I have already explained the meaning of chiaro-scuro, and this delicate manner of passing from light to shade was another quality in the works of Correggio. It is even seen in his early works, as, for instance, in the beautiful Madonna di San Francesco, now at Dresden, which he painted when he was but eighteen years old.
When this master was twenty-six years old he married Girolama Nurlini, and about the same time he was summoned to Mantua by the Duke Federigo Gonzaga. During eleven years after his marriage he was occupied with works in Mantua, and with his great frescoes at Parma. In 1530 he returned to Correggio, and there passed the remainder of his life. That he held a high position is proved by certain records of his life, among which is the fact that in 1533 he was invited to be one of the witnesses of the marriage of the Lord of Correggio.
It is said that when this painter saw one of the great works of Raphael, he exclaimed, enthusiastically and thankfully, "I, too, am a painter!" and no doubt he then felt himself moved to attempt such works as should make his name known to all the world through future centuries. When Titian saw Correggio's frescoes at Parma, he said: "Were I not Titian, I should wish to be Correggio." Annibale Caracci, also a great artist, said of Correggio, more than a hundred years after his death, "He was the only painter!" and declared that the children he painted seemed to breathe and smile with such grace that one was forced to smile and be happy with them.
In 1534 Correggio died of a fever, and was buried in his family tomb in the Franciscan Convent of his native city. His grave is simply marked with his name and the date of his death.
Some of his oil-paintings are very famous. One at Dresden, representing the "Nativity of the Saviour," is called the "Notte," or night, because the only light on the picture comes from the halo of glory around the head of the Holy Child. Correggio's "Reading Magdalen" is in the same gallery; probably no one picture exists which has been more universally admired than this.
There was a large work of his representing "The Shepherds Adoring the Infant Saviour," at Seville, in Spain. During the Peninsular War (1808-14) the people of that city sent many valuable things to Cadiz for safety, and this picture, on account of its size, was cut in two. By some accident the two parts were separated; but both were sold, and the purchaser of each was promised that the other portion should be given him. From this much trouble arose, because both purchasers determined to keep what they had, and each claimed that the whole belonged to him, and as they were equally obstinate, the two parts of the same work have never been reunited. Fortunately, each half makes a picture by itself.
The frescoes at Parma are the greatest works of this master, and it is very interesting to visit that quaint old city; his works are in the Cathedral, the Church of St. John the Evangelist, and in the parlor of the Convent of the Benedictine Nuns. This last is a wonderful room. The ceiling is arched and high, and painted to represent an arbor of vines with sixteen oval openings, out of which frolicsome children are peeping, as if, in passing around behind the vines, they had stopped to look down into the room. The pictures here will make you understand the effect (Figs. 48 and 49). Beneath each of these openings or lunettes is a half-circular picture of some mythological story or personage. Upon the wall of the parlor, above the mantel, there is a picture of Diana, the goddess of the moon and the protector of young animals, which is a beautiful picture.
When Correggio worked on the frescoes at the Church of St. John, he lived much in the monastery connected with it. The monks became very fond of him, and made him a member of the Congregation Cassinensi; the poet Tasso also was a member of this fraternity. This membership gave him the right to share in the masses, prayers, and alms of the community, and after his death the same offices for the repose of his soul would be performed as if he had been a true monk.
The works of Correggio are very rarely sold. The madonna in the National Gallery, London, known as "La Vierge au Panier," was formerly in the Royal Gallery at Madrid. During the French invasion of Spain, Mr. Wallace, an English artist, obtained it. It is painted on a panel, and is 13-1/2 inches high by 10 inches wide. In 1813 it was offered for sale in London at twelve hundred pounds. In 1825 it was sold in Paris for eighty thousand francs, and soon after sold to the National Gallery for thirty-eight hundred pounds, or nearly nineteen thousand dollars.
A copy of the "Reading Magdalen" was sold to Earl Dudley for sixteen hundred pounds, or more than seven thousand dollars.
Correggio had but few pupils, but he had many imitators. The one most worthy of mention was FRANCESCO MAZZUOLI (1503-1540), called IL PARMIGIANO, or PARMIGIANINO. He was not a great painter. The "Vision of St. Jerome," in the National Gallery, London, is one of his best works. It is said that during the sack of Rome, in 1527, he was painting the figures of the Virgin and Child in this picture, and was so engrossed by his work that the invaders entered his studio, and surrounded him before he was aware of their approach. And they, for their part, were so moved by what they saw that they went away, and left him undisturbed.
Art writers often use the term "early masters." This denotes Michael Angelo, Raphael, and other men so great that they were very prominent in the history of art, and were imitated by so many followers that they had an unusual effect upon the world. Titian may be called the last of these great masters of the early school, and his life was so long that he lived to see a great decline in art.
The painters of the close of the sixteenth century are called "Mannerists," which means that they adopted or imitated the manner or style of some great master who had preceded them—and this was done in so cold and spiritless a way that it may be said that true artistic inspiration was dead in Italy. No one lived who, out of his own imagination, could fix upon the wall or the canvas such scenes as would befit a poet's dream or serve to arouse the enthusiasm of those who saw the painted story born in the artist's brain.
About 1600, the beginning of the seventeenth century, there arose a new movement in Italian art, which resulted in forming two schools between which there came to be much bitterness of feeling, and even deadly hatred. On one side there were those who wished to continue the study and imitation of the works of the old masters, but with this they united a study of nature. These men were called "Eclectics," because they elected or chose certain parts of different systems of painting, and from these formed a new manner of their own.
Opposed to the Eclectics were the "Naturalists," who insisted that nature only should be studied, and that everything should be represented in the most realistic way, and made to appear in the picture exactly as it did in reality, not being beautified or adorned by any play of fancy or imagination.
The chief school of the Eclectics, of whom I will first speak, was at Bologna, and is known also as the "school of the Caracci," because LUDOVICO CARACCI (1555-1619) was at the head of a large academy there, and was assisted by his nephews, AGOSTINO CARACCI (1558-1601) and ANNIBALE CARACCI (1560-1609), the latter being the greatest artist of the three. The lives of the Caracci are not of such interest as to require an account of them here, neither are their works so interesting that we may not leave these artists by saying that they have great consideration as the heads of the Eclectic Academy, and for the work they did in it at an important era in the history of Italian art; but the fruits of their work are shown in that of their scholars rather than in their own paintings, and in this view their influence can scarcely be overvalued.
The greatest of their scholars was DOMENICO ZAMPIERI (1581-1641), called DOMENICHINO, who was born at Bologna, and was instructed by Denis Calvert, who forbade his drawing after the works of Annibale Caracci. Domenico disobeyed this command, and was so severely treated by Calvert that he persuaded his father to take him from that master, and place him in the school of the Caracci. When he entered the Academy he was so dull that his fellow-pupils nicknamed him "The Ox;" but Annibale Caracci said: "Take care: this ox will surpass you all by and by, and will be an honor to his art." Domenichino soon began to win many prizes in the school, and left it well trained and prepared for a brilliant career.
He gave much thought to his art, shunned private society, and if he went out at all he frequented public places where large numbers of people were gathered, thus affording him an opportunity to study their varying expressions. He also tried to feel in himself the emotions of the person he was painting. For instance, it is said that when he was painting the "Scourging of St. Andrew," he threw himself into a passion, and used threatening gestures and high words. In the midst of this his master, Annibale Caracci, surprised him, and was so impressed with his method that he threw his arms about his pupil's neck, exclaiming, "To-day, my Domenichino, thou art teaching me!"
The most celebrated work by Domenichino is the "Communion of St. Jerome," in the Vatican. It is universally considered the second picture in Rome, the "Transfiguration," by Raphael, being the only one that is placed before it. The scene it represents is just before the death of the saint, when he was borne into the chapel to receive the sacrament of the communion for the last time (Fig. 50).
Domenichino was made very unhappy in Rome, on account of the jealousy of other artists, and he returned to Bologna. However, his fame had reached the court at Naples, and the viceroy of that city invited the artist to decorate the Chapel of St. Januarius. There was in Naples at that time an association of artists who had determined that no strange artist should be allowed to do work of any account in their city. As soon as Domenichino began his work, therefore, he received letters threatening his life. His colors were spoiled by having ruinous chemicals mixed with them, his sketches were stolen from his studio, and all sorts of insults and indignities were heaped upon him.
After a time, the painter was so disheartened that he fled to Rome; but the viceroy sent for him and took every precaution possible to protect him and enable him to work in peace. But just as all seemed to be going well he sickened and died, and it has always been said that he was poisoned. Be this as it may, there is no doubt that the fear, vexation, and anxiety of his life caused his death, and on this account his tormentors were his murderers.
The works of Domenichino are not numerous, and are not seen in as many galleries as are those of some Italian painters; but there are a considerable number scattered over Europe and very beautiful ones in several galleries in Rome.
The next painter of importance in the Eclectic school was GUIDO RENI (1575-1642), born at Bologna, and the son of a professor of music. His father intended that Guido also should be a musician, and the poor boy was much persecuted on account of his love for drawing. But after many struggles the boy came into the Caracci school, and was soon a favorite pupil there.
When still young he listened with great attention to a lecture from Annibale, in which he laid down the rules which should govern a true painter. Guido resolved to follow these rules closely, and soon he painted so well that he was accused of trying to establish a new system of painting. At last Ludovico Caracci turned against him and dismissed him from his school.
The young artist went to Rome; but his persecutions did not cease, and it seemed to be his fate to excite the jealousy of other painters. Now, when so much time has elapsed, we know that Guido was not a very great master, and had he painted in the days of Michael Angelo he would not have been thought so. But art had lowered its standard, and Guido's works were suited to the taste of his time; he had a high conception of beauty, and he tried to reach it in his pictures.
In the course of his career Guido really painted in three styles. His earliest pictures are the strongest; those of his middle period are weaker, because he seemed only to strive to represent grace and sweetness; his latest pictures are careless and unequal in execution, for he grew indifferent to fame, and became so fond of gaming that he only painted in order to get money to spend in this sinful folly.
His masterpiece in Rome was the "Aurora," on a ceiling of the Rospigliosi Palace; it represents the goddess of the dawn as floating before the chariot of Apollo, or Phoebus, the god of the sun. She scatters flowers upon the earth, he holds the reins over four piebald and white horses, while Cupid, with his lighted torch, floats just above them. Around the chariot dance seven graceful female figures which represent the Hours, or Horae. I have been asked why seven was the number; the ancients had no fixed number for the Hours; sometimes they were spoken of as two, again three, and even in some cases as ten. It has always seemed to me that ten was the number chosen by Guido, for in that case there would naturally be three out of sight, on the side of the chariot which is not seen (Fig. 51).
The portrait of Beatrice Cenci is another very celebrated picture by Guido; it is in the gallery of the Barberini Palace, in Rome (Fig. 52). The interest in the portrait of this unhappy girl is world-wide. She was the daughter of a wealthy Roman noble, who after the death of her mother married a second time, and treated the children of his first marriage in a brutal way. It is even said that he hired assassins to murder two of his sons on their return from a journey to Spain. The story also relates that his cruelty to Beatrice was such that, with the aid of her step-mother and her brother, she killed him. At all events, these three were accused of this crime and were executed for it in 1599. Other accounts say that he was murdered by robbers, and his wife and children were made to appear as if guilty. Clement VII. was the pope at that time, and in spite of his knowledge of the cruelty of the father he would not pardon them, though mercy was implored of him for this lovely girl. The reason given for this action of the pope's is that he wished to confiscate the Cenci estates, which he could do if the family suffered the death penalty. So many reproductions of this sad face have been made that it is very familiar to us, and almost seems to have been the face of some one whom we have known.
Guido did not paint his St. Michael for the Cappucini in Rome until after he returned to his native city. When he sent the picture to the monks, he wrote: "I wish I had the wings of an angel to have ascended into Paradise, and there to have beholden the forms of those beautified spirits from which I might have copied my archangel; but not being able to mount so high, it was in vain for me to search for his resemblance here below, so that I was forced to make an introspection into my own mind, and into that idea of beauty which I have formed in my own imagination."
We are told that he always tried to paint his ideal of beauty rather than to reproduce any human beauty that he had seen. He would pose his color-grinder, and draw his outlines from him, and then fill in with his own conceptions of what the head he was painting should be; this accounts for the sameness in his heads and faces.
His passion for gaming degraded the close of his life. It led him into great distresses, and for the sake of money he painted many pictures which are not worthy of his name. He had always received generous prices for his pictures, but he left many debts as a blot upon his memory. His works are seen in the galleries of Europe, and are always admired for their feeling, beauty, and grace.
FRANCESCO ALBANI (1578-1660), born at Bologna, was another scholar of the Caracci school, and a friend of Guido Reni. There are many works of his in Rome. His pictures of landscapes with figures were his best works, and beauty was his characteristic. His own home had all the advantages for painting such works as he best succeeded in, such as Venus and the Loves, maids and boys, children and Cupids in unending variety.
His villa was surrounded by charming views. His wife was very handsome, and they had twelve lovely children, so lovely that it is said that other artists besides himself made use of them for models.
There were several other Eclectics of some importance of whom we shall not speak, but shall leave them with an account of ELISABETTA SIRANI (1640-1665), who also was born at Bologna, and is worthy of attention on account of her talents, while the story of her life adds another interest than that which she has as an artist.
She was an imitator of the attractive manner of Guido Reni. The heads of her madonnas and magdalens are charming, and, indeed, all her work speaks of the innate refinement of her nature. Her industry was marvellous, since she made one hundred and fifty pictures and etchings in a period of about ten years. Much has been said of the rapidity with which she worked, and one story relates that on a certain day the Duchess of Brunswick, the Duchess of Mirandola, and the Duke Cosimo de Medici, with other persons, met in her studio, and she sketched and shaded drawings of subjects which they named to her, with a skill and celerity which astonished and delighted her guests.
Her masterpiece is a picture of "St. Anthony Adoring the Virgin and Child," which is in the Pinacoteca of Bologna. There are pictures by her in the Belvedere and Lichtenstein Galleries at Vienna, in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, and in the Sciarra Palace, Rome.
In person Elisabetta Sirani was beautiful, and her character commanded the affection of all who knew her. She was a sweet singer, and her biographers increase her virtues by praising her taste in dress, and even her moderation in eating! She was skilful in domestic affairs, and was in the habit of rising early to perform her share in the household duties, never allowing her art to displace any occupation which properly made a part of her life. Her name has come down through more than two centuries as one whose "devoted filial affection, feminine grace, and artless benignity of manner added a lustre to her great talents, and completed a personality which her friends regarded as an ideal of perfection."
She died very suddenly, and the cause of her death has never been known; but the theory that she was poisoned has been generally accepted. Several reasons for the crime have been given; one is that she was the victim of jealous artists, as Domenichino had been; another, that a princely lover whom she had scorned thus revenged himself. A servant-girl in her family was suspected of the crime, tried, and banished; but after a time she was recalled to Bologna at the request of the father of Elisabetta, for he saw no proof of the girl's guilt. Thus the mystery was never solved, but the whole city of Bologna was saddened by her death. The day of her burial was one of public mourning; her funeral was attended with great pomp, and she was buried beside Guido Reni in the splendid church of the Dominicans. Poems and orations in her praise were numerous, and a book was published, called "Il Penello Lagrimate," which contained these, with odes, anagrams, and epitaphs, in both Latin and Italian, all setting forth her charms and virtues. Her portrait in the Ercolani Gallery at Bologna represents her when occupied in painting her father's portrait; according to this picture she had a tall, elegant figure, and a very pretty face. She had two sisters, Barbara and Anna Maria, who also were artists, but her fame was so much greater than theirs that she quite overshadowed them.
The earliest master of the Naturalists was MICHAEL ANGELO AMERIGI, called CARAVAGGIO, from the name of his birth-place (1569-1609). His life and character was not such as to make him an attractive study. His subjects and his manner of representing them combined in producing what has been called "the poetry of the repulsive." He was wild in his nature and lived a wild life. His religious subjects, even, were coarse, though his color was vivid and his figures arranged with good effect. His "False Players" is one of his best works; it represents two men playing cards, while a third looks over the shoulder of one as if advising him what to play.
Naturally, his manner of painting was best suited to scenes from common life, though he made those coarse and sometimes painful; but when he attempted subjects of a higher order his works are positively offensive. Some of his sacred pictures were removed from the altars for which they were painted on account of their coarseness. His most celebrated work is the "Entombment of Christ," at the Vatican; in the Gallery of the Capitol in Rome there is a "Fortune Teller," which is also a fine work.
Next to Caravaggio came GIUSEPPE RIBERA, called IL SPAGNOLETTO (1588-1656). He was a native of Valencia, and when very young made his way to Rome, so that, although his education as an artist was wholly Italian, his familiar name arose from his Spanish origin. While living in miserable poverty in Rome, and industriously copying such frescoes as he could gain access to, he attracted the attention of a cardinal, who took him to his home, and made him comfortable. But the young painter soon ran away, and returned to his street life. The cardinal sought him out, and called him an "ungrateful little Spaniard;" but Ribera excused his conduct by saying that as soon as he was made comfortable and was well fed he lost all ambition to work, adding that it would require the spur of poverty to make him a good painter. The cardinal respected his courage, and the story being repeated to other artists, much interest was attracted to him.
Later he went to Naples, and joined the cabal there which had agreed to persecute the strange artists who should come to work in that city. If Ribera did not actually commit many of the crimes which were done there, he was responsible for them through his influence. His works are frequently so brutal in their subjects and treatment that one feels that he who painted them must have lost all the kindliness of his nature.
He married the daughter of a rich picture dealer, and became very rich himself. In 1630 he was made a member of the Academy of St. Luke, at Rome, and in 1648 Pope Innocent X. sent him the cross of the Order of Christ. Few Italian artists were better known in their own country, and many of his pictures were sent to Spain. His greatest excellence was in his knowledge of anatomy, and he painted subjects that enabled him to show this. Among his famous works are a "Descent from the Cross;" "The Flaying of St. Bartholomew;" "Ixion on the Wheel;" and "Cato of Utica." His works are in all the famous galleries of the world.
Ribera's greatest pupil was SALVATOR ROSA (1615-1673), the landscape painter, who was a very gifted man, being a poet and musician as well as an artist. His father was an educated man, and with his other relatives encouraged his son in his taste for art. When twenty years old he went to Rome, and with the exception of some intervals remained there during his life.
It is said that as a youth he associated much with bandits, and, when one considers the wildness of many of his scenes and the character of the figures in their midst, it is not difficult to believe that this may have been true. It is certain that he painted the portrait of the famous Masaniello more than once, and he is believed to have joined the Compagnia della Morte, of which Falcone, one of his masters, was the captain.
Salvator made many enemies by his independence and his inclination to satire. He wrote satires on various subjects which were not published until after his death, but it was known that he had written them. He married a Florentine woman, who was the mother of his two sons. When he died he was buried in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where a monument is erected to his memory.
He painted some historical subjects and portraits in which he followed the Naturalists, but his principal works were landscapes. Jagged rocks and mountains, wild dells and lonely defiles, with here and there robbers, hermits, or soldiers, make his most effective pictures. There is a deep sense of desolation, almost of fear, in them which is very impressive. Sometimes he painted serene landscapes and poetic figures; but his best works are not of this sort. His pictures are in the principal public and in some private galleries. He also left about ninety etchings which are masterly in execution and full of expression in the heads, while the atmosphere is soft. When his works are sold they bring great prices. A large landscape with Apollo and the Sibyl in the foreground brought eight thousand five hundred dollars in England years ago, and is now worth much more than that.
Early in the eighteenth century an artist named ANTONIO CANALE (1697-1768), called CANALETTO, began to make views of the city of Venice and scenes on the canals. He had two followers, BERNARDO BELLOTTI (1720-1780), who was his nephew, and FRANCESCO GUARDI (1712-1793), and these three painters executed a large number of these pictures, which are found in many European galleries, and it is not always easy to distinguish their authorship. There is no doubt that many which were once attributed to the first master were really painted by his pupils.
Before the commencement of the eighteenth century the decline of the Renaissance school in Italy had begun; in fact, the painting of the seventeenth century came to be mere mechanical realism. For this reason the portraits were the best pictures of the time, as in them it was requisite to be true to the object represented.
Late in the eighteenth century a new impulse was given to Italian painting, chiefly through the influence of foreign artists such as Raphael Mengs, and the French painter David. In the beginning of our own century LORENZO BENVENUTI (1769-1844) executed some excellent frescoes in Florence, Siena, and Arezzo, which was his native city. He decorated the ceiling of the Medici Chapel in the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence, and Leopold II., Grand Duke of Tuscany, erected a tomb to this painter in the same church where he had spent so much time and talent. His portrait, painted by himself, is in the gallery of the Uffizi, at Florence. VINCENZIO CAMMUCCINI (1775-1844), too, was a celebrated master of his time. He was a Roman by birth, and became President of the Academy of St. Luke; he was also a member of the Institute of France, and received decorations from sovereigns of various countries. He made many copies from the works of the great masters. His portraits were so much admired as to be compared to those of Rubens and Tintoretto, and his ceiling frescoes in the Torlonia Palace, Rome, were among his important works, as was a "Presentation of Christ in the Temple," painted for the Church of San Giovanni in Piacenza.
But there has been no true restoration of Italian art. The painting of Italy in our time has been largely a commercial enterprise rather than an outcome from artistic genius or impulse, and the few works which are exceptions to this rule are not sufficient to encourage the hope that this nation can again attain to her former rank or regain the fame of her past in the history of modern art.
PAINTING IN FLANDERS, HOLLAND, AND GERMANY.
Flanders formerly embraced a larger part of Belgium than is contained in the present Belgian provinces of East and West Flanders. It also covered a portion of Holland and some territory in the northwest of France. The principal Flemish towns connected with the story of Flemish art were Bruges, Tournai, Louvain, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, Mechlin, Liege, and Utrecht.
There are some records of Flemish painting much earlier than the fifteenth century, but they are so vague and uncertain that I shall pass them over, and begin with the family of Van Eyck, in which there were four painters—three brothers and a sister. The eldest, HUBERT VAN EYCK (1366-1426), effected a great change in the art of his time and country. Very little is known of him as a young man, or indeed of his personal history at all, except that he passed his middle life at Bruges and his later years at Ghent. The subjects of his pictures were mostly scriptural. I do not suppose that the pictures of this master would seem very beautiful to you if you saw them, but they are of great value. His greatest work was an altar-piece for Judocus Vyts and his wife Lisabetta; it was for the decoration of their funeral chapel in the Church of St. Bavon in Ghent. It was an immense work, with a centre-piece and wings that could be closed; the inside was divided into twelve different pictures, and the outside also was painted. We do not know how much of this was completed when Hubert died and left it to be finished by his brother John. Philip I. of Spain wished to buy this altar-piece, and when he could not do so, he employed Michael Coxie to copy it; this artist spent two years on the work, and was paid four thousand florins. Of the original work, a large portion remains in the Church of St. Bavon; the wings, consisting of six beautiful, tall panels, are in the Berlin Museum, and two outer compartments are in the Brussels Museum. The picture of holy men who have served God is on one of the wings of this altar-piece (Fig. 53).
But the principal interest attached to Hubert van Eyck comes from the fact that he made such discoveries in the use of colors as led to what we call the "Invention of Oil-Painting," and this invention is always attributed to the Van Eycks, for it is probable that the discoveries of Hubert were perfected by JAN VAN EYCK (1390-1440), who became a celebrated painter. Oil-painting had been known, it is true, a long time, but the manner of preparing the colors and the varnish used before the time of the Van Eycks was very unsatisfactory, and the improvement of these substances was the work of these masters.
The pictures of Hubert van Eyck are stronger than those of Jan, who was really the founder of a school remarkable for delicacy and fine finish rather than for power. It was after the death of Hubert that the fame of the new colors spread abroad, and thus it happened that it was to Jan that other artists went to learn his secrets.
Jan van Eyck was something of a diplomat as well as a painter, for when he was in the service of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, he was sent on several secret missions, and in 1428 he accompanied the ambassadors of the duke to Portugal in order to paint the portrait of Isabella of Portugal, who was betrothed to the duke. There is a goodly number of works by Jan van Eyck in various galleries. The portrait of himself and wife in the National Gallery, London, is very interesting; they stand hand in hand, with a terrier dog at their feet; their dress and all the details of their surroundings are painted with great care. It is said that the Princess Mary, sister of Charles V., gave a barber who owned it a position with a handsome salary in exchange for the picture. Jan van Eyck, being twenty years younger than his brother Hubert, naturally learned all that the elder knew, and the story of his life gives him the appearance of being the more important artist, though in point of highest merit he was not the superior.
Of LAMBERT VAN EYCK very little is known. It is believed that he made the copy of Hubert's great work which is in the Antwerp Museum; another work called by his name is in Louvain. MARGARETHA VAN EYCK is said to have been a skilful artist, but no one picture can be ascribed to her; she was buried beside her brother Hubert in the Cathedral of Ghent.
Of course the Van Eycks had many followers. Among them were PETRUS CHRISTUS (records 1444-1471), GERARD VAN DER MEIRE (records 1447-1474), HUGO VON DER GOES (1405?-1482), and JUSTUS OF GHENT (1468-?), all of whom were good artists, but I shall pass to a more important one, ROGIER VAN DER WEYDEN (1400-1464), who was himself the head of a school of as great importance as was that of the Van Eycks. His realism was his chief characteristic, and this was so great as to make some of his works repulsive, especially his martyrdoms, in which he detailed horrors with great exactness. He also loved to paint pictures which illustrated the myths of the Middle Ages. Our illustration is from one of these works (Fig. 54).
This picture is from the story that when the Roman Senate decreed divine honors to the Emperor Augustus, he consulted the Tiburtine Sibyl as to whether he ought to receive them or no. She replied to him that it was more becoming for him to go away silently, and told him that a Hebrew child should be born who should reign over the gods themselves, or that a king should come from heaven whose power should never end. Another version, which is the one this picture represents, says that the heavens opened, and a vision of the Virgin with the Saviour in her arms, standing on an altar, was shown the emperor. He worshipped it, and heard a voice saying, "Haec ara filii Dei" (This is the altar of the Son of God). Augustus reported this to the Senate, and erected an altar upon the spot in Rome where the Church of Santa Maria in Capitolio, or the "Ara Coeli," now stands.
Many pictures by Van der Weyden are seen in European galleries. He was also a fine miniaturist. He was official painter to the city of Brussels, and was buried in its cathedral.
His son, ROGIER VAN DER WEYDEN the younger, became very rich and benevolent. He died at Brussels in 1529. His works are not numerous in public galleries.
The elder Van der Weyden had a pupil, HANS MEMLING (records 1450-1499), who became the greatest master in Belgium. I shall not give you a long account of him; but shall tell you of his greatest work, which was the Shrine of St. Ursula, at the Hospital of Bruges, and is the best example of this type of early Flemish art which still exists. It is divided into six compartments, with two ends, and other panels on top, all of which are finished with the greatest care, and give the whole story of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins, which is that Ursula was a daughter of a king of Brittany who was a Christian. The young girl was educated with the greatest care, and the fame of her beauty and wisdom spread all over Europe. At length the king of England asked for her to be the wife of his son. The princess replied that she would wed him on three conditions: first, that he should give her ten virgins of noble blood for her companions, then to each of these virgins and to herself he should give a thousand maidens as attendants; second, he should allow her three years with these companions, with whom she should visit the shrines where the bodies of the saints repose; and third, the English king and his court should receive baptism.
I cannot give space for all the details of this story, which is of great interest; but the result was that Ursula received all that she asked, and started on her journey to Rome, in the course of which she and the eleven thousand maidens met with many adventures. At last, having reached Cologne on their return, they encountered an army of barbarians which was besieging the city, and all were slain.
The subjects of the pictures as they were painted by Memling were: 1, the first landing at Cologne in the beginning of the journey; 2, the landing at Basle; 3, the arrival in Rome; 4, the second arrival at Basle on her return toward home; 5, commencement of the martyrdom, when Ursula and her train are first seen by the barbarians; 6, death of Ursula.
The works of Memling which still remain are numerous, and are seen in many public galleries. After the death of this master the purity of Flemish painting declined. Many artists visited Italy, and the manner of Flemish painters was influenced by association with Italian art and artists. I shall, therefore, pass over a period when no very important masters appeared, and speak next of a great man, QUINTIN MATSYS (1466-1529), who began life as a blacksmith. He was born at Antwerp, and there are specimens of iron work there said to have been executed by him. It is said that he fell in love with the daughter of an artist who refused to allow him to marry her because he was not a painter; for this reason Matsys devoted himself to the study of art, and became the best Belgian master of his time. His pictures of religious subjects are full of tender earnestness and deep feeling, and his most important work was an altar-piece which is now in the Museum of Antwerp. His scenes from common life, his misers and lovers are spirited and truthful.
His portrait and that of his second wife, both painted by himself, are in the gallery of the Uffizi in Florence. His works are not very numerous, but they are seen in the principal galleries. He was buried in the Cathedral of Antwerp, and a slab is inserted in the wall which tells his story; one sentence is, "Connubialis amor de mulcibre fecit Apellene" (True love changed the smith to an Apelles).
Rubens is the next great master of whom I shall speak, but I wish to say that during the last part of the sixteenth century there were many Flemish painters of considerable note whose pictures are seen in galleries, and are well worth consideration, but whose lives had no circumstances of especial interest. Among the best of these artists were ANTONIO MORO, PETER POURBUS (1510-1583), and his son and grandson, both named Frans, PIETER BREUGHEL (1530-1569), and his sons Jan and Pieter the younger, and PAUL BRIL, an early Flemish landscape painter.
All the early Flemish pictures are very interesting, but in the beginning of the seventeenth century a new manner of painting was introduced through the genius of PETER PAUL RUBENS (1577-1640). This master was descended from two good families: his mother was of the distinguished family Pypeling, and his father, John Rubens, was one of the two principal magistrates of Antwerp. This city was the home of Rubens, although he was born at Siegen, in the county of Nassau, during a time when his father was in exile on account of a civil war which was then raging. He was born June 29th, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and hence was named for those apostles.
He was a bright, scholarly boy, and soon showed his love for drawing. When he began to study art under Adam van Noort he had already a good education. During the four years he passed with this teacher he learned thoroughly all the technical part of painting; then, in another four years under Otto Vaenius, he cultivated his taste and the more poetical elements of his nature, for Vaenius was a very learned and elegant man. In 1598, when twenty-one years old, Rubens was admitted to the guild of painters in Antwerp. Two years later he went to Venice, and, after studying the works of Titian and Paul Veronese there, he entered the service of the Duke of Mantua, to whom he had been recommended by the governor of the Netherlands.
While in Mantua he painted some fine pictures, and the duke sent him to Rome to copy celebrated works there. Rubens also executed some other orders in Rome, from which place he was recalled by the duke, who wished to send an envoy to Spain, and had chosen the young artist for that duty. He showed great political ability in the way he conducted his embassy, and through his personal charms made many friends.
After his return from Spain he went again to Rome and then to Genoa, and finally, on account of the illness of his mother, he returned to Antwerp, having been absent seven years. His mother died before he reached her. He then decided to remain in Antwerp, and built himself a fine house with a charming studio. He soon married his first wife, Isabella Brant, and during the next fifteen years led a very regular and industrious life, and executed many important works. He also received a large number of pupils into his studio, and he has been accused of allowing them to paint pictures which he called by his own name; but it is true that Rubens, with his own hand, completed pictures of almost every kind, and so proved his power as an artist.
He was fond of study, and could read and speak seven languages. He was in the habit of having some one read aloud to him while he painted, and preferred books of history and poetry. In 1620 he was invited to France by Marie de Medicis, for whom he executed many works. Among them the most important were scenes illustrating the life of this queen which decorate some apartments in the Louvre.
In 1628 the Infanta Isabella sent him on a second mission to Spain, and while there he painted many grand and important pictures, which are fine examples of his gorgeous coloring. He proved himself so good a diplomatist that he was sent to England to try to make peace between that country and Flanders, in which he was successful. He was knighted by King Charles in 1630, and received the same honor from the king of Spain.
In 1630 he married Helena Forment, a niece of his first wife, who was but sixteen years old. She became the mother of five children; he had two sons by his first marriage, to whom Gevartius was tutor. Rubens made so many portraits of both his wives and so often used them as models in painting his large pictures, that their faces are familiar to all the world (Fig. 55).
Rubens made a valuable collection of all sorts of beautiful objects, and lived luxuriously. After his death a portion of his collection was sold at private sale for more than seventy-five thousand dollars. His death occurred in 1640, and he was buried in a private chapel in the Church of St. James in Antwerp; he had decorated this chapel with some works of his own. His family erected a monument to him, upon which an epitaph written by Gevartius was inscribed.
In painting Rubens was almost a universal genius, for he left a great variety of works as well as a great number. About one thousand eight hundred are ascribed to him: doubtless his pupils did much work on these; but there is something of himself in all. They include historical, scriptural, and mythological subjects, portraits, animals, genre pictures, and landscapes. His style is a strange mingling of northern and southern elements. His handling and his arrangement of his subjects was like that of the Italians; but his figures, even when he represented Christ and the holiest men, were like Spanish kings or German peasants, or somebody whom he had seen.
We have not space to speak in detail of the works of Rubens. Some critics insist that one class of his pictures is best, and some another. Of course this depends largely upon the taste of those who make the judgment. It is certain that he was a wonderful painter, and many of his pictures give great pleasure to those who visit the galleries where they are seen.
His pictures of children were so painted that they seem to have been done from pure love of the work. His portraits are splendid, his genre scenes delightful, and his landscapes fine; in short, the amount and variety of his work is a proof of his great genius and industry, such as can scarcely be equalled in the history of painting. Yet it cannot be denied that there is much incorrect drawing, unnatural coloring, and coarse, bad taste in some of his works. On the other hand, the fertility of his imagination, his bold design and effective execution, as well as his brilliant color, are all to be admired, and the name of Rubens stands high on the list of Flemish artists who are famous the world over.
FRANS SNYDERS (1579-1657) was born at Antwerp and lived in the time of Rubens. He was a famous painter of animals, and it sometimes happened that they worked together, Rubens painting the landscapes and figures and Snyders the animals in the same pictures. Snyders, like Rubens, excelled in representing animals in the most exciting moment of the combat or the chase, and his pictures are full of life. They are seen in all large European galleries, and are much prized.
JAN FYT (1609-1661), also born at Antwerp, is the greatest Flemish animal painter after Snyders. His greyhounds cannot be equalled, while his live dogs are wonderful; but his best pictures represent dead game. The fur and feathers in his paintings are marvellously done, and his pictures are among the best in the world in which such subjects are treated.
JACOB JORDAENS (1593-1678), another native of Antwerp, studied under Adam van Noort at the same time with Rubens, but later in life he became a follower and a sort of assistant of his former fellow-pupil. He married a daughter of their old master and never visited Italy. His color was fine; in truth, he sometimes excelled Rubens himself in the "golden glow" which is much admired in his works. Many sacred pictures by Jordaens are seen in the churches of Flanders. A fine historical work of his represents scenes from the life of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange, and is in the House of the Wood, near the Hague; but the larger part of his pictures represent the manners and customs of the common people, and are seen in public galleries.
The greatest artist among the pupils of Rubens, as well as one of the greatest of Flanders, was ANTHONY VANDYCK (1599-1641). He was born in Antwerp, and was the son of a silk merchant, this having been the occupation of the Vandycks for several generations. The mother of the painter was extremely skilled in various kinds of embroidery, and had such artistic tastes as enabled her to make many original designs, which she worked out with her needle in delicate and elaborate tapestry work.
Some people believe that to this taste and talent of his mother's Vandyck owed the instinct for drawing which he early showed; at all events, she did all she could to develop his taste, and when he was still a boy she persuaded her husband to place him under the teaching of Henry van Balen.
He was still quite young when he entered the studio of Rubens, and was soon so much trusted by the master as to be allowed to make drawings from his works for the use of the engravers. This sort of drawing must be done with great care and exactness, and Vandyck must have had much skill to be fitted for it. His fellow-pupils also had great faith in him, as is shown by the story that one day, when Rubens had gone out, the young student bribed his old servant to show them the painting with which the master was then occupied. While jostling each other it happened that one of them hit the fresh picture, and injured it. They were much alarmed, and begged Vandyck to repair it. After some hesitation he did so, and was so successful that at first Rubens did not detect the fact that another had worked on the picture. When he did discover it, and learned the truth about it he forgave the offence heartily.
When Vandyck was nineteen years old he was admitted to the Society of Artists in Antwerp, an unusual honor to one of his age. In 1620 Vandyck went to England, having been invited there through the Earl of Arundel. Little is known of this visit, and two years later he was invited to the Hague, where he spent several months.
When Vandyck was passing through Haarlem he went to the studio of Franz Hals, who was at a tavern just then. A message was sent him saying that a stranger desired to have his portrait made, and had but two hours to spare for it. Hals hastened home and dashed off the portrait within the time stated. Vandyck then said, "Portrait-painting seems to be a simple thing; take my place, and give me the brush for awhile." Hals complied with the request and Vandyck made his portrait with great celerity. Seeing this, Hals cried out, "You are Vandyck; he alone can do such work."
The young artist was suddenly called to the death-bed of his father, who commanded him to paint a picture for the Dominican Sisters who had cared for his father in his illness. Seven years later Vandyck presented the Sisters with a Crucifixion. At the foot of the cross was a rock upon which was inscribed, in Latin, "Lest the earth should be heavy upon the remains of his father, Anthony Vandyck moved this rock to the foot of the cross, and gave it to this place." When the monasteries were broken up, this picture was purchased for two thousand seven hundred dollars for the Antwerp Academy, where it now is.
At length Vandyck prepared to set out for Italy. When he paid his farewell visit to Rubens he presented the master with three of his pictures, and in return Rubens gave him one of his finest horses. As Vandyck was on his way from Antwerp to Brussels he halted at the village of Saventhem, where he fell in love with Anna van Ophem, and so stayed on in the lovely valley of Flanders, week after week, as if he had forgotten that Italy existed. Anna persuaded him to paint a picture for the village church, and he executed a Holy Family in which the Virgin was a portrait of Anna, and St. Joachim and St. Anna were drawn from her father and mother. This picture pleased the church authorities so much that they gave the young painter an order for another, which represented St. Martin dividing his cloak with beggars. In this work the saint was a portrait of Vandyck, and the horse on which he rode was like that which Rubens had given him.
This picture has quite a history. In 1758 the priest agreed to sell it to a collector from the Hague for one thousand eight hundred dollars; but when the villagers knew of it they surrounded the church with clubs and pitchforks, and drove the purchaser away. In 1806, when the French invaders tried to carry it away, the people again prevented it, and they were forced to call more soldiers from Brussels before they succeeded in taking it. The St. Martin was placed in the Gallery of the Louvre, at Paris, but was restored to Saventhem in 1815. About 1850 a rich American offered twenty thousand dollars for the picture, no matter who brought it to him. Upon this a set of rogues tried to steal it at night; but the dogs of the village gave such an alarm that the town was roused, and the robbers escaped with difficulty. Since then a guardian sleeps in the church, and the St. Martin is still there.
The news that Vandyck was thus lingering on his way to Italy reached the ears of Rubens, and he sent such urgent messages to his pupil as induced him to continue his journey, and he also sent him letters of introduction to artists and to nobles whom the master had known when he made his studies beyond the Alps.
Vandyck went first to Venice, where he worked hard to copy and learn to imitate the rich color and refined manner of Titian and other Venetian masters. He also painted some original pictures in Venice, and made many portraits which gave him fame in that and other cities. He was asked to go to other places for the painting of portraits; but he remained in Venice until his money was spent, and then went to Genoa, where he was well received and generously employed by the old friends of Rubens. His works are still to be seen in some of the palaces of that city, while some have been sold and carried to other countries—they were so fine that they still maintain the name which they gained for him when they were executed. The principal work done in Genoa was a picture of the Lomellini family which is now in Edinburgh; it is about nine feet square. His different visits to Genoa during his absence in Italy make up a period of about three years, and he did a vast amount of work there.
When he first went to Rome Vandyck was invited to the house of Cardinal Bentivoglio, who had been papal nuncio to Flanders, and for whom our artist made a picture of the Crucifixion. The full-length portrait which Vandyck painted of the cardinal is now in Florence; a copy of it is in one of the halls of Harvard College. It is one of the finest among the many splendid portraits by this great master.
Vandyck was fascinated with Rome, but he was so unpopular with the other Flemish painters there that he shortened his stay in the Eternal City in order to escape the vexations he there received. The artists disliked him for his ostentation, and he was called Il pittore cavalieresco—and he offended them by declining to associate with them at taverns or to join their coarse festivities. After leaving Rome he visited Palermo, from which place he was driven away by the appearance of the plague. He returned to Genoa, visited Florence and other cities in the north of Italy, and finally returned to Antwerp after an absence of four years.
During the first years after his return he met with small success—Rubens was so great that he filled all the space about him—but at last, in 1628, Vandyck began to receive important commissions, and from this time was constantly busy with works for the churches of the Low Countries. He also painted portraits of many notable persons, and made great numbers of them in brown and white for the use of engravers. While Vandyck was thus executing great numbers of fine pictures for the embellishment of Flanders, he became so unpopular and his rivals said such hard things of him that he determined to go away. One of his unfortunate experiences was in the house of the bishop, who had sent for him to paint his portrait. Vandyck had first sent his implements to the care of the porter of the palace. When he went himself he was taken into the presence of the bishop, who was reclining on a sofa, and gave little attention to the artist. At last the bishop asked if he had not come to paint his portrait. Vandyck declared himself to be quite at the service of his lordship. "Why, then," said the bishop, "do you not go for your implements? Do you expect me to fetch them for you?" Vandyck calmly replied, "Since you have not ordered your servants to bring them I supposed that you wished to do it yourself." Then the bishop leaped up in anger and cried out, "Anthony, Anthony, you are a little asp, but you have a great deal of venom!" Vandyck thought it safe to make his escape, and after he crossed the threshold he called back, "My lord Van der Burch, you are a voluminous personage, but you are like the cinnamon tree. The bark is the best part of you."
In 1629 Vandyck went to England with the hope of being employed by King Charles I.; but he was not able even to get an introduction to the sovereign, and went to the continent filled with mortification. At length, however, Charles called him to London, whither he went in 1632, and soon became the friend of the king as well as his favorite artist. He was assigned a city and a country residence, and within three months of the time of his arrival at court the king knighted him, and gave him a gold chain with a portrait of himself set in brilliants suspended from it. Charles was in the habit of passing much time with Vandyck, and the studio of the court-painter became one of the most fashionable resorts in London for the courtiers and other distinguished people.
Vandyck kept up a fine establishment, and lived luxuriously. He had a habit of asking his sitters to dinner; thus he could study their faces and retouch their portraits with the more natural expressions of their conversational hours, for it is rare that one is natural when posing before an artist who is painting one's portrait. But in the midst of his busy life as an artist and his gay life as a man of the world, Sir Anthony did not forget the needs of his brother painters. There was at that time no club or place where artists met socially to consult and aid each other in their profession. Vandyck founded the Club of St. Luke; it met at the Rose Tavern, and all painters of talent living in London joined it. One of the more personal acts of kindness which are related of him is that having seen by chance a picture which was painted by William Dobson, Vandyck sought him out, found him in a poor garret, instructed him with great care, introduced him to the king, and, in short, by his kind offices so prepared the way that Dobson was made sergeant-painter to the king after Vandyck's death, and won the title of "the English Tintoretto."
The portraits which Vandyck executed in England are numbered by hundreds and are magnificent pictures. Those of the royal family are very numerous and important, and there is scarcely a man or woman belonging to this period whose name has come down to us in history or literature, whose portrait he did not paint. He also made thirteen portraits of himself which are still preserved. He was very skilful in painting horses and dogs, and frequently introduced these animals into his portrait groups.
There is a large collection of the pictures of Vandyck at Windsor Castle; there are many also in the private galleries of Great Britain and other countries, besides a goodly number in the public galleries of Europe. He executed at least thirty-six portraits of Charles I., as many as twenty-five of Queen Henrietta Maria, and he also painted several groups of the children of the royal pair. Prince Rupert of the Rhine and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, were also frequently portrayed by him, and one of his most important large works was a family picture of the Earl of Pembroke and his household. It is called the Wilton Family, as it is in a salon at Wilton House; it contains eleven figures, and has been called "the first and most magnificent historic portraiture in the world." Again, it is said to be stiff, wanting in harmony, bad in color, and so on, but after all it still remains a splendid monument to the skill and genius of Vandyck. The picture is twenty feet long by twelve feet high.
Vandyck painted no portraits of the Puritans nor popular leaders of his day; neither did he of the literary men who flourished at that time, with the exception of the court poets, Sir John Suckling and Thomas Carew.
I shall not give a list of Vandyck's historical and religious pictures, though they are quite numerous. They are not as interesting as his portraits, and we have not space to give them. His ambition, however, was never satisfied, for he wished to do some great historical work. At one time his opportunity seemed to have come, for the great banqueting-room of Whitehall Palace, the ceiling of which Rubens had painted, still remained with plain walls. Vandyck desired to paint on them the history of the Order of the Garter. The project was laid before the king, and he desired sketches to be made for the work, and one of them, the "Procession of the Knights of the Garter," was sold after the execution of the king for five pounds. It was owned by Sir Peter Lely and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and is now at Belvoir in the collection of the Duke of Rutland. We cannot help being sorry for Vandyck's great disappointment when he knew that his work could not be done. He was weak in health and much in debt, for the king could not pay him his pension nor what he owed him for pictures. The artist grew sad and discouraged. He sought relief in the study of alchemy, and indulged the vain hope of discovering some chemical means of making gold from base metals. All this wasted his time and means, and it is to be regretted that he was less wise than his master, for when an alchemist tried to interest Rubens in the same subject, that great artist replied: "You come too late, my good fellow; I have long since discovered the philosopher's stone. My palette and brushes are worth far more than any other secret."
The king and all Vandyck's friends were troubled by his state of health and mind, and a marriage was brought about for him with the hope that he would be a happier man. His wife was Maria Ruthven, a lovely Scotch girl who held a high position among the attendants of the queen. Not long after his marriage Vandyck took her to Flanders, where he enjoyed much the honorable reception which he met with in revisiting the scenes of his childhood and youth. But having learned that Louis XIII. was about to adorn a large gallery in the Louvre, Vandyck hastened to Paris hoping to obtain the commission. He was too late—the work had been given to Poussin, and Vandyck returned to London greatly disheartened.
While at Antwerp he had received much attention, as, indeed, had been the case before, for in 1634 he had been elected Dean of the Confraternity of St. Luke and a great feast was held in his honor. When he came now to London the social atmosphere was full of sadness. The political troubles, which were finally so terrible in England, had already become alarming. In a few months the Earl of Strafford was executed, and Vandyck saw the royal family, to whom he was so much attached, surrounded with danger and at last separated.
His physical health was already delicate, and his sorrows brought on a disease from which he soon died. He continued to work until the very last days of his life. Eight days before his death his daughter was born; she was named Justiniana, and when she grew up married an English baronet, Sir John Stepney.
A short time before Vandyck died the king came from the North to London, and though he was overburdened with his own cares and griefs he found time to sorrow for the condition of his friend and artist. He offered his physician three hundred pounds if he would save the life of Sir Anthony; but nothing availed to baffle his disease, and he died December 9, 1641. Two days later he was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. It is said that many nobles and artists attended his funeral, which was conducted with impressive ceremony. The fire which destroyed St. Paul's made it impossible to say exactly where Vandyck was laid, but his coffin-plate was found at the time of the burial of Benjamin West.
There were no artists of importance after the time of Rubens and his followers whom we call Flemish artists. There were good painters, certainly, belonging to the schools of Flanders; but these schools had reached their highest excellence and were on the decline, and so we pass to the Dutch school, or the painters of Holland.
There was doubtless a very early school of Dutch painters, dating back to the fourteenth century even; but the records of it are so imperfect, and so few pictures remain from its early days, that for our purpose it is best to pass over the fifteenth century and say that during the sixteenth century the painters of Holland gave up the painting of sacred subjects very largely, and began to take on the characteristics of what is generally known now as the Dutch School. This school is distinguished for its portraits, which form a large and important part of its painting; next for its domestic scenes, which are realistic and true to life in an astonishing degree.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century Holland had obtained a position as a nation that freed its artists from the influence of the Romish Church and the fear of the Inquisition, and they soon used their freedom to establish a national art, and one which became very important to the world. FRANZ HALS (1584-1666) was the most noteworthy of the portrait-painters. He was born at Mechlin, but passed most of his life at Haarlem. There was a custom in Holland of painting portraits of the members of guilds and societies in groups, and some such works of his at Haarlem are very fine. I have told a story of his rapid manner in the sketch of Vandyck. He was the first master to introduce that free, bold, sleight-of-hand manner which was afterward used by the Dutch masters, and is so strong in its effect. This painter led a merry, careless life. His portraits of single heads or figures are rare, and his small genre subjects still more so. In the Hotel de Ville at Haarlem there are as many as eight of his large works, most of them having ten or a dozen portraits.
The Dutch painters of still-life—flowers, dead game and poultry, and metals, glass, and other beautiful objects—were very skilful, and have never been surpassed. The names of these masters would make a long list. There is little to be told of the circumstances of their lives, though their works are seen in most European galleries, and well repay one for careful examination.
Another form of Dutch art is the representation of scenes from peasant life, and there were some very eminent painters who devoted themselves to these subjects entirely. The interiors of inns with men smoking and drinking, playing cards or making jokes, were subjects many times repeated; dancing villagers, fetes, and fairs were often pictured, and in all these scenes everything was given exactly to the life. It follows that these pictures of coarse, vulgar people engaged in rude amusements cannot be beautiful; but they are oftentimes wonderful. Among the most noted names in this kind of painting are those of Adrian Brauwer, the Van Ostades, the Teniers, and Jan Steen. Most of these artists executed small pictures only. I shall speak particularly of but one of these Dutch genre painters—DAVID TENIERS the younger (1610-1694), who became the greatest painter of his time of scenes from common life. This is very great praise, because there were many Dutch and several Flemish painters who were noted for such pictures. This Teniers studied with his father, but his works show that he was much influenced by Rubens. He excelled in guard-house scenes and peasant life in every aspect. In representations of the alchemist also he was unequalled, as well as in fairs and festivals of every sort. He sometimes painted sacred subjects, but they are the least praiseworthy of all his works.
The pictures of Teniers are very numerous. One author describes nine hundred of his works which are known to be genuine, and it is believed that there may be one hundred more. He often represented a great number of figures on one canvas. At Schleissheim there was a large picture, thirteen and a half feet by ten feet in size, which contained one thousand one hundred and thirty-eight figures. It was not unusual for him to paint from one hundred and fifty to three hundred figures in a single picture of moderate size. He had a light, brilliant touch, his color was exquisite, and his arrangement of his subjects was very picturesque. His chief fault was a resemblance in his heads, and for this reason those pictures with the fewest figures are his best works.
Teniers had several royal patrons, and earned sufficient money to live in handsome style in his home in Perck, not far from Mechlin. He chose this place in order to be near the peasant classes, whose life was his chief study. He also excelled in his ability to imitate the styles of other masters. In the Vienna Gallery there is a curious work of his which represents the walls of a room hung with fifty pictures, imitating those of various Italian masters; in the foreground are portraits of Teniers and the Archduke Leopold William, who are represented as conversing with each other.
Teniers reached his excellence early in life, and was but twenty-two years old when he was admitted to the Guild of Painters at Antwerp. That Rubens was his friend is proved by the fact that when Teniers married the daughter of Jan Breughel, in 1637, that great master was one of the witnesses to the ceremony. In 1656 he married his second wife, the daughter of the Secretary of State for Brabant. By his artistic and personal merits Teniers gained a higher place in society than was ever held by any other genre painter of the Flemish or Dutch schools. He was eighty-four years old when he died, and was active and industrious up to the close of his life.
Although Teniers had such good fortune during his life, I fancy he would have been surprised if he could have known what his fame would be now, or what prices would be paid for his pictures about two centuries after his death. The "Flemish Kermes" was bought for the Brussels Museum in 1867 for twenty-five thousand dollars, and at the San Donato sale, in 1880, the "Prodigal Son" sold for sixteen thousand two hundred dollars, and the "Five Senses" for fifteen thousand dollars. It is difficult to distinguish the etchings of the son from those of the father, David Teniers the elder, though it is well known that the son executed such works.
GERARD HONTHORST (1592-1660) was also a painter of genre scenes, and many of his works had figures of life size. His chief distinction, however, was that of painting the effects of artificial lights. He was famous in England and Italy as well as in his own country, and the Italians called him "Gherardo della Notte," or Gerard of the Night, because he painted so many night-scenes lighted by candles, lamps, and torches.
Then there was a class of Dutch artists who represented the interiors of fine houses—rooms with all sorts of beautiful furniture and ornaments, with ladies and gentlemen in splendid costumes. They tried to show the effects of light upon satins, glass, metals, and other shining objects. They painted with great care, and finished their pictures in the most perfect manner. GERHARD TERBURG (1608-1681), GERHARD DOW (1613-1675), and GABRIEL METSU (1615-after 1667) were all remarkable for works of this kind.
PIETER DE HOOGE, who worked from 1628 to 1671, and of whose life little is known, painted similar pictures of court-yards as well as of rooms in houses. The list of the names of all these Dutch masters cannot be given here, and I hasten to tell you of one whose name and fame is so great that when we hear of Dutch art we always think first of him, because he stands out as its head.
REMBRANDT VAN RYN (1607-1669) was born at Leyden, and was educated by his parents with the hope that he would be a scholar and a prominent man in Leyden. But his taste for drawing and painting would not be put aside, and in 1620 he entered the studio of J. J. van Swanenburg, where he learned the first lessons in his art, and was then placed under the teaching of Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, where he remained only six months, after which he returned to his father's house, and there lived for seven years. He was not far from seventeen years old when he thus left the usual course of study. From this time he gave himself up to close observation of nature in every form.
He studied broad landscapes—farms, groves, gardens, rivers, canals, sunshine, clouds, and shadows, and with and above all these, the human faces that he saw, as well as the varying forms, movements, and peculiarities of the men and women about him. That nothing escaped his observation is proved by the works he did in later life.
In 1630 Rembrandt settled in Amsterdam, which was called the "Venice of the North," and was the centre of northern commerce, civilization, and the activity of political and intellectual life. Rembrandt was no sooner established in his studio on one of the western quays than he was pressed with orders for pictures and applications from young men who desired his instructions. The years following were crowded with work—with painting and engraving. Rembrandt is called the "Prince of Etchers," and he used the etching needle most skilfully, but he also employed the dry-point and even the graver in finishing. Thus he may be said to have established a new school of engraving of great excellence.
It would seem that in these early years one of his amusements was to make etchings of himself. In one year, 1630-31, he made nineteen of these portraits in different costumes and positions, with as many kinds of expression on his face. He often repeated the portrait of his mother also.
In 1632 he painted the "School of Anatomy," now one of the gems of the fine gallery at the Hague. It represents a lecture by Professor Tulp, who is dissecting the arm of a dead body and explaining its structure to seven other surgeons. It is a wonderful picture and one of the most famous works of this great master. In 1828 it was sold for the benefit of the fund for surgeons' widows, and the Dutch Government paid thirty-two thousand florins for it. This picture is in a certain way a portrait picture, and comes within the class of Dutch pictures of which I have spoken as portraits of guilds and societies; for Tulp was very famous, and Rembrandt probably attended his lectures, and was chosen by him to be the painter of this celebrated portrait of himself surrounded by members of his guild.
Rembrandt's influence upon the art of his time was very great almost from the beginning of his career. About 1634 he introduced his manner of portrait-painting, with dark backgrounds and deep shadows on the face, with a bright light on the cheek and nose passing down to the shoulder, and immediately other artists adopted this manner. They considered it a necessity to imitate him, so much was he admired.
In 1634 Rembrandt married Saskia van Ulenburg, who was very beautiful and of an aristocratic and wealthy family. She was only twenty-one years of age when she married, and Rembrandt painted many portraits of her besides making her his model for beautiful figures in his mythological and sacred subjects. She lived but eight years after her marriage, which were the happiest of the artist's life. She left but one child, a son named Titus, and showed her confidence in her husband by leaving all her fortune to him, with the single stipulation that their son should be properly educated.
After the death of Saskia it seems that the only thought of the master was to work without rest, and in this way to drown the remembrance of his sorrow. There is little material for a story of his life—it is told in his pictures. The house in which Saskia lived was very fine, and Rembrandt was so fond of collecting all sorts of curious and beautiful objects that he finally made himself poor, and his collection was sold. He never travelled, and some writers have said that he was ignorant of classic art; but the list of his collections proves that he had busts of Homer and Socrates and copies of ancient sculptures, such as the "Laocoon," a "Cupid," and so on. He also had pictures of some of the best Italian masters. After the sale of his home and all his rare objects he hired a house on the Rosengracht near the West Church. This house still stands, and has a shield dated 1652, though the artist did not live there until 1658.
His life here was not lonely or desolate. He had many friends in Amsterdam who did not forget him. He was near the bastions of the city, and had not far to go to sketch, as he loved to do, and he was busy with his brush until 1662, when he did nothing of which we know. In 1666 he executed four pictures. Among his works of 1667 there is a portrait of himself which is of great interest. In October, 1668, Rembrandt died after a short illness. He was buried in the West Church, and his funeral was so simple that its cost was registered as only fifteen florins.
Rembrandt's pictures are so numerous and so varied in their subjects that no adequate list or account of them can be given here. And his numerous engravings are as interesting as his pictures, so that a volume would scarcely suffice to do him justice; but I will try to tell something of his style. His management of light was his most striking characteristic. He generally threw a strong, vivid light upon the central or important object, whether it was a single figure or a group, and the rest of the picture was in shadow. This is true of all his works, almost without exception—portraits, pictures both large and small, and etchings.
Rembrandt loved to paint unusual things. We are apt to think that an unusual thing is not natural; but if we closely observe nature, especially the effect of light and shade, we shall find that no imagination could make pictures more wonderful than the reality we see. Rembrandt had that keen observation that helped him to seize upon the sharp features—the strong points in a scene or a person—and then he had the skill to reproduce these things on his canvas with great truth.
His etchings are much prized. One of the most famous represents Christ healing the sick, and is called the "Hundred Guilders Print," because that sum was the price he fixed for it; now a good impression of it is worth ten times as much. At his death he left about six hundred pictures and four hundred engravings. His landscapes are his rarest subjects. Most of these are in private collections, but I have seen one in the Cassel Gallery; the color of it is bright and glowing—the sky magnificent. In the foreground there is a bridge, and on an eminence are the ruins of a castle.
Some fine works by Rembrandt are in England, and very large prices have been paid for them. In 1867 "Christ Blessing Little Children" was sold for seven thousand pounds. At the San Donato sale in Florence, in 1880, "Lucretia" brought twenty-nine thousand two hundred dollars, and a "Portrait of a Young Woman" nearly as much.
Among Rembrandt's pupils Gerbrandt van der Eeckhout holds a high rank, and his pictures are seen in many galleries.
Among the landscape painters of Holland ALBERT CUYP (1605-1691) is very famous. He sometimes introduced figures and animals into his pictures, but they were of secondary importance; the scenery was his chief thought. His works are in many galleries, and the increase in their value is marvellous. Sir Robert Peel bought a landscape, twelve by twenty inches in size, for which he paid three hundred and fifty guineas: it was originally sold in Holland for about one English shilling! During the first century after his death no picture by Cuyp brought more than thirty florins; now they cost almost their weight in gold.
Other fine landscape painters were Jan and Andries Both, Jan van Goyen, Jan Wynants, Adrian van de Velde, and, finally, PHILIP WOUVERMAN (1619-1668), who introduced much life into his works. He painted battles, hunting parties, and such subjects as allowed him to introduce white horses, for which he became noted. His works, as well as those of the other painters last mentioned, are valuable. There are so many in galleries which are attributed to Wouverman that it is doubtful if they are all genuine. He had animation and fine feeling for the picturesque. His execution was light and delicate, and there is much tenderness shown in his works. There were many excellent Dutch landscape painters whom we have not mentioned.
PAUL POTTER (1625-1654) was born at Enkhuysen, and though he died young he made himself a great and enduring reputation by his pictures of animals. "Paul Potter's Bull," which is in the gallery at the Hague, is as well known as any one picture the world over. He left one hundred and eight pictures and eighteen etchings. He was most successful in representing cattle and sheep; his horses are not as fine. He never crowded his pictures; they have an open landscape, but few animals, and perhaps a shepherd, and that is all. Some of his pictures have been valued as high as fifty thousand dollars.
JACOB RUYSDAEL (1625-1681) was born in the same year with Paul Potter. His birth-place was Haarlem. He came to be the very best of all Dutch landscape painters, and though most of his pictures represent the dull, uninteresting scenery of Holland, they are so skilfully drawn and painted that they are really most attractive, if not cheerful. His works number about four hundred and forty-eight pictures and seven fine, spirited etchings. He was fond of giving a broad, expansive effect to his pictures, and frequently placed church spires in the distance. He painted a few marine views with rough seas and cloudy skies. Though many of his works are gloomy, he sometimes painted sunshine with much effect. Some of his finest works are in the Dresden Gallery.
MINDERT HOBBEMA was a pupil of Jacob Ruysdael, and this is almost all that is known of him personally; but his pictures show that he was a great landscape painter. They sell for enormous sums, and many of the best are in England. Most of those seen in the continental galleries are not those he should be judged by. At the San Donato sale in Florence, his picture of the "Wind-Mills" sold for forty-two thousand dollars.
The number of reputable Dutch painters is very large, but I shall mention no more names. After the great men whom we have spoken of there comes an army of those who are called "little Dutch masters," and their principal work was making copies from the pictures of the greater artists.
In the history of what we know as German art we find a very early school at Cologne, but the records of it are so scarce and imperfect that I shall give no account of it here. At Augsburg there was an important school of art which commenced with the Holbeins. The first Hans Holbein is known as "Old Holbein," and so little is known of him that I shall merely give his name. The second HANS HOLBEIN, called the elder (1460-1523), painted a great number of religious pictures, which are seen in various churches and galleries in Germany. Some of the best are in the Cathedral of Augsburg. In one salon of the Munich Pinakothek there are sixteen panels painted by him. But it was HANS HOLBEIN the third, known as "the younger," who reached the perfection of his school (1495-1543). This painter was instructed by his father and by Hans Burgkmair. He was but fifteen years of age when he began to receive commissions for pictures. When he was about twenty-one years old he removed to Basle, and there he painted many pictures, though not nearly as many as have been called by his name.
About a year after Holbein went to Basle he was called to Lucerne to decorate a house, and he executed other works there and at Altorf. In 1519, when he had been three years in Basle, he became a citizen of that town and a member of its guild of painters. His works at Basle were mostly decorative, and he painted few easel pictures there.
Holbein married a widow with one son; her name was Elizabeth Schmid. She had a very bad temper. It is said that she made Holbein's life so miserable that he left Basle for that reason. He visited her sometimes, and always gave her money, but lived away from her. In 1526 Holbein went to England, and his friend Erasmus said that he went because he had so little to do in Basle. He carried a letter to Sir Thomas More, who received him with great kindness, and the artist made many portraits of Sir Thomas and his family. There is a story about one of these portraits of that nobleman. He had refused to be present at the marriage of Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII., and she never forgave him. On the day that More was executed she looked at one of Holbein's portraits of the ex-chancellor and exclaimed, "Ah, me! the man seems to be still alive;" and seizing the picture she threw it into the street.
In 1530 Holbein returned to Basle to complete some unfinished frescoes, and this being done he went again to London. About this time he began to be employed by the king, and did many pictures for him from time to time. In 1538 Henry sent Holbein to Brussels to make a portrait of the Duchess of Milan, of whom the king was thinking for his fourth wife. No citizen of Basle was allowed to enter the service of a foreign sovereign without the consent of the council, so in 1538 the artist went home to ask permission to serve the King of England. Great efforts were made to keep him in Basle, but at last he received permission to remain two years in England: the artist never went again to Basle. Henry VIII. became fond of Holbein, and was generous to him, even giving him a painting-room in the palace of Whitehall.
In 1539 the artist was sent to paint a portrait of Anne of Cleves, whom the king married the next year. It has been said that the picture was so flattering that when the king saw the lady he was disappointed; we know that he was soon divorced from her.
In 1543 the plague raged in London, and on the 7th of October Holbein prepared his will. He died before the 29th of November, but the facts concerning his death and burial are not known.
There are several interesting anecdotes of Holbein. One relates that when passing through Strasburg he visited the studio of an artist, and finding him out, painted a fly on a picture which was on an easel. When the painter saw the fly he tried to brush it away, and when he found who had painted it he searched the city for Holbein; but he had already left for England. Another story shows the regard which Henry VIII. had for him. One day a nobleman went to Holbein's studio, and insisted upon entering, though the artist told him that he was painting the portrait of a lady by his Majesty's orders. The nobleman persisting, Holbein threw him down the stairs with great violence, and then rushed to the king, and told him what he had done. Soon after the nobleman was borne to the presence of the king; he was unable to walk, and was loud in his complaints. The king ridiculed him, and the nobleman was angry, and threatened to punish the artist legally. Then Henry got angry, and said: "Now you have no longer to deal with Holbein, but with me, your king. Do you think that this man is of so little consideration with us? I tell you, my lord, that out of seven peasants I can make seven earls in a day; but out of seven earls I could not make one such artist as Hans Holbein."
At Basle one may see some of the most important of the early portraits of Holbein; these are in the gallery where are also his ten well-known scenes from the Passion of Christ. While at Basle he probably made the designs for the "Dance of Death." For a long time it was believed that he painted this subject both at Basle and at Bonn, but we now know that he only made designs for it. He also decorated the Town Hall at Basle; of this work, however, but little remains.
The most celebrated work by Holbein is the "Meyer Madonna" in the royal palace of Darmstadt, of which there is a copy in the Dresden Gallery. It takes its name from that of the Burgomaster Meyer, for whom it was painted. The Madonna, with the infant Jesus in her arms, stands in a niche in the centre of the picture; the burgomaster and his family kneel before her. This is what is called a votive picture, which means a picture made in the fulfilment of a vow, in gratitude for some signal blessing or to turn away some danger. Many of these works commemorate an escape from accident or a recovery from sickness.
The picture is very beautiful, and it seems as if the Virgin wished to share her peace with the kneeling family, so sweet is the expression of her face, while the child seems to bestow a blessing with his lifted hand. The original was probably painted for a "Chapel of Our Lady."
His "Dance of Death" was very curious, the idea being that Death is always near us and trying to strike down his prey. The pictures represent a skeleton clutching at his victims, who are of all ages and occupations, from the lovely young bride at the altar to the hard-working pedlar in the cut we give here, and all of them are hurried away by this frightful figure which stands for Death itself.
Holbein made many wood engravings, but none so important as these. When the set is complete there are fifty-three cuts, but it is rare to find more than forty-six.
Holbein was one of the foremost of German masters. All his pictures are realistic, and many of them are fantastic; he gave graceful movement and beauty of form to many of his subjects; his drapery was well arranged; his color and manner of painting were good. He painted in fresco and oil colors, executed miniatures and engravings. His portraits were his best works, and in them he equalled the greatest masters. The most reliable portrait of this artist is in the Basle Museum. It is done in red and black chalk, and represents him as a man with regular, well-shaped features, with a cheerful expression which also shows decision of character.
There were other good artists in the Augsburg school after the time of the Holbeins; but I shall pass immediately to the Franconian school, or that of Nuremburg, and to its great master, ALBERT DUERER (1471-1528), whose life was very interesting, and who stands, as an artist, among the greatest painters of the world. The city of Nuremburg was a grand, rich old place even in Duerer's time, and as a boy he was familiar with its scenery and architecture, which helped him to cultivate his artist tastes, and to make him the great man that he became. He was an author of books as well as an architect, sculptor, painter, and engraver.
His father was a goldsmith, and Albert was apprenticed to the same trade; but he was so anxious to study painting that at length his father placed him as apprentice to the painter Michael Wohlgemuth. At this time Albert was fifteen years old, and the two years he had spent with the goldsmith had doubtless been of great advantage to him; for in that time he had been trained in the modelling of small, delicate objects, and in the accurate design necessary in making the small articles in precious metals which are the principal work of that trade.
Albert Duerer had a very strong nature, and Michael Wohlgemuth was not a man who could gain much influence over such a youth. During the three years which Duerer passed under his teaching he learned all the modes of preparing and using colors, and acquired much skill in handling the brush; he also learned the first lessons in wood-engraving, in which he afterward reached so high a perfection that a large part of his present fame rests upon his skill in that art.
One of the earliest portraits painted by Duerer is in the Albertina at Vienna, and bears this inscription: "This I have drawn from myself from the looking-glass, in the year 1484, when I was still a child. ALBERT DUERER." Six years later he painted the beautiful portrait of his father which is now in the gallery at Florence; and it is a question whether this is not as finely executed as any portrait of his later years.
When Duerer left Wohlgemuth he started upon the student journey which was then the custom with all German youths, and is still practised in a modified degree. These youths, after serving their apprenticeship in the occupation they were to follow, travelled, and worked at their trade or profession in the cities of other countries. Duerer was absent four years, but we know little of what he did or saw, for in his own account of his life he says only this: "And when the three years were out my father sent me away. I remained abroad four years, when he recalled me; and, as I had left just after Easter in 1490, I returned home in 1494, just after Whitsuntide."
In the same year, in July, Duerer was married to Agnes Frey. He was also admitted to the guild of painters, and we may say that he was now settled for life. It is a singular fact that, although Duerer painted several portraits of his father and himself, he is not known to have made any of his wife. Some of his sketches are called by her name, but there is no good reason for this.
Duerer was so industrious, and executed so many pictures, copper-plates, and wood engravings within the six years next after his return to Nuremburg, that it is not possible to give an exact account of them here. In 1500 an event occurred which added much to his happiness and to his opportunities for enlarging his influence. It was the return to Nuremburg of Willibald Pirkheimer, one of the friends of Duerer's childhood, between whom and himself there had always existed a strong affection. Pirkheimer was rich and influential, and at his house Duerer saw many eminent men, artists, scholars, reformers, and theologians, and in their society he gained much broader knowledge of the world, while he received the respect which was due to his genius and character.
Duerer's health was not good, and his continual work proved more than he could bear. His father died in 1502, and this loss was a deep grief to the artist. So little money was left for his mother and younger brother that their support came upon him. At length, in 1505, he made a journey to Venice, partly for his health, and in order to study Venetian painting. He was well received by the painters of Venice. Giovanni Bellini and Carpaccio were the leading painters of that time. They were both quite old, but Giorgione and Titian were already coming into notice and preparing to fill the places of the older men. Bellini was especially delighted with the exquisite manner in which Duerer painted hair, and asked the German to give him the brush he used for that purpose. Duerer gave him all his brushes, but Bellini insisted upon having the one for painting hair. Duerer took a common brush, and painted a long tress of fine hair: Bellini declared that had he not seen this done he could not have believed it.
While in Venice Duerer received an order to paint a picture for the Fondaco de' Tedeschi, or German Exchange. It is believed that this work was the famous "Feast of Rose Garlands," now in the Monastery at Strahow, in Bohemia. The Emperor Rudolph II. bought it, and had it carried from Venice to Prague on men's shoulders. In 1782 it was purchased for the Abbey of Strahow, and was almost lost to the world for many years. It is a beautiful picture, and the praise it received was a great pleasure to Duerer, because heretofore many painters had said that he was a good engraver, but could not use colors. Duerer wrote to Pirkheimer: "There is no better picture of the Virgin Mary in the land, because all the artists praise it, as well as the nobility. They say they have never seen a more sublime, a more charming painting."
The Venetian Government offered Duerer a handsome pension if he would remain in Venice, and he declined many orders for the sake of returning to Germany, which he believed to be his duty. From the time of his return, in 1507, to 1520, there is very little to tell of the personal history of this artist. Almost all that can be said is that he labored with great industry; it was the golden period of his art; he had many young men in his studio, which was the centre of art to Nuremburg. At this time he probably executed the best carvings which he ever did. During seven years he made forty-eight engravings and etchings and more than a hundred wood-cuts. The large demand for these works was a source of good income to Duerer, and gave him a position of comfort. The Reformation was at hand, and Duerer's Virgins and Saints and his pictures of the sufferings of Christ were very well suited to the religious excitement of that period.
The house in which Duerer lived and worked for many years is still preserved in Nuremburg as public property, and is used as an art gallery. The street on which it stands is now called the Albrecht-Duerer Strasse. On the square before the house stands a bronze statue of the master which was erected by the Nuremburgers on the three hundredth anniversary of his death.