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pressed by Cardinal Bibiena to espouse his niece Maria Babiena, and at another period it was proposed to confer upon him a Cardinal's hat.
It is to be borne in mind also that genius will not now-a-days consent to be dependent on the patronage of the great. It will not be content with less than the commanding of homage, the homage of the whole community. That community does not as a body set a high value upon the arts of design. It is the works produced by the Press that are studied, while painting only is regarded as something ornamental, and second to what is directly and manifestly useful.
Besides, the Press is not the only cause of lowering the estimation and rank which once were accorded to art, but its professors and students have been more and more embarrassed down to the latest times, since the reign of the Great Masters, by another circumstance, which is thus explained by Dr. Waagen :
Among the Greeks, art and life went hand in hand. All the external circumstances of life, especially the costume, were of such a nature, that they fulfilled, as they were, the laws of beauty and taste, which the highest aims of the art require. The artist, therefore, was involuntarily impressed with his studies, in the living world around him, which is an immense advantage. He enjoyed the same opportunity for the study of the human figure by the public exercises in the Palæstra. If the outward forms of life had not in the middle ages this purely plastic character, yet the feeling for the picturesque found nourishment in very many respects; in the architecture, in the various customes, in the richness and variety of the materials used for clothing. But such ugliness, deformity, and tastelessness bas gradually arisen in the whole external world, that the historical painter is compelled to begin bis work by total abstraction from the reality with which he is surrounded, in which he can find nothing corresponding with his object. He must create out of his fancy alone, and complete the details with the dead, wretched aid of models, and draperies artificially thrown over lay figures. If we consider what is required, under such circumstances, to create a work of art which shall produce in every part the impression of the intellectual, animated, and transitory, we ought in reason to be filled with the greatest admiration for an artist who produces such a performance, and look with indulgence on single imperfections."
Dr. Waagen's visits to the seats of our nobility and gentry in the country were numerous and extended. He went as far north as Howard Castle, where Lord Carlisle has a noble collection, and of which, a letter from the Duke of Sutherland to the housekeeper, “ a respectable, elderly person,” insured the critic a full examination. The chief strength of the paintings (for at Howard Castle there are rich exhibitions in other departments of art and virtù) is in capital works of the Carracci and their scholars, as well as in Flemish pictures of the time of Reubens. Two or three of the learned connoisseur's notices of the collection in question, will afford our readers an idea of his manner and closeness.
“ Giovanni Bellini.—The Circumcision. The real original, marked with the artist's name, of the many copies made at a remote period, of the middle time of the artist. The characters of the old heads are very severe, and of astonishing glow in the colouring; the treatment admirably fused.
From the Orleans Gallery. It is unfortunately damaged in some places.
“ Joan Gassaert, called Mabuse.—The Wise Men's Offering. A rich composition, in which there are thirty principal figures. About six feet high and five feet wide. This picture, from the Orleans Gallery, is a most splendid conformation of my conjecture, that this artist, before he went to Italy, must have executed important works in the pure Flemish style of the school of Van Eyck; whereas people are used to judge of him by the mannered pictures in the Italian taste, which he painted during and after that journey. In this picture he is by no means inferior to the two most celebrated contemporary painters in the Netherlands, Rogier Vun der Weyde, and Quintin Matsys. In the nobleness, refinement, and variety of the characters, he is superior, and in gravity and energy equal to them. The proportions of the figures are slender, the hands delicate, but rather long and lean. With the flowing and soft general cast of the draperies, there are some sharper breaks. All the parts are very decidedly marked; the flesh is mostly, in the shadows, of a deep brownish, in the lights, of a warm yellowish tone, and less clear than in the two other masters. The execution is, throughout, wonderfully solid and conscientious. The crown of the Wise Man kneeling, and the lid of the vessel, on which, according to the later manner of the master, we read IASPAR, &c., is executed in the old fashion in gold yellow. On the other hand, the gold brocade of the draperies is in the later and not so good manner, in which the whole surface is painted with a brown colour ; the patterns drawn with black, the lights put in with yellow ochre. The combination of the colours, which are partially broken, has a very harmonious effect. In this, as in all the principal parts, it entirely agrees with the Crucifixion in the Berlin Museum, which has hitherto been erroneously ascribed to Memling; only that the latter, by forming cleaning, has lost its warm tone, and its old distinctness, whereas this picture, at Castle Howard, is in as fine a state of preservation as if it bad been finished but yesterday. A small head with a hat and feathers, at a window, may, perhaps, be the portrait of Mabuse. It is erroneously believed that those of Albert Durer and Lucus Van Leyden are to be distinguished there. In the middle distances the Shepherds are devoutedly worshipping. The architecture of the building, in which the Child is visited by the Wise Men, is not Gothic, but already shews the influence of Italy. This picture is not only the capital work of those that remain of Mabuse, but is also one of the best of the whole ancient Flemish school.
“ François Clouet, called Janet.--A collection of eighty-eight portraits of the most eminent persons at the courts of Henry II., Francis II., Charles IX., and Henry III., executed with much spirit and animation, in black and white chalk, in the manner of Holbein. These interesting portraits carry the spectator back to that age which Vitet has described with such characteristic individuality in his historical dramas. The names are written by a contemporary hand. It is very singular that the men are almost all handsome, the women, with few exceptions, ugly.”
But we must not detain our readers with numerous criticisms of the above kind, because, however just and minute they may be, it is hardly possible thereby to convey any distinct ideas unless to persons who are already familiar with the specimens described. Still, merely to show some of the Director's corrections, and how frequently pictures have been in this country ascribed apparently at random by incompetent critics to celebrated artists, let us have a glance at the Liverpool Institution ; for towns as well as castles attracted our German guest.
". The Coronation of the Virgin ;' half figures. 1 ft. 5 in. high, 1 ft. 9 in. wide; a very good work of the Sienna school of the fourteenth century. It is here erroneously called Byzantine.
“ Filippino Lippi. — The Birth of the Virgin,' 6 in. high, 14 in. wide. One of the most beautiful and deeply felt pictures of this great master, of his earlier and best period. Here erroneously called Fiesole.
“L. Krug.-The Nativity. The Virgin kneeling, worships the Infant, which is lying on the ground; Joseph stands by, with a lantern. 11 in. high, 9 in. wide. This masterly picture, executed in the style of the German school, exactly agrees, in the essentials, with the well-known engraving by this master. (Bartsch, Vol. VIII. p. 536.) It is here most unaccountably called Anessio Baldovinetti.”
Dr. Waagen did not confine his observation and criticism to Painting and Sculpture, but scanned external scenery and the manners of society with the eye of a poet and a philosopher. Like other German erudite and polished travellers, he looked for the reasons of things and was ever anxious to reduce effects to first principles. We need not depart from Howard Castle without presenting a specimen of the use which he made of his vision and his taste the moment he came in sight of the splendid locality. He says,
"On entering the park, you see at the end of a steep avenue a lofty obelisk, which was erected by Henry, Earl of Carlisle, in honour of the great Duke of Marlborough. Two double rows of ash-trees on the sides of the road, and, further on, two large meadows of a regular form, surrounded on three sides by wood, make a very fine appearance. The castle itself forcibly reminded me of Blenheim, and is by the same architect, Van Brugh; but it is less broken, and, though not of equal extent, has a grander and more massy appearance. In the whole arrangement of the palace and the garden, the architect evidently had Versailles in his mind, as the ne plus ultra of this style. In the grounds are colossal stone basons, to which the flowers planted in them give the appearance of flower-baskets. The principal ornaments, however, are numerous copies of the most celebrated antiques, the dazzling whiteness of which is contrasted with the bright green of the turf. The northern and rude climate has unfortunately made it necessary to paint them with oil colour : only the ancient large Boar of Florence still stands unpainted in a very good copy of the finest Carrara marble. On two sides are pieces of water, over one of which is a large stone bridge. All this, as well as a square building, which on every side has a portico of four pillars of the Composite
order, and an elegant Mosiac floor; a pyramid of considerable size ; and, lastly, a very large circular building, surrounded with pillars and crowned with a cupola, which contains the family vaults, give to the whole a rich and truly princely appearance. The high cupola with a lantern, which strikes you immediately on entering the house, is in the same character. According to the tasteless fashion of that age, Antonio Pellegrini, one of the late mannerists of the Venetian school, has painted in the cupola the Fall of Phaëton ; so that a person standing under it feels as if the four horses of the sun were going to fall upon his head. The corners are adorned with the four elements. More noble and important than all this show are the manifold works of art of various kinds which the spacious apartments of the palace contain, and which give it the appearance of a museum.”
Chatworth (Duke of Devonshire's), Bowood (Marquis of Lansdowne’s), Alton Tower (Lord Shrewsbury's), Keddleston Hall (Lord Scarsdale's), and other magnificent repositories of art, as well as truly English scenes obtain like notice and description. Having said that towns as well as castles attracted our traveller's attention, we quote a sample of his treatment of these large and crowded scenes.
“ Bath is the queen of all the spas in the world, for there are certainly very few which can compare with it for beauty of situation, and none for magnificence of buildings. The city arises in terraces from the banks of the Avon, which winds through the valley to the top of the Lansdowne, a pretty steep eminence, about 800 feet high. The vast masses of architecture rising one above the other have a highly picturesque and striking effect, when seen from the valley. The eye is chiefly attracted by the Royal Crescent, situated about half way up the hill, and Lansdowne Crescent, which towers above all. This is the name given in England to large masses of building, the facades of which gradually recede from the ends to the centre, so as to form a curve more or less near to a semicircle; a mode of building which is certainly very objectionable in its principle : they contain a larger or smaller number of dwellings for single families. The impression of grandeur and solidity is enhanced by the material, which is a stone found in the neighbourhood. Yet the various views from the several points of elevation, particularly Lansdowne Terrace and King's Terrace, are almost more beautiful and worth seeing. From the first you have a view over the whole rich valley, with the finely wooded eminences that rise on the other bank of the Avon, and the whole world of buildings, more or less elevated above the plain. The Gothic abbey which, with its tower, rises peacefully quite down in the valley, near the banks of the Avon, has, in every point of view, a most picturesque effect. The whole, too, has such a southern character, the air is so deliciously mild, that one fancies oneself in Italy, and cannot wonder that even the piratical Romans appreciated the advantages of this situation with the warm baths. It would therefore be incomprehensible to me, why this paradise, which unites in the most extraordinary degree the advantages of a great city with those of a romantic country residence,
had I not already become acquainted with the power of the only absolute sovereign in this constitutional country, namely, fashion.”
While at Bath Mr. Beckford's treasures of art, of course, became an object of the Director's curiosity; and although he intimates that neither at that princely gentleman's house in the city, nor at his Tower in the vicinity, was he allowed sufficient time for examination, yet the sketch of what the traveller saw leaves an impression on the reader's mind of vast and various beauty, grandeur and gorgeousness. In the Tower besides pictures are rooms richly ornamented with select works of another kind. Of the earthenware called majolica, adorned with paintings and coated with varnish, there is a most enriable collection. There are enamelled vessels of striking beauty among these specimens, which belong to the sixteenth century, having been manufactured and ornamented by distinguished foreign artists. Our author speaks also in terms of high admiration of vessels of agate and nephrite, of Japan and Chinese porcelain, of glass, of gold, all several centuries old. He describes the furniture as corresponding in magnificence and costliness with the objects of virtù ; such as tables of giallo and verde antico, and other rare marbles. There is a cabinet adorned with fine Florentine mosaic, while cedar and other expensive kinds of wood abound. The imagination absolutely reels amid such descriptions; then what must be the effect when the whole is present to the senses ? But we must stop, after letting the Director be heard in his descant upon one apartment in Mr. Beckford's mansion in Bath.
“I shall never forget the dining-room, which, taken all in all, is perhaps one of the most beautiful in the world. Conceive a moderate apartment of agreeable proportions, whose walls are adorned with cabinet pictures, the noblest productions of Italian art of the time of Raphael, from the windows of which you overlook the whole paradisaical valley of the Avon, with the city of Bath, which was now steeped in sunshine. Conceive in it a company of men of genius and talent, between the number of the Graces and Muses, whose spirits are duly raised by the choicest viands, in the preparation of which the refined culinary art of our days has displayed its utmost skill, by a selection of wines, such as nature and human care can produce only on the most favoured spots of the earth, in the most favourable years, and you will agree with me that many things here meet in a culminating point, which, even singly, are calculated to rejoice the heart of man."
The result after reading Dr. Waagen's present work is, that England is wonderfully rich in respect of treasures of art, and that such travellers as Passavant and himself have done more to enlighten the public on the subject than any native artists or connoisseurs have ever done. The beauty of English scenery too, the perfection of English Landscape Gardening, and the warmth of English hospitality, come strikingly out. We hare only to add, that the transla