Pictures To See In Other European Countries
( Originally Published 1917 )
"What's come to perfection perishes,
BROWNING: Old Pictures in Florence.
In making a tour of European galleries, one may very conveniently start at Holland, visit Belgium and Germany, and then be the better prepared to appreciate the Renaissance painting in its true environment, Italy.
" The rise of the. Dutch Republic," says Motley, " must ever be regarded as one of the leading events of modern times. Without the birth of this great Common-wealth the various historical phenomena of the sixteenth and following centuries must have either not existed, or have presented themselves under essential modifications."
Starting with The Hague, in the fine gallery known as the Mauritshuis, two paintings are always centers of interest.
First, Rembrandt's gruesome though marvelously depicted " School of Anatomy," or " The Anatomy Lesson," a group of mature medical students listening to their professor, Dr. Tulp, as he discusses the cadaver before them; secondly, Paulus Potter's famous animal scene, "The Young Bull," so natural in appearance that he seems almost walking out of the picture, which is one of the ten best-known in the world. Others to note here are Rembrandt's " Presentation in the Temple " and " Homer "; also works of Rubens, Ruisdael, and Gerard Dou.
En route to Amsterdam, stop over at Haarlem, to see in the Town Hall among other examples of Dutch art the eight celebrated canvases by Frans Hals, whose home was in Haarlem.
The Rijks Museum in Amsterdam is, of course, the best collection in Holland, and one of the most noted in Europe. Its great treasure, the so-called Night Watch " of Rembrandt, is now explained as " The Sortie of the Company of Cap-tain Francis Banning Cocq." This picture is in .a room by itself, which one enters reverently, speaking in a whisper, so awe-inspiring is the effect of great painting. Its brilliant coloring and the mystery of its composition make a strong appeal. We readily believe that Rembrandt mixed his colors with sunlight. " The Syndics " is another noted Rembrandt group of portraits, more satisfactory to the patrons who ordered it than was the rejected "Night Watch."
Perhaps the next most prized picture of Holland is " The Kitchen Maid" (facing this page), called also "The Milk-Woman or " The Cook," by Jan Vermeer of Delft (1632-1675). The rich blues and yellows of the picture are this artist's favorite colors. Though not a large picture, this is one of Holland's most valued works; report has it that when the exchequer was low, some foreigner, perhaps an American, offered a very large sum for this painting, but the bid was haughtily refused by both sovereign and nation, for they could not part with their lovely domestic " Milk-Woman."
Another very popular interior is the " Old Woman Praying," called also " The Unending Prayer," of Nicholaas Maes (1632-1693) ; while the old hands are folded as she says grace before eating, the pussy-cat reaching up at the side would like to pull down the tablecloth with the humble food.
Besides important works of Jan Steen, Ruisdael, Frans Hals, and others, one must not fail to see the room of modern Israels, especially his famous " Alone in the World," the mother and child.
Belgium has been called the " Land of Art." This Catholic nation has pre-served wonderful works by the brothers Van Eyck (14th and 15th centuries), Memling (1430-1494), Peter Paul Ru-bens of a little later time, and his most distinguished pupil, Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) .
In Antwerp, the beautiful Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady (begun in 1352) contains three great Rubens: " The De-scent from the Cross," " The Elevation of the Cross," and the "Assumption." Of these, the first is the most famous painting of this subject, in the world. The American artist, Miss Ce-cilia Beaux, says that she wept on first seeing it, so deeply does it thrill the emotions.
The Antwerp Museum of Fine Arts has both celebrated Dutch works and an excellent representation of the Flemish School of painting, including such masters as Jan Van Eyck, Memling, Van Dyck, and Jordaens.
Quinten Matsys' masterpiece, "The Entombment of Christ," is here, and Ru-bens' " Christ Crucified."
The Brussels Palace of Fine Arts con-tains classic examples of Flemish painting.
In Ghent is the old Cathedral of St. Bavon, celebrated for its beautiful pic ture, the very noted "Adoration of the Lamb," or " The Mystic Lamb," by Hubrecht and Jan Van Eyck, painted (1420-1432) for Philip the Good, grandson of the French King Philip the Bold. There is here, also, a less famous Rubens, the_ " Conversion of Saint Bavon."
The quaint old town of Bruges holds several remarkable pictures of antiquity, including the most famous of Memling's, the ",Reliquary of St. Ursula," a series of scenes from the Saint's life, and the " Triptych of the Marriage of St. Catherine." The St. Ursula pictures should be compared with those in Venice by Carpaccio. The picture gallery of Bruges also has choice examples of early Flemish art.
In visiting the galleries of Germany, one is impressed by the large collections made by this industrious nation, whose scholars lead in archaeological investigation, even though its painters do not rank with its musicians.
Starting with the Berlin Gallery, Murillo's " St. Anthony and the Infant Christ" is a well known picture, representing the handsome Saint kissing the Child in his arms. Velasquez's extraordinary " Portrait of Allesandro del Borro " gives an unexpected interest and even beauty to a figure of gross proportions. There are fine examples of Ru-bens, who is said to have painted more pictures, now more widely distributed, than any other artist.
Frans Hals' " Hille Bobbe " in Berlin recalls the other in the Metropolitan, New York, of which it seems to be the counterpart.
Titian's " Portrait of Himself," painted at the age of sixty-five, shows the artist in a noble pose, gowned in doublet of changeable crimson, damask sleeves, and fur collar. In, the " Portrait of his Daughter Lavinia," one sees " the person dearest to him in all the world," and re-calls how fond he was of picturing her lovely face and "Titian" hair of burnished auburn.
Van der Weyden's series, " The Life of Christ," includes " The Magi Worshipping the Star," in which the Infant Jesus is represented as the Star, sending out its rays above them.
In the Royal Gallery, Dresden, is the greatest picture in the world, the treasure for which a separate room is provided. Visitors enter in silence, to remain there in adoration, and leave walking backward, that they may not lose a single glimpse of this sublime Raphael, " The Sistine Madonna." Copies cannot convey the greatness of this picture, though they serve to familiarize us with its well-known details. Vasari's inscription, below the picture, reads: " For the Black Monks of San Sisto in Piacenza, Raphael painted a picture for the high altar, showing Our Lady with St. Sixtus and St. Barbara—truly a work most excellent and rare."
In this great gallery of Dresden, one must see Correggio's " Holy Night," rep-resenting the Saviour's birth according to the Apocryphal Gospel, " The Protelvangeion ": " But on a sudden the cloud became a great light in the cave, so that their eyes could not bear it. But the light gradually decreased until the Infant appeared."
This was one of the artist's last pictures and was painted at the age of forty. Correggio's love of light and beauty is evi-dent in this picture and in others here, as his " Madonna and St. Francis " in the same room, painted when he was but twenty.
That great Titian, " The Tribute Money," pictures most tenderly our Saviour's face, as He answers the Pharisee, holding out the coin, " Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." The contrast in the white and beautiful open hand of the Master and the dark, grasping closed one of the Pharisee is no less marked than is the difference in facial ex-pression.
Both Dresden and Darmstadt claimed for many years (1822-1871) to have the original of Holbein's " Meyer Madonna." In 1872, however, when the two pictures were placed side by side in a Dresden exhibition, the controversy was settled in favor of Darmstadt as possessing the original of this great work. The Dresden picture was pronounced " a free copy by some unknown artist." It may be added that the latter shows some idealization in the added height and grace of the Ma-donna, which might cause it to be preferred by the less critical. The picture was ordered by Burgomaster Jacob Meyer of Basle in gratitude for the healing of his little son's illness, and was painted by Holbein in 1526, when he was not quite thirty. The Meyer family are represented kneeling in gratitude before the Madonna, whose Divine Son took upon Himself our infirmities.
In passing, one may like to see Liotard's " Chocolate Girl," the picture so familiar to us all as a chocolate advertisement. It was painted in Vienna of Mlle. Baldauf, whom the artist saw serving chocolate.
Paolo Veronese's " Adoration of the Magi " shows the painter's love for elegance and wealth of color and material in satins, velvets, gold and silver embroideries, all in rich warm reds and blues, which utterly transform the dingy stable where our Lord was born. Dresden is affluent in works of Veronese.
The Spanish Ribera's " St. Agnes " is an interesting picture. According to legend, Agnes was a fourth century princess, whose devotion to the Church led her to renounce love and marriage. This so incensed her royal father that he gave her over to the common soldiers, but she was saved by Divine intervention, as Ribera pictures here—kneeling, protected' by her wealth, of brown hair while an angel flings a white garment about her.
The familiar figure of the " Reading Magdalen," which is now ascribed to Van der Werff, was long attributed to Correggio.
Rembrandt's " Portrait of Himself and His Wife " is a happy picture, showing the artist about to drink a toast to his dear Saskia. The " Portrait of Saskia " (p. 66) must be a striking likeness of the charming Holland maiden, who for ten years gave so much joy to Rembrandt and whose loss brought such grief to his later life.
The portrait of a " Boy," by Pinturrichio (1454-1513) is a very real face, though belonging to a time four hundred years ago. Pinturrichio, which means " Little Painter," is the name commonly applied to Bernardino di Betti of the early Renaissance.
Dutch masters are well represented in Dresden.
Among the many great works here must not be forgotten Albrecht Dürer's tragic:
" Christ on the Cross," painted at about the time of Luther and the Reformation.
The greatest of modern delineators of the Christ is perhaps the German historical painter, Heinrich Hofmann, born in Darmstadt in 1824. His well-known " Christ before the Doctors " is possibly the most popular picture in the Dresden Gallery. The artist died not long ago.
Turning next to Munich, the Old Pinakothek is an interesting gallery. Here one may see Murillo's series of cheerful " Beggar Boys " and other masterpieces.
The " Portrait of Velasquez " by himself shows a strong, handsome Spanish face, worthy to be a leader. Velasquez, we remember, was Murillo's master, about twenty years his senior, and both were born at Seville.
The famous pictures considered Albrecht Dürer's greatest are here, the life-size figures of the Apostles, " St. Peter and St. John," " St. Paul and St. Mark." These pictures, sometimes called the " Four Temperaments," were painted by the artist for his native city, Nuremberg, but to her shame, after she had owned them about a hundred years, they were sold to Bavaria and replaced with copies. Not a fine return to make for Dürer's effort and his high opinion, as expressed in his words to the city council of Nuremberg: " I have just painted panels upon which I have bestowed more trouble than on any other painting; I consider none more worthy to keep them as a reminiscence than your wisdom. Therefore I present them to your wisdom with the humble and urgent prayer that you will favorably and graciously receive them."
Dürer's conspicuous work as an engraver has never been equaled. A visit to quaint old Nuremberg, his birthplace, will repay the traveler.
Rubens is well represented in the Old Pinakothek, Munich; most noted, perhaps, is " The Battle of the Amazons at the Bridge of Thermodon."
Lenbach, whose great portrait of Bismarck in the Corcoran at Washington is well known, had a studio in Munich where one might see a still greater " Por-trait of Bismarck," the man of blood and iron. The painter died in 1904.
Entering Italy from Germany, we may begin with Venice, whose faded grandeur still clings to her old palaces and cathedrals, but is nowhere so vividly kept alive as in the brilliant painting to be seen here. One of the six great pictures of the world is Titian's well-known " Assumption of the Virgin in the Academy at Venice. Almost equally famous is " The Presentation in the Temple," by the same artist, also in the Academy.
Veronese's " Supper in the House of Simon the Pharisee " was made for the refectory of a Dominican monastery, Venice. Its ample proportions were designed to continue the effect of the hall in which it hung. Though a large picture, with many figures, the central incident of the Saviour and the Magdalene seems less real than in Moretto's picture of the same subject, treated far more simply; also in the Academy.
A noted example of Venetian art is Giovanni Bellini's " Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine and Mary Magdalene," from which comes our beautiful detail of the Magdalen (p. 6o). An-other Bellini "Madonna and Child with two Saints " here is almost equally fa-mous, representing two of the Apostles.
The faces in Tintoretto's group of "Christ and the Adulteress " are most interesting, in the portrayal of varied emotions; the light and shadow and the colors of garments are warm and rich.
The Carpaccio pictures of the life of St.-Ursula are entertaining and romantic, and recall the almost equally famous, though perhaps less well known, " Reliquary " Hans Memling in Bruges.
In Milan, the great work, of course, is Leonardo da Vinci's " Last Supper," in the old Dominican Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In painting this fresco, Leonardo used water-colors in-stead of oil, it is said, experimenting perhaps, and the picture faded much, though every effort has been made in restoring it. The expressiveness of hands and faces is most marked, and clearly indicates the moment in the feast portrayed.
Leonardo was the first to paint the Apostles all on one side of the table. Re-port has it that after two years' work, he had finished all the heads but our Lord and Judas. The prior becoming impatient, Leonardo said to him, " If you will sit for Judas, I'll soon finish the picture." The study for the face of our Lord is evidently that sketch, " The Saviour " (p. 44), now in the Brera Gallery, Milan.
Of the " Last Supper," Dr. Muther says: " As a pictorial achievement in the manner in which the figures softly dissolved in space and the light streamed through the window into the half-darkened hall—the ` Last Supper' must have been a revelation, although at the present time this can no longer be seen, but only felt."
In the Brera one must not omit Raphael's " Marriage of the Virgin," said to have been painted before the artist was twenty. The Virgin is very pleasing, St. Joseph has great dignity; at the right a disappointed suitor is breaking a wand, after the custom, and on the other side the Virgin's attendants show beautiful Italian faces. The background of the picture, with the Temple, is similar to that of Perugino's " Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter," in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.
In Florence, that city of pictures and poetry, one should visit the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace, the Accademia di Belli Arti, the Monastery of San Marco, the Bargello, and of course the old Churches.
To name but a few of the many important pictures of the Uffizi, we may mention Michelangelo's " Holy Family," Raphael's " Madonna of the Goldfinch," —restored from the fragments into which it was broken by the sinking of the hill of San Giorgio with the house in which it hung,—" Pope Julius II.," by Raphael, of which Vasari says, " the sight of it made one tremble"; Andrea del Sarto's "Madonna of the Harpies," Titian's "Madonna with St. Anthony" and " Venus," Rubens' historical picture, " Henry IV. of France at the Battle of Ivry and Triumphal Entry into Paris," Velasquez's " Philip IV. of Spain," and the Botticelli room, where the " Birth of Venus " is greatest. Botticelli's " Coronation of the Virgin," also known as the "Madonna of the Magnificat," because she is writing the Magnificat, pictures a lovely group, among them, it is said, Medici children. Botticelli "was the only painter of Italy," according to Rus-kin, " who understood the thought of the heathen and Christian equally and could in a measure paint both Aphrodite and the Madonna."
Giorgione's " Knight of Malta" (p. 224) is a fine example of the Venetian School, here in the Uffizi. "No artist knows better than Giorgione," says Mr. Timothy Cole, " how to captivate the mind and hold the imagination with so few means." And again he says, of this rich, glowing, life-size portrait, "What ,an inspiration to have so fine a thing at one's elbow to gaze upon from time to time! . . . What an air of magnanimity and true greatness breathes from this canvas! . . . How it puts to shame all petty worrying and narrow-mindedness! There is something Christ like about it in its calm benignity. Now I vow I will endeavor to aim at greater simplicity and nobleness in my living to think of the 'Knight of Malta,' to put away all meanness and triviality by a thought of the Knight of Malta.' "
Before leaving the Uffizi, one must observe Sargent's self-portrait in the gallery, an expressive face, painted in his best style.
A closed corridor over the old Ponte Vecchio leads across the River Arno to the Pitti Palace. The most noted picture in this gallery is Raphael's " Madonna della Sedia" or Seggiola," of the chair, or little chair, from the seat which she occupies; a round picture, first sketched, tradition says, on the head of a cask by the wayside where Raphael by chance met the beautiful woman with her two lovely children. This Mother is the more divine for being such a comfortable woman, and her children as the Saviour and St. John also prefigure the Divine Comfort of the Word.
Other famous works here are Raphael's "Madonna Granduca," Andrea del Sarto's beautiful " Holy Family," and " St. John," Rembrandt's cavalier " Portrait of Himself," Titian's " Magdalen," " La Bella" (his beautiful mis-tress), and " Head of Christ," Murillo's " Madonna with the Rosary," and Giorgione's portrait group of three rapt faces called " The Concert," which critics would feign ascribe to Titian.
In the Academy, Florence, is Botticelli's most famous "Primavera", (Spring), of which the " Three Graces " (p.10) is a detail. Other pictures of note are Ghirlandajo's " Adoration of the Shepherds," Perugino's " Assumption," and Fra Filippo Lippi's " Coronation of the Virgin."
The old Monastery of San Marco, made famous by Savonarola, has frescoes of Fra Angelico, some of them in the cells where he made them, and most famous, his gracious " Madonna of the Star."
Giotto's portrait, much restored, of Dante is in the Bargello, amid a group of other faces.
And now, last but by no means least the Eternal City. In Rome, visit the Sistine Chapel to see the marvelous ceiling decorations of Michelangelo, begun when he was scarcely thirty five, and his " Last Judgment," finished at sixty-six. Observe Botticelli's frescoes of the life of Moses and Perugino's " Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter." In the Vatican Galleries are priceless pictures and tapestries. Among the great works begun by Raphael and left unfinished at his early death is the " Transfiguration," one of his finest paintings; also the mural paintings of the Loggie (corridors) and Stanze (rooms), begun by him at twenty-five and uncompleted twelve years later.
The Barberini Palace in Rome is a famous picture gallery, notable for Raphael's " La Fornarina " (adulterous woman), now ascribed to his school, and Guido's so-called portrait of " Beatrice Cenci," a picture almost too well known.
In the Casino of the Villa Borghese are Titian's " Sacred and Profane Love," still a riddle as to which is intended for which—Raphael's " Entombment," and Correggio's " Danaë."
In the rapid review attempted only the more important pictures could be included, but the aim has constantly been kept in thought to direct attention to the great works of the leading masters, and especially not to confuse the student by details of less important painters. The, writer has drawn freely on many reference books, as listed in the Bibliography. An effort is made to correlate in the Index the information given. Correction of errors will be welcomed, as it is not easy to be sure that pictures will stay always in the places where they have been.