
lady and the satanic grin on that of her paramour, all deserve notice.
So do the gross Dutch pictures in the alderman's house, the sordid
pewter plates and the sumptuous silver goblet, the stained table-cloth,
the egg in rice, and the pig's head which the half-starved and ravenous
dog is stealing. There is no defect of invention, no superfluity of
detail, no purposeless stroke in this "owre true tale." From first to
last it progresses steadily to its catastrophe by a forward march of
skilfully linked and fully developed incidents. It is like a novel of
Fielding on canvas; and it seems inconceivable that, with this
magnificent work _en évidence_, the critics of that age should have been
contented to re-echo the opinion of Walpole that "as a painter Hogarth
had but slender merit," and to cackle the foot-rule criticisms of the
Rev. William Gilpin as to his ignorance of composition. But so it was.
Not until that exhibition of his works at the British Institution in
1814, was it thoroughly understood how excellent and individual both as
a designer and a colourist was this native artist, whom
"Picture-dealers, Picture-cleaners, Picture-frame-makers, and other
Connoisseurs"--to use his own graphically ironical words--had been
allowed to rank below the third-rate copyists of third-rate foreigners.

Beyond the remark that the "jaded morning countenance" of the Viscount
in Scene II. "lectures on the vanity of pleasure as audibly as anything
in Ecclesiastics," Lamb's incomparable essay in _The Reflector_ makes no
material reference to _Marriage A-la-Mode_. His comments, besides, are
confined to the engravings. But Hazlitt, who saw the pictures in the
above-mentioned exhibition in 1814, devotes much of his criticism to the
tragedy of the Squanderfields, chiefly, it would seem, because Lamb had
left the subject untouched. Hazlitt's own studies as an artist, his keen
insight and his quick enthusiasm, made him a memorable critic of
Hogarth, whose general characteristics he defines with admirable
exactitude. Much quotation has made his description of the young Lord
and Counsellor Silvertongue sufficiently familiar. But he is equally
good in his vignette of the younger woman in the episode at the Quack
Doctor's, a creation which he rightly regards as one of Hogarth's most
successful efforts. "Nothing," he says, "can be more striking than the
contrast between the extreme softness of her person and the hardened
indifference of her character. The vacant stillness, the docility to
vice, the premature suppression of youthful sensibility, the doll-like
mechanism of the whole figure, which seems to have no other feeling but
a sickly sense of pain--show the deepest insight into human nature, and
into the effects of those refinements in depravity, by which it has been
good-naturedly asserted that 'vice loses half its evil in losing all its
grossness.'" In the death of the Countess, again, he speaks thus of two
of the subordinate characters:--"We would particularly refer to the
captious, petulant self-sufficiency of the apothecary, whose face and
figure are constructed on exact physiognomical principles, and to the
fine example of passive obedience, and non-resistance in the servant,
whom he is taking to task, and whose coat of green and yellow livery is
as long and melancholy as his face. The disconsolate look, the haggard
eyes, the open mouth, the comb sticking in the hair, the broken gapped
teeth, which, as it were, hitch in an answer--everything about him
denotes the utmost perplexity and dismay." Some other of Hazlitt's
comments are more fanciful, as, for example, when he compares Lady
Squanderfield's curl papers (in the "Toilet Scene") to a "wreath of
half-blown flowers," and those of the macaroni-amateur to "a
_chevaux-de-frise_ of horns, which adorn and fortify the lack-lustre
expression and mild resignation of the face beneath." With his
condemnation of the attitude of the husband, in the scene at the "Turk's
Head Bagnio," as "one in which it would be impossible for him to stand,
or even fall," it is difficult to coincide; and it is an illustration of
the contradictions of criticism that this very figure should have been
selected for especial praise, with particular reference to the charges
made against the painter of defective drawing, by another critic who was
not only as keenly sympathetic as Hazlitt, but was probably a better
anatomist--the author of _Rab and his Friends_.

To Hazlitt's general estimate of Hogarth we shall not now refer. But his
comparison of Hogarth and Wilkie may fairly be summarized in this place,
because it contains so much excellent discrimination of the former.
Wilkie, Hazlitt contends, is a simple realist; Hogarth is a comic
painter. While one is a "serious, prosaic, literal narrator of facts,"
the other is a moral satirist, "exposing vice and folly in their most
ludicrous points of view, and, with a profound insight into the weak
sides of character and manners in all their tendencies, combinations,
and contrasts.... He is carried away by a passion for the _ridiculous_.
His object is not so much 'to hold the mirror up to nature' as 'to show
vice her own feature, scorn her own image.' He is so far from contenting
himself with still-life that he is always on the verge of caricature,
though without ever falling into it. He does not represent folly or vice
in its incipient, or dormant, or _grub_ state; but full-grown, with
wings, pampered into all sorts of affectation, airy, ostentatious, and
extravagant.... There is a perpetual collision of eccentricities--a tilt
and tournament of absurdities; the prejudices and caprices of mankind
are let loose, and set together by the ears, as in a bear-garden.
Hogarth paints nothing but comedy or tragi-comedy. Wilkie paints neither
one nor the other. Hogarth never looks at any object but to find out a
moral or a ludicrous effect. Wilkie never looks at any object but to see
that it is there.... In looking at Hogarth, you are ready to burst your
sides with laughing at the unaccountable jumble of odd things which are
brought together; you look at Wilkie's pictures with a mingled feeling
of curiosity and admiration at the accuracy of the representation." The
distinction thus drawn is, in the main, a just one. Yet, at certain
points, Wilkie comes nearer to Hogarth than any other English artist;
and that elegant amateur, Sir George Howland Beaumont, reasoned rightly
when he judged the painter of _The Village Politicians_ to be, in his
day, the only fit recipient of Hogarth's mahl-stick.

To return to _Marriage A-la-Mode_. Notwithstanding that the pictures
were, as stated at the beginning of this chapter, announced for sale in
1745, it was five years before they actually found a purchaser,
although, in the interval, they seem to have been freely exhibited both
at the "Golden Head" and at Cock's Auction Rooms. In 1750, however, they
were at last disposed of by another of those unfortunate schemes devised
by Hogarth for disposing of his works. The bidding, said the
announcement in the _Daily Advertiser_, was to be by written notes; no
dealers in pictures were to be admitted as bidders; and the highest
bidder at noon on the 6th June was to be the purchaser.

Whether this mode of sale, coupled with the characteristic manner of its
notification, "disobliged the Town" or not, it is impossible to say; but
it is certain that when Mr. Lane, "of Hillingdon, near Uxbridge," who
was to become the lucky proprietor of the pictures, arrived on the date
appointed at the "Golden Head," he found he was the only bidder who had
put in an appearance.[25] In fact, there was no one in the room but the
painter himself and his friend Dr. Parsons, Secretary to the Royal
Society. The highest written offer having been declared to be £120, Mr.
Lane, shortly before twelve, said he would "make the pounds guineas,"
but subsequently much to his credit, offered the artist a delay of some
hours to find a better purchaser. An hour passed, and as, up to that
time, no one had appeared, Hogarth, much mortified, surrendered the
pictures to Mr. Lane, who thus became the owner of the artist's best
work, and the finest pictorial satire of the century, for the modest sum
of £126, which included Carlo Marratti frames that had cost Hogarth four
guineas a-piece. Mr. Lane, who readily promised not to sell or clean the
pictures without the knowledge of the painter, left them at his death
to his nephew, Colonel J.F. Cawthorne, by whom they were put up to
auction in March, 1792, but were bought in again for 910 guineas. In
1797 they were sold at Christie's for £1,381 to Mr. John Julius
Angerstein, with the rest of whose collection they were acquired in 1824
for the National Gallery.

    _William Hogarth_ (New York and London, 1891).


[23] "It was reserved to Hogarth to write a scene of furniture. The
rake's levee-room, the nobleman's dining-room, the apartments of the
husband and wife in _Marriage A-la-Mode_, the alderman's parlour, the
poet's bed-chamber, and many others, are the history of the manners of
the age." So says Horace Walpole (_Anecdotes_, etc., 1771, p. 74), and
in this, at least, he was an unimpeachable authority.

[24] The name is added in the print.

[25] Not the "sole bidder," as Allan Cunningham and others have
inferred. If this were so, in "making the pounds guineas," Mr. Lane
would be bidding against himself, a thing which occasionally occurs at
auctions, but is not recommended. We have failed to find any other
account of this transaction than that supplied to Nichols for his second
edition of 1782, pp. 225-7, by Mr. Lane himself, which is summarized
above. Cunningham seems to have derived his information from the same
source; but he strangely transforms it. We can but surmise that he
followed Ireland's transcript, in which the highest bid is given as
£110, instead of £120--a rather unfortunate mistake, for it appears to
have misled a good many people.




The engraving has popularized the _Vierge aux Rochers_,[26] that
composition that exhales the strange and mysterious grace of the master.
In a strange spot, a kind of grotto bristling with stalactites and
sharply pointed rocks, the holy Virgin presents the little Saint John to
the Infant Jesus, who blesses him with uplifted finger. An angel with a
proud and charming face,--a celestial hermaphrodite having something of
the young maiden and the youth but superior to either in his ideal
beauty,--accompanies and supports the little Jesus like a page of the
great household who watches over the child of the king with mingled
respect and protection. Hair of a thousand crisp curls frames that face
so aristocratic and distinguished. Certainly this angel occupies a
very high rank in the hierarchy of the sky; he should, at least, possess
a throne, a dominion, or a principality. The Infant Jesus draws himself
up in a pose that shows great knowledge of foreshortening, and is a
marvel of roundness and fine modelling. The Virgin is of that charming
Lombard type in which under chaste innocence appears that malicious
playfulness which da Vinci excels in rendering. The colour of this
majestic picture has blackened, particularly in the shadows, but it has
lost nothing of its harmony, and perhaps it is more ideally poetic than
if it had kept its original freshness and the natural tones of life.
Doubts have been raised regarding this picture. Some critics have wished
to see here merely a composition by Leonardo executed by a strange hand,
or even simply the copy of another canvas painted for the chapel of the
Conception of the church of the Franciscans in Milan. But none other
than Leonardo could have drawn such firm and pure contours or carried
this model through those learned grades that give to the body the
roundness of sculpture with all the softness of skin, or rendered his
favourite types so superbly and delicately....

        _L. da Vinci._]

_The Madonna of the Rocks_, the engraving of which is so well known,
belongs to and may be considered the type of Leonardo's second manner.
The modelling is pursued with a care not found in those painters who are
not familiar with the engraving chisel. The roundness of the bodies
obtained by gradation of tints, the exactness of the shadows and the
parsimonious reserve in the light in this unparalleled picture betray
the habits of a sculptor. We know that Leonardo was one, and he often
said: "It is only in modelling that the painter can find the science of
shadow." For a long time earthen figures which he made use of in his
work were preserved.

The appearance of the _Madonna of the Rocks_ is singular, mysterious,
and charming. A kind of basaltic grotto shelters the divine group placed
on the bank of a spring which shows the stones of its bed through its
limpid waters. Through the arched grotto we see a rocky landscape dotted
with slender trees and traversed by a stream, on the banks of which is a
village; the colour of all this is as indefinable as those chimerical
countries that we pass through in dreams and is marvellously appropriate
to set off the figures.

What an adorable type is the Madonna! It is quite peculiar to Leonardo,
and does not in the least recall the virgins of Perugino nor those of
Raphael: the upper part of the head is spherical, the forehead well
developed; the oval of the cheeks sweeps down to a delicately curved
chin; the eyes with lowered lids are circled with shadow; the nose,
although fine, is not in a straight line with the forehead, like those
of the Greek statues; the nostrils seem to quiver as if palpitating with
respiration. The mouth, rather large, has that vague, enigmatical and
delicious smile which da Vinci gives to all the faces of his women;
faint malice mingles there with the expression of purity and kindness.
The hair, long, fine, and silky, falls in waving locks upon cheeks
bathed in shadows and half-tints, framing them with incomparable grace.

It is Lombard beauty idealized with an admirable execution whose only
fault is perhaps too absolute a perfection.

And what hands! especially the one stretched out with the fingers
foreshortened. M. Ingres alone has succeeded in repeating this _tour de
force_ in his figure of _La Musique couronnant Cherubini_. The
arrangement of the draperies is of that exquisite and precious taste
that characterizes da Vinci. An agrafe in the form of a medallion
fastens on the breast the ends of a mantle lifted up by the arms which
thus produce folds full of nobility and elegance.

The angel who is pointing out the Infant Jesus to the little Saint John
has the sweetest, the finest, and the proudest head that brush ever
fixed upon canvas. He belongs, if we may so express it, to the highest
celestial aristocracy. One might say he was a page of high birth
accustomed to place his foot on the steps of a throne.

Hair in waves and ringlets abounds upon his head, so pure and delicate
in design that it surpasses feminine beauty and gives the idea of a type
superior to all that man can dream of; his eyes are not turned towards
the group that he is pointing at, for he has no need to look in order to
see, and even if he did not have wings on his shoulders, we should not
be deceived regarding his nature. A divine indifference is depicted upon
his charming face, and almost a smile lurks in the corners of his lips.
He accomplishes the commission given him by the Eternal with an
impassible serenity.

Assuredly no virgin, no woman, ever had a more beautiful face; but the
most manly spirit and the most dominating intelligence shine in those
dark eyes, fixed vaguely upon the spectator who seeks to penetrate their

We know how difficult it is to paint children. The scarcely settled
forms of the earliest age lend themselves awkwardly to art expression.
In the little Saint John of the _Madonna of the Rocks_, Leonardo da
Vinci has solved this problem with his accustomed superiority. The
drawn-up position of the child, who presents several portions of his
body foreshortened, is full of grace, a grace sought-for and rare, like
everything else that the sublime artist ever did, but natural,
nevertheless. It is impossible to find anything more finely modelled
than this head with its chubby dimpled cheeks, than those plump little
round arms, than the body crossed with rolls of fat, and those legs half
folded in the sod. The shadow advances towards the light by gradations
of infinite delicacy and gives an extraordinary relief to the figure.

Half enveloped in transparent gauze, the divine _Bambino_ kneels,
joining his hands as if he were already conscious of his mission and
understood the gesture which the little Saint John repeats after the

With regard to the colour, if in becoming smoked it has lost its proper
value, it has retained a harmony preferred by delicate minds for the
freshness and brilliancy of its shadows. The tones have deadened in such
perfect sympathy that the result is a kind of neutral, abstract, ideal,
and mysterious tint which clothes the forms like a celestial veil and
sets them apart from terrestrial realities.

    _Guide de l'Amateur au Musée du Louvre_ (Paris, 1882).


[26] The National Gallery and the Louvre each claims that it possesses
the original of this celebrated picture and that its rival is a replica.
The former was purchased in Milan, in 1796 by Gavin Hamilton, who sold
it to Lord Suffolk, in whose collection at Charlton Park it was long an
ornament. It was purchased from him in 1880 for £9,000. The Louvre
picture is first mentioned as belonging to Francis I. Designs for it are
in Turin and Windsor, and in these the outstretched hand of the angel
appears. This does not occur in the London _Madonna of the Rocks_, which
differs in several details; for example, there are halos above the heads
of the figures and John the Baptist carries a cross.--E.S.




On my arrival at Rome I found that the story of the Cenci was a subject
not to be mentioned in Italian society without awakening a deep and
breathless interest: and that the feelings of the company never failed
to incline to a romantic pity for the wrongs, and a passionate
exculpation of the horrible deed to which they urged her who has been
mingled two centuries with the common dust. All ranks of people knew the
outlines of this history, and participated in the overwhelming interest
which it seems to have the magic of exciting in the human heart. I had a
copy of Guido's picture of Beatrice, which is preserved in the Colonna
Palace, and my servant instantly recognized it as the portrait of _La

The portrait of Beatrice at the Colonna Palace is most admirable as a
work of art: it was taken by Guido during her confinement in prison. But
it is most interesting as a just representation of one of the loveliest
specimens of the workmanship of Nature. There is a fixed and pale
composure upon the features; she seems sad and stricken-down in spirit,
yet the despair thus expressed is lightened by the patience of
gentleness. Her head is bound with folds of white drapery, from which
the yellow strings of her golden hair escape, and fall about her neck.
The moulding of her face is exquisitely delicate; the eyebrows are
distinct and arched; the lips have that permanent meaning of imagination
and sensibility which suffering has not repressed, and which it seems as
if death scarcely could extinguish. Her forehead is large and clear; her
eyes, which we are told were remarkable for their vivacity, are swollen
with weeping, and lustreless, but beautifully tender and serene. In the
whole mien there is a simplicity and dignity which, united with her
exquisite loveliness and deep sorrow, are inexpressibly pathetic.
Beatrice Cenci appears to have been one of those rare persons in whom
energy and gentleness dwell together without destroying one another: her
nature was simple and profound. The crimes and miseries in which she was
an actor and a sufferer are as the mask and mantle in which
circumstances clothed her for her impersonation on the scene of the

The Cenci Palace is of great extent; and, though in part modernized,
there yet remains a vast and gloomy pile of feudal architecture in the
same state as during the dreadful scenes which are the subject of this
tragedy. The palace is situated in an obscure corner of Rome, near the
quarter of the Jews; and from the upper windows you see the immense
ruins of Mount Palatine, half hidden under their profuse overgrowth of
trees. There is a court in one part of the palace (perhaps that in which
Cenci built the chapel to St. Thomas) supported by granite columns, and
adorned with antique friezes of fine workmanship, and built up,
according to the ancient Italian fashion, with balcony over balcony
of open work. One of the gateways of the palace, formed of immense
stones, and leading through a passage dark and lofty, and opening into
gloomy subterranean chambers, struck me particularly....

        _Guido Reni._]

The most wicked life which the Roman nobleman, Francesco Cenci, led in
this world not only occasioned his own ruin and death, but also that of
many others and brought down the destruction of his house. Concerning
his religion, it is sufficient to state that he never frequented any
church; and, although he caused a small chapel, dedicated to the Apostle
St. Thomas, to be built in the court of his palace, his intention in so
doing was to bury there all his children, whom he cruelly hated. He
cursed [his sons] and often also struck and ill-treated his daughters.
The eldest of these, being unable any longer to support the cruelty of
her father, exposed her miserable condition to the Pope and supplicated
him either to marry her according to his choice, or shut her up in a
monastery, that by any means she might be liberated from the cruel
oppression of her parent. Her prayer was heard, and the Pope, in pity to
her unhappiness, bestowed her in marriage to Signore Carlo Gabrielli,
one of the first gentlemen of the city of Gubbio, and obliged Francesco
to give her a fitting dowry of some thousand crowns.

Francesco, fearing that his youngest daughter would, when she grew up,
follow the example of her sister, bethought himself how to hinder this
design, and for that purpose shut her up alone in an apartment of the
palace, where he himself brought her food, so that no one might approach
her; and imprisoned her in this manner for several months, often
inflicting on her blows with a stick.

In the meantime ensued the death of his two sons, Rocco and
Cristoforo--one being assassinated by a surgeon, and the other by Paolo
Corso, while he was attending mass. The inhuman father showed every sign
of joy on hearing this news; saying that nothing would exceed his
pleasure if all his children died, and that, when the grave should
receive the last, he would, as a demonstration of joy, make a bonfire of
all that he possessed. And on the present occasion, as a further sign of
his hatred, he refused to pay the slightest sum towards the funeral
expenses of his murdered sons....

Beatrice, finding it impossible to continue to live in so miserable a
manner, followed the example of her sister; she sent a well-written
supplication to the Pope, imploring him to exercise his authority in
withdrawing her from the violence and cruelty of her father. But this
petition, which might, if listened to, have saved the unfortunate girl
from an early death, produced not the least effect.

Francesco, having discovered this attempt on the part of his daughter,
became more enraged, and redoubled his tyranny; confining with vigour
not only Beatrice, but also his wife. At length, these unhappy women,
finding themselves without hope of relief, driven to desperation,
resolved to plan his death.... Beatrice communicated the design to her
eldest brother, Giacomo, without whose concurrence it was impossible
that they should succeed. This latter was easily drawn into consent,
since he was utterly disgusted with his father, who ill-treated him, and
refused to allow him a sufficient support for his wife and children....
Giacomo, with the understanding of his sister and mother-in-law, held
various consultations and finally resolved to commit the murder of
Francesco to two of his vassals, who had become his inveterate enemies;
one called Marzio, and the other Olimpio: the latter, by means of
Francesco, had been deprived of his post as castellan of the Rock of
Petrella.... He [Francesco] received an honourable burial; and his
family returned to Rome to enjoy the fruits of their crime. They passed
some time there in tranquillity. But Divine Justice, which would not
allow so atrocious a wickedness to remain hid and unpunished, so ordered
it that the Court of Naples, to which the account of the death of Cenci
was forwarded, began to entertain doubts concerning the mode by which he
came by it, and sent a commissary to examine the body and to take

The Pope, after having seen all the examinations and the entire
confessions, ordered that the delinquents should be drawn through the
streets at the tails of horses and afterward decapitated.

Many cardinals and priests interested themselves, and entreated that at
least they might be allowed to draw up their defence. The Pope at first
refused to comply, replying with severity, and asking these intercessors
what defence had been allowed to Francesco when he had been so
barbarously murdered in his sleep....

The sentence was executed the morning of Saturday the 11th of May. The
messengers charged with the communication of the sentence, and the
Brothers of the Consorteria, were sent to the several prisons at five
the preceding night; and at six the sentence of death was communicated
to the unhappy brothers while they were placidly sleeping. Beatrice, on
hearing it broke into a piercing lamentation, and into passionate
gesture, exclaiming, "How is it possible, O my God, that I must so
suddenly die?" Lucretia, as prepared and already resigned to her fate,
listened without terror to the reading of this terrible sentence, and
with gentle exhortations induced her daughter-in-law to enter the chapel
with her; and the latter, whatever excess she might have indulged in on
the first intimation of a speedy death, so much the more now
courageously supported herself, and gave every one certain proofs of a
humble resignation. Having requested that a notary might be allowed to
come to her, and her request being granted, she made her will, in which
she left 15,000 crowns to the Fraternity of the Sacre Stimmate, and
willed that all her dowry should be employed in portioning for marriage
fifty maidens; and Lucretia, imitating the example of her
daughter-in-law, ordered that she should be buried in the church of S.
Gregorio at Monte Celio, with 32,000 crowns for charitable uses, and
made other legacies; after which they passed some time in the
Consorteria, reciting psalms and litanies and other prayers with so much
fervour that it well appeared that they were assisted by the peculiar
grace of God. At eight o'clock they confessed, heard mass, and received
the holy communion. Beatrice, considering that it was not decorous to
appear before the judges and on the scaffold with their splendid
dresses, ordered two dresses, one for herself and the other for her
mother-in-law, made in the manner of the nuns--gathered up, and with
long sleeves of black cotton for Lucretia, and of common silk for
herself, with a large cord girdle. When these dresses came, Beatrice
rose, and, turning to Lucretia--"Mother," said she, "the hour of our
departure is drawing near; let us dress therefore in these clothes, and
let us mutually aid one another in this last office." Lucretia readily
complied with this invitation, and they dressed, each helping the other,
showing the same indifference and pleasure as if they were dressing for
a feast....

The funereal procession passed through the Via dell' Orso, by the
Apollinara, thence through the Piazza Navona; from the church of S.
Pantalio to the Piazza Pollarolla, through the Campo di Fiori, S. Carlo
a Catinari, to the Arco de' Conti Cenci; proceeding, it stopped under
the Palace Cenci, and then finally rested at the Corte Savilla, to take
the two ladies. When these arrived, Lucretia remained last, dressed in
black, as has been described, with a veil of the same colour, which
covered her as far as her girdle. Beatrice was beside her, also covered
with a veil. They wore velvet slippers, with silk roses and gold
fastenings; and, instead of manacles, their wrists were bound by a silk
cord, which was fastened to their girdles in such a manner as to give
them almost the free use of their hands. Each had in her left hand the
holy sign of benediction, and in the right hand a handkerchief, with
which Lucretia wiped her tears, and Beatrice the perspiration from her
forehead. Being arrived at the place of punishment, Bernardo was left on
the scaffold, and the others were conducted to the chapel. During this
dreadful separation, this unfortunate youth, reflecting that he was
soon going to behold the decapitation of his nearest relatives, fell
down in a dreadful swoon, from which, however, he was at last recovered,
and seated opposite the block....

While the scaffold was being arranged for Beatrice, and whilst the
Brotherhood returned to the chapel for her, the balcony of a shop filled
with spectators fell, and five of those underneath were wounded, so that
two died a few days after. Beatrice, hearing the noise, asked the
executioner if her mother had died well, and, being replied that she
had, she knelt before the crucifix, and spoke thus: "Be thou
everlastingly thanked, O my most gracious Saviour, since, by the good
death of my mother, thou hast given me assurance of thy mercy towards
me." Then, rising, she courageously and devoutly walked towards the
scaffold, repeating by the way several prayers with so much fervour of
spirit that all who heard her shed tears of compassion. Ascending the
scaffold, while she arranged herself, she also turned her eyes to
Heaven, and thus prayed: "Most beloved Jesus, who, relinquishing thy
divinity, becamest a man, and didst through love purge my sinful soul
also of its original sin with thy precious blood; deign, I beseech thee,
to accept that which I am about to shed, at thy most merciful tribunal,
as a penalty which may cancel my many crimes, and spare me a part of
that punishment justly due to me." Then she placed her head under the
axe, which, at one blow, was divided from her body as she was repeating
the second verse of the psalm _De profundis_, at the words _fiant aures
tuæ_. The blow gave a violent motion to her body, and discomposed her
dress. The executioner raised the head to the view of the people; and
in placing it in the coffin placed underneath, the cord by which it was
suspended slipped from its hold, and the head fell to the ground,
shedding a great deal of blood, which was wiped up with water and
sponges.... The bodies of Lucretia and Beatrice were left at the end of
the bridge until the evening, illuminated by two torches, and surrounded
by so great a concourse of people that it was impossible to cross the
bridge. An hour after dark, the body of Beatrice was placed in a coffin,
covered by a black velvet pall richly adorned with gold: garlands of
flowers were placed, one at her head, and another at her feet; and the
body was strewed with flowers. It was accompanied to the church of S.
Peter in Montorio by the Brotherhood of the Order of Mercy, and followed
by many Franciscan monks, with great pomp and innumerable torches. She
was there buried before the high altar, after the customary ceremony had
been performed. By reason of the distance of the church from the bridge,
it was four hours after dark before the ceremony was finished.
Afterwards, the body of Lucretia, accompanied in the same manner, was
carried to the church of S. Gregorio upon the Celian hill; where, after
the ceremony, it was honourably buried.

Beatrice was rather tall, of a fair complexion, and she had a dimple on
each cheek, which, especially when she smiled, added a grace to her
lovely countenance that transported every one who beheld her. Her hair
appeared like threads of gold; and, because they were extremely long,
she used to tie it up, and when afterwards she loosened it, the
splendid ringlets dazzled the eyes of the spectator. Her eyes were of a
deep blue, pleasing, and full of fire. To all these beauties she added,
both in words and action, a spirit and a majestic vivacity that
captivated every one. She was twenty years of age when she died.

    _The Cenci: Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley_, edited by
    William M. Rossetti (London 1878).




The Transfiguration is an early subject in Christian Art, and has gone
through different phases. It is given in the mosaics of S. Apollinare in
Classe, at Ravenna (Sixth Century), in that reticence of form and
emblematical character significant of classic Art. By the uninitiated
the subject would not be readily deciphered. In the centre of the domed
apse is a large jewelled cross, in the middle of which is the head of
Christ. This represents the Lord. On each side are bust-lengths of Moses
and Elijah, while below are three sheep, emblems of the three disciples.

Another form is seen in early miniatures--for instance, in a magnificent
Evangelium preserved in the Cathedral at Aix-la-Chapelle. Here Christ is
seen with three rays above Him; at His side are the full-length figures
of Moses and Elijah; below are the three disciples--two crouching low in
terror, while Peter raises himself, saying "Lord, it is good for us to
be here," etc.

The next form is that given by early Byzantine artists, of a very formal
and conventional character. Christ is in the mandorla, from which five
rays of glory proceed. These five rays touch the prophets at His side,
and the disciples, all three crouching low at His feet. We see Giotto
scarcely emerging from this convention in his series in the Accademia.

Fra Angelico has a more fanciful representation. The Christ has his arms
extended, as a type of the death He was to suffer on the Cross. The
disciples retain the traditional Byzantine positions. At the sides are
the mere heads of the prophets, while the painter's adoration of the
Virgin, and his homage toward St. Domenic, the founder of his order, are
shown by their attendant figures.

It must be allowed that there could be no more daring or more difficult
undertaking in Art than to represent by any human medium this
transcendent manifestation of the superhuman character of the Redeemer.
It has been attempted but seldom, and of course, however reverent and
poetical the spirit in which the attempt has been made, it has proved,
in regard to the height of the theme, only a miserable failure. I should
observe, however, that the early artists hardly seem to have aimed at
anything beyond a mere _indication_ of an incident too important to be
wholly omitted. In all these examples the representation of a visible
fact has been predominant, the aim in the mind of the artist being to
comply with some established conventional or theological rule.

Only in one instance has the vision of heavenly beatitude been used to
convey the sublimest lesson to humanity, and thus the inevitable failure
has been redeemed nobly, or, we might rather say, converted into a
glorious success.

When Raphael, in the last year of his life, was commissioned by the
Cardinal de' Medici to paint an altar-piece for the Cathedral of
Narbonne, he selected for his subject the Transfiguration of our Lord.


Every one knows that this picture has a world-wide fame; it has, indeed,
been styled the "greatest picture in the world;" it has also been
criticised as if Raphael, the greatest artist who ever lived, had been
here unmindful of the rules of Art. But it is clear that of those who
have enthusiastically praised or daringly censured, few have interpreted
its real significance. Some have erred in ignorantly applying the rules
of Art where they were in no respect applicable. Others, not claiming to
know anything, or care anything about rules of Art, insisting on their
right to judge what is or is not intelligible to _them_, have given what
I must needs call very absurd opinions about what they do not
understand. It has been objected by one set of critics that there is a
want of unity, that the picture is divided in two, and that these two
parts not only do not harmonize, but "mutually hurt each other." Others
say that the spiritual beatitude above, and the contortions of the
afflicted boy below, present a shocking contrast. Others sneer at the
little hillock or platform which they suppose is to stand for Mount
Tabor, think the group above profane, and the group below horrible. Such
as these, with a courage quite superior to all artistic criticism, and
undazzled by the accumulated fame of five centuries, venture on a fiat
which reminds one of nothing so much as Voltaire's ridicule of Hamlet,
and his denunciation of that _barbare_, that _imbécile de Shakespeare_,
who would not write so as to be appreciated by a French critic.

Now, in looking at the Transfiguration (and I hope the reader, if the
original be far off, will at least have a good print before him while
going over these following remarks), we must bear in mind that it is not
an historical but a devotional picture--that the intention of the
painter was not to represent a scene, but to excite religious feelings
by expressing, so far as painting might do it, a very sublime idea,
which it belongs to us to interpret.

I can best accomplish this, perhaps, by putting down naturally my own
impressions, when I last had the opportunity of studying this divine

If we remove to a certain distance from it, so that the forms shall
become vague, indistinct, and only the masses of colour and the light
and shade perfectly distinguishable, we shall see that the picture is
indeed divided as if horizontally, the upper half being all light, and
the lower half comparatively all dark. As we approach nearer, step by
step, we behold above, the radiant figure of the Saviour floating in mid
air, with arms outspread, garments of transparent light, glorified
visage upturned as in rapture, and the hair uplifted and scattered as I
have seen it in persons under the influence of electricity. On the
right, Moses; on the left, Elijah; representing, respectively, the old
law and the old prophecies, which both testified of Him. The three
disciples lie on the ground, terror-struck, dazzled. There is a sort of
eminence or platform, but no perspective, no attempt at real locality,
for the scene is revealed as in a vision, and the same soft transparent
light envelops the whole. This is the spiritual life, raised far above
the earth, but not yet in heaven. Below is seen the earthly life, poor
humanity struggling helplessly with pain, infirmity, and death. The
father brings his son, the possessed, or, as we should now say, the
epileptic boy, who ofttimes falls into the water or into the fire, or
lies grovelling on the earth, foaming and gnashing his teeth; the boy
struggles in his arms--the rolling eyes, the distorted features, the
spasmodic limbs are at once terrible and pitiful to look on.

Such is the profound, the heart-moving significance of this wonderful
picture. It is, in truth, a fearful approximation of the most opposite
things; the mournful helplessness, suffering, and degradation of human
nature, the unavailing pity, are placed in immediate contrast with
spiritual light, life, hope--nay, the very fruition of heavenly rapture.

It has been asked, who are the two figures, the two saintly deacons, who
stand on each side of the upper group, and what have they to do with the
mystery above, or the sorrow below? Their presence shows that the whole
was conceived as a vision, or a poem. The two saints are St. Lawrence
and St. Julian, placed there at the request of the Cardinal de' Medici,
for whom the picture was painted, to be offered by him as an act of
devotion as well as munificence to his new bishopric; and these two
figures commemorate in a poetical way, not unusual at the time, his
father, Lorenzo, and his uncle, Giuliano de' Medici. They would be
better away; but Raphael, in consenting to the wish of his patron that
they should be introduced, left no doubt of the significance of the
whole composition--that it is placed before worshippers as a revelation
of the double life of earthly suffering and spiritual faith, as an
excitement to religious contemplation and religious hope.

In the Gospel, the Transfiguration of our Lord is first described, then
the gathering of the people and the appeal of the father in behalf of
his afflicted son. They appear to have been simultaneous; but painting
only could have placed them before our eyes, at the same moment, in all
their suggestive contrast. It will be said that in the brief record of
the Evangelist, this contrast is nowhere indicated, but the painter
found it there and was right to use it--just the same as if a man should
choose a text from which to preach a sermon, and, in doing so, should
evolve from the inspired words many teachings, many deep reasonings,
besides the one most obvious and apparent.

But, after we have prepared ourselves to understand and to take into our
heads all that this wonderful picture can suggest, considered as an
emanation of the mind, we find that it has other interests for us,
considered merely as a work of Art. It was the last picture which came
from Raphael's hand; he was painting on it when seized with his last
illness. He had completed all the upper part of the composition, all the
ethereal vision, but the lower part of it was still unfinished, and in
this state the picture was hung over his bier, when, after his death, he
was laid out in his painting-room, and all his pupils and his friends,
and the people of Rome, came to look upon him for the last time; and
when those who stood round raised their eyes to the _Transfiguration_,
and then bent them on the lifeless form extended beneath it, "every
heart was like to burst with grief" (_faceva scoppiare l' anima di
dolore a ognuno che quivi guardava_), as, indeed, well it might.

Two-thirds of the price of the picture, 655 _duccati di camera_, had
already been paid by the Cardinal de' Medici; and, in the following
year, that part of the picture which Raphael had left unfinished was
completed by his pupil Giulio Romano, a powerful and gifted but not a
refined or elevated genius. He supplied what was wanting in the colour
and chiaroscuro according to Raphael's design, but not certainly as
Raphael would himself have done it. The sum which Giulio received he
bestowed as a dowry on his sister, when he gave her in marriage to
Lorenzetto the sculptor, who had also been a pupil and friend of
Raphael. The Cardinal did not send the picture to Narbonne, but,
unwilling to deprive Rome of such a masterpiece, he presented it to the
Church of San Pietro in Montorio, and sent in its stead the _Raising of
Lazarus_, by Sebastian del Piombo, now in our National Gallery. The
French carried off the _Transfiguration_ to Paris in 1797, and, when
restored, it was placed in the Vatican, where it now is. The _Communion
of St. Jerome_, by Domenichino, is opposite to it, and it is a sort of
fashion to compare them, and with some to give the preference to the
admirable picture by Domenichino; but the two are so different in aim
and conception, the merits of each are so different in kind, that I do
not see how any comparison can exist between them.

    _The History of Our Lord, as exemplified in Works of Art_,
    continued and completed by Lady Eastlake (2nd ed., London, 1865).




_The Lesson in Anatomy, The Night Watch_, and Paul Potter's _Bull_ are
the most celebrated things in Holland. To the latter the Museum at The
Hague owes a great part of the interest it inspires. It is not the
largest of Paul Potter's canvases; but it is, at least, the only one of
his great pictures that merits serious attention. _The Bear Hunt_ in the
Museum of Amsterdam (supposing it to be authentic), even by ridding it
of the retouches which disfigure it, has never been anything else save
the extravagance of a young man, the greatest mistake he committed. _The
Bull_ is not priced. Estimating it according to the present value of
Paul Potter's other works, nobody doubts that in a European auction it
would fetch a fabulous sum. Then is it a beautiful picture? By no means.
Does it deserve the importance attached to it? Incontestably. Then is
Paul Potter a very great painter? Very great. Does it follow that he
really does paint as well as is commonly supposed? Not exactly. That is
a misapprehension that it will be well to dissipate.

[Illustration: THE BULL.
        _Paul Potter._]

On the day when this suppositious auction of which I speak opened, and
consequently when every one had the right freely to discuss the merits
of this famous work, if anyone dared to let the truth be heard, he
would speak very nearly as follows:

"The reputation of the picture is very much exaggerated and at the same
time very legitimate; it is contradictory. It is considered as an
incomparable specimen of painting, and that is a mistake. People think
it is an example to be followed, a model to be copied, one in which
ignorant generations may learn the technical secrets of their art. In
that again they deceive themselves entirely. The work is ugly and very
ill-conceived, and the painting is monotonous, thick, heavy, dull, and
dry. The arrangement is of the poorest. Unity is lacking in this
picture, which begins one knows not where, does not end anywhere,
receives light without being illuminated, and distributes it at random,
escapes on every side and runs out of the frame, so exactly like
flowered linen prints does it seem to be painted. The space is too
crowded without being occupied. Neither the lines, nor the colour, nor
the distribution of the effects, give it even those first conditions of
existence which are essential to any fairly well-ordered work. The
animals are ridiculous in their size. The painting of the fawn cow with
the white head is very hard. The ewe and the ram are modelled in
plaster. As for the shepherd, no one would think of defending him. Only
two portions of this picture seem to be intended for our notice, the
great sky and the enormous bull. The cloud is well in place: it is
lighted up where it should be, and it is also properly tinted according
to the demands of the principal object, its purpose being to accompany
or serve as a relief to the latter. With a wise understanding of the
law of contrasts, the painter has beautifully graded the strong tints
and the dark shading of the animal. The darkest part is opposed to the
light portion of the sky, and the most energetic and ingrained
characteristic of the bull is opposite to all that is most limpid in the
atmosphere. But this is hardly a merit, considering the simplicity of
the problem. The rest is simply a surplus that we might cut away without
regret, to the great advantage of the picture."

That would be a brutal criticism, but an exact one. And yet public
opinion, less punctilious or more clear-sighted, would say that the
signature was well worth the price.

Public opinion never goes entirely astray. By uncertain roads, often by
those not most happily chosen, it arrives definitely at the expression
of a true sentiment. The motives that lead it to acclaim any one are not
always of the best, but there are always other good reasons that justify
this expression. It is deceived regarding titles, sometimes it mistakes
faults for excellencies, it estimates a man for his manner, and that is
the least of all his merits; it believes that a painter paints well when
he paints badly and because he paints minutely. What is astonishing in
Paul Potter is the imitation of objects carried to the point of
eccentricity. People do not know, or do not notice, that in such a case
the soul of the painter is of more worth than the work, and that his
manner of feeling is of infinitely greater importance than the result.

When he painted _The Bull_ in 1647, Paul Potter was not twenty-three
years of age. He was a very young man; and according to the usual run of
young men of twenty-three years, he was a child. To what school did he
belong? To none. Had he any masters? We do not know of any other
teachers than his father Pieter Simonsz Potter, an obscure painter, and
Jacob de Wet (of Haarlem), who had no force to influence a pupil either
for good or evil. Paul Potter then found around his cradle and
afterwards in the studio of his second master nothing but simple advice
and no doctrines; very strange to say, the pupil did not need anything
more. Until 1647 Paul Potter divided his time between Amsterdam and
Haarlem, that is to say, between Frans Hals and Rembrandt in the focus
of the most active, the most inspiring and the richest art of celebrated
masters that the world had ever known except during the preceding
century in Italy. Professors were not lacking, the choice was only too
embarrassing. Wynants was forty-six; Cuyp, forty-two; Terburg,
thirty-nine; Ostade, thirty-seven; Metzu, thirty-two; Wouwerman,
twenty-seven; and Berghem, about his own age, was twenty-three years of
age. Many of the youngest even were members of the Guild of St. Luke.
Finally, the greatest of all, the most illustrious, Rembrandt, had
already produced the _Night Watch_, and he was a master to tempt one.

What became of Paul Potter? How did he isolate himself in the heart of
this rich and swarming school, where practical ability was extreme,
talent universal, style somewhat similar, and, nevertheless--a beautiful
thing at that happy time--the methods of feeling were very individual?
Had he any fellow-pupils? We do not see them. His friends are unknown.
He was born,--it is the utmost we can do to be sure of the exact year.
He reveals himself early, signing a charming etching at fourteen; at
twenty-two he is ignorant on many points, but on others his maturity is
unexampled. He laboured and produced work upon work; doing some things
admirably. He accumulated them in a few years in haste and abundance, as
if death were at his heels, and yet with an appreciation and a patience
which render this prodigious labour miraculous. He married, young, for
any one else but very late for him, for it was on July 3, 1650; and on
August 4, 1654, four years afterwards, death seized him in the height of
his glory, but before he had learned his whole ground. What could be
simpler, shorter, and more fully accomplished? Genius and no lessons,
ardent study, an ingenuous and able product, attentive observation and
reflection; add to this great natural charm, the gentleness of a
meditative mind, the appreciation of a conscience filled with scruples,
the sadness inseparable from solitary labour, and, perhaps, the natural
melancholy belonging to sickly beings, and you very nearly have all Paul

To this extent, if we except its charm, _The Bull_ at The Hague
represents him wonderfully well. It is a great _study_, too great from
the common-sense point of view, not too great for the research of which
it was the object, nor for the instruction that the painter drew from

Reflect that Paul Potter, compared with his brilliant contemporaries,
was ignorant of all the skill of the handicraft: I do not speak of the
tricks of which his frankness can never be suspected. He especially
studied forms and aspects in their absolute simplicity. The least
artifice was an embarrassment which would have spoiled him, because it
would have altered his clear view of things. A great bull in a vast
plain, an immense sky, and no horizon, so to speak,--what better
opportunity is there for a student to learn once for all a host of very
difficult things, and to know them, as they say, by rule and compass.
The action is very simple; he did not fail with it; the movement is
true, and the head admirably full of life. The beast has his age, his
type, his character, his disposition, his length, his height, his
joints, his bones, his muscles, his hair rough or smooth, in flocks or
curls, his hide loose or stretched,--all is perfection. The head, the
eye, the neck and shoulders, the chest, from the point of view of a
naïve and powerful observation, form a very rare specimen, perhaps,
really without an equal. I do not say that the pigment is beautiful, nor
that the colour is well chosen; pigment and colour are here subordinated
too visibly to preoccupations of form for us to exact much on that head,
when the designer has given all, or nearly all, under another. Moreover,
the work in that field accomplished with such force results in rendering
nature exactly as she is, in her reliefs, her nuances, and her power,
and almost in her mysteries. It is not possible to aim at a more
circumscribed but more formal result and attain it with more success.
People say _Paul Potter's Bull_, and that is not enough, I assure you:
they might say _The Bull_, and, in my opinion, that would be the
greatest eulogy that could be bestowed upon this work, so mediocre in
its weak parts and yet so decisive.

    _Les Maîtres d'Autrefois_ (Paris, 1876)




Poets were lacking in the last century. I do not say rhymers, versifiers
and mechanical arrangers of words; I say poets. Poetry, taking the
expression in the truth and height of its meaning; poetry, which is an
elevation or an enchantment of the imagination, the contribution of an
ideal of reverie or gaiety to human thought; poetry, which carries away
and suspends above the world the soul of a period and the spirit of a
people, was unknown to the France of the Eighteenth Century, and her two
only poets were two painters: Watteau and Fragonard.

Watteau, the man of the North, the child of Flanders, the great poet of
Love! the master of sweet serenity and tender Paradises, whose work may
be likened to the Elysian Field of Passion! Watteau, the melancholy
enchanter who has made nature sigh so heavily in his autumn woods, full
of regret around dreamful pleasure! Watteau, the Pensieroso of the
Regency; Fragonard, the little poet of the _Art of Love_ of the time.

Have you noticed in _L'Embarquement de Cythère_ all those naked little
forms of saucy and knavish Loves half lost in the heights of the sky?
Where are they going? They are going to play at Fragonard's and to
put on his palette the hues of their butterfly wings.


Fragonard is the bold narrator, the gallant _amoroso_, the rogue with
Gallic malice, nearly Italian in genius but French in spirit; the man of
foreshortened mythology and roguish undress, of skies made rosy by the
flesh of goddesses and alcoves lighted with female nudity.

Upon a table beside a bunch of roses let us allow the leaves of his work
to be ruffled by the wind of a lovely day: from landscapes where robes
of satin are escaping in coquettish flight, our glance skips to meadows
guarded by Annettes of fifteen years, to granges where the somersaults
of love upset the painter's easel, to pastures where the milk-maid of
the milk-jug reveals her bare legs and weeps like a nymph over her
broken urn, for her sheep, her flocks, and her vanished dream. Upon
another page a maiden in love is writing a beloved name on the bark of a
tree on a lovely summer evening. The breeze is always turning them over:
now a shepherd and shepherdess are embracing before a sun-dial which
little Cupids make into a pleasure-dial. It keeps on turning them; and
now we have the beautiful dream of a pilgrim sleeping with his staff and
gourd beside him, and to whom appears a host of young fays skimming a
huge pot. Does it not seem that your eye is upon a vision of a fête by
Boucher, shown by his pupil in Tasso's garden? Adorable magic lantern!
where Clorinde follows Fiammette, where the gleams of an epic poem
mingle with the smiles of the _novellieri_! Tales of the fay Urgèle,
little comic jests, rays of gayety and sunshine which one might say were
thrown upon the cloth upon which Béroalde de Verville made his
cherry-gatherer walk. Tasso, Cervantes, Boccaccio, Ariosto (Ariosto as
he has drawn him, inspired by Love and Folly), it recalls all his genii
of happiness. It laughs with the liberties of La Fontaine. It goes from
Properce to Grécourt, from Longus to Favart, from Gentil-Bernard to
André Chénier. It has, so to speak, the heart of a lover and the hand of
a charming rascal. In it the breath of a sigh passes into a kiss and it
is young with immortal youth: it is the poem of Desire, a divine poem!

It is enough to have written it like Fragonard for him to remain what he
will always be: the Cherubino of erotic painting....

He leaped into success and fame at one bound, with his picture of
_Callirhoé_, that painting of universal approbation, which caused him to
be received into the _Académie_ by acclamation; that painting which
aroused public enthusiasm at the Salon in the month of August, and which
had the honour of a Royal command for its reproduction upon Gobelin

Imagine a large picture nine feet high by twelve feet long, where the
human figures are of natural size, the architecture in its proper
proportion and the crowd and sky have their own space. Between two
columns of a shining marble with its iris-coloured reflections, above
the heavy purple of a tapestry with golden fringe spread out and broken
by the ridge of two steps, opens the scene of an antique drama which
seems to be under the curtain of a theatre. On this tapestry, on this
pagan altar-cloth, stands a copper crater near an urn of black marble
half veiled with white linen. A column cuts in half a large candelabra
smoking with incense and ornamented with goats' heads, a superb bronze
which must have been taken from the lava of Herculaneum. A young priest
has thrown himself on his knees against this candelabra and embraces its
pedestal; in terror he has allowed his censer to fall to the earth.
Standing by his side is Corésus, the high priest, crowned with ivy,
enveloped in draperies, and seemingly floating in the sacerdotal
whiteness of his vestments; a beardless priest, of doubtful sex, of
androgynous grace, an enervated Adonis, the shadow of a man. With a
backward turn of one hand he plunges the knife in his breast; with the
other he has the appearance of casting his life into the heavens, whilst
across his effeminate face pass the weakness of the agony and grief of
violent death. Opposite the dying high-priest is the living though
fainting victim, nearly dead at the belief that she is about to die.
With her head resting on her shoulder, she has glided before the smoking
altar. Her body has lost all rigidity on her bending legs, her arms hang
down at her side; her glance is distracted; she has lost all volition in
the use of her limbs; and she is there, sinking motionless, her throat
scarcely distending with a breath, turning white under her crown of
roses, which the painter's brush has made to pale in sympathy. Between
her body and the altar a young priest is leaning in horrified curiosity.
Another, upon one knee, perfectly terrified, with fixed gaze and parted
lips, holds before the young girl the basin used to receive the blood of
the victims. In the background are visible figures of old grey-bearded
priests, aghast at the horrible spectacle. Above them the smoke of the
temple, the flames, the perfumes, and the incense of the altar mingle
with the cloudy sky, a sky of a night of miracles and hell, wild and
rolling, a sky of fiery and sombre whirlwind, in which a genie
brandishing a torch and dagger bears Love away in sombre flight
enveloped in a black mantle. From that shadow, let us go to the shadow
at the base of the picture: two women, writhing with fear, shrink back
veiling their faces; a little boy clings about their knees and holds
fast to them, and a ray of sunlight, falling across the arm of one of
the women, illumines the hair and the little rosy hands of the child.

Such is Fragonard's great composition, that striking unexpected
production, for which he must have taken the idea, and, perhaps, even
the effect from one of the revivals of _Callirhoé_ by the poet Roy;[27]
a painting of the opera, and demanding from the opera its soul and its
light. But what a magnificent illusion this picture presents! It must be
seen in the Louvre so that the eyes may feast upon the clear and warm
splendour of the canvas, the milky radiance of all those white priestly
robes, the virginal light inundating the centre of the scene,
palpitating and dying away on _Callirhoé_, enveloping her fainting body
like the fading of day, and caressing that failing throat. The rays of
light and the smoke all melt into one another; the temple smokes and the
mists of incense ascend everywhere. Night is rolling above the day. The
sun falls into the gloom and casts a reflected glare. The gleams of
sulphur flames illuminate the faces and the throng. Fragonard lavishly
threw the lights of fairyland upon his masterpiece: it is Rembrandt
combined with Ruggieri.

And what movement, what action are in this agitated and convulsive
painting! The clouds and the garments whirl, the gestures are rapid, the
attitudes are despairing, horror shudders in every pose and on every
lip, and a great mute cry seems to rise throughout this entire temple
and throughout this entire lyrical composition.

This cry of a picture, so new for the Eighteenth Century, is Passion.
Fragonard introduces it into his time in this picture so full of tragic
tenderness where we might fancy the entombment of Iphigenia. The
phantasmagoria raises his art to the level of the emotion of the
_Alceste_ of Euripides; it reveals a future for French painting: pathos.

    _L'Art du Dix-Huitième Siècle_ (3d ed., Paris, 1882).


[27] _Callirhoé_ by Pierre-Charles Roy, was written in 1712.--E.S.




It is said that Sir Joshua at an Academy dinner gave "the health of Mr.
Gainsborough, the greatest landscape painter of the day," to which
Wilson, in his blunt, grumbling way, retorted, "Ay, and the greatest
portrait painter, too." In Gainsborough's own time, the world of Art
patrons seem to have employed his talents as a portrait painter, but to
have disregarded his landscape art. Beechey said that "in Gainsborough's
house in Pall Mall the landscapes stood ranged in long lines from his
hall to his painting-room, and that those who came to sit to him for his
portraits, on which he was chiefly occupied, rarely deigned to honour
them with a look as they passed them." After his death, however, and the
eulogium Reynolds had pronounced on his landscapes and rustic children,
these came to be considered his finest works, and it is usual now to
speak of him as a landscape rather than as a portrait painter. But it is
more than doubtful whether Wilson did not judge more truly of his talent
than Sir Joshua; and without wishing to place him above Reynolds in that
painter's peculiar branch, it is certain that Gainsborough, in his
finest portraits, formed a style equally original, and produced works
that are every way worthy to take rank with those of the great
President. They contrast with the latter in being more silvery and pure,
and in the absence of that impasto and richness in which Reynolds
indulged, but his figures are surrounded by air and light, and his
portraits generally are easy and graceful without affectation....

[Illustration: THE MARKET-CART.

Reynolds says: "It is difficult to determine whether Gainsborough's
portraits were most admirable for exact truth of resemblance, or his
landscapes for a portrait-like representation of Nature,"--a strange
judgment, written more with a view to a well-rounded period than to any
true criticism on his rival's landscape art. It is certainly true that
Gainsborough put aside altogether the early foundation of Dutch
landscape on which he had begun to build, and took an entirely original
view of Nature, both as to treatment and handling. Yet in the sense in
which the artists of our day paint "portrait-like representations of
Nature," Gainsborough's art was anything but portrait-like. It has been
objected to the great Italian landscape painters that they did not
discriminate between one tree and another, but indulged in a "painter's
tree." There is far more variety in those of our native artist, yet it
would puzzle a critic to say what his trees really are, and to point out
in his landscapes the distinctive differences between oak and beech, and
elm. The weeds, too, in his foregrounds, have neither form nor species.
On the margins of his brooks or pools a few sword-shaped dashes tell of
reeds and rushes; on the banks of his road-side some broad-leaved forms
catch the straggling sun-ray, but he cared little to go into botanical
minutiæ, or to enable us to tell their kind. His rocks are certainly not
truly stratified or geologically correct--how should they be?--he
studied them, perhaps, in his painting-room from broken stones and bits
of coal. The truth is, however, that he gave us more of Nature than any
merely imitative rendering could do. As the great portrait painter looks
beyond the features of his sitter to give the mind and character of the
man, often thereby laying himself open to complaint as to his mere
_likeness_ painting; so the great landscape painter will at all times
sink individual imitation in seeking to fill us with the greater truths
of his art. It may be the golden sunset or the breezy noon, the solemn
breadth of twilight, or the silvery freshness of morn--the something of
colour, of form, of light and shade, floating rapidly away, that makes
the meanest and most commonplace view at times startle us with wonder at
its beauty, when treated by the true artist.

And did he study such merely from broken stones and pieces of coal, from
twigs and weeds in his painting-room? Vain idea! these were but the
_memoria technica_, that served to call up in his mind the thoughts he
had fed on in many a lonely walk and leisure moment, when they of common
clay plodded on and saw nothing--brooded on with a nature tuned to the
harmonies of colour and of form, organized in a high degree to receive
and retain impressions of beauty; and gifted with the power to place
vividly before us by his art objects which had so delighted and pleased
himself. Does any one think otherwise--let him try what can be got out
of stones and coals; let him try how his memory will aid him, with such
feeble helps as broken twigs and dry mosses, and then he may be able to
appreciate, in a degree, how this man had won the mastery of paint and
canvas and turned their dross into the fine gold of true Art.

But in the history of British Art, the great merit of Gainsborough is,
to have broken us entirely loose from old conventions. Wilson had turned
aside from Dutch art to ennoble landscape by selecting from the higher
qualities of Italian art; but Gainsborough early discarded all he had
learned from the bygone schools, and gave himself up wholly to Nature;
he was capable of delicate handling and minute execution, but he
resolutely cast them aside lest any idol should interfere between him
and his new religion. There may be traced a lingering likeness in his
landscapes to those of Rubens; but this arose more from his
generalization of details, his sinking the parts in the whole, than to
any imitation of the great Fleming. It is like the recollection of some
sweet melody which the musician weaves into his theme, all unconscious
that it is a memory and not a child of his own creation.

The pictures of Gainsborough, on the whole, stand better far than those
by Reynolds. "Landscape with Cattle," a picture belonging to the Marquis
of Lansdowne, is lovely for colour and freshness; it has been lined and
repaired, but evidently had parted widely in the lights. Could any
closeness of individual imitation give the truth, beauty of colour, and
luminous sunlight of this picture? It somewhat reminds one of
Zuccarelli, but how completely has Gainsborough sucked the honey and
left the comb of the master! Viewed near, this picture is somewhat loose
in texture, and hesitating in execution; the colour obtained by
semi-transparents, as yellow-ochre, terra-verte, and ultramarine; while
viewed at a proper distance, it is in perfect harmony.

In examining the landscapes of this painter, much must, however, be
allowed for the present state of some of his works. Many are covered
with a dark-brown varnish, obscuring the silvery freshness of their
first state. This has cracked up in the darks and quite changed them.
The _Market-Cart_ and the _Watering-Place_, as well as others in the
National collection, are in a very different condition to that in which
they left the easel. The world, however, has become so conservative, and
has such belief in the picture-vamper's "golden tones," that so they
must remain. It would be most impolitic to touch them until they have
become too dark to be seen at all.

    _A Century of Painters of the English School_ (London, 1866).




It is more difficult for me to speak to you of the Venetian painters
than of any others. Before their pictures one has no desire to analyze
or reason; if one does this, it is by compulsion. The eyes enjoy, and
that is all: they enjoy as the Venetians enjoyed in the Sixteenth
Century; for Venice was not at all a literary or critical city like
Florence; there painting was nothing more than the complement of the
environing pleasure, the decoration of a banqueting-hall or of an
architectural alcove. In order to understand this you must place
yourself at a distance, shut your eyes and wait until your sensations
are dulled; then your mind performs its work....

There are certain families of plants, the species of which are so
closely allied that they resemble more than they differ from each other:
such are the Venetian painters, not only the four celebrities,
Giorgione, Titian, Tintoret, and Veronese, but others less illustrious,
Palma "il vecchio," Bonifazio, Paris Bordone, Pordenone, and that host
enumerated by Ridolfi in his _Lives_, contemporaries, relatives, and
successors of the great men, Andrea Vicentino, Palma "il giovine,"
Zelotti, Bazzaco, Padovinano, Bassano, Schiavone, Moretto, and many
others. What first appeals to the eye is the general and common type;
the individual and personal traits remain for a time in shadow. They
have worked together and by turns in the Ducal Palace, but by the
involuntary concord of their talents their pictures make an harmonious

At first our eyes are astonished; with the exception of three or four
halls, the apartments are low and small. The Hall of Council of the Ten
and those surrounding it[28] are gilded habitations, insufficient for
the figures that dwell therein; but after a moment one forgets the
habitation and sees only the figures. Power and voluptuousness blaze
there, unbridled and superb. In the angles nude men, painted caryatides,
jut out in such high relief that at the first glance one takes them for
statues; a colossal breath swells their chests; their thighs and their
shoulders writhe. On the ceiling a Mercury, entirely nude, is almost a
figure by Rubens, but of a more gross sensuality. A gigantic Neptune
urges before him his sea-horses which plash through the waves; his foot
presses the edge of his chariot; his enormous and ruddy body is turned
backwards; he raises his conch with the joy of a bestial god; the salt
wind blows through his scarf, his hair, and his beard; one could never
imagine, without seeing it, such a furious _élan_, such an overflowing
of animal spirit, such a joy of pagan flesh, such a triumph of free and
shameless life in the open air and broad sunlight. What an injustice to
limit the Venetians to the painting of merely happy scenes and to the
art of simply pleasing the eye! They have also painted grandeur and
heroism; the mere energetic and active body has attracted them; like
the Flemings, they have their colossi also. Their drawing, even without
colour, is capable by itself of expressing all the solidity and all the
vitality of the human structure. Look in this same hall at the four
_grisailles_ by Veronese--five or six women veiled or half-nude, all so
strong and of such a frame that their thighs and arms would stifle a
warrior in their embrace, and, nevertheless, their physiognomy is so
simple or so proud that, despite their smile, they are virgins like
Raphael's Venuses and Psyches.


The more we consider the ideal figures of Venetian art, the more we feel
the breath of an heroic age behind us. Those great draped old men with
the bald foreheads are the patrician kings of the Archipelago,
Barbaresque sultans who, trailing their silken simars, receive tribute
and order executions. The superb women in sweeping robes, bedizened and
creased, are empress-daughters of the Republic, like that Catherina
Cornaro from whom Venice received Cyprus. There are the muscles of
fighters in the bronzed breasts of the sailors and captains; their
bodies, reddened by the sun and wind, have dashed against the athletic
bodies of janizaries; their turbans, their pelisses, their furs, their
sword-hilts constellated with precious stones,--all the magnificence of
Asia is mingled on their bodies with the floating draperies of antiquity
and with the nudities of Pagan tradition. Their straight gaze is still
tranquil and savage, and the pride and the tragic grandeur of their
expression announce the presence of a life in which man was concentrated
in a few simple passions, having no other thought than that of being
master so that he should not be a slave, and to kill so that he should
not be killed. Such is the spirit of a picture by Veronese which, in the
Hall of the Council of the Ten, represents an old warrior and a young
woman; it is an allegory, but we do not trouble ourselves about the
subject. The man is seated and leans forward, his chin upon his hand,
with a savage air; his colossal shoulders, his arm, and his bare leg
encircled with a cnemis of lions' heads protrudes from his ample
drapery; with his turban, his white beard, his thoughtful brow, and his
traits of a wearied lion, he has the appearance of a Pacha who is tired
of everything. She, with downcast eyes, places her hands upon her soft
breast; her magnificent hair is caught up with pearls; she seems a
captive awaiting the will of her master, and her neck and bowed face are
strongly empurpled in the shadow that encircles them.

Nearly all the other halls are empty; the paintings have been taken into
an interior room. We go to find the curator of the Museum; we tell him
in bad Italian that we have no letters of introduction, nor titles, nor
any rights whatsoever to be admitted to see them. Thereupon he has the
kindness to conduct us into the reserved hall, to lift up the canvases,
one after the other, and to lose two hours in showing them to us.

I have never had greater pleasure in Italy; these canvases are now
standing before our eyes; we can look at them as near as we please, at
our ease, and we are alone. There are some browned giants by Tintoret,
with their skin wrinkled by the play of the muscles, Saint Andrew and
Saint Mark, real colossi like those of Rubens. There is a Saint
Christopher by Titian, a kind of bronzed and bowed Atlas with his four
limbs straining to bear the weight of a world, and on his neck by an
extraordinary contrast, the tiny, soft, and laughing _bambino_, whose
infantine flesh has the delicacy and grace of a flower. Above all, there
are a dozen mythological and allegorical paintings by Tintoret and
Veronese, of such brilliancy and such intoxicating fascination that a
veil seems to fall from our eyes and we discover an unknown world, a
paradise of delights situated beyond all imagination and all dreams.
When the Old Man of the Mountain transported into his harem his sleeping
youths to render them capable of extreme devotion, doubtless it was such
a spectacle that he furnished.

Upon the coast at the margin of the infinite sea, serious Ariadne
receives the ring of Bacchus, and Venus, with a crown of gold, has come
through the air to celebrate their marriage. Here is the sublime beauty
of bare flesh, such as it appears coming out of the water, vivified by
the sun and touched with shadows. The goddess is floating in liquid
light and her twisted back, her flanks and her curves are palpitating,
half enveloped in a white, diaphanous veil. With what words can we paint
the beauty of an attitude, a tone, or an outline? Who will describe the
healthy and roseate flesh under the amber transparency of gauze? How
shall we represent the soft plenitude of a living form and the curves of
limbs which flow into the leaning body? Truly she is swimming in the
light like a fish in its lake, and the air, filled with vague
reflections, embraces and caresses her.

    _Voyage en Italie_ (Paris, 1866).


[28] Painted by Veronese and by Zelotti and Bazzaco under his direction.



Titian's magnificent pictures in the Ducal Palace were, all but one,
destroyed by fire the year after his death; but his impetuous rival,
Tintoretto, is abundantly represented there. With regard to _him_, as
usual, our admiration for frequent manifestations of extraordinary power
is but too commonly checked and chilled by coarse, heavy painting, and
the unexpressive wholly uninteresting character of many of his
allegorical or celestial groups, which seem introduced merely as
exercises or exhibitions of technical skill, rather than as appeals to
our imagination or finer feelings.... On the whole you are again tempted
to be somewhat out of conceit with Tintoretto, till you pause in the
Ante Collegio, or guard-room, before a picture of his so poetically
conceived and admirably wrought, indeed so pleasing in all respects,
that you wonder still more at the dull, uninteresting character of so
many of the others. Yes, here _Il Furioso_ Tintoretto, leaving
ostentatious, barren displays of technical power, has once again had the
gentleness and patience to make himself thoroughly agreeable. Ariadne, a
beautiful and noble figure, is seated undraped on a rock, and Bacchus,
profusely crowned with ivy, advances from the sea, and offers her the
nuptial ring; whilst above, Venus, her back towards you, lying
horizontally in the pale blue air, as if the blue air were her natural
couch, spreads or rather kindles, a chaplet or circlet of stars round
Ariadne's head. Here, those who luxuriate in what is typical, may tell
us, and probably not without truth, that Tintoretto wished to convey a
graceful hint of Venice crowned by beauty and blessed with joy and
abundance. Bacchus arising from the sea well signifies these latter
gifts, and the watery path by which they come to her; and the lonely
island nymph to whom he presents the wedding-ring, may be intended to
refer to the situation and original forlornness of Venice herself, when
she sat in solitude amidst the sandy isles of the lagune, aloof from her
parental shores, ravaged by the Hun or the Lombard. The pale yellow
sunshine on these nude figures and their light transparent shadows, and
the mild temperate blue of the calm sea and air, almost completing the
most simple arrangement of the colouring of the picture, are still
beautiful, and no doubt were far more so before its lamentable fading,
occasioned, it seems, by too much exposure to light; you feel quite out
of doors, all on the airy cliffs, as you look on it, and almost taste
the very freshness of the sea-breeze.

    _The Art Journal_ (London, 1857).




One might say of Greuze, as of Hogarth, that the moral scenes which he
represents appear to have been posed for and acted by excellent actors
rather than copied directly from nature. This is the truth, but seen,
however, through an interpretation and under a travesty of rusticity.
All is reasoned out, full of purpose, and leading to an end. There is in
every stroke what the _littérateurs_ call ideas when they talk about
painting. Thus Diderot has celebrated Greuze in the most lyric strain.
Greuze, however, is not a mediocre artist: he invented a _genre_ unknown
before his time, and he possesses veritable qualities of a painter. He
has colour, he has touch, and his heads, modelled by square plans and,
so to speak, by facets, have relief and life. His draperies, or rather
his rumpled linen, torn and treated grossly in a systematic fashion to
give full value to the delicacy of the flesh, reveal in their very
negligence an easy brush. _La Malédiction Paternelle_ and _Le Fils
Maudit_ are homilies that are well painted and of a practical moral, but
we prefer _L'Accordée du Village_, on account of the adorable head of
the _fiancée_; it is impossible to find anything younger, fresher, more
innocent and more coquettishly virginal, if these two words may be
connected. Greuze, and this is the cause of the renown which he enjoys
now after the eclipse of his glory caused by the intervention of David
and his school, has a very individual talent for painting woman in her
first bloom, when the bud is about to burst into the rose and the child
is about to become a maiden. As in the Eighteenth Century all the world
was somewhat libertine, even the moralists, Greuze, when he painted an
Innocence, always took pains to open the gauze and give a glimpse of the
curve of the swelling bosom; he puts into the eyes a fiery lustre and
upon the lips a dewy smile that suggests the idea that Innocence might
very easily become Voluptuousness.

[Illustration: LA CRUCHE CASSÉE.

_La Cruche Cassée_ is the model of this _genre_. The head has still the
innocence of childhood, but the fichu is disarranged, the rose at the
corsage is dropping its leaves, the flowers are only half held in the
fold of the gown and the jug allows the water to escape through its

    _Guide de l'Amateur au Musée du Louvre_ (Paris, 1882).




The number of Reynolds's portraits of ladies has never been given,
probably it cannot be ascertained with precision; it is beyond all
question marvellous, but not less so is the variety of the attitudes in
which he placed the sitters, that of the ideas he expressed, and of the
accessories with which they are surrounded; to this end, and to show how
successfully he fitted things together, background and figure, compare
the portrait of _Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Derby_ splendidly
engraved by W. Dickinson, with that of Lady Betty Delmé. It is the same

We believe that Reynolds, of that English school of portrait-painters of
which he was the founder, was the happiest in introducing backgrounds to
his works; to him we are for the most part indebted for that aptitude of
one to the other which has so great an effect in putting the eye and
mind of the observer into harmonious relationship with what may be
called the _motive_ of the portrait, which, indeed, elevates a mere
likeness to the character of a picture, and affords a charming field for
the display of art in pathos, which is too often neglected, if not
utterly ignored, by Reynolds's successors. We think he exhibited more of
this valuable characteristic than any other contemporary artist.
Lawrence aimed at it, but with effect only commensurate to his success
in painting. Of old, as before the Seventeenth Century in Germany and
Italy, the art of landscape-painting _per se_ was inefficiently
cultivated, at least expressed with irregularity, although occasionally
with force enough to show that the pathos as well as the beauty of
nature were by no means unappreciated or neglected to anything like the
extent which has been commonly represented by writers on Art. Reynolds
probably took the hint, as he did many others of the kind, from Vandyck,
and gave apt backgrounds to his figures: between these painters no one
did much, or even well in the pathetic part of the achievement. Since
Reynolds, none have approached him in success. It will be understood
that the object of these remarks is not to suggest for the reader's
consideration who painted the best landscape backgrounds as landscapes,
but who most happily adapted them to his more important themes. We
believe Reynolds did so, and will conclude our remarks by another
example. The landscape in the distance of _The Age of Innocence_ is as
thoroughly in keeping with the subject as it can be: thus here are
fields easy to traverse, a few village elms, and just seen above their
tops the summits of habitations,--the hint is thus given that the child,
all innocent as she is, has not gone far from home, or out of sight of
the household to which she belongs....


It has been alleged that Reynolds never, or rarely painted the landscape
backgrounds to his pictures, and that they were the work of Peter Toms,
R.A., one of his ablest assistants, or of others who were more potent
with that branch of Art than the President himself.... It is hard to
deny to the mind which conceived the ruling idea of such pictures that
honour which is assuredly due to some one, and to whom more probably
than to the painter of the faces and designer of the attitudes, which
are in such perfect harmony with the subordinate elements about them as
to be completed only when the alliance is made. Without this alliance,
this harmony of parts, half the significance of many of Reynolds's
pictures is obscured. When we have noted this the result is at least
instructive, if not convincing, that one mind designed, if one hand did
not invariably execute, the whole of any important portrait by our

Our own belief is, that whenever the landscapes or other accessories of
his productions are essential to the idea expressed by the work as a
whole, then undoubtedly Reynolds wrought these minor parts almost
wholly, if not entirely, with his own brushes.

Few, if any, of Reynolds's family groups equals in beauty, variety, and
spirit, the famous _Cornelia and her Children_, or rather _Lady Cockburn
and her three Infants_,--a work so charming, that we can well conceive
the feelings of the Royal Academicians of 1774, that long-past time,
when it was brought to be hung in the Exhibition, and received with
clapping of hands, as men applaud a successful musical performance, or
the fine reading of a poem. Every Royal Academician then present--the
scene must have been a very curious one--stepped forward, and in this
manner saluted the work of the President; they did so, not because it
was his, but on account of its charming qualities. Conceive the
painters, each in his swallow-tailed coat, his ruffles and broad cuffs,
his knee-breeches, buckles, long waistcoat, and the rest of his garments
of those days, thus uniting in one acclaim. The reader may judge whether
or not such applause was deserved by the picture, which tells its own
story. The parrot in the background was occasionally used by Reynolds;
see the portrait of Elizabeth, Countess of Derby, and the engraving from
it by W. Dickinson.[29] It has been said that the only example of
Reynolds's practice in signing pictures on the border of the robes of
his sitters appears in _Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse_; nevertheless,
this picture of _Cornelia_ shows at least one exception to that asserted
rule. The border of Lady Cockburn's dress in the original is inscribed
in a similar manner thus:--"1775, Reynolds _pinxit_." The picture was
begun in 1773, and is now in the possession of Sir James Hamilton, of
Portman Square, who married the daughter of General Sir James Cockburn,
one of the boys in the picture. It is noteworthy that all these children
successively inherited the baronetcy; one of them--the boy who looks
over his mother's shoulder--was Admiral Sir George Cockburn, Bart., on
board whose ship, the _Northumberland_, Napoleon was conveyed to St.
Helena. Sir James, the eldest brother, was afterwards seventh baronet;
Sir William, the third brother, was eighth baronet of the name, was Dean
of York, and married a daughter of Sir R. Peel. The lady was Augusta
Anne, daughter of the Rev. Frances Ascough, D.D., Dean of Bristol,
married in 1769, the second wife of Sir James Cockburn, sixth baronet of
Langton, in the county of Berwick, M.P. She was niece of Lord Lyttleton.
For this picture in March, 1774, Reynolds received £183 15s. This was
probably the whole price, and for a work of no great size, but wealthy
in matter, the amount was small indeed. It includes four portraits.
After comparison of the facts that the engravings, by C.W. Wilkin, in
stipple, and by S.W. Reynolds, mezzotint, are dated, on the robe as
aforesaid, "1775," and its exhibition in 1774, the year in which it was
paid for, we may guess that the signature and date were added by the
painter after exhibiting it, and probably while he worked on it, with
the advantage of having compared the painting with others in the Royal
Academy. The landscape recalls that glimpse of halcyon country of which
we caught sight in _The Infant Academy_--its trees, its glowing sky, are
equally adaptable to both subjects. The picture was exhibited at the
British Institution in 1843, and was then the property of Sir James
Cockburn, Bart., whose portrait it contains.

    _English Children as painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds_ (London,


[29] Rather we should say, see the engraving only. The picture is one of
the very few prime works by Reynolds which has disappeared without
records of its loss.




I have seen a quantity of things here--churches, palaces, statues,
fountains, and pictures; and my brain is at this moment like a portfolio
of an architect, or a print-shop, or a common-place book. I will try to
recollect something of what I have seen; for indeed it requires, if it
will obey, an act of volition. First, we went to the Cathedral, which
contains nothing remarkable, except a kind of shrine, or rather a marble
canopy, loaded with sculptures, and supported on four marble columns. We
went then to a palace--I am sure I forget the name of it--where we saw a
large gallery of pictures. Of course, in a picture gallery you see three
hundred pictures you forget, for one you remember. I remember, however,
an interesting picture by Guido, of the Rape of Proserpine, in which
Proserpine casts back her languid and half-unwilling eyes, as it were,
to the flowers she had left ungathered in the fields of Enna.

We saw besides one picture of Raphael--St. Cecilia; this is in another
and higher style; you forget that it is a picture as you look at it; and
yet it is most unlike any of those things which we call reality. It is
of the inspired and ideal kind, and seems to have been conceived and
executed in a similar state of feeling to that which produced among the
ancients those perfect specimens of poetry and sculpture which are the
baffling models of succeeding generations. There is a unity and a
perfection in it of an incommunicable kind. The central figure, St.
Cecilia, seems rapt in such inspiration as produced her image in the
painter's mind; her deep, dark, eloquent eyes lifted up; her chestnut
hair flung back from her forehead--she holds an organ in her hands--her
countenance, as it were, calmed by the depth of its passion and rapture,
and penetrated throughout with the warm and radiant light of life. She
is listening to the music of heaven, and, as I imagine, has just ceased
to sing, for the four figures that surround her evidently point, by
their attitudes, towards her; particularly St. John, who, with a tender
yet impassioned gesture, bends his countenance towards her, languid with
the depth of his emotion. At her feet lie various instruments of music,
broken and unstrung. Of the colouring I do not speak; it eclipses
nature, yet has all her truth and softness.

    _Letters from Italy. The Prose Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley_,
    edited by Harry Buxton Forman (London, 1880).

[Illustration: ST. CECILIA.




We will now turn to _The Last Supper_, which was painted on the wall of
the refectory of St. Maria delle Gratie in Milan.

The place where this picture is painted must first be considered: for
here the knowledge of this artist is focussed. Could anything more
appropriate, or noble, be devised for a refectory than a parting meal
which the whole world will reverence for ever?

Several years ago when travelling we beheld this dining-room still
undestroyed. Opposite the entrance on the narrow end on the floor of the
hall stands the prior's table with a table for the monks on either side,
all three raised a step above the ground, and now when the visitor turns
around he sees painted on the wall, above the not very high doors, a
fourth table, at which are seated Christ and His disciples, as if they
also belonged to this company. It must have been an impressive sight at
meal times when the tables of Christ and the prior looked upon each
other like two pictures, and the monks found themselves enclosed between
them. And, for this very reason, the artist's judgment selected the
tables of the monks for a model. Also the table-cloth, with its creased
folds, embroidered stripes, and tied corners, was taken from the
linen-room of the monastery, while the dishes, plates, drinking-vessels,
and other utensils are similarly copied from those used by the monks.

Here, also, no attempt was made to depict an uncertain and antiquated
custom. It would have been extremely unsuitable in this place to permit
the holy company to recline upon cushions. No! it should be made
contemporary. Christ should take His Last Supper with the Dominicans in

In many other respects also the picture must have produced a great
effect. About ten feet above the floor the thirteen figures, each one
half larger than life-size, occupy a space twenty-eight Parisian feet
long. Only two of these can be seen at full length at the opposite ends
of the table, the others are half-figures, and here, too, the artist
found great advantage in the conditions. Every moral expression belongs
solely to the upper part of the body, and the feet, in such cases, are
always in the way; the artist has created here eleven half-figures,
whose laps and knees are hidden by the table and table-cloth under which
the feet in the deep shadow are scarcely visible.

Now, let us transport ourselves to this place and room, imagine the
extreme moral repose which reigns in such a monastic dining-hall, and
marvel at the strong emotion and impassioned action that the painter has
put into his picture whilst he has kept his work of art close to nature,
bringing it immediately in contrast with the neighbouring actual scene.

The exciting means which the artist employed to agitate the tranquil
and holy Supper-Table are the Master's words: "There is one amongst you
that betrays me." The words are spoken, and the entire company falls
into consternation; but He inclines His head with downcast looks; the
whole attitude, the motion of the arms, the hands, and everything repeat
with heavenly resignation which the silence itself confirms, "Verily,
verily, there is one amongst you that betrays Me."

[Illustration: THE LAST SUPPER.
        _L. da Vinci._]

Before going any farther we must point out a great expedient, by means
of which Leonardo principally animated this picture: it is the motion of
the hands; only an Italian would have discovered this. With his nation
the whole body is expressive, all the limbs take part in describing an
emotion, not only passion but also thought. By various gestures he can
express: "What do I care?"--"Come here!"--"This is a rascal, beware of
him!" "He shall not live long!" "This is a main point. Take heed of
this, my hearers!" To such a national trait, Leonardo, who observed
every characteristic with the greatest attention, must have turned his
searching eye; in this the present picture is unique and one cannot
observe it too much. The expression of every face and every gesture is
in perfect harmony, and yet a single glance can take in the unity and
the contrast of the limbs rendered so admirably.

The figures on both sides of our Lord may be considered in groups of
three, and each group may be regarded as a unit, placed in relation and
still held in connection with its neighbours. On Christ's immediate
right are John, Judas, and Peter.

Peter, the farthest, on hearing the words of our Lord, rises suddenly,
in conformity with his vehement character, behind Judas, who, looking up
with terrified countenance, leans over the table, tightly clutching the
purse with his right hand, whilst with the left he makes an involuntary
nervous motion as if to say: "What may this mean? What is to happen?"
Peter, meanwhile, with his left hand has seized the right shoulder of
John, who is bending towards him, and points to Christ, at the same time
urging the beloved disciple to ask: "Who is the traitor?" He
accidentally touches Judas's side with the handle of a knife held in his
right hand, which occasions the terrified forward movement upsetting the
salt-cellar, so happily brought out. This group may be considered as the
one first thought of by the artist; it is the most perfect.

While now on the right hand of the Lord a certain degree of emotion
seems to threaten immediate revenge, on the left, the liveliest horror
and detestation of the treachery manifest themselves. James the Elder
starts back in terror, and with outspread arms gazes transfixed with
bowed head, like one who imagines that he already beholds with his eyes
what his ears have heard. Thomas appears behind his shoulder, and
approaching the Saviour raises the forefinger of his right hand to his
forehead. Philip, the third of this group, rounds it off in the most
pleasing manner; he has risen, he bends forward towards the Master, lays
his hands upon his breast, and says with the greatest clearness: "It is
not I, Lord, Thou knowest it! Thou knowest my pure heart, it is not I."

And now the three last figures on this side give us new material for
reflection. They are discussing the terrible news. Matthew turns his
face eagerly to his two companions on the left, hastily stretching out
his hands towards the Master, and thus, by an admirable contrivance of
the artist, he is made to connect his own group with the preceding one.
Thaddæus shows the utmost surprise, doubt, and suspicion; his left hand
rests upon the table, while he has raised the right as if he intended to
strike his left hand with the back of his right, a very common action
with simple people when some unexpected occurrence leads them to say:
"Did I not tell you so? Did I not always suspect it?"--Simon sits at the
end of the table with great dignity, and we see his whole figure; he is
the oldest of all and wears a garment with rich folds, his face and
gesture show that he is troubled and thoughtful but not excited, indeed,
scarcely moved.

If we now turn our eyes to the opposite end of the table, we see
Bartholomew, who rests on his right foot with the left crossed over it,
supporting his inclined body by firmly resting his hands upon the table.
He is probably trying to hear what John will ask of the Lord: this whole
side appears to be inciting the favourite disciple. James the Younger,
standing near and behind Bartholomew, lays his left hand on Peter's
shoulder, just as Peter lays his on John's shoulder, but James mildly
requests the explanation whilst Peter already threatens vengeance.

And as Peter behind Judas, so James the Younger stretches out his hand
behind Andrew, who, as one of the most prominent figures expresses, with
his half-raised arms and his hands stretched out directly in front, the
fixed horror that has seized him, an attitude occurring but once in
this picture, while in other works of less genius and less reflection,
it is too often repeated....

It is sad to reflect that unfortunately even when the picture was
painted, its ruin might have been predicted from the character and
situation of the building. Duke Louis, out of malice or caprice,
compelled the monks to renovate their decaying monastery in this
unfavourable location, wherefore it was ill-built and as if by forced
feudal labour. In the old galleries we see miserable meanly-wrought
columns, great arches with small ill-assorted bricks, the materials from
old pulled-down buildings.

If then what is visible on the exterior is so bad, it is also to be
feared that the inner walls, which were plastered over, were constructed
still worse. This is saying nothing of weather-beaten bricks and other
minerals saturated with hurtful salts which absorbed the dampness of the
locality and destructively exhaled it again. Farther away stood the
unfortunate walls to which such a great treasure was entrusted, towards
the north, and, moreover in the vicinity of the kitchen, the pantry, and
the scullery; and how sad, that so careful an artist, who could not
select and refine his colours and clear his glaze and varnish too
carefully, was compelled by the circumstances, or rather by the place
and situation in which the picture had to stand, to overlook the chief
point upon which everything depended, or not to take it sufficiently to

However, despite all this, if the monastery had stood upon high ground,
the evil would not have been so great. It lies so low, and the Refectory
lower than the rest of the building, that in the year 1800, during a
long rain, the water stood to a depth of three palms, which leads us
also to believe that the frightful floods of 1500 also extended to this
place. It is to be remembered that the monks did their best to dry out
this room, but unfortunately there remained enough humidity to penetrate
it through and through; and they were even sensible of this in
Leonardo's time.

About ten years after the completion of the picture, a terrible plague
overran the good city, and how could we expect that the afflicted monks,
forsaken by all the world and in fear of death, should think of the
picture in their dining-room?

War and numerous other misfortunes which overtook Lombardy in the first
half of the Sixteenth Century were the cause of the complete neglect of
such works as the one we are speaking of; the white-washed wall being
especially unfavourable: perhaps, indeed, the very style of painting
lent itself to speedy destruction. In the second half of the Sixteenth
Century a traveller says that the picture is half spoiled; another sees
in it only a tarnished blot; people complain that the picture is already
lost, assuredly it can scarcely be seen; another calls it perfectly
useless, and so speak all the later authors of this period.

But the picture was still there, even if it was the shadow of its former
self. Now, however, from time to time fear arises lest it be lost
entirely; the cracks are increasing and run into one another, and the
great and precious surface is splitting into numberless small flakes and
threatening to fall piece by piece. Touched by this state of affairs,
Cardinal Frederick Borromeo had a copy of it made in 1612, and we are
grateful for his forethought.

Not only did it suffer by the lapse of time, in connection with the
above-mentioned circumstances, but the owners, themselves, who should
have kept and preserved it, wrought its greatest ruin and therefore have
covered their memory with eternal shame. It seemed to them necessary to
have doors that they might pass in and out of the Refectory; so these
were cut symmetrically through the wall upon which the picture stood.
They desired an impressive entrance into the room which was so precious
to them.

A door much larger than was necessary was broken through the middle,
and, without any feeling of reverence either for the painter or the holy
company, they ruined the feet of several apostles, indeed, even of
Christ. And from this, the ruin of the picture really dates. Now, in
order to build an arch, a much larger opening had to be made in the wall
than even for the door; and not only was a large portion of the picture
lost, but the blows of hammers shook the picture in its own field, and
in many places the crust was loosened and some pieces were fastened on
again with nails.

At a later period, by a new form of bad taste, the picture was obscured,
inasmuch as a national escutcheon was fastened under the ceiling, almost
touching the forehead of Christ; thus by the door from below, so now
from above also, the Lord's presence was cramped and degraded. From this
time forward the restoration was again spoken of which was undertaken at
a later period. But what real artist would care to undertake such a
responsibility? Unfortunately, in the year 1726, Bellotti presented
himself, poor in art, but at the same time, as is usual, with an
abundant supply of presumption. He, like a charlatan, boasted of a
secret process with which he could restore the picture to its original
state. By means of a small sample of his work he deluded the ignorant
monks who yielded to his discretion this treasure, which he immediately
surrounded with scaffolding, and, hidden behind it, he painted over the
entire picture with a hand shaming to art. The little monks wondered at
the secret, which he communicated in a common varnish to delude them,
and gave them to understand that with this they would be able to save it
from spoiling for ever.

Whether, on the clouding of the picture after a short time, the monks
made use of this costly remedy or not, is unknown, but it certainly was
freshened up several times, and indeed with water-colours in certain

Meanwhile the picture had become constantly more decayed, and again the
question arose how far it could still be preserved, but not without much
contention among artists and directors. De Giorgi, a modest man of
moderate talent, but intelligent and zealous and with a knowledge of
true art, steadfastly refused to set his hand forward where Leonardo had
withheld his own.

At last, in 1770, on a well-meaning order but one void of discretion,
through the indulgence of a courtly prior, the work was transferred to a
certain Mazza, who botched it in a masterly manner. The few old original
spots remaining, although twice muddied by a foreign hand, were an
impediment to his free brush; so he scraped them with iron and prepared
bare places for the free play of his own impudent daubing, indeed,
several heads were handled in this way.

Friends of art were now aroused against that in Milan, and patrons and
clients were openly blamed. Enthusiasm fed the fire and the fermentation
became general. Mazza, who had begun to paint on the right of the
Saviour, had by this arrived at the left, and only the heads of Matthew,
Thaddæus, and Simon remained untouched. He thought to cover Bellotti's
work and to vie with him in the name of a hero. But Fate willed
otherwise, for the pliant prior having been transferred, his successor,
a friend of art, did not delay to dismiss Mazza forthwith; through which
step three heads were so far saved that we can accordingly judge of
Bellotti. And, indeed, this circumstance probably gave rise to the
saying: "There are still three heads of the genuine original remaining."

In 1796, the French host crossed the Alps triumphantly, led by General
Bonaparte. Young, crowned with fame and seeking fame, he was drawn by
the name of Leonardo to the place that has now held us so long.

He immediately gave orders that no encampment should be made here lest
other damage should happen, and signed the order on his knee before he
mounted his horse. Shortly afterwards another general disregarded these
orders, had the doors broken in, and turned the hall into a stable.

Mazza's coating had already lost some of its freshness and the horse
steam which was worse than the steam from viands on monkish sideboards
lastingly impregnated the walls, and added new mould to the picture;
indeed, dampness collected so heavily that it ran down leaving white
streaks. Later, this room was used for storing hay, and sometimes for
other purposes connected with the military, by whom it was abused.

Finally the Administration succeeded in closing the place, and even
walling it in, so that for a long time those who wished to see _The Last
Supper_ were obliged to climb a ladder leading to the pulpit from which
the Reader discoursed at meal times.

In the year 1800, a great flood produced still more dampness. In 1801,
on the recommendation of Vossi, who took it upon himself to assume the
Secretaryship of the Academy, a door was built and the board of
governors promised more care in the future. Finally, in 1807, the
Viceroy of Italy gave orders that the place should be renovated and duly
honoured. Windows were put in and scaffolding was erected in some parts
to examine if there was anything more that could be done. The door was
transferred to the side, and since then no considerable changes have
been noticed, although to the minute observer its dullness varies
according to the state of the atmosphere. Although the work itself is as
good as lost, may it yet leave some slight trace to the sad but pious
memory of future generations!

    _Werke_ (Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1831), Vol. XXXIX.




Upon his arrival [in England] Anthonius was temporarily lodged at the
house of Edward Norgate, a _protégé_ of the Earl of Arundel, charged by
the King to provide for all the needs of his guest. Another such
installation could not be repeated. The sovereign himself took pains to
find a suitable establishment for his painter. Mr. Carpenter cites a
very curious note on this subject. Charles I. wrote with his own
hand,--"To speak with Inigo Jones concerning a house for Vandike." This
house demanded the combination of certain conditions very difficult to
meet with. It was necessary that the artist should be comfortably
established; and, on the other hand, the King wished him not to be too
far from the palace. The architect was able to satisfy all these
requirements. A winter residence was found for Van Dyck in Blackfriars
on the right bank of the Thames. From his palace in Whitehall, Charles
I., crossing the river in his barge, could conveniently reach the studio
of his favourite painter. He took great pleasure in watching him at work
and loved to forget himself during the long hours charmed by the wit and
innate distinction of his entertainer. During the summer season, Van
Dyck lived at Eltham in the county of Kent. He probably occupied an
apartment or some dependency of one of the palaces of the Crown. An
annual pension of two hundred pounds sterling was assigned to him, first
of all to enable him to support a household worthy of the title bestowed
upon him,--"Principal Painter in Ordinary." The portraits commanded by
the King were paid for independently. The remuneration for his works
finally provided the artist with that brilliant and gorgeous life which
had been his ambition for so long and which an assiduous industry had
not been able to procure for him in Flanders. He had no less than six
servants and several horses; at all periods, as we know, he always
bestowed much care and refinement upon his toilet. Frequenting an
elegant and frivolous court could not but develop this natural
disposition for all the quests of luxury.

        _Van Dyck._]

Three months after his arrival, Van Dyck was included in a creation of
knights made on July 5, 1632. Charles I. added still more to this favour
by the gift of a chain of gold bearing a miniature of himself enriched
with diamonds. In many of his portraits the artist is represented with
this mark of royal munificence.

It now devolved upon him to justify the high position to which he found
himself so rapidly elevated. An act of the Privy Seal pointed out by Mr.
Carpenter shows us that Van Dyck lost no time in satisfying the
impatience of his royal protector. On August 8, 1632, the sum of £224
was allowed him from the royal treasury for various works of painting.
The enumeration of these pictures furnishes precious details for the
price of the artist's works. It seems that from the very beginning, a
kind of tariff was adopted with common accord, according to the size of
each portrait. The price of a whole length portrait was £25; other
canvases only fetched £20; that refers probably to personages at half
length. Finally, a large family picture, representing the King, the
Queen, and their two children attained the sum of £100. At a later
period, these figures were increased and the price of a full length
portrait was raised to £40.

But how many of these works, in which, however, very great qualities
shine, pale before a canvas of the Master preserved in the Museum of
Turin! We mean the picture in which the three young children of Charles
I. are grouped--the Prince of Wales, the Princess Henrietta Maria who
became the Duchess of Orleans, and the Duke of York. All three are still
in long dresses, therefore the eldest was about five or six years old at
most; all three are standing up, and for that reason we cannot give the
youngest less than eighteen months or two years. This circumstance dates
the picture--it was painted in 1635.

We know the various portraits of the children of Charles I. disseminated
in the museums and palaces of Europe; we have seen and admired the
picture in Dresden, those at Windsor, the sketch in the Louvre, and the
canvas in Berlin, a copy of the great composition which belongs to the
Queen of England. Very well! there is not the slightest hesitation
possible--not one of these pictures is comparable to that in Turin.
Nowhere does there exist a work of Van Dyck's so delicate, so well
preserved, and so perfect in all its points. With what care and worship
this picture is surrounded no one can imagine. The most watchful
precautions and the most respectful regard are at its service. We have
been told that the directors of the Museum constantly refuse to move it
for the convenience of photographers. A little detail hardly worth
mentioning, one would say! We do not think so. We consider that the
authorities of the Museum are right a thousand times, when they possess
such a _chef-d'oeuvre_, not to neglect any precaution, however
insignificant it may appear, to assure it a longer duration.

A fine engraving of this incomparable jewel gives a very exact idea of
the arrangement and dominating qualities of the picture; but how can we
translate in black and white the shimmering of material, the delicacy of
tone, the colouring of those robes, rose, blue, and white, of exquisite
harmony and incomparable finesse.

What shall we say of the physiognomy, of the grace, and also the
penetrating charm of those three child figures? Such a work would alone
suffice for the glory of a museum, above all when it has kept its
freshness like the flowering of genius.

Every moment of the painter was consecrated to the various members of
the royal family. That was natural enough. Charles I. never desisted
from watching his clever _protégé_ at work, and spending his leisure in
his studio,--the habitual _rendez-vous_ of the young gentlemen and the
beauties of fashion. The establishment of the artist permitted him to
receive such guests becomingly. Hired musicians were instructed to
divert his aristocratic models during the hours of work. Thus he was
enabled to attract and hold at his home the very best society in
London. Every day at his table sat numerous guests chosen from the
_élite_ of the artists and _littérateurs_ mingled with the greatest
personages. Carried into the whirlwind of this light world so full of
entertainment, Van Dyck hastened to enjoy all the pleasures and exhaust
all the delights, without considering his strength, or hoarding his

The King would never let him stop painting the pictures of his children.
On his side, Van Dyck brought to this task all his art, we might say all
his heart. Doubtless, he derived from Rubens and also from Van Balen
that very lively intelligence for the graces of childhood. Also, when he
occupied himself in rendering those delicious faces of rosy and chubby
babies, in the midst of glimmering stuffs, he found colours of
incomparable freshness....

Every artist of high degree carries within himself the ideal type whose
expression he pursues without pause. This search imprints upon each of
his works the characteristic mark of genius: originality. Thus we
recognize at the first glance the giants that sprang from the brain of
Michael Angelo, the enigmatical sirens of da Vinci, and those superhuman
figures with which Raphael has peopled his immortal compositions. Titian
lived in a world of kings and magnificent princes. Correggio's
individuality is grace of form and charm of colour; his portion is not
to be scorned. The exuberant nature of Rubens betrays itself in his
least important canvases. The personages of his innumerable pictures
share in common the affinities of race and family which make them
recognizable everywhere.

Anthonius Van Dyck obeys, likewise, the common law. Each of his works
is marked by that sign of originality, which in him consists of the
incessant pursuit of elegance and distinction. Distinction,--that is the
gift _par excellence_, the dominating quality of this artist, that which
constitutes his individuality, that which marks with an indelible
imprint all his glorious works, from the first gropings of the pupil of
Rubens to those immortal images of Charles I., his family, and his

Whether he belongs to the highest spheres of society or whether he comes
from the simple _bourgeoisie_ of Antwerp, the model receives from Van
Dyck's brush the most aristocratic mien. One would insist that the
painter spent his life only in a world of gentlemen and patricians.
Never does he surprise even the men that he knows the best, his most
intimate friends, in the familiar carelessness of their daily
occupations. Rarely, very rarely, does it come into his mind to group
them in some intimate interior scene. Everybody is made to pose before
posterity; each sitter has the smile to give his or her descendants the
most exalted idea of his or her station and manners. Not one is vulgar,
not one dares to show himself in his ordinary work, or in the careless
good nature of daily life. Nothing alters their immutable serenity;
nothing troubles the unalterable placidity of their physiognomy. Let
others paint the people of taverns, the world of _kermesses_ and
peasants! Van Dyck wished to be and to live for ever the painter of

    _Antoine Van Dyck--sa vie et sonnoeuvre._ (Paris, 1882).




  "The flag which braved the battle and the breeze
  No longer owns her."

Exhibited at the Academy in 1839, with the above lines cited in the
Catalogue. Of all Turner's pictures in the National Gallery this is
perhaps the most notable. For, _first_ it is the last picture he ever
painted with _perfect_ power--the last in which his execution is as firm
and faultless as in middle life; the last in which lines requiring
exquisite precision, such as those of the masts and yards of shipping,
are drawn rightly at once. When he painted the _Téméraire_ Turner could,
if he liked, have painted the _Shipwreck_ or the _Ulysses_ over again;
but when he painted the _Sun of Venice_, though he was able to do
different, and in some sort more beautiful things, he could not have
done _those_ again. His period of central power thus begins with the
_Ulysses_ and closes with the _Téméraire_. The one picture, it will be
observed, is of sunrise, the other of sunset. The one of a ship entering
on its voyage, and the other of a ship closing its course for ever. The
one, in all the circumstance of the subject, unconsciously
illustrative of his own life in its triumph, the other, in all the
circumstances of its subject, unconsciously illustrative of his own life
in its decline. Accurately as the first sets forth his escape to the
wild brightness of nature, to reign amidst all her happy spirits, so
does the last set forth his returning to die by the shore of the Thames.
And besides having been painted in Turner's full power, the _Téméraire_
is of all his large pictures the best preserved. _Secondly_, the subject
of the picture is, both particularly and generally, the noblest that in
an English National Gallery could be. The _Téméraire_ was the second
ship in Nelson's line at the Battle of Trafalgar; and this picture is
the last of the group which Turner painted to illustrate that central
struggle in our national history. The part played by the _Téméraire_ in
the battle will be found detailed below. And, generally, she is a type
of one of England's chief glories. It will be always said of us, with
unabated reverence, "They built ships of the line." Take it all in all,
a Ship of the Line is the most honourable thing that man as a gregarious
animal, has ever produced. By himself, unhelped, he can do better things
than ships of the line; he can make poems and pictures, and other such
concentrations of what is best in him. But as a being living in flocks,
and hammering out, with alternate strokes and mutual agreement, what is
necessary for him in those flocks, to get or produce, the ship of the
line is his first work. And as the subject was the noblest Turner could
have chosen so also was his treatment of it. Of all pictures of subjects
not visibly involving human pain, this is, I believe, the most pathetic
that was ever painted. The utmost pensiveness which can ordinarily be
given to a landscape depends on adjuncts of ruin; but no ruin was ever
so affecting as this gliding of the vessel to her grave. A ruin cannot
be so, for whatever memories may be connected with it, and whatever
witness it may have borne to the courage and glory of men, it never
seems to have offered itself to their danger, and associated itself with
their acts, as a ship of battle can. The mere facts of motion, and
obedience to human guidance, double the interest of the vessel: nor less
her organized perfectness, giving her the look, and partly the character
of a living creature, that may indeed be maimed in limb or decrepit in
frame, but must either live or die, and cannot be added to nor
diminished from--heaped up and dragged down--as a building can. And this
particular ship, crowned in the Trafalgar hour of trial with chief
victory--prevailing over the fatal vessel that had given Nelson
death--surely, if ever anything without a soul deserved honour or
affection, we owed them here. Those sails that strained so full bent
into the battle--that broad bow that struck the surf aside, enlarging
silently in steadfast haste full front to the shot--resistless and
without reply--those triple ports whose choirs of flame rang forth in
their courses, into the fierce revenging monotone, which, when it died
away, left no answering voice to rise any more upon the sea against the
strength of England--those sides that were wet with the long runlets of
English life-blood, like press planks at vintage, gleaming goodly
crimson down to the cast and clash of the washing foam--those pale masts
that stayed themselves up against the war-ruin, shaking out their
ensigns through the thunder, till sail and ensign drooped--steeped in
the death-stilled pause of Andalusian air, burning with its
witness-clouds of human souls at rest,--surely, for these some sacred
care might have been left in our thoughts, some quiet space amidst the
lapse of English waters? Nay, not so. We have stern keepers to trust her
glory to--the fire and the worm. Never more shall sunset lay golden robe
on her, nor starlight tremble on the waves that part at her gliding.
Perhaps, where the low gate opens to some cottage-garden, the tired
traveller may ask, idly, why the moss grows so green on its rugged wood;
and even the sailor's child may not answer, nor know, that the night-dew
lies deep in the war-rents of the wood of the old _Téméraire_. And,
_lastly_, the pathos of the picture--the contrast of the old ship's past
glory with her present end; and the spectacle of the "old order" of the
ship of the line whose flag had braved the battle and the breeze,
yielding place to the new, in the little steam-tug--these pathetic
contrasts are repeated and enforced by a technical _tour de force_ in
the treatment of the colours which is without a parallel in art. And the
picture itself thus combines the evidences of Turner's supremacy alike
in imagination and in skill. The old masters, content with one simple
tone, sacrificed to its unity all the exquisite gradations and varied
touches of relief and change by which nature unites her hours with each
other. They gave the warmth of the sinking sun, overwhelming all things
in its gold, but they did not give those gray passages about the
horizon, where, seen through its dying light, the cool and the gloom of
night gather themselves for their victory.... But in this picture,
under the blazing veil of vaulted fire, which lights the vessel on her
last path, there is a blue, deep, desolate hollow of darkness out of
which you can hear the voice of the night wind, and the dull boom of the
disturbed sea; the cold deadly shadows of the twilight are gathering
through every sunbeam, and moment by moment, as you look, you will fancy
some new film and faintness of the night has risen over the vastness of
the departing form. (Compiled from _Modern Painters_, Vol. I. pt. ii.
Sec. I. ch. vii. § 46 _n._, Sec. II. ch i. § 21; _Harbours of England_,
p. 12; and _Notes on the Turner Gallery_, pp. 75-80.)


Finally a few words about the history of the picture itself may be
interesting. The subject of it was suggested to Turner by Clarkson
Stanfield (who himself, it will be remembered, had painted a _Battle of
Trafalgar_). They were going down the river by boat, to dine, perhaps,
at Greenwich, when the old ship, being tugged to her last berth at
Deptford, came in sight. "There's a fine subject, Turner," said
Stanfield. This was in 1838. Next year the picture was exhibited at the
Academy, but no price was put upon it. A would-be purchaser offered
Turner 300 guineas for it. He replied that it was his "200 guinea size"
only, and offered to take a commission at that price for any subject of
the same size, but with the _Téméraire_ itself he would not part.
Another offer was subsequently made from America, which again Turner
declined. He had already mentally included the picture, it would seem,
amongst those to be bequeathed to the nation; and in one of the codicils
to his will, in which he left each of his executors a picture to be
chosen by them in turn, the _Téméraire_ was specially excepted from the
pictures they might choose.[30]

    Edward T. Cook, _A Popular Handbook to the National Gallery_.


[30] Mr. W. Hale White recently drew up for Mr. Ruskin, from official
records, the following history of the _Téméraire_. To him and to Mr.
Ruskin I am indebted for permission to insert the history here. It will
be seen that Turner was right in calling his picture the _Fighting
Téméraire_ and the critic who induced him to change the title in the
engraving to the _Old Téméraire_ wrong:--

"The _Téméraire_, second-rate, ninety-eight guns, was begun at Chatham,
July, 1793, and launched on the 11th September, 1798. She was named
after an older _Téméraire_ taken by Admiral Boscawen from the French in
1759, and sold in June, 1784. The Chatham _Téméraire_ was fitted at
Plymouth for a prison ship in 1812, and in 1819 she became a receiving
ship and was sent to Sheerness. She was sold on the 16th August, 1838,
to Mr. J. Beatson for £5,530. The _Téméraire_ was at the Battle of
Trafalgar on the 21st October, 1805. She was next to the _Victory_, and
followed Nelson into action; commanded by Captain Elias Harvey, with
Thomas Kennedy as first lieutenant. Her maintopmast, the head of her
mizzenmast, her foreyard, her starboard, cathead and bumpkin, and her
fore and main topsail yards were shot away; her fore and main masts so
wounded as to render them unfit to carry sail, and her bowsprit shot
through in several places. Her rigging of every sort was cut to pieces;
the head of her rudder was taken off by the fire of the _Redoutable_;
eight feet of the starboard side of the lower deck abreast of the
mainmast were stove in, and the whole of her quarter-galleries on both
sides carried away. Forty-six men on board of her were killed, and
seventy-six wounded.... The _Téméraire_ was built with a beakhead, or,
in other words, her upper works were cut off across the catheads; a
peculiarity which can be observed in Turner's picture. It was found by
experience in the early part of the French war that this mode of
construction exposed the men working the guns to the enemy's fire, and
it was afterwards abandoned. It has been objected," adds Mr. White,
"that the masts and yards in the picture are too light for a
ninety-eight gun ship; but the truth is that when the vessel was sold
she was juryrigged as a receiving ship, and Turner, therefore, was
strictly accurate. He might have seemed more accurate by putting heavier
masts and yards in her; but he painted her as he saw her. This is very
important, as it gets rid of the difficulty which I myself have felt and
expressed, that it was very improbable that she was sold all standing in
sea-going trim, as I imagined Turner intended us to believe she was
sold, and answers also the criticism just mentioned as to the
disproportion between the weight of the masts and yards and the size of
the hull." Part of the _Téméraire_, Mr. White tells me, is still in
existence. Messrs. Castle, the shipbuilders of Millbank, have the two
figures of Atlas which supported the sterngallery.




Of all the ancient Italian painters, Botticelli has, for several years,
been the master most in fashion. Why? The first reason should be sought
in that reaction against the pseudo-classic style of the Renaissance
which has seemed to be the dominant tendency of art in the Nineteenth
Century. But this explanation does not suffice to tell us for what
reasons the favour of the public has specially fallen upon Botticelli.
Why select Botticelli rather than any other artist of the Fourteenth or
Fifteenth Century? Why Botticelli and not Giotto, or Fra Angelico, or,
to cite none but his contemporaries, why not Signorelli, or Ghirlandajo?
It is because Fra Angelico's art is too religious for our century and
Giotto's art too philosophical, or, at least, it is because our century
no longer thinks of demanding from its artists, as in the time of Giotto
and Fra Angelico, the expression of the moral questions with which it is
occupied. And if we seem to-day somewhat indifferent to the art of
Ghirlandajo, or Signorelli, it is because their thought is too grave and
because we desire before all else that art shall bring smiles into our
laborious life; we demand that it shall give repose to our tired brains
by charming us with the vision of all terrestrial beauties, without
exacting any labour or any effort from our minds.

In this quest of beauty, our curious minds, which know so many things
and which have been able to compare the works of the most diverse
civilizations, are perpetually seeking novelty, eager for rare forms,
and inimical to everything banal and to everything that ordinary life
brings before our eyes. And in our _fin de siècle_ we have been so much
the more prone to subtle pursuits because for some time our French art
has seemed to take delight in the forms of a gross realism.

This refinement of art, this intimate analysis of form and thought, this
love of sensual beauty, had appeared at the court of the Medici by the
same causes that prompt us to seek them; they are the fruit of a society
that has attained the highest degree of well-being, wealth and

This kind of art lasted only for a moment in Florence. It is correct to
say that Florentine art did not seem destined to speak the charms of
feminine beauty. From its beginning, this school had been stamped by
Giotto with the philosophic impress, and for two centuries its artists
had been before everything else, thinkers, occupied more with moral
ideas than with the beauty of form.

The first in Florence to be enthralled by the charm of beautiful eyes
was the poor Filippo Lippi. It was he who created that new form of art
which was to continue with Botticelli, his pupil, and which attained its
perfection under the hands of Leonardo. If, to the Lucrezia Buti of
Filippo Lippi, we join Botticelli's Simonetta and Leonardo's Monna Lisa,
we should have the poem of love sung by Florentine genius under its most
exquisite form.

[Illustration: SPRING.

What Botticelli was, _Spring_ will tell us; and this work is so
significant, its essence expresses the thought of the master so clearly
that it has preserved all its charm for us, although its particular
meaning is not known to us. We call it _Spring_, but if one of the
figures in the picture really represents Spring, it is only an accessory
figure; and, moreover, this name given to the picture is entirety
modern. Vasari says that it represents _Venus surrounded by the Graces_,
but if we find the three Graces in the picture, it is not likely that
the principal figure represents Venus. In my opinion, it is that
principal figure that is the key to the picture; it is for this figure
that everything has been done, and this it is, above all, that we must
interrogate if we wish to know Botticelli's meaning. Evidently it is
neither Venus, nor Spring; and the precision of the features, and the
fidelity of the smallest details of the costume make us believe that we
are in the presence of a veritable portrait.... Around her, Nature
adorns herself with flowers; Spring and the Graces surround her like a
train of Fays. Here is one of the familiar poetical forms of the
Fifteenth Century; and, doubtless, by attentively reading the Florentine
poets, we should discover the meaning of all the allegorical figures
that Botticelli has united in his work and which we do not

But whatever may be the particular meaning of each of these figures, it
is certain that here we have to do with love and beauty, and that
perhaps in no other work may we find the charm of woman described in
more passionate accents.

In this world of feminine fascination Botticelli loved everything. He
knows the attraction of the toilet and of jewels, but he knows above all
that no gem and no invention of man can rival the beauty of the female
form. He was the first to understand the exquisite charm of silhouettes,
the first to linger in expressing the joining of the arm and body, the
flexibility of the hips, the roundness of the shoulders, the elegance of
the leg, the little shadow that marks the springing of the neck, and,
above all, the exquisite carving of the hand. But, even more, he
understood "_le prestige insolent des grands yeux_,"--large eyes, full,
restless, and sad, because they are filled with love.

Look at these young maidens of Botticelli's. What a heavenly vision! Did
Alfred de Musset know these veiled forms that seem to float over the
meadow and did he think of them in the sleeplessness of his nights of
May? Did he think of that young girl whose arm rises supple as the stem
of a flower, of that young Grace so charming in the frame of her fair
hair confined by strings of pearls, or, indeed, of that _Primavera_, who
advances so imperiously beautiful, in her long robe of brocade,
scattering handfuls of flowers that she makes blossom, or of that young
mother more charming still in her modest grace, with her beautiful eyes
full of infinite tenderness.

And around this scene, what a beautiful frame of verdure and flowers!
Nature has donned her richest festal robes; the inanimate things, like
the human beings, all speak of love and happiness, and tell us that the
master of this world is that little child with bandaged eyes, who amuses
himself by shooting his arrows of fire.

To say a word about the technique of this work, we should remark that
Botticelli always painted in fresco or distemper, and that he did not
seek the supple modelling that painting in oil affords; and, on the
other hand, he submitted profoundly to the influence of Pollaiolo; he
observed Nature with the eyes of a goldsmith; and he painted his works
as if, working a niello or enamel, he had to set each figure in

Finally, is it necessary to speak of the date of the _Primavera_? This
would occasion a long discussion if the space were accorded me. Let it
suffice to say that the biography written by Vasari merits no credence,
that it has been unfortunately accepted by the majority of historians,
and that we have not yet a good chronology of Botticelli's works, nor
even a simple catalogue. As for the chronology, most historians, relying
upon Vasari, place nearly all of Botticelli's works before his trip to
Rome in 1481. I think, on the contrary, and I will prove it elsewhere,
that the great productive period of Botticelli belongs to the ten last
years of the century and that the _Primavera_ should be classed in this
period. The _Primavera_ represents, with _The Birth of Venus_ and _The
Adoration of the Magi_, the culminating point of Botticelli's art.

    Jouin, _Chefs-d'oeuvre; Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture_
    (Paris, 1895-97).


[31] See notably the _Stanze_ of Politian, where one will find nearly
all the details of Botticelli's picture; the shady grove, the flowery
meadow, even the attitudes and the garments of the personages. Is it not
a figure of Botticelli's which is thus described:

  "She is white and white is her robe,
  All painted with flowers, roses, and blades of grass."

Transcriber's Notes:

{a} Possible typo for sinister?

{b} Van die Beroerlicke Tijden in die Nederlanden. Tijden appears in
text as Tij den. Other sources give Tyden as another spelling.

Most of the illustrations in this book have links to colored images on
other sites on the internet. If the links don't work, try the "Web
Gallery of Art" at http://www.wga.hu/  Then search for the artist or
painting of interest. Since this is not an html file, you may wish
to copy to link you are interested in, into your browser, where you
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BOTTICELLI        The Birth of Venus                _Florence_          6

VERONESE          The Queen of Sheba                _Turin_            16

MICHAEL ANGELO    The Last Judgment                 _Rome_             18

CORREGGIO         Magdalen                          _Dresden_          28

VAN DER HELST     The Banquet of the Arquebusiers   _Amsterdam_        34

WATTEAU           L'Embarquement pour l'Île
                             de Cythère             _Paris_            38

RAPHAEL           The Sistine Madonna               _Dresden_          46

CARPACCIO         The Dream of St. Ursula           _Venice_           58

RUBENS            The Descent from the Cross        _Antwerp_          62

TITIAN            Bacchus and Ariadne               _London_           72

FRA ANGELICO      The Coronation of the Virgin      _Paris_            78

BOTTICELLI        Judith                            _Florence_         80

HOBBEMA           The Avenue of Middelharnais       _London_           88

ANDREA DEL SARTO  The Dance of the Daughter
                             of Herodias            _Florence_         94

FABRIANO          The Adoration of the Magi         _Florence_         98

HOLBEIN           Portrait of Georg Gisze           _Berlin_          102

TINTORET          Paradise                          _Venice_          106

GUIDO RENI        Aurora                            _Rome_            114
TITIAN            The Assumption of the Virgin      _Venice_          120

REMBRANDT         The Night Watch                   _Amsterdam_       124

GOZZOLI           The Rape of Helen                 _London_          138

L. DA VINCI       Monna Lisa                        _Paris_           142

VAN EYCK          The Adoration of the Lamb         _Ghent_           154

PIERO DI COSIMO   The Death of Procris              _London_          168

TINTORET          The Marriage in Cana              _Venice_          172
DE LA TOUR        Portrait of Madame de Pompadour   _Paris_           178

CONSTABLE         The Hay Wain                      _London_          184

VELASQUEZ         The Surrender of Breda            _Madrid_          192

MURILLO           The Immaculate Conception         _Paris_           196

GIOTTO            St. Frances before the Soldan     _Florence_        202

ROSSETTI          Lilith                            _Rockford, Del._  212

DÜRER             The Adoration of the Magi         _Florence_        216

HOGARTH           The Marriage A-la-Mode            _London_          218

L. DA VINCI       The Madonna of the Rocks          _Paris_           234

GUIDO RENI        Portrait of Beatrice Cenci        _Rome_            240

RAPHAEL           The Transfiguration               _Rome_            250

PAUL POTTER       The Bull                          _The Hague_       256

FRAGONARD         Corésus and Callirhoé             _Paris_           262

GAINSBOROUGH      The Market-Cart                   _London_          268

TINTORET          Bacchus and Ariadne               _Venice_          274

GREUZE            La Cruche Cassée                  _Paris_           280

REYNOLDS          Portrait of Lady Cockburn
                             and her Children       _London_          282

RAPHAEL           St. Cecilia                       _Naples_          288

L. DA VINCI       The Last Supper                   _Milan_           290

VAN DYCK          Portrait of the Children of
                             Charles I.             _Turin_           300

TURNER            The Fighting Téméraire            _London_          306

BOTTICELLI        Spring                            _Florence_        314

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