Louvre - Salle Lacaze - Room I. - All Schools
( Originally Published 1915 )
In 1869 M. Lacaze left to the Louvre a large collection of paintings, principally of Flemish, Dutch and French painters. As already noted the Dutch and most of the Flemish pictures have been put into the Cabinets on either side of the Rubens Gallery. In Room I., called Salle Lacaze are the others of the bequest. The pictures are chiefly French of the Louis XIV. era, but a few other periods as well as other countries are represented.
Among the Spanish pictures in the room are two portraits by Murillo of the poet Quevado and the Duke d'Assuna. They are both round panels, showing only the head and shoulders of the sitters. Quevado, the poet, with his enormous round eyeglasses, his soft curling hair that falls to his shoulder, his stiff right-angled collar projecting far out, looks as a typical poet should, so much so that in spite of the excellence of the painting it is difficult to believe in his reality.
The duke is a man of the world, with wide sleepy eyes, a double chin and a dissatisfied mouth. It is painted with a soft, full, easy stroke.
A very beautiful Ribera is in this room, the Madonna and Child. Mary is lifting her son from his pallet of straw, her own face raised to heaven as if calling a blessing upon the sleeping babe. It is a half-length picture and has much of the depth of shadow usual to Ribera. The deep tones are used effectively, however, making the light on the child and Mary's face all the more telling in brilliancy. Correggio might own the chubby baby without shame, and Murillo has painted far more unsatisfactory Madonnas than this deep-eyed, earnest woman who seems to feel a presage of future woe.
Two out of the seven works labelled Velasquez owned by the Louvre are in this collection. The bust of Philip IV. is a repetition of the one in the National Gallery. Here the monarch is about fifty years old, is dressed in a close-fitting habit of black silk, a broad white collar and the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece. His long hair falls in waves on his collar, his moustache as always is turned sharply upward and the intense pallor of his face is more marked than usual.
The so-called Marie-Theresa is now believed to be the Queen Mariana, second wife of Philip IV. M. Beruete claims this as the study for the full-length of Mariana in Vienna. It represents the young queen about twelve years old, in three-quarters view, turned toward the left. The heavy under lip of the Austrian, the blond hair with its extraordinary ornamentation are characteristics of the girl who, engaged to the Prince of Spain, afterward became the wife of his father. The arrangement of the hair in this portrait is a marvel. Drawn out on each side of her face into regular balloons, it is then curled and puffed, and false hair added, the whole surmounted with bows of pink ribbon, feathers and jewels till it is doubtful if she could ever have moved her head so much as an inch. She is dressed in white with a gauze collar bordered with rose-coloured embroidery. Upon her breast are the jewels of some order and on her left shoulder a knot of ribbon. A green curtain partly lifted forms the background. This, like most of the Velasquez pictures in the Louvre is far below the painter's best work.
A family Portrait Group by Largillière of himself, his wife and his daughter, is not particularly happy in composition. The painter, in a wig that rivals Le Brun's in length and luxuriance, is seated in profile at the extreme left of an outdoor scene. Standing before him and holding a scroll of music in her hand, his young daughter is turning slightly toward her mother who is seated opposite the painter, facing him, her head thus in almost complete profile. The girl is rather charming, the mother high-bred, the accessories conventional and academic as indeed is the entire picture. It does not as a whole compare favourably with much of the painter's work. For Largillière was not only a noted portrait-painter of his day, but he has left many canvases that reveal real talent. His colour is somewhat heavy, his shadows are too brown, his lights too yellow, the half-tones in his flesh often too green. Yet, nevertheless, the general effect has a sort of distinction of its own. His drawing is vigorous and frequently extremely interesting.
Nattier's Portrait of Mlle. de Lambesc and the Young Comte de Brienne is an average example of this painter's style. In front of a drapery lifted at the right mademoiselle is sitting, turned three-quarters to the left. Her costume, as usual in a Nattier portrait is a mythologic sort of affair. A blue mantle covers the lower part of her figure, her white corsage is low-cut, with a belt of gold, and over her right shoulder a tiger skin is thrown. She is buckling on the sword of her young brother who is standing at her left. He is gaily attired in yellow and red, and carries a red banner.
Hercules and Omphale by Le Moine is one of that painter's characteristic works, with some real charm in the handling of flesh. Omphale is standing on her right foot, her left leg brought around crossing her right. Her right hand hangs at her side, her left arm is about the neck of the seated Hercules who is gazing into her laughing face, while he awkwardly holds the distaff she has given him. At his feet, leaning against his leg, is an adorable little Cupid. The modelling here, especially of the bust of Omphale has a delicate softness that is one of Le Maine's pleasing attributes.
A well-known picture by Boucher in this room is his Three Graces. The three bear on their shoulders a tiny Cupid who, singing in triumph, holds in each outstretched hand, a torch. The maidens can hardly be said to rest, even on one foot. They are all just beginning, it seems, to enter into a dance. The one on the left, holding Cupid's quiver, is almost wholly back to, her head however in profile, turned sharply to the left, and bent down-ward. Her uplifted right arm helps to steady the triumphant Cupid. The central Grace is nearly full face, with her right leg advanced and her left bent backward. She holds a wreath of blooms, and a bit of drapery falls over her left arm across her breast, while her head is thrown back and turned to the left in profile. The one on the right, of darker tone than the others, is more frankly dancing. She rests on her left foot, which is pointed outward, almost meeting the extended right one of the central Grace. Her right foot is thrown out behind and lifted some distance from the ground. All these figures have the upper part of their bodies twisted more or less sharply. There are a grace, an abandon, and if a certain roughness in their postures, also a vigour and frankness that suggest abounding life. About them swirl the clouds of the universe, behind them the luminous ether, full of golden light. They are on top of what looks like the rolling globe and at their feet are the roses and dropped petals from their wreaths of flowers. Cupid is a fat baby full of a hilarity his eyes and laughing mouth proclaim loudly, and the reckless way in which he flings his lighted torch about gives a key to the whole picture.
There are a large number of canvases by Chardin in this room, most of which are still-life groups. The one called Various Utensils shows a large quantity of all kinds of dishes on a buffet. At the left is a silver chafing-dish, then a loaf of sugar in a blue paper, a soup-tureen, a napkin and knife, and some jugs. At the right is a small red table with an open drawer and on it porcelain cups and a sugar-bowl. Nothing here looks as if it had been arranged for a picture; the things are placed exactly as they might easily have been left by a servant. All Chardin's still life is simply wonderful. It seems painted less for itself than for its surroundings of which it appears merely an integral part.
The House of Cards is a noted figure composition by Chardin here. A young man with large, soft hat is seated in profile before a table upon which he is constructing a house of cards. He has a serious expression, is perhaps a trifle ennuied. His coat is gray, hat black, his long loosely curling hair blond. There are no accessories, the background being as plain as a modern painter would make it, and though Chardin reminds one in certain ways of the Dutch school he is very unlike it in this simplicity of details.
A most charming example of Rigaud is his portrait of the young Duc de Lesdiguières. The duke was only eight years old when the picture was painted, in 1687. He has a blond peruke, holds in his left hand the baton of the commander, and is in armour, as if emphasizing that he was the youngest of a race of soldiers. The tone of the flesh is fine and rarely clear, the complexion charming, the drawing almost a caress, so exquisitely has the point indicated the delicate forms. The large eyes are brilliant with a spirit that seems as gay as it is intense. About the whole figure there are nevertheless a slightness and a transparency in the exquisite flesh, that convey an impression of the delicate health of the young duke who died so early. The picture is Rigaud at his best.
With the exception of the Embarkation for Cythera the Louvre owned nothing of Watteau till it received the bequest from M. Lacaze. Though none of the ten panels in this collection equals that famous one, there are a number of great merit and charm. Of them all Gilles and the Antiope are the most noted.
Gilles stands with both arms flat at his side, all in his white costume, at the top of a knoll up to which others are scrambling after him. It is life-size, and it is said Watteau never painted another life-size figure. The contention that he could not, seems here answered. Certainly the figure is as splendidly drawn, as firmly modelled, as a Rubens or a Veronese would have done it. The characterization of the face is as remarkable as its firm full modelling. The mingled amusement and spitefulness that overspread it are most aptly indicated. The tones of his white costume abound in the pearly lights Watteau so loved.
More beautiful, if not more famous, is the Jupiter and Antiope, which up to the late rearrangement of the rooms in the museum had a place in the Salon Carré. Lying at the edge of a bank on her side, facing out, is Antiope, her head resting on her right arm, her left hanging straight down across her breast. Her right knee is drawn sharply up, her left leg stretched out more nearly to its length. Under the sleeping figure is a bit of drapery, but over her is none, for the slight wrapping that evidently had shielded her is being plucked back by the dark, brawny arm of Jupiter, who, in satyr guise, is behind her gazing down entranced.
It is a scene almost more Titianesque than Titian ever painted. Its similarity to that master's works has been frequently pointed out, as well as certain Rubenesque attributes. That it is neither a copy of Rubens nor of Titian is its greatest claim to admiration. If the style and subject of the composition and the flesh gradations suggest Titian, or if the drawing of the nymph's body and certain tones of the flesh recall Rubens, it is nevertheless all Watteau.
The figure of Antiope is hardly less beautiful than any Venus that Titian ever painted. The modulations in the golden tones are almost as exquisite as the Venetian painter could have achieved, but there is a sort of silver coolness about them that makes them Watteau's own. The surety of construction, the mastery of form, the simple handling, have rarely been excelled by the greatest masters of the Renaissance of Italy. Perhaps that fallen left arm, cutting as it does in its brilliant colour so sharply against the dark bank, is a doubtful note, from a compositional point of view. But as a bit of local colour and modelling it is in itself a reason for being. The head of this sleeping favourite of the king of the gods is piquant, fascinating, — but unquestionably it is the head of a veritable French girl. Titian's nymphs and goddesses are mostly of a large, impersonal type, suggesting by this very impersonality the calm-eyed Greek statues. But here, Watteau has gone far beyond the impersonal, the general. This is an individual, undoubted French nymph, in spite of the ugly satyr above her, not so much a Grecian goddess, as a gay Gallic sprite.
La Finette and L'Indifferent are small pictures on wood. They were both once the property of Madame de Pompadour. Bürger calls them masterpieces for " quality and purity."
L'Indifferent is a counterpart of Gilles. He stands with one foot pointed, both arms extended, his short cape falling over his right arm. He is just about to make a pas-seul and he is fairly thrilling with life, movement and grace, though the whole figure is not twenty centimetres high. He has a pink short cloak lined with pale blue, waistcoat of blue-green, breeches to match and pink silk stockings, hat of the same delicate green as the costume. The background of trees on the left keeps the general blue-green scheme, and on the right it is lightened by a sun setting in silvery pinks, thus complementing the cloak and the pink silk stockings. The charm of the whole picture is in this exquisite gradation of such delicate tones, broken up by reflections that produce a " harmony which is very simple but extremely distingué and rare."
In Finette are much the same qualities, perhaps intensified.
The False Step shows a young woman who has slipped and fallen and is seated almost squarely back to on the ground, resting on her left arm with which she has caught herself. With her right arm she is somewhat uncertainly pushing back the young man who is leaning over her, his arm about her waist. The light strikes full on her charming neck, and her head and the young cavalier's stand out against a blue sky called by M. Bürger "un peu vif."
The Juggler is attributed to the earliest period of Watteau's art. The juggler himself stands in profile before an oval table on which is a pack of cards and three dice-boxes. Above these latter he holds his right hand, while with the left he is attracting the attention of his audience, two women seated opposite him with a child between them. Back of the chair of the one on the right is a gallant, much interested in a young woman who is at the extreme left and is apparently about leaving the room, not without, however, a parting glance at the watching youth. Here are the fine soft silks, and gay apparel Watteau so delights in, and in the countenance of the juggler he had a chance to display his love for the grotesque.
Fragonard as well as Watteau has a long list of pictures in this room, of many different subjects.
The Bathers represents half a dozen nymphs or maidens in a very revel of bathing. They are springing into the waves, rushing through them, or coming buoyantly to the top. The water is not deep, and trees, rushes and grass are all about. Two of the principal figures are in the centre of the composition, one throwing herself backward into the water with arms and legs extended, while the other is springing in from the bordering grass, showing her full back. This is not far removed from the manner of Boucher. But loosely as it is drawn and constructed it has much charm of colour and joy of movement.
The two figure studies called Inspiration and a Figure of Fantasy are almost identical in position. In both a young man is seated turned three-quarters to the right, his head facing in the opposite direction. Each head is slightly lifted and has clear-cut, vigorous features, firm full brow, and searching eyes. The one called an imaginary figure holds its hands rather tightly closed, one on the balustrade in front of him, the other above clasping his coat. A black hat with a gray plume is on the balustrade beside him, his full loose ruffle is close about his neck, his tunic is blue and his hair blond. In Inspiration the loose white collar is open far down the throat. Before him on a table are papers and he holds a pen suspended in his left hand. Both of these figures have life and character and are firmly and vividly drawn.
Another charming panel is the one called A Study, showing a very young girl seated before a table, holding an open book. Her head is bent somewhat back and sidewards, her eyes merrily glancing to the left, a be-witching smile on her soft red lips. Neck and part of the bust are bare, surrounded by a big, flaring Marie-Antoinette sort of collar.
The Head of a Young Girl by Greuze is not one of his most beautiful faces, being somewhat heavy in feature. It is worth noticing however for one reason, that comparatively few of his girls' faces are ever seen in profile. In this the shoulders are nearly in full view, but the head is turned up and around toward the left shoulder. Hier light hair is bound with a violet ribbon run over it twice, her gray chemisette is open at the neck leaving one breast uncovered. The heaviness and angularity of the drapery so often found in Greuze's works is very notice-able here, but as usual, also, there are the clear, fresh, transparent tones and the soft luminous eyes.