« ForrigeFortsett »
by France or England, of all the divine works of Raphael and Michael Angelo (if they were portable), in the Vatican, would not acquire the national glory of those works for the purchasers; because the glory of baving produced them belongs to Italy: and that glory is her national property, which she can neither sell nor alienate, nor be deprived of by any
power. In 1810, France, with all the finest productions of the pencil and chisel in the Louvre, collected from Italy, Spain, Germany, and Flanders, was in reality no more than the keeper of a splendid spectacle for the world to gaze at. Her military pride was flattered by, ber having won them with the sword, but their excellence as works of art was no addition to the just reputation of the French School. She appeared before other nations like the daw in borrowed feathers. A nation must either use such foreign acquisitions as a means to rival the great masters of the renowned ages, or she must appear like a negro flashing a torch-light in his own face to expose his darkness and deformity. A modern state can rest her hope of rivaling the ancients only on the one ground of applying a portion of her public patronage to the support of her native artists in the cultivation of the public style : by that mode alone she can convert her purchased master-pieces of the old schools into a means of national glory to herself. France wisely endeavoured to do so, and has done so; but all Frenchmen felt that she derived more national fame from having produced the Seven Sacraments, painted by a Frenchman, her profound master, Nicolas Poussin, than she acquired by the possession of all the vast collection from other countries in the Louvre. Italy retained the imperishable glory of her fine paintings and sculpture after she had lost them. France acquired no share in the glory of having produced
those master-pieces, although she had obtained possession of them. Whether fine works of art are acquired by France, by England, or by any other country, by gold, by steel, or by gift, by purchase, by force, or by courtesy, the glory that belongs to the genius that produced them is national; it is a growth rooted in the soil, the indefeasible inheritance of a people, and not to be transferred to any other clime or country.
It is clear that England derives more glory from having produced the Marriage à-la-Mode, * by Hogarth, than by having purchased and imported the Cartoons of Raphael: the former, as a native British growth, is an indestructible national honour: the latter, as the production of an Italian master, is an eternal honour to the genius of Italy. A fire might deprive England of the possession, the benefit, and the just pride of those inestimable compositions by Raphael: but neither fire, the sword, nor any possible accident of time or chance can deprive England of the fame of Hogarth’s genius : even if all his works were destroyed, their fame, like that of the Grecian painters, whose pictures have perished so many ages ago, would live for ever in contemporary records. SIR JOHN FLEMING LEICESTER, in giving Hilton a commission to paint the Europa; Lord Mulgrave, in giving Haydon a commission to paint Dentatus; Sir George Beaumont, by giving the same artist a commission to paint Macbeth; and the late Marquis of Exeter, in employing STOTHARD to display his elegant imagination in embellishing Burghley; did more for the honour of England than if they had discovered and imported the celebrated Cartoon of Pisa by Michael Angelo, which the Italian writers suppose to have been destroyed by the envy of Baccio Bandinelli. Christ Healing the Sick, Christ Rejected, and Death on the Pale Horse, the three last grand compositions by West, confer more glory on the British pame, than could accrue to England from any purchase or importation of sculpture or paintings from Greece or Italy. The late King, by commissioning WEST to paint English history in Windsor Castle, and the sublime series of compositions from the Revelations, for the intended chapel-royal, contributed more to the glory of the British name and the advancement of the fine arts, than if his Majesty by the help of Aladdin's Genii, had imported the Vatican entire, with all its wonders of Italian genius, and set it up in Pall-Mall as a national gallery.
* We beg our readers not to misunderstand us here: we, by no means, place in one class, compositions so different as Hogarth's Marriage à-laMode, and the Cartoons of Raphael; nor do we advert to them as works which admit of comparison. But we have no hesitation in avowing our admiration of Hogarth's powers as a genius of the highest order in his own department, apon the level of familiar life and manners.
After the establishment of some constant source of public patronage for elevated British works of art, it may be most unwise to lose any fair opportunity of acquiring first class specimens of painting and sculpture from Italy or Greece, chosen with the same good taste, liberality, and public spirit, as have been evinced in selecting the colleetions already purchased by the Government. But it is a point of wisdom and absolute necessity to let the appropriation of a fund by Government for the patronage of British excellence in the public style, keep pace with those munificent and praiseworthy purchases of ancient master pieces. If a sum of one hundred thousand pounds were voted to-morrow by the wisdom of Parliament for the advancement of the fine arts as instruments of moral improvement and national distinction, it might be wise to expend £50,000. of that sum for fresh acquisitions of first-rate speevery hun
cimens of the old schools for the national gallery, AFTER having devoted the other £50,000. to the remuneration of British artists in that high style, by which alone, this country can hope, in the sound opinion of the British Institution, to command the homage of foreign nations. What we mean is, that after £140,000. have been so wisely expended on ancient works of art as a means, one half of dred pounds expended in future on the fine arts, would be well employed on THE END, that is, in carrying into effect the noble object of vieing with the Grecian and Italian masters, as proposed by the Select Committee on the Elgin Marbles, and by the Directors of the patriotic association jast mentioned. The cause of just apprehension at present, arises solely from what has NOT yet BEEN DONE, or rather from what remains to be done, and because that nothing has yet been done to counteract the great national obstacle, church exclusion, and appropriate any portion ofour immense revenue in patronage of the public style. This apprehension does not by any means lessen our unqualified applause of every purchase of statues and pictures hitherto made by Government. The pride of possessing the treasures of Grecian and Roman art, is not only just, but highly laudable, when not indulged, as it has been in other countries, from a fallacious notion that the possession of such foreign treasures is, in itself, a proof of a national taste and genius for the fine arts, and a source of national glory to the possessors. The danger of such a mistake, when coupled with the anti-historical spirit of the age, created by the great national obstacle, the church exclusion of pictures, must impede, and perhaps defeat, any plan of Government to patronize the public style, with a view to vie with the ancients, and render British genius worthy the homage of foreign nations.
It is clear that it is by British genius, by productions of the British pencil and chisel alone, that this country can hope to employ the fine arts as instruments for raising and extending the British character in foreign countries. Until the State appropriates a fund for the patronage of the public style, we can no more hope to raise national character, or acquire the reputation of excellence in the fine arts by importing fine pictures and statues, and placing them in a NATIONAL GALLERY, than a Manchester manufacturer can hope to reap a profit from storing ship-loads of raw cotton in his warehouses under lock and key for years. It is not by possessing the articles in a useless or an onused state that the end for which they were purchased can be obtained. The ancient pictures and statues, if viewed in their proper light, are as much a raw material for setting British bands and British heads to work, as the unspun cotton. But the difference is this; the Lancashire manufacturer has a sure market and plenty of customers for his cottons when they are manufactured, and the British artists, who are called on to vie with the great Italian and Grecian masters, have neither a commission nor a buyer in that high department which forms the field of com-petition. The conclusion is just as it might be expected : the Manchester man finds plenty of bands, and he carries the day against the world, while the great Grecian and Italian masters are, at present, left without a competitor, in quiet possession of the Homeric field. The great national obstacle mocks at the public spirited efforts of the King, Lords, and Commons, so far as they have gone: it mocks at the persevering patriotism of the British Institution : it plunges them up to the throat in an impossibility like that of Glendower. They may call British students and artists