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FLANDERS AND HOLLAND,
IN THE YEAR MDCCLXXXI.*
AT Ostend, where we landed, July 27, 1781, there are no pictures, and even Bruges affords but a scanty entertainment to a painter : however, there are a few, which, though not of the first rank, may
* Our author, accompanied by Philip Metcalfe, Esq. left London on Tuesday, July 24, 1781, went to Margate, and embarked there for Ostend ; proceeded from thence to Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp; Dort, the Hague, Leyden, Amsterdam, Dusseldorp, Aix-la-Chapelle, Liege ; returned to Brussels again, from thence to Ostend ; landed at Margate, and arrived in London, Sunday, Sept. 16.
To Mr. Metcalfe he intended to have dedicated his account of this tour, but he had only written the following introductory paragraphs :
“I send you, put together in as much order as the little time I can spare from my business will permit, the notes that I made abroad on the pictures that we saw together. I present them to you as properly your due; for if I had
be worth the attention of a traveller who has time to spare.
BRUGES. In the Cathedral.--The high altar; the Adoration of the Magi, by Seghers. This picture is justly considered as one of the best of that painter's works. The part which first'obtrudes itself on your attention is one of the kings, who is placed in the
been accompanied by a person of less taste, or less politeness, they probably would not have been made. The pleasure that a mere dilettante derives from seeing the works of art, ceases when he has received the full effect of each performance; but the painter has the means of amusing himself much longer, by investigating the principles on which the artist wrought. To whichever of your good qualities I am to attribute your long and patient at. tendance, while I was employed in examining the various works which we saw, it merits my warmest acknowledge ments. Nor is it an inconsiderable advantage to see such works in company with one, who has a general rectitude of taste, and is not a professor of the art. We are too apt to forget that the art is not intended solely for the pleasure of professors. The opinions of others are certainly not to be neglected; since by their means the received rules of art may be corrected ; at least a species of benefit may be obtained, which we are not likely to derive from the judg. ment of painters; who being educated in the same manner, are likely to judge from the same principles, are liable to the same prejudices, and may sometimes be governed by the influence of an authority which perhaps has no foundation in nature.” M.
front: this figure, notwithstanding its great fame, and its acknowledged excellence in many respects, has one great defect; it appears to have nothing to do with the rest of the composition, and has too much the air of a whole-length portrait. What gives it so much this appearance is, the eyes looking out of the picture ; that is, he is looking at the person who looks at the picture. This always has a bad effect, and ought never to be practised in a grave historical composition, however sucessfully, it may be admitted in ludicrous subjects, whérè no business of any kind, that requires eager. ness of attention, is going forward.
The second altar, on the right from the door, is the Nativity, by Otho Venius.. Many parts of this picture bring to mind the manner of Rubens, partiçularly the colouring of the arm of one of the shepherds : but in comparison of Rubens. it is but a lame performance, and would not be worth men. tioning here, but from its being the work of a man who had the honor to be the master of Rubens.
Otho Venius published two books of Emblems, explained by prints of children : it was from him Rubens imbibed that predilection in favor of emblematical representation which has afforded so much subject for criticism; particularly his introducing them in the Luxemburgh gallery.
In the sacristy is a picture, painted by John Van Eyck, of the Virgin and Child, with St. George, and other Saints; one of those figures, which is dressed in white, and which undoubtedly was taken from the life, according to the custom of the painters of those times, has great character of nature, and is very minutely finished, though the painter was sixty-six years old when it was done ; for the date on it is 1436. This picture claims perhaps more attention, from its being painted by a man who has been said to be the first inventor of the art of painting in oil, than from any intrinsic merit in the work itself. However, his claim to this invention, which was first attributed to him by Vasari, and from his authority propagated in the world, has been justly disputed by the learned antiquarian, Mr. Raspe, who has proved, beyond all contradiction, that this art was invented and practised many ages before Van Eyck was born. i
: The art is here in its infancy; but still, having the appearance of a faithful representation of india vidual nature, it does not fail to please. - To a certain degree the painter has accomplished his purpose; which is more than can be said of two heads, by Rubens, of St. Peter and St. Paul, in the same sacristy, which are neither a good representation of individual or general nature : however, each of these heads is enshrined in a rich tabernacle of silver, locked up, and shown only on high festivals. The great reputation which Rubens has so justly acquired, is here extended to pictures slightly painted, and which perhaps he himself would be ashamed to acknowledge as his : they appear to have nothing to recommend them, but a tint of colour and lightness of pencil; a merit which indeed Rubens seldom wanted : they are insipid, without grace, dignity, or character of any kind.
CHURCH OF NOTRE DAME. The Virgin and Christ (Bambino) in marble, said to be of Michael Angelo. It has certainly the air of his school, and is a work of considerable merit; it was a prize taken by a Dutch corsair, going from Civita Vecchia to Genoa.
The Cathedral.-In this great church is the St. Bavon of Rubens. This picture was formerly the ornament of the high altar of this cathedral, but was displaced to make room for an ordinary piece of sculpture. When Rubens, was thus degraded, one may conclude his fame was then not established : he had not been dead long enough to be canonized, as he may be said to be at present. It is now placed in a chapel behind the great altar. The saint is represented in the upper part of the picture, in armour, kneeling, received by a priest at the door of a church; below is a man, who may be supposed to be his steward, giving money to the poor. Two women are standing by, dressed in the fashion of the times when Rubens lived; one of them appears to be pulling