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Pictures In Madrid

( Originally Published 1925 )



The noblest castle in Spain is the museum on the Prado. Now every great capital of Europe boasts its picture or sculpture gallery; no need to enumerate the treasures of art to be found in London, Paris, Vienna -the latter too little known by the average globe-trotter — Berlin, Dresden, Cassel, Frankfort, Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Florence, Rome, Naples, St. Petersburg, or Venice. They all boast special excellences, but the Prado collection contains pictures by certain masters, Titian, Rubens, Correggio, and others, that cannot be seen elsewhere. Setting aside Velasquez and the Spanish school, not in Venice, Florence, or London are there Titian of such quality and in such quantity as in Madrid. And the Rubenses are of a peculiar lovely order, not to be found in Antwerp, Brussels or Paris. Even without Velasquez the trying trip to the Spanish capital is a necessary and exciting experience for the painter and amateur of art.

The Prado is largely reinforced by foreign pictures and is sadly lacking in historical continuity whether foreign or domestic schools. It is about ninety years old, having been opened in part (three rooms) to the public in November, 1819. At that time there were three hundred and eleven canvases. Other galleries were respectively added in 1821, 1828, 1830, and 1839. In 1890 the Queen-mother had the Sala de la Reina Isabel rearranged and better lighted. It contained then the master-pieces, but in 1899, the tercentenary of Velasquez's birth, a gallery was built to hold his works, with a special room for that masterpiece among master-pieces Las Meninas. Many notable pictures that had hung for years in the Academia de Nobles Artes de San Fernando, at the Escorial Palace, and and the collection of the Duke of Osuna are now housed within the walls of the Prado. At the en-trance you encounter a monumental figure of Goya, sitting, in bronze, the work of the sculptor J. Llaneses.

The Prado has been called a gallery for connoisseurs, and it is the happiest title that could be given it, for it is not a great museum in which all schools are represented. You look in vain for the chain historic that holds together disparate styles; there are omissions, ominous gaps, and the very nation that ought to put its best foot foremost, the Spanish, does not, with the exception of Vélasquez. Of him there are over sixty authentic works; of Titian over thirty. Bryan only allows him twenty-three; this is an error. There are fifteen Titian in Florence, divided between the Uffizi and the Pitti; in Paris, thirteen, but one is the Man with the Glove. Quality counts heaviest, therefore the surprise is not that Madrid boasts numbers but the wonderful quality of so many of them. To lend additional lustre to the specimens of the Venetian school, the collection starts off with a superb Giorgione; Giorgione, the painter who taught Titian his magic colour secrets; the painter whose works are, with a few exceptions, ascribed to other men - more is the pity! (In this we are at one with Herbert Cook, who still clings to the belief that the Concert of the Pitti Palace is Giorgione and not Titian. At least the Concert Chainpetre of the Louvre has not been taken from "Big George.") The Madrid masterpiece is The Virgin and Child Jesus with St. Anthony and St Roch.

It is easy to begin with the Titians, one of which is the famous Bacchanal. Then there are The Madonna with St. Bridget and St. Hulfus, The Garden of the Loves, Emperor Charles V. at Mühlberg, an equestrian portrait; another portrait of the same with figure standing, King Philip, Isabella of Portugal, La Gloria, The Entombment of Christ, Venus and Adonis, Danaë and the Golden Shower, a variation of this picture is in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, the other in the National Museum, Naples; Venus Listening to Music, two versions, the stately nude evidently a memory of the Venus reposing in the Uffizi; Adam and Eve (also a copy of this by Rubens); Prometheus, Sisyphus long supposed to be copies by Coello; Christ Bearing the Cross, St. Margaret, a portrait of the Duke of Este, Salom, Ecce Homo, La Dolorosa, the once admired Allocution; Flight Into Egypt, St. Catalina, a self-portrait, St. Jerome, Diana and Act eon, The Sermon on the Mount — the list is much longer.

There are many Goyas; the museum is the home of this remarkable but uneven painter. We confess to a disappointment in his colour, though his paint was not new to us; but time has lent no pleasing patina to his canvases, the majority of which are rusty-looking, cracked, discoloured, dingy or dark. There are several exceptions. The nude and dressed full-lengths of the Duchess of Alba are in excellent preservation, and brilliant audacious painting it is. A lovely creature, better looking when reclining than standing, as a glance her full-length portrait in the New York His-panic Museum Proves. One of Goya's best portraits hangs in the Prado, the seated figure of his brother-in-law, the painter Bayeu. The Family of Charles IV, his patron and patroness, with the sheep-like head of the favourite De la Paz, is here in all its bitter humour; it might be called a satiric pendant to that other Familia, not many yards away, Las Meninas. There are the designs for tapestries in the basement; Blind Man's Buff and other themes illustrating national traits. The equestrian portraits of Charles IV and his sweet, sinister spouse, Queen Maria Luisa, reveal a Goya not known to the world. He could assume the grand manner when he so willed. He could play the dignified master with the same versatility that he played at bullfighting. But his colour is often hot and muddy, and perhaps he will go down to that doubtful quantity, posterity, as an etcher and designer of genius. After leaving the Prado you remember only the Caprices, the Bull-fights, and the Disaster of War plates; perhaps the Duchess of Alba, undressed, and in her dainty toreador costume. The historic pictures are a tissue of horrors, patriotic as they are meant to be; they suggest the slaughter-house. Goya has painted a portrait of Villanueva, the architect of the museum; and there is a solidly constructed portrait of Goya by V. Lopez.

The Raphaels have been reduced to two at the Prado: The Holy Family with the Lamb, painted a year after the Ansedei Madonna, and that wonderful head of young Cardinal Bibbiena, keen-eyed and ascetic of features. Alas! for the sch0lar-ship that attributed to the Divine Youth La Perla; the Madonna of the Fish; Lo Spasimo, Christ Bearing the Cross, and several other masterpieces. Giulio Romana, Penni, and perhaps another, turned out these once celebrated and overpraised pictures —overpraised even if they had come from the brush of Raphael himself. The Cardinal's portrait is worth the entire batch of them.

There is a Murillo gallery, full of representative work, the most important being St. Elizabeth of Hungary Tending the Sick, formerly in the Escorial. The various Conceptions and saints' heads are not missing, painted in his familiar colour key with his familiar false sentiment and always an eye to the appeal popular. A mighty magnet for the public is Murillô. The peasants flock to him on Sundays as to a sanctuary. There the girls see themselves on a high footing, a heavenly saraband among woolly clouds, their prettiness idealised, their costume of exceeding grace. After a while you tire of the saccharine Murillo and his studio beggar boys, and turn to his drawings with relief. His landscapes are more sincere than his religious canvases, which are almost as sensuous and earthly as Correggio without the magisterial brush-work and commanding conception of the Parma painter. To be quite fair, it may be admitted that Murillo could make a good portrait. Both in Madrid and Seville you may verify this.

A beautiful Fra Angelico, a beautiful Mantegna open your eyes, for the Italian Primitives are conspicuous their absence. Correggio is magnificent. The well-known Magdalen and Christ Risen, Noli Me Tangere! His Virgin with Jesus and St. John is in his accustomed melting pâte. One Del Sarto is of prime quality, The Virgin, Jesus and St. John, called Asunto Mistico at the Prado. Truly a moving picture, by a painter who owes much of his fame to Robert Browning. His Lucrezia is a pretty portrait of his faithless wife. There are Lotto, Parmigianino, Baroccio, Tintoretto, Bassano, Veronese, Domenico Tiepolo, and his celebrated father the fantastic Giambattista Tiepolo not startling specimens any of them.

In the Spanish section Ribera comes at you the strongest. He was a personality as well as a powerful painter. Consider his Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew. Zurbaran follows next in interest, though morbid at times; but of Berragueta, Borgona, Morales, Juanes, Navarette, Coello - an excellent portraitist, imitator of Moro - La Cruz, Alfonso Cano, Luis de Tristan, Espinosa, Blas del Prado, Orrente, Esteban de March - two realistic heads of an old man and an old woman must be set down to his credit Ribalta, influenced by Caravaggio, in turn influencing Ribera — Juan de las Roelas (el Clerigo), Del Maze) — son-in-law of Velasquez, and responsible for dozens of false attributions — Carreno de Miranda, José Leonardo, Juan Rizi V. Iriarte, the two Herreras, the elder a truculent charlatan, the younger a nonentity, and others of the Spanish school may be dismissed in a word — medioc- rities.

The secret of Titian's colour, the "Venetian secret," was produced, some experts believe, by first painting a solid monochrome in tempera on which the picture was finished in oil. Unquestionably Titian corrected and amended his work as much as did Velasquez. It is a pleasing if somewhat theatric belief that Titian and Velasquez, duelled with their canvases, their rapier a brush. After inspecting many of the Hals portraits the evidences of direct painting, swift though calculated, are not to be denied. This may ac-count, with the temperamental equation, for the less profound psychological interest of his portraiture when compared with the Raphael, Titian, Velasquez, and Rembrandt heads. Yet, what superiority in brush-work had Hals over Raphael and Rembrandt. The Raphael surfaces are as a rule hard, dry, and lustreless, while Rembrandt's heavy, troubled paint is no mate for the airy touch of the Mercutio of Haarlem. But Titian's impasto is lyric. It sings on the least of his canvases. No doubt his pictures in the Prado have been "skinned" of their delicate glaze by the iconoclastic restorer; yet they bloom and chant and ever bloom. The Bacchanal, which bears a faint family resemblance to the Bacchus and Ariadne of the London National Gallery, fairly exults in its joy of life, in its frank paganism. What rich reverberating tones, what powers of evocation! The Garden of the Loves is a vision of childhood at its sweetest; the surface of the canvas seems alive with festooned babies. The more voluptuous Venus or Danaë do not so stir your pulse as this immortal choir of cupids. The two portraits of Charles V — one equestrian - are charged with the noble, ardent gravity and splendour of phrasing we expect from the greatest Venetian of them all. We doubt, how-ever, if the Prado Entombment is as finely wrought as the same subject by Titian in Paris; but it sounds a poignant note of sorrow. Rembrandt is more dramatic when dealing with a similar theme. The St. Margaret with its subtle green gown is a figure that is touching and almost tragic. The Madonna and Child, with St. Bridget and St. Hulfus, has been called Giorgionesque. St. Bridget is of the sumptuous Venetian type; the modelling of her head is lovely, her colouring rich.

Rubens in the Prado is singularly attractive. There are over fifty, not all of the best quality, but numbering such works as the Three Graces, the Rondo, the Garden of Love, and the masterly un finished portrait of Marie de Medicis. The Brazen Serpent is a Van Dyck, though the catalogue of 1907 credits it to Rubens. Then there are the Andromeda and Perseus, the Holy Family and Diana and Calista. The portrait of Marie de Médicis, stout, smiling, amiability personified, has been called one of the finest feminine portraits extant -- which is a slight exaggeration. It is both mellow and magnificent, and unless history or Rubens lied the lady must have been as mild as mother's milk. The Three Graces, executed during the latter years of the Flemish master, is Rubens at his pagan best. These stalwart and handsome females, without a hint of sleek Italian delicacy, include Rubens's second wife, Helena Fourment, the ox-eyed beauty. What blond flesh tones, what solidity of human architecture, what positive beauty of surfaces and nobility of con-tours! The Rondo is a mad, whirling dance, the Diana and Calista suggestive of a Turkish bath outdoors, but a picture that might have impelled Walt Whitman to write a sequel to his Children of Adam. Such women were born not alone to bear children but to rule the destinies of man-kind; genuine matriarchs.

Rembrandt fares ill. His Artemisia about to drink her husband's ashes from a costly cup reveals a ponderous hand. It is but indifferent Rembrandt, despite several jewelled passages. Van Dyck shows at least one great picture, the Betrayal of Christ. The Brazen Serpent only ranks second to it; both are masterpieces, and Antwerp must envy the Prado. The Crown of Thorns, and the portraits, particularly that of the Countess of Wexford, are arresting. His Musician, being the portrait of Lanière the lute-player, and his own portrait on the same canvas with Count Bristol, are cherished treasures. The lutist is especially fascinating. That somewhat mysterious Dutch master, Moro, or Mor (Antonis; born in Utrecht, 1512; died at Antwerp, 1576 or 1578), is represented by more than a dozen portraits. To know what a master of physiognomy he was we need only study his Mary Queen of England, the Buffoon of the Beneventas, the Philip II, and the various heads of royal and noble born dames. The subdued fire and subtlety of this series, the piercing vision and superior handicraft of the painter have placed him high in the artistic hierarchy; but not high enough. At his best he is not far behind Holbein. That great German's art is shown in a solitary master-piece, the portrait of an unknown man, with shrewd cold eyes, an enormous nose, the hands full of meaning, the fabrics scrupulous as to detail. Next to this Holbein, whose glance follows you around the gallery, are the two Dürers, the portrait of Hans Imhof, a world-renowned picture, and his own portrait (1498), a magical rendering of a Christ-like head, the ringlets curly, the beard youthful, the hands folded as if in prayer. A marvellous composition. It formerly hung too high, above the Hans Imhof; it now hangs next to it. A similar head in the Uffizi is a copy, Sir Walter Armstrong to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Flemish schools are to be seen in the basement, not altogether a favourable place, though in the afternoon there is an agreeable light. Like Rubens, Jan van Eyck visited Spain and left the impress of his style. But the Van Eycks at the Prado are now all queried, though several are note-worthy. The Marriage of the Virgin is discredited. The Virgin, Christ and St. John under the golden canopy, called a Hubert van Eyck, is probably by Gossaert de Mabuse, and a clever transposition of the altar piece in St. Bavon's at Ghent. The Fountain of Life, also in the catalogue as a Jan van Eyck, has been pronounced a sixteenth-century copy of a lost picture by his brother Hubert. We may add that not one of these so-called Van Eycks recalls in all their native delicacy and richness the real Van Eycks of Bruges, Ghent, and Brussels; though the Virgin Reading, given as Jan's handiwork, is of a charm. The Depositions, attributed to Rogier van der Weyden (De la Pasture), are acknowledged to be old sixteenth-century copies of the Deposition in the Escorial. The altar piece is excellent. But there is a fine Memling, glowing in pigment and of beautiful design, The Adoration of the Kings, a triptych, like the one at Bruges. In the centre panel we see the kings adoring, one a black man; the two wings, or doors, respectively depict the birth of Christ (right) and the presentation in the temple (left). There is a retablo (reredos) in four compartments, by Petrus Cristus, and two Jerome Patinirs, one, a Temptation of St. Anthony, being )enjoyable. The painter-persecuted saint sits in the foreground of a freshly painted landscape, harassed by the attentions of witches, several of them comely and clothed. To be precise, the composition suggests a much-married man listening to the reproaches of his spouses. Hanging in -a doorway we found a Herri Met de Bles that is not marked doubtful. It is a triptych, an Adoration, in which the three kings, the Queen of Sheba before Solomon, and Herod participate. A brilliantly tinted work this, which once hung in the Escorial, and, mirabile dictu, attributed to Lucas van Leyden. No need to speak of the later Dutch and Flemish school, Teniers, Ostade, Doti, Pour-bus, and the minor masters. There are Breughels and Bosches aplenty, and none too good. But there are several Jordaens of quality, a family group, and three heads of street musicians. We forgot to mention an attribution to Jan van Eyck, The Triumph of Religion, which is a curious affair no matter whose brain conceived it. The attend-ant always points out its religious features with ill-concealed glee. A group of ecclesiastics have confounded a group of rabbis at a fountain which is the foundation of an altar; the old fervour burns in the eyes of the gallery servitor as he shows you the discomfited Hebrew doctors of the law. We may dismiss as harmless the Pinturicchio and other Italian attributions in these basement galleries. There is the usual crew of Anonimos, and a lot of those fantastic painters who are nicknamed by critics without a sense of humour as "The Master of the Fiery Hencoop," "The Master of the Eccentric Omelet," or some such idiotic title.

Upstairs familiar names such as Domenichino, Bassano, Cortona, Crespi, Bellino, Pietra della Vecchia, Allori, Veronese, Maratta, Guido Reni, Romano need not detain us. The catalogue numbers of the Italian school go as high as 628. The Titians, however, are the glory of the Prado.

The Spanish school begins at 629, ends at 1,029. The German, Flemish, and Holland schools begin at 1,146, running to 1,852. There are supplements to all of the foregoing. The French school runs from 1,969 to 2,111. But the examples in this section are not inspiring, the Watteaus excepted. There is the usual Champagne, Coypel, Claude of Lorraine (10), Largillière, Lebrun, Van Loo, Mig nard (5); one of Le Nain—by both brothers. Nattier (4), Nicolas Poussin (20), Rigaud, and two delicious Watteaus; a rustic betrothal and a view of the garden of St. Cloud, the two exhaling melancholy grace and displaying subdued richness of tone. Tiepolo has been called the last link in the chain of Venetian colourists, which began with the Bellini, followed by Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Palma Vecchio, Bonifazio, Veronese — and to this list might be added the name of the Frenchman Watteau. Chardin was also a colourist, and how many of the Poussins at this gallery might be spared to make room for one of his cool, charming paintings!

The Prado about exhausts the art treasures of Madrid. In the Escorial, that most monstrous and gloomiest of the tombs of kings, are pictures that should be seen — some Grecos among the rest — even if the palace does not win your sympathy. In Madrid what was once called the Academia de San Fernando is now the Real Academia de Bellas Artes. It is at II Calle de Alcali and contains a Murillo of quality, the Dream of the Roman Knight, Zurbaran's Carthusians, an Ecce Homo by Ribera, of power; the Death of Dido by Fragonard; a Rubens, St. Francis, the work of his pupils; Alonzo Cano, two Murillos, Domenichino, Tristan, Mengs, Giovanni Bellini; Goya's bullfights, mad-house scenes, and several portraits — one of the Duc de la Paz; a Pereda, a Da Vinci (?), Madrazo, Zurbaran, and Goya's equestrian portrait of Charles IV. A minor gathering, the débris of a former superb collection, and not even catalogued:

There are museums devoted to artillery, armour, natural sciences, and archaeology. In the imposing National Library, full of precious manuscripts, is the museum of modem art — also without a catalogue. It does not make much of an impression after the Prado. The Fortuny is not characteristic, though a rarity; a sketch for his Battle of Tetuan, the original an unfinished painting, is at Barcelona. There are special galleries such as the Sala Haes with its seventy pictures, which are depressing. The modern Spaniards Zuloaga, Sorolla, Angla-Camarosa are either not represented or else are not at their best. There is a Diaz, who was of Spanish origin; but the Madrazos, Villegas, Montenas, and the others are academic echoes or else feeble and mannered. There are some adroit water-colours by modern Frenchmen, and there is a seeming attempt to make the collection contemporary in spirit, but it is all as dead as the allegorical dormouse, while over at the Prado there is a vitality manifested by the old fellows that bids fair to outlast the drums, tramplings, and conquests of many generations. We have not more than alluded to the sculpture at the Prado; it is not particularly distinguished. The best sculpture we saw in Spain was displayed in wood-carvings. The pride of the Prado is centred upon its Titians, Raphaels, Rubenses, Murillos, El Grecos, and, above all, upon Don Diego de Silva, better known as Velasquez.

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