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Coda

( Originally Published 1925 )



WHEN a man begins to chatter of his promenades among the masterpieces it may be assumed that he has crossed the sill of middle-age. Remy de Gourmont, gentle ironist, calls such a period l'heure insidieuse. Yet, is it not something — a vain virtue, perhaps — to possess the courage of one's windmills! From the Paris of the days when I haunted the ateliers of Gérôme, Bonnat, Meissonier, Couture, and spent my enthusiasms over the colour-schemes of Decamps and Fortuny, to the Paris of the revolutionists, Manet, Degas, :Monet, now seems a life long. But time fugues precipitately through the land of art. In reality both periods overlap; the dichotomy is spiritual, not temporal.

The foregoing memoranda are frankly in the key of impressionism. They are a record of some personal preferences, not attempts at critical re-valuations. Appearing first in the New York Sun, the project of their publication in book form met with the approbation of its proprietor, William Mackay Laffan, whose death in 1909 was an international loss to the Fine Arts. If these opinions read like a medley of hastily crystallised judgments jotted down after the manner of a traveller pressed for time, they are none the less sincere. My garden is only a straggling weedy plot, but I have traversed it with delight; in it I have promenaded my dearest prejudices, my most absurd illusions. And central in this garden may be found the image of the supreme illusionist of art, Velasquez.

Since writing the preceding articles on El Greco and Velasquez the museum of the Hispanic Society, New York, has been enabled, through the munificent generosity of Mr. Archer M. Huntington, to exhibit his newly acquired EI Grecos and a Velasquez. The former comprise a brilliantly coloured Holy Family, which exhales an atmosphere of serenity; the St. Joseph is said to be a portrait of El Greco; and there also is a large canvas ' showing Christ with several of his disciples. Notable examples both. The Velasquez comes from the collection of the late Edouard Kann and is a life-size bust portrait of a sweetly grave little girl. Senor Beruete believes her to represent the daughter of the painter Mazo and his wife, Francisca. Velasquez, therefore a granddaughter of Velasquez. The tonalities of this picture are subtly beautiful, the modelling mysterious, the expression vital and singularly child-like. It is a fitting companion to a portrait hanging on the same wall, that of the aristocratic young Cardinal Pamphili, a nephew of Pope Innocent X, also by the great Spaniard.

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