Imágenes de página

the lower-the pink-red cloud catches the eye. How much above most of Murillo's pictures is this of the Holy Family-and how much is it below its subject! Murillo was never equal to sacred subjects. We must not go out of Italy for holy families and of the Italian, Raphael was alone "Divine." Coreggio was indeed all sweetness, all purified affection-but human affection. Raphael alone was above human affection. In his female saints, and Madonnas, and holy Virgins, all human sense and intellect had passed into the celestial. They are not of an earthly home. But those of the Spaniard are always peasants, never of a high cast of feeling, and sometimes vulgar. What, then, shall we say of the new Raphael-the "St Catharine of Alexandrià ?"—that it has less of this divine cast of the great painter than is usual with his valuable pictures: yet it is very beautiful. We desire to see more of the face, and more certainly to ascertain the expression. Little as we regret that any price should be paid for a Raphael, we cannot but think seven thousand pounds for the three pictures of Raphael, Mazzolino de Ferrara, and Garofalo, of which say five for the Raphael, quite monstrous-at the ut most but the work of two or three days! Such prices tend to keep up the perpetual jobbing in pictures, and greatly to stand in the way of any future reasonable purchases. As to the Mazzolino and Garofalo, the public might beneficially dispense with the possession of either. They have neither of them any beauty; though, for the age in which they were painted, there is much merit: but it is merit of a kind rather to gratify curiosity than taste. The Mazzolino de Ferrara would be well disposed of in the panel of some old cloister door, with whose quaint carvings it would be of a piece. The colour, which is its great merit, is of that peculiar character, ancient character; and brings to mind old stamped, painted, and gilt leather, which is not unfrequently seen in the panels of old carved doors. The draperies in this picture are very curious, quite embossed round the figures, particularly noticeable in the drapery of the figure playing upon an instrument. The Garofalo certainly has more pretensions to beauty; but they are both what may be termed eccentric pictures. Those who pursue art

[ocr errors]

for its history, may find amusement in collecting such pictures; those who love art for the sake of its higher purposes, will turn from them with painful feeling. We know there is a strong inclination to collect pictures histori cally, and according to dates; and (for we always too inconsiderately consult foreigners upon such subjects, and pay too great a deference to their judgments) the examination before the Committee of the House, already alluded to, includes such a recommendation. Sorry indeed shall we be if the trustees give it a moment's consideration; it would create a bias difficult to bend to any good purpose, and to prefer bad things to complete schools, to good things, when others of the same master are already in the collection. Let us have no curiosityrubbish, but the genuine works of accomplished genius, whether great or small, whether the value be hundreds or thousands.

The two large Guidos, No. 87 and 90, if they were once genuine, have been so sadly damaged, that it is dif ficult to ascertain the original painting.

They are cracked all over: they had probably, before they came into possession of the King, been thorough. ly painted over in varnish, which in a few years must have separated, leaving large gaps on the surface. The pictures appear newly done up, and it is very likely with the same vehicle with which they had been before restored; and so in a few years will require a third restoration. If these pictures cracked in this manner in their original paint, they are not by the hand of Guido. The "Perseus rescuing Andromeda" is finely coloured, especial ly the sea and distance, which are deep and solemn. Sir Joshua Reynolds, West, and Sir Thomas Lawrence are together, and may be considered competitors for a prize. The works of each are important: if West does not overpower by excellence, by stretch of canvass he will certainly bear down all before him. Nos. 131 and 132, "Christ healing the Sick in the Temple," and "The Last Supper." Mr West was the oddest of painters of human flesh; his contrasts are ridiculous, from the whiteness of leprosy to all the copper Indian-chalk and brick-dust. It is astonishing that the former of these pictures should ever have attained any celebrity, even by

[ocr errors]

the most ardent puffing. It must have been by the extraordinary offorts of Unitarians, who must have been delighted to see the Redeemer totally deprived of all Divinity, and reduced to the weakest of human beings and this from the hands of the President of the Royal Academy. It is hard to say in which of the two pictures the chalk or the brick-dust-the degradation is most complete. The two pictures by Sir Thomas Lawrence are very unlike each other the Portrait of Mrs Robinson, presented by her husband (proh pudor!)-and the "Hamlet Apostrophizing the Skull." The latter is in a great degree finely coloured, and appropriately to the sentiment. We are sorry to notice the cracking that is taking place-tlfe effect of painting with varnish. Perhaps the smallness of the head in so large a space of canvass is objectionable as a composition; and as to the sentiment, it might be said that the conception of the poet was that of Thought overpowering Space-in the picture it is the reverse. Of the other picture we would say nothing, if we could abstain. It is vilissima rerum. By all means let it be returned to Mr Robinson, with the nation's compli


No. 143, "Portrait of Lord Ligonier." Admirable! Sir Joshua has the prize. How complete the picture is in itself-the sky a little too light, perhaps, about the head.


execution is as it should be, representing an old soldier, bold and free. There is the very spirit of action, even to the distance, in the well dashed in subordinate figures in the background. If Sir Joshua has the prize, here is another antagonist to West-a lady very unlike an Amazonian, though she faces the President without fear-Angelica Kauffman. We are not sorry to see one of her progeny, though somewhat too big for a niche in the national temple of fame. Angelica, too, has a sacred subject, and, alas! allegorical-"Religion attended by the Virtues." The poor weak Virtues have not, and they ought not to have, any thing to boast of, but naked children with little heads. They are sentimentally rosy. However, there is really considerable skill in the general grouping, and dexterity of handling and colour in

the painting; in these latter respects West is beat out of the field. The trustees would do well to present this to the Lying in, or Foundling Hospital, where they clothe naked children-or the Poor-Law Commissioners may take delight in "Religion," an allegory, fatherless children, and distressed mothers.

The two landscapes of Wilson, "View of Mæcenas' Villa," and the "Story of Niobe," though in many respects beautiful pictures, are not such specimens of the great English landscape-painter as the nation ought to possess. "Mæcenas' Villa" is very dark. The best Gainsborough land. scape, by far, is the "Watering-Place," which is very much improved by varnish. It does not now look dingy, but is rich and transparent. It is not very elevated in subject, if the scene be considered as the subject-if evening gloom, it is happy, and with that view poetical. It is worth ten of the "Market-Cart," a detestable piece of vulgarity, purchased at large cost by the British Institution, and presented to the nation. The Gallery ought to have some of Gainsborough's portraits; he was far better in that walk than in landscape. It was not an injudicious remark of Richard Wilson's, when Sir Joshua praised Gainsborough as the best English landscape-painter, "Yes," says Wilson, "and the best portrait-painter too." We should rejoice to see Ralphe Schomberg back again. That is an admirable portrait, full of character-the individual man. Sir Joshua delighted to represent the thinking man- -Gainsborough the living, the acting. His portraits are histories-the growth of man out of daily circumstances and transactions-the character formed by the outer world, not that which is abstracted from and independent of it.

We have mostly noticed such pictures as are either new to the public, or that had not come under observation in former remarks. We purposely abstain from going over old ground, and shall therefore conclude this part of our notice, earnestly pressing upon the attention of the public the cause of the National Gallerythat it should not be allowed to be stationary. The honour and benefit of the country are both at daily risk of suffering. Pictures, valuable pictures, may be purchased, if proper

means are resorted to, in this and in other countries. It often happens that an opportunity lost never returns. Many a fine picture has irretrievably gone out of the country, that might have been secured on fair terms; and many a picture has been procured on unfair terms-on absurd terms. The trustees, like most timid people, are quite profligate in expenditure, under the protection of a great name. If individually they think for themselves, and well, collectively they act very badly for the nation.

There remains something to be said upon the purchase of modern pictures. Unquestionably it is a disgrace to a nation to withhold encouragement from modern artists. The gallery has, it is true, the work of one great living artist, Sir David Wilkie; but that they did not purchase. They have recently, likewise, accepted a present of one of poor Constable's pictures. If that work be fit for the nation, it might have been purchased before the artist's death. Why should an honour, if due to the genius of the man, be kept back until he can receive neither gratification nor pride from it? It is a disgrace to consider the disputed possession of the new apartments held by the Academy as a sufficient public encouragement to British art. The very

argument is insulting: British artists
require substantial encouragement,
and are now deserving it; and a posi-
tion in a national gallery will surely
be a great inducement to exertion. Ă
certain number of modern pictures
should be purchased every year, and
for these works we would have a se-
parate gallery. We cannot but gladly
take every opportunity of urging the
importance of Professorships of Paint-
ing in our Universities. Again and
again do we return to this subject. If
the Trustees of the National Gallery
consider themselves what they ought
to be, trustees of art, guardians of
art, it would well become them to
bring this proposition before Parlia
ment. Nothing could be more bene-
ficial. It would ensure an education
of art, concurrent with general litera-
ture and the sciences: it would raise
the character of artists, by raising the
judgment of the true patrons; and
would engraft upon the educated gen-
erally a new sense, and therefore a
new, and higher, and more safe means
of enjoyment, than those which we too
often witness and lament.
How easy
would it be to confer this very great
benefit upon art—if important persons
would take it in hand. None are more
proper than the Trustees of the Na-
tional Gallery.


It is very

It is thought this last has had fewer very fine pictures than many preceding and it may be so. Still, it is good. We shall not extract from our note-book more than a few observations, and upon a few of the pictures. The large Altar-piece, No. 1, by Guido, appears to have been painted for a peculiar light. In that light the effect must have been very wonderful. Now, the lights are a little too strong

There is perhaps no country so rich in private collections as our own. Hence the certainty of an annual exhibition of very fine pictures. That we are year after year to have so great a variety, is a proof of the extent of our private collections. rarely that a positively bad picture is to be found at the Institution. Some there may be to which too much importance has been attached, and an adventitious value ascribed, by a-yet, when the eye is accustomed to fashion of the day. For instance, we have had by far too many of Murillo's weak, washy, and ill-coloured pictures; nor do we think those by this master that have been in this year's exhibition much above that character. But, generally speaking, the pictures are good; and some are always to be found very good. And surely if one really fine picture be exhibited for months, such an Institution deserves the public thanks. The Institution is the best exhibition in London.

this, the parts in half-tone show themselves, and with great power. The lower part is in perfect harmony of colour, and is very rich and solemn. Nos. 2 and 5, are both curious and beautiful—“ From the History of Joseph," by Francesco Ubertini. At first glance one is inclined to turn from these pictures, as eccentricities of art, rather than pictures: but they are much more, and contain many exquisite beauties, of form, of expression, and of colour. We say, of colour

-though the very strong colours are too predominant, and are not very judiciously arranged, so that they melt into each other pleasingly. Yet some of the tones are very mellow, and so pure that it is difficult to imagine any medium so pure as that with which these pictures are painted. The attitudes are, some of them, very graceful, and would do honour even to Raphael, together with whom, Ubertini was pupil under Perugino. It is not difficult, therefore, to trace the peculiarities which Raphael brought to so great perfection, arising from this more antiquated and quaint school. The heads seem all to have been studies from nature, and are some of them very fine. The child riding on the ass is very lovely-these pictures are finished like miniatures. Are they in oil? We noticed, two years ago, a very finely coloured pic ture by a master whose pictures are not in general much valued-Bassano "Moses and the Burning Bush." This year has exhibited another of the same master, of similar power, No. 13. It is a pastoral scene, treated with great vigour. The effect of light is very surprising. The sky, drapery of a woman in the foreground, and dog, are very strikingly illuminated. There is here none of that crowding which is so common in his pictures. We suspect much of this picture is either copied or imitated from Titian-cer. tainly the general style of the whole background, and positively the figure of the man coming down the road, is from Titian, of which we have the print. For the effect of light this picture is very well worth studying. We were disappointed with the Titian, "Diana surprised by Actæon." The brown is so predominant that it takes away the clearness and richness of colour for which that great master is so remarkable. This dulness is the more striking from the contiguity of the splendidly coloured Paul Veronese, "Susanna and the Elders," No. 17. There are some who very greatly admire No. 16, "Rembrandt's Mill." But, surely, we in vain look for the brilliancy, and variety, and clearness, of colouring of the master. The sky is heavy, and even dirty-and the whole landscape devoid of local colour. Is the picture in a bad state? orIt is difficult to believe the Angel the luminous Angel-in No. 18,

"Tobit," to be by the same hand. "The Paul Potter," No. 20, is one of the very best of this master. In its kind it is perfect. There is poetry in the conception of this common subject. "The Young Buck," perfectly natural, is yet a noble and dignified fellow, inhaling the air, whose "clouds drop fatness," and make the pastures spring for his pleasures. There is much management to elevate the creature; he bears his head into the sky; and the low horizon at his feet gives him large measure. The burst of light over his back, as if to announce his presence, brings him nobly forward. He is worth a whole Georgic upon the nature of the animal. We delight in such noble beasts: but who can delight in such beasts as "Brauwer's Musical Boors," No. 39? The subject should condemn this, and all other pictures of the same stamp, to the pothouse. This picture has been engraved in "Forster's Gallery," which work it deteriorates, being among Italian pictures. Taste is like the delicate hand, that should not handle pitch. Nos. 44 and 50, Landscapes, Ruysdael, are as beautifully clear and transparent pictures as ever came from the easel of the master. Though dark, there is perfect air in every part, and separating part from part. They are carefully painted, and with all his fascinating execution. We greatly admire Ruysdael's and Hobbima's wood scenesthe former particularly, however homely the scene, is never vulgar. They are the haunts of habitable neighbourhood, and, above all, Nature looks satisfied with her own homes and

works. We must not pass by 45, "St Catharine," Guido. Faint as the figure appears at first, we are satisfied she is purposely so represented; and the sweetness of expression is not ill suited to the almost aerial presence. If here the earthly nature of flesh is ideally undergoing a change from inward celestial thought, his " Virgin and Child," No. 49, assume too much the substance of marble, yet is there much good in the picture. But what loveliness have we in No. 53, “ Virgin and Child and St John-Raphael!" It is rather dark, and cannot be seen so well under its glass, yet is it most fascinating.


We now pass to quite another school. Here are two portraits near each other, as it should seem purposely so

placed, as if to show the peculiar me rits of two opposite styles. No. 28, "Head of an Old Woman," by Denner; and No. 90,"Man's Portrait," by Vandyke. Nearly viewed, the finish and positive nature of Denner is surprising; the Vandyke a mere hasty sketch, with splashes of paint without apparent meaning. Retire a few paces; the Vandyke comes out with the appearance of great finish, and the Denner seems to be the imperfect and weaker picture, requiring, too, that which it certainly does not need, the finishing touches. The Denner is not a disgusting picture, though more minute than we should have thought practicable with any materials. Nor is it without freedom; and is even pleasing in expression. One naturally asks the question-How is it painted? A more perfect representation of life (a very near view) can scarcely be conceived. Denner was born in 1685. Was this the wonderful specimen he carried about with him in this country, and for which he refused five hundred guineas? At the proper distance, nothing can be more true than the Vandyke. That which, seen near, is nothing but a dab or two of lighter colour about the temples, at a distance appears a highly finished lighting up of the whole character-the mental energy brightening up the whole region of vigorous thought. And this, we suspect, could not have been effected by Denner; and may therefore determine which manner is, upon the whole, best. Here are four of Murillo, Nos. 101, 104, 105, 108, 109-in not one of which do we see any thing to admire. If Diana was as ugly as Rubens has painted her, (No. 141,) "Going to the Chase," she never hunted a greater beast than herself-and none could doubt her chastity. No. 145, "Les petites Marquises"-Watteau. A very singular

picture-quite a history. Fashion, character, every thing belongs to the day in which these portraits were taken-they are very natural and powerful-unlike any other master, and the "petites Marquises" unlike any specimens of humanity out of France, and these only of that day. As Watteau has shown how to paint "Les petites Marquises," so, in as new a way, has Velasquez, in No. 157, shown how a lapdog should be transferred to can


Gainsborough, then, as a portrait-painter, has become an old mas


His portrait of the "Late Duke of Norfolk," (146,) is probably as good a portrait as any in these rooms. It is luminous and powerful-if we must criticise, we should say the washy varnish is too apparent. We have already fully spoken of Gainsborough as a portrait-painter. There are some pleasing landscapes by Gaspar Poussin, but not in his best style. There are, too, in this branch of art, good specimens of Both and Berghem. Here is a modern German-Stilhe. His "Joan of Arc" occupies a conspicuous station. The face is very expressive, and evidently an imitation, and, so far, a successful imitation, of the school of Raphael; but the detail of the picture is too conspicuous, and even vulgar, the colour cold and uncomfortable, without any mellowness or effect. The sentiment is not assisted either by colour or chiaro-scuro. The attempt to illuminate, by thickening the lights, fails, because all glazing seems to have been avoided. Yet the expression of the countenance is such as to redeem the picture from its other disagreeable qualities. We have here noted but a few of the pictures. Had we gone through our note-book at greater length, we should have occupied more space than would be con venient.

« AnteriorContinuar »