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objects are on the same plane." Here Mr. Hamerton
generalises too much ; but a strong, exaggerated state-
ment on the matter directs at all events our attention
to it.

A like criticism could be passed on some, though, it
must needs be said, on less, of the Italian work of tiie
earHer time. As a rule, when the ])ure Primitives had
passed, Italian work was less complicated. In Mantegna
himself, an immense energy in the figure — the coniijlete-
ness with which the artist was charged with the need of

expressing action, and, it may l)e, the sentiment besides,

161 L


in which the action had its source — restrained him,
stayed his hand, diverted his attention from inappro-
priate or supei-Huous detail. And there were other
ItaHan artists of the hurin in whom a rising feehng
for large and decorative gi-ace had something of the
same effect. And when we come to Marc Antonio him-
self — trained though he was as a copyist of Northern
Schools — we see him ahle, when addressing himself to
render the compositions of Raphael, to subordinate
everything to the attainment of noble and elegant
contour. The finest Marc Antonios — the Saint Cecilia
and the Lucretia, to name but two of them (respec-
tively £25 and £110 in a great Sale three years ago)
— were ^\TOUght under Raphael's immediate influence ;
were sculpturesque and simple, never elaborately pic-
torial — the result, no doubt, in part, of the circumstance
that Raphael as well as his engraver recognised that if
designs (drawings, not pictures) were the objects of
copy, they could be interpreted without going outside
the proper art of the engraver. Whatever be the
fashions of the moment — and Marc Antonio's prices,
notwithstanding an exceptional sum for an exceptional
print, are, in the main, low — it must be remembered
that, even with his limitations, it was in him and
in his School that real pure line-engraving reached
maturity. " He retained," says Mr. Hamerton, sum-
marisinir well enough the situation in a sentence — " he
retained much of the early Italian manner in his back-
gi'ounds, where its simplicity gives a desirable sobriety ,'
but his figures are boldly modelled in curved lines,



crossing each other in the darker shades, but left single
in the passages from dark to light, and breaking away
in fine dots as they approach the light itself, which is
of pm-e Avhite paper." As general description, this is
excellent; but if the new collector, taking to Marc
Antonio, and buying him at a time when, if I may
adopt the phi-aseology of Capel Court, his stock is
quoted below par, wishes the opportunity of guidance
in the study of the development of his art, let him
take up almost the latest book that deals with the
subject with minuteness and suggestiveness, if it may
not be invariably accurate or systematically arranged
— I mean the " Early History of Engraving in North
Italv,"" by the late Richard Fisher, whose name as a
collector and connoisseur I do not mention now for
the first time. \^ery interesting too is all that Mr.
Fisher has to say about " the Master of the Caduceus,"
Diirer's friend and instructor, Jacopo de' Barbarj, who,
known as Jacob Walsh, was supposed to be German,
although practising much at Venice. Passavant, who
atlmits some thirty pieces by him, considers him of
German birth — a tiling allowed neither by Fisher nor
Diiplessis. "Ill single figures'' — writes Mr. Fisher —
"we have the best illustration of his talent — Judith
with the head of Ilolofernes .iiid a young woman look-
ing at hei-self in a mirror." At the Rritish Museum a
bust portrait of a young woman, catalogued by Rartsch
as amongst the anonymous Italians, has been given to
Barbarj. M. (ialichon considers him eminently Pagan

in sentiment. Nor is this incomj)atil)le with Jlichard



Fisher's statement that in style his Holy Families are
completely Italian.

" La Gra^alre en Italie avant Marc Antoiiie'" — a sub-
stantial work by Delaborde — is a book that will not
pass unnoticed by those whose choice is for the earlier
membei's of the Italian School. Campagnola, it may
be — whose chief piece, the Assumption, fetched more
than 0^50 at the Durazzo Sale, and whose Dance of
Cupids reached .-£^50 at the Marochetti — he will find
adequately treated there ; and there too are made in
compact form certain instructive comparisons between
Mantegna's work and that of Zoan Andrea and Antonio
da Brescia whose labours have their likeness to Man-
tegna's own. In the rare Dance of' Damsels — " Dance of
Four Women," it ought rather to be, for in at least one
of its little-draped figures the gravity and fadedness
of middle age is well contrasted with the firm and fresh
contour and gay alacrity of youth — Zoan Andrea, whose
prints are " generalement preferables " to those of Da
Brescia, shows finely not only Mantegna's design^ but
that something of his own which the gi-eat Mantuan's
design did not give him. Many people have written well
on Mantegna ; he provokes people, he stimulates them ;
and Mr. Sidney Colvin, on the so-called " Mantegna
Playing-Cards," has written learnedly as an investigator,
giving to designs misnamed and misunderstood their
right significance. But it is from Delaljorde that I will
allow myself to quote one brief passage, which is full
at least of personal conviction. What more especially

characterises — so he puts it — Andrea Mantegna's en-



gi'aved work, is that it is " un melange singulier d'ardeur

et de patience, de sentiment spontane et d'intentions

systematiques : c'est enfin dans Texecution matcrielle,

le calme d'une volonte sure d'elle-meme et Tinquietude

d'une main imte par sa lutte avec le moyen." Zoan

Andrea's prints do not present these contrasts. " Tout

y i:psulte d'un travail poursuivi avec une parfaite cgalite

d'humeur ; tout y respire la meme confiance tranquille

dans Tautorite des enseignements re^us, le meme besoin

de s'en tenir aux conquetes deja faites et aux traditions

deja consacrees/' By Mantegna, about twenty -five

accepted plates have reached our time. By Zoan

Andrea, a larger number have at least been catalogued,

and it is argued by some that the least authentic, as

well as the least creditable, are sometimes those which

bear his signature.

Did I desire to manufacture " jmdding,"''' nothing

would be easier than for me to extend to a long

chapter this summary assemblage of brief and almost

incidental notes on the Italian Line-Engraving of the

remote Past. But as the subject itself is one to which I

have never yet been fortunate enough to devote such

a measure of study as iniglit entitle nie to diiiin to

be heard when speaking of it, and as llii- literature

of the su]))ect exists in such abundance for the curious,

I can affbid to he short. It niuv, liowever, be of some

little interest to the collector, if, before j)assiiig on to

the discussion of another branch of I'rint-Collecting in

which I have ventured to take my own line, ;iii(i am

willing on all occasions to back my own o|)inion, we



look a little into such records of the Sale - room as

throw light upon the changing money values of the

engi'avings by Italian masters.

Mr. Julian Marshall, now with us in his middle

age, began collecting when he was so young that his

great sale occurred as long ago as 1864. Values have

changed since that day, very much. Of his four prints

by Mantegna, only one — The Flagellation — fetched

more than £1'^. That one reached £9A^ — an early

perfect state of The Entombment going for £\\, 10s.,

and Christ Descending into Hell for £^. Domenico

Campagnola"'s Descent of the Holy Ghost then fetched

c^2, 2s. At the Sykes Sale the same impression had

fetched ^£^3; at the Harford, ^1, 15s. At the Marochetti

Sale in 1868, not a single Mantegna, unless Christ risen

Jrom the Dead, fetched a price of importance, and

this only ten guineas ; but among the Ivx?.rc Antonios

the Adam and Eve in Paradise sold to Mr. Colnaghi

for .£'136, and TJie Massacre of the Innocents to Mr.

Holloway for £'\<0. The Two Fauns carrying a Child

in a Basket — engi-aved by Marc Antonio, in his finest

manner, after an antique — realised £5Q, and the Saint

Cecilia £5\. In the Bale Collection, in 1881, the St.

Cecilia fetched £^0, and Mariette's impression of the

extraordinarily rare Dance of Cupids ef'241. That was

borne off by M. Clement, who was then what M.

Bouillon is now — " marchand d'estampes de la Bib-

liotheque Nationale." In the Holford Sale, twelve

years afterwards, Marc Antonio's Adam and Eve sold

to M. Danlos for i?180 ; the Massacre of the Innocents



(from the Lely Collection) to the same dealer for .£^190 ;
and the St. Cecilia and Lucretia both to IVIr. Gutekunst
— the first for £^\ ; the second for £QQ. The great
price fetched by a Marc Antonio at this Sale was,
however, that paid for The Plag'ue — a print which M.
Danlos acquired for i?370. Taking note of such a sum,
one could hardly believe perhaps that Marc Antonios
were not rising; but when a master falls, it is in the
minor, not the more eminent pieces — or, at least, in
average, not exceptional impressions — that we trace
most certainly a decline of value. And, taking the
»S'^. Cecilia alone — one of the most charming of the
subjects, as I have said before, though not one of the
rarest — we find, on the three occasions of its sale that
I have cited, a high price, one less high, and then again
a lower. We find, indeed, comparing the prices that
were fetched by two impressions not presumably very
difierent — for both were in great Sales — that in 1893 a
St. Cecilia brought little more than half of what it
brought in 1868. The (juestion now for the collector*'s
judgment, as far as money is concerned, is, Is it safe
or unsafe for him to buy at just the present stage of
a "falling market"'.'' Have Marc Antonios touched
bottom .'' If he buys them now, will he — in the phrase
of sprightly Imlies "fluttering" in "South Africans'" —
will he be "getting in on the ground floor ""r*

The collector has a right to ask himself these
.seemingly irreverent (juestions. Nor uill 1k' love Ai-t
less, or have an eye less delicate, because he is obliged
to ask them. I do not know that the possessions of a


prudent collector should — taking things all round —
bring him, if he desires to sell, much less than he
gave for them. It may be quite enough that as long
as he keeps and enjoys them, he shall lose the interest
of his money. If, in the interval, the value of his
prints happens to increase, so much the better for him
— obviously. But he enjoys the things themselves, and
can scarcely exact that increase.



French Line-Engravers of the Eighteenth Century
-' render well its original Art — The Prints from Watteau,

Lancret, and Pater — Watteau s Characteristics — Char-
din's Interiors and Studies of the Bourgeoisie — Success
of his Domestic Themes — His Portraits and Still-Life
are never rendered — Tlie lasting popularitt/ of Greuze
— Boucher Prints at a discount — Fragonard and
Baudouin — Lavreince and Moreau.

The Eighteenth Century in France witnessed the rise,
the development, and the decay or fall of a great
School of Art of which the English public remains, even
to this day, all but completely ignorant. The easy
seductiveness of the maidens of Greuze, with gleaming
eyes and glistening shoulders, has indeed secured in
Enirland for a certain side of that artist's work a
measure of notice in excess of its real im])ortance;
and a succession of accidents and the good taste of
two or three connoisseurs out of a hundretl — they were
men of another generation — have matle this country the
home and resting-place of some of the best of the
pictures and drawings of \Vatteau. But even Watteau
is not to be found within our National CJallery. 'I'bere
Greu/e and Lancret — Chardin having but lulcly joined
them with but a single pleasant but inade(juate ])icture
— there Greuz-e and Lancret, seen at least in whiiL is



adequate and characteristic, share the task of representing
French Art of the period when it was most truly French.
They are unequal to the mission. And until some
can join them who will fulfil it better, the painted
work of the French Eighteenth Century will hardly
receive its due.

Fortunately, however, French Eighteenth Century
artists fared well at the hands of the line-engi-avers.
Even of a painter who possessed more than many
others the charm of colour, it could be said by one of
the keenest of his critics that the originality of his
work passed successfully from the picture to the print.
That is what Denis Diderot wrote of Jean Baptiste
Simeon Chardin, and it is true of them all, from
Watteau downwards. Theirs was the century of Line-
Engraving in France, as it was that of Mezzotint in
England. And the practitioners of Line-Engraving
and of Mezzotint were something beyond craftsmen.
Not only were they artists in their own departments —
some of them painted, some of them designed : they
were in sympathy with Art and possessed by its spirit.
Hence the peculiar excellence of their work with burin
or scraper — the high success of labours which their
intelligence and flexibility forbade to be simply

An Exhibition which at my suggestion the Fine

Art Society w^as good enough to venture on, eleven

years ago — but which attracted so little attention from

the great public we wanted to engage, that it must

some day, I suppose, be repeated — aimed to show those



engravings in which, with fullest effect, the line-engra-
vers of the Eighteenth Century rendered the thought
and the impression of painters or of draughtsmen who
were, in most cases, their contemporaries. Watteau
was the first of these painters. The prints after his
pictures were chiefly wrought in the years directly
following his far too early death. His friend, M. de
Julienne, planned and saw closely to the execution of
that best monument to Watteau's memory. Cochin
and Aveline, Le Bas and Audran, Surugue and Brion,
Tardieu and I^aurent Cars, worked dexterously or
nobly, as the case might be, in perpetuation of the
master's dignity and grace. Lancret and Pater were
often translated by the same interpreters. Chardin's
work was popularised — as far as France is concerned —
a very few years after, and with substantially the same
effect. Later in the century, some changes which were
not all improvements, began to be discernible in the
newer plates. The manly method of which Laurent
Cars was about the most conspicuous master, yielded
a little to the softer ])ractice of the interjn-eters of
Lavreince or to the airy yet not inexact daintiness
of the method of the translators of Moreau. The
later style of engraving was suited to the later
draughtsmanship and painting. Probably indeed it
was adopted with a certain consciousness of their needs.
Anvhow, not one of the conspicuous figures in the
historv of French Eighteenth (Century Design — excejit
I^tour, who practically has not been reproduced at all

— can be said to have siiHt-nd seriously at the hands of



his translators. What French pictorial artists thought

and saw and tried to tell, upon their canvases and

drawing papers, is, in the main, to be read in the

prints after their works. In these prints we may note

alike the triumphs and the failures of the real French

School. There is no denying its deficiencies. But it

is as free from conventionality as the gi'eat School of

Holland — as independent of tradition — and it is as true

to the life that it essays to depict.

Along the whole of the Eighteenth Century — not

in France only — Watteau, who lived in it but twenty

years, is the dominating master. To put the matter

roughly and briefly, he is the inventor of familiar

grace in Art. His treatment of the figure had its

perceptible influence even upon the beautiful design

of Gainsborough ; and the way in which he saw his

world of men and women dictated a method to his

successors in France, down to the revival of the more

academic Classicism. Artists — when they have been

so comprehensive as to occupy themselves with other

people's Art — have known generally that Watteau's

name has got to stand among only ten or a dozen

of the greatest, but the English amateurs, or rather

English picture and print buyers, are still but few

who are accjuainted with his range and feel the sources

of his power. He has not been very popular, because,

according to ordinary notions, there is but scanty

subject in his designs. The characters in his drama

are doing little — they are doing nothing, perhaps.

But as the knowledge of what real Art is, extends,



and as our sensibility to beauty becomes more refined,
we shall ask. less, in presence of our pictures, what the
people are doing, and shall ask more, what they are.
Are they engaging? — we shall want to know. Are
they pleasant to live with .''

Watteau placed a real humanity in an ideal land-
scape; but it was still a chosen people that entered
into his Promised Land, and the chosen people were
ladies of the Court and Theatre, and winning children,
and presentable men. His pictures — all the large,
elaborate, finely wrought prints after them — are the
record of Avhat was in some measure in these peoj^le's
daily lives, yet it was even more in his o^\ti dream.
"Toute une creation de poeme et de reve est sortie
de sa tete, emplissant son oeuvre de Telegance d'une
vie sumaturelle."" Through all his art he takes his
pleasant com})any to the selected places of the world,
and there is always halcyon weather.

Sometimes it is only the comedians of his day —
whose mobile faces Watteau had seen behind the foot-
lights of the stage — who make modest picnic, as in
the Champs Khjstc.s (the engraving by Tardieu) — find
shade as in the BosqiLct de Biuchm (the engraving by
Cochin), or (-njov at leisin-e the terraced gardens, the
vista, the great trees of the Perspective (the engraving
bv Crepy). And sometimes — inhabitants no more of
a real world — the jiersons of bis (b'unia j)rej)arc, with
free bearing, to .set out upon long journeys. It is now
a pilgrimage to Cythera {L''Kinh(irqiieiii( iit pour ( 'i/thire,

or I lie Iti-siilii /'(/y/^r/^/zr/r/)— suddenly thev have been



transported indeed to the "enchanted isle" (Le Bas's
drawing of the distant mountains in Vile Enchantec,
is, I may say in an underbreath, a little indefinite and
puzzling). In any case the land that Watteau's art has
made more beautiful than ordinary Nature, is peopled by
a Humanity keenly and finely observed, and portrayed
with an unlimited control of vivacious gesture and of
subtle expression.

The unremitting study that made not only possible
but sure an unvarying success, in themes so manifestly
limited, is evidenced best in such collections of Watteau's
drawings as that acquired gradually by the British
Museum, and that yet finer one inherited by the late
IVIiss James, and now, alas ! dispersed. There the com-
plete command of line and character is best of all
made clear, and the solid groundwork for success in
Watteau's pictures is revealed. Elsewhere — in the
" Masters of Genre Painting " — I have found space to
explain more fully than can be done in these pages,
that however manifestly limited were his habitual
themes, his range was really great enough, since — not
to speak of the " Elysian Fields "" — it covered the land-
scape and the life of the France he knew. He has
drawn beggars as naturally as did Murillo ; negi'oes
as fearlessly as Rubens ; people of the bourgeoisie as
faithfully almost as Chardin. And, far from the cut
chestnut-trees on whose trimmed straightness there
falls in an un])roken mass the level light of his gardens,
AVatteau draws at need the open and common country,

peasants and the soldiery, the baggage-train passing



along the endless roads from some citadel that Vauban
planned. What Watteau saw was the sufficient and
the great foundation of all that he imagined, and his
art's abantlonment of the everyday world was to exalt
and to reline, rather than to forget it.

The line-engravings after Watteau — largeish, deco-
rative, vigorous while delicate — remain comparatively in-
expensive. A rare impression " before lettei-s '' attains,
perhaps, now and then a fancy price; but Time has
very little affected the money value of the impressions
with full title, which, if reasonable care is exercised,
can be secured in fine condition, of such a dealer as
Colnaghi, here in England, and in Paris, of Danlos,
say, or of Bouillon — occupied though they all of
them are, habitually, with more costly things. Often
two or three sovereigns buy you an excellent Watteau,
clean and bnght, and not bereft of margin. To have
to give as much as £5 for one, would seem almost
a hardshij). And the work of Lancret and Pater —
ingenious, interesting practitioners in Watteau's School
— may be annexed at an expense even less considerable.

Lancret was but a follower of ^Vattc'au : Pater was
coiifessedlv a pupil. We shall have to come to Char-
din to find in French Art the next inuii thoroughly
original. And (li.udiii was n gix-at master. Rut
I^mcret and I'atcr, though they arc but secondary,
are still interesting figures. Neither of them, inuta-
tive though they were in varying degrees — uiiMicr of
them nuule any pretensions to their forerunner's in-
spired reverie. Lancret, as fur as his invention was


1 <5


concerned, was at one time satisiied with a .symbolism
that was obvious, not to say bald. At another, as in
the sedate UHivcr (engraved by Le Bas), and the
charming pictures of the games of children, Le Jeu
de Cache-caclie and Le Jeu des Qiiatre Coins (both
of them engraved by De Larmessin), he was gi*ace-
fuUy real, without effort at a more remote imagina-
tion than the themes of reality in gentle or in middle-
class life exacted. At another time again, he lived
so much in actual things, that he could make the
portraits, not of deep grave men indeed such as the
Bossuets and the Fenelons of the Seventeenth Century,
but of the lighter celebrities of his careless day. That
day was Louis the Fifteenth's — " c'etait le beau temps
ou Camargo trouvait ses jupes trop longues pour danser
la gargouillade." And Lancret painted Mdlle. Camargo
(and Lam-ent Cars engi-aved her), springing to lively
airs. Voltaire had said to her, distinguishing all her
alacrity and fire from the more cautious graces of
Salle, the mistress of poetic pantomime — Voltaire had
said to her —

" Les nymphes sautent comme vous,
Et les Graces daiisent comme elle."

And the truth of the description is attested by Lan-

crefs picture, and by the rosy and vivacious pastel in

Latour's Saint-Quentin Gallery.

Pater, a fellow-townsman of Antoine Watteau's, was

his pupil only in Watteau's later years. At that

time Watteau suffered from an irritability bred of

an exhausting disease and of a yet more exhausting



genius. ]\Iaster and pupil fell out. But, in his last
days of all, Watteau summoned to him the painter who
had come from his own to^^^l, and in a month, for which
the younger artist was ever gi-ateful. Pater was taught
more than he hiul ever been taught before. The pupil
had the instinct for prettiness and gi'ace, and in culti-
vating it "W^atteau was useful. But there was one thing
the master could not teach him — originality. And
his record of the engaging trivialities of daily life,
where pleasure was most gi'acious and life most easy,
was undertaken by a mind wholly contented with its
task. The mind aspired no farther. The faces of
Watteau, especially in his studies, are often faces of
thoughtful beauty ; sometimes, of profound and sad-
dening experience. But, like a lesser Mozart — and
the Mozart of a particular mood — Pater proffers us
his engajrinf; allcirro. The aim of all his art — its
light but successful endeavour — is summed up in the
title of one of the prettiest of his prints and pictures.
It is, I^ cUsir de plaire.

Presently we leave that world of graceful fantasy,

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Online LibraryFrederick WedmoreFine prints → online text (page 11 of 16)