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amateur. Most of the finest landscape etching of later
days not only beai-s some signs of Rembrandt's in-
fluence, but would have been essentially other than it
now is if Rembrandt's had not existed. The Dutch-
man's mark is laid, strong and indelible, even upon
individualities so potent and distinguished as Seymour

Haden and Andrew Geddes. Whistler, exquisite and



peculiar as his genius is, with the figure, and with
Thames-side London subjects and subjects of Venice,
would, had he treated landscape proper, have either
reminded us of Rembrandt, or have etched in some
wrong way. He would not have etched in some wrong
way — we may take that for granted ; he would have
reminded us of Rembrandt, with a little of himself

" I have shown, I think, how clearly, from the artistic
point of view, the new collector is led to love and seek
for Rembrandt landscapes. But there is one objection,
though it is perhaps not a fatal one, to concentrating
his attention upon them. Little of Rembrandt's work,
except a few oddities of crazy value, like the First
State of the Hundred Guilder, is rarer or more costly
than his landscapes. Or, to be more explicit, more
absolutely and literally correct, it is rather in this way:
that, while for a good example of Rembrandt in any
other depai'tment of his labours, it is possible of course
to be obliged to give much, but likewise (Heaven be
praised !) quite possible not to be obliged to give much,
you will never without an outlay of a certain impor-
tance be possessed of any one of his landscapes in
desirable condition. An outlay of i?30 may con-
ceivably endow you with a good impression of one of
the two most desirable, and, as it happens, least rare,
of the minor landscapes. That sum may get you,
and without your having to wait a quite indefinite
time for the uc(juisition, a V'wio of Amsterdam or a

Cottage zc'iih ]Vhite Paliugs. Tl may even get you a



rarer but much slighter landscape piece — that sum-
mary, thougli of course in its own way very learned,
little performance known as S'hvs Bridge; the plate
which tradition says (probably not untruly) was etched
by llembrandt while the servant of his friend, Jan Six,
who had forgotten the mustard, went (somewhere
beyond the pantry, however ; I should even think that
it was outside the house), in rapid search of that con-

But there, as far as landscape is concerned, if JOiiO
or thereabouts is to be the limit of your disburse-
ment upon a single piece, there your collecting
stops. If you want a Cottage xvith Dutch Hay-Barn
— very fine indeed, but not of extreme rarity — sixty,
eighty, or a hundred pounds, or more, must be the
ransom of it. You want a Landscape with a Ruined
Tower — the print which, for well-considered breadth
and maintained unity of effect (not so much for dainty
finish) is the " last word " of landscape art, the perfect
splendid phrase which nothing can appropriately follow,
after which there is of necessity declension, if not col-
lapse — it will be a mere accident if fifty guineas gets it
for you. It may cost you a couple of hundred. And
when '^ Why, only when a fine collection comes into
the market : such a collection as Mr. Holford's, three or
four years ago, or one at least not at all points inferior
to it. And that haj)pens not many times in the life of
any one of us. Again, there is the GoUhceiglier''s Fieldy
a bird's-eye view of a plain near the Zuyder Zee ; a

summary, learned memorandum of the estate and



countrj-house, with all its appurtenances, of Uyten-
bogaert, the Receiver-General, of whom there is a
representation amongst the Rembrandt portraits. If
you can afford it, and if fortune smiles upon you by
bestowing opportunity of acquisition, you will want
not only the less costly portrait of the Goldzveiffher,
but the landscape of the Goldweighers Field. There
are rarer things than that in Rembrandt's work — not
^much that is more desirable. i?44< was paid for an
impression, probably not quite of the first order, at the
Firmin-Didot sale, £5'^ at the Liphart, £19. at the
Ilolford. The landscapes yet more difficult to find,
command, of course, even higher prices, and this some-
what independently of their artistic interest, which
only in a very few cases — and then with very excep-
tional impressions — equals that of the prints I have
already named.

Of these yet rarer landscapes, as well as the other
ones, Mr. Holford's collection was certainly the finest
dispersed in recent times. His sale took place at
Christie's in July 1893 ; and at it, for the Viexc of
Omval — an exceptionally sjilendid impression of a some-
what favourite yet not extraordinarily rare subject —
£^9.0 was paid by M. Bouillon. The subject, though
in impressions of very different cjuality, had been sold
in the Sir Abraham Hume sale for ci?47, and in the
Duke of Buccleuch's for 0^44. £\10 was paid for the
Three Trees, the one llembrandt landscajic which hsis
a touch of the sensational, which adds to its real

merit the obvious and immediate attractiveness of the



dramatic ofFect. Ilcrr Mcdcr, the dealer of Berlin,

boiifrht the Fii-st State of The Three Cottages for .£275.

The sum of i;'210 was the ransom of the First State

of the sli<;htly arched print A Village with the Square

To'iCcr. The impression, which was from the Aylesford

collection, was of unparalleled brilhance, and the

State is of extraordinary rarity, though M. Dutuit

notes its presence at Amsterdam and at the British

Museum. To M. Bouillon was knocked down for i?260

a faultless impression of TJie Canal, a print which at

the Galichon sale had passed under the hammer for

ii'SO, and even at the Buccleuch for ,£'120. Messi-s.

Colnaghi bought for i?145 a most sparkling impression

of tlie rare First State of the broadly treated Landseape

uith a Ruined Turcrr, more properly called by the

French cataloguei-s Paysage a la Tour, for in this First

State there is no sign of "ruin." Doubtless when the

title by which it is known in England was first applied

to it, the amateur was unfamiliar with this rarest State,

in which the dome of the tower is intact. In the

Second State it has disappeared, and in the Third there

are other minor changes. Tlie reader will remember

that already, two or three j)ages back, I have referred

to this print as a masterpiece, than which none is more

desirable or more representative. A perfect impression

of the Lamhcapc xcith a Flock of Sheep (from the John

Bariiiird collection) sold for £^245; the First State of

the Landscape with an Obelisk for cf'lSo; an Orchard

with a Barn (the early State, before the plate was cut

at cither end) for ^170; and the First State of the



Landscape uith a Boat — an impression extraordinarily
full of " bur "—for o£^200. Altogether, the Rembrandts
in the Holford sale — and I shall have to refer to some of
them again before I finish the chapter — sold for .£'16,000.
Richard Fisher's Rembrandts had fetched about
^1500; Sir Abraham Hume's, <f4000; Sir Seymour
Haden''s, .£'4700 ; the Duke of Buccleuch's, something
over ,£'10,000. The last is a figure which was never
-expected to be surpassed — hardly, perhaps, to be
equalled. Yet it was surpassed very much.

But now it is high time I said a little about the
desirableness of Rembrandt })ortraits and about their
money value. No engraved portraiture in all the
world, not even the mezzotints after Sir Joshua, pre-
sent with so much power so gi'eat a range of varied
character. For an artistic treatment of Humanity
equally sterling and austere, you must go back to
Holbein's drawings. For a variety as engaging, a
vividness and flexibility as sure of their effect, only
the pastels by La Tour in the Museum of St. Quentin
rival these Rembrandt records of Jew and Gentile, old
and young, and rich and poor in Amsterdam.

As in painting, so in etching, Rembrandt was him-
self one of his best models. In no less than thirty-
four of his prints — according to the Catalogue of
Wilson — do we find he has portrayed, at different
ages, his homely, striking, penetrating face. Some-
times he is a youth ; sometimes the burden of exj)erience
is visibly laid on him ; sometimes he is engrossed with
work, c'ls in the superb Hnnhrcmdt Drau'iv>r ; some-



times, as in the Rembrandt icith a Sabn; masquerading ;
sometimes he is depicted with great fuhiess of record ;
sometimes, as in the admirable Httle rarity, Wilson
set (not catalogued amongst the Ren)brandt portraits,
because the plate has other heads as well), a few lines,
chosen with the alacrity and certainty of genius, bring
him before us, sturdy, sagacious, and with mind bent
upon a problem he is sure to solve. The Rembrandt
with a Sabre, at the Holford sale — a thing almost
unique — fell to the bid of M. Deprez of i?2000, and
has joined now the other extraordinary possessions of
Baron Edmond De Rothschild. At the Holford sale,
the Rembrandt rcith a Turned-up Hat and Embroidered
Mantle — an almost unique First State, drawn on by
Rembrandt, but none the better on that account —
fetchal i?420. Of the Rembrandt Draxcing there were
two impressions. One of thein, which Mr. Middleton-
Wake assures us is the First, and which Wilson justly
describes as at all events " the finest," sold for dP280 to
Hen- Meder. The impression was of unmatched brilliancy
and vigour, the whole thing as spontaneous and im-
pulsive as anything in RembrandTs work. The second
impression sold — an impression to which the honours
of a true Second State are now assigned — fetched ,£'82,
and was borne away by Mr. Gutekunst of Stuttgart.

That famous Holford sale, in which, as I have said
already, the Rembrandt xoith tlie Sabre sold for a couple
of thousand, and in which the "Hundred Guilder"
{Christ Healing the Sick) beat at least its own record,

and was sold for i?1750, contained among the portraits



an impression of the elaborate Epliraim BonuSy "with
the black ring," the only one with this singular and
somewhat petty distinction which could ever come
into the market ; the remaining impressions being tied
up permanently at the British IMuseum and the Bib-
liotheque Nationale. M. Danlos took it across the
Channel, having paid £\^50 for the opportunity of
doing so. The Burgomaster Sicr, an almost mezzotint-
like portrait in general effect — highly wrought, and
with an obvious delicacy — always fetches a high price.
At the Holford sale an impression called "Second
State " fell to Colnaghi's bid of i'SSO. At the Sey-
mour Haden, one called a "Third" — a very exquisite
impression — reached i?390. It came from the collection
of Sir Abraham Hume, and Sir Seymour, in the Preface
to his sale catalogue, properly pointed out that with
the jSV-r, as with the Ephrabn Bonus, what are practi-
cally trial-proofs have been erected into " States." The
lliird State of the Old Haaring; a portrait of a
venerable, kindly, perhaps ceremonious gentleman, who
practised the profession of an auctioneer, is scarcely
less rare than the rest. When found among the Hol-
ford treasures, it sold for X'190.

For nearly the same price the benign })ortrait of
John Lutma, the goldsmith — an impression in the
Fii-st State, however, " before the window and the
bottle " — passed into the hands of the same buyer.
That plate — one of the most admirable in the work of
Rembrandt — uHbrds, in its First State, an instance of the

artificial advantage of iiicie i-arity. Because certain



collectors arc jicciistoiiKcI to sec it more or less worn,
with the window and the bottle behind the seated
fi<^ure, they will never give for it, even when it is not
worn — if the window and the bottle happen to be
there — one-third the sum that they pay willin«;ly when
those objects are absent, whicli Rembrandt knew were
wanted to complete the composition. Now, in the
case of the Great Jcxcish Bride — a portrait really of
Rembrandt's wife, Saskia, with flowing hair — the
backgi'ound is a loss, clearly, the earlier State being
invariably the finer and the more spontaneous. With
the Ltitma it is not so. There is no doubt that the
additions add charm, add luminousness, to the general
effect ; but the fine eye is wanted, the eye of the real
ex})ert, to see to it that the impression which contains
these is yet an impression in which deterioration is
not visible — that it is, in fact, one of the very earliest
impressions after the additions had been made.

To make an end of the record of gi-eat prices fetched
by the portraits in the Holford sale, let it be said
that the Cornelius Syhmi.s — the im])ression Wilson pro-
nounced to be the finest — sold fori?4<50 ; that a Second
State of the rare, and on that account, as I suppose, the
favourite portrait of the Advocate Van Tolling, fetched
X*o30 ; whilst an exceedingly effective impression of
the big portrait of Coppenol, the writing-master,
realised no less than -£^1350.

But without touching any one of these great rarities,
modest collectors, whose mo<lesty yet does not go the
length of making them satisfied with second-rate Art,


may still have noble portraits. Six or seven guineas —
I mean, of course, when opportunity arises — secures
you the quite exquisite and delicately modelled croquis
(but is it not, after all, something more than acroqim?)
called Portrait of a Woman, ligJitly etched. Rem-
brandt was very young when he did that, yet his art
was mature, his point unspeakably vivacious. It is a
})orti'ait of his mother. So again, the Mae de Rem-
brandt au voile noir — the lady sitting, somewhat austere
this time, with set mouth, and the old full-veined
hands folded in rest — never, I think, in its happiest
impression costs more than d£'20— may very likely cost
you a good deal less. Ten guineas will very likely be
the ransom of that charming portrait of a boy-child in
profile, which was once thought to record the features
of Titus, Rembrandt's son, and then those of the little
Prince of Orange. It is a delightful vision of youth,
demure and chubby, and in its dainty drawing of light
and silky hair, does even Whistler's Fanny Leyland rival
it .'' Are^ you disposed to venture c£'30, i?40, £50 .?
Then may you, in due time, add to your group a
First State of the most subtle portrait of that medita-
tive print-seller, Clement deJonffJic. It is treated with
singular breadth and luminousness, and of character
it is a profound revelation. By the time the Third
State is reached — and a good Third State may
!)e worth fifteen or twenty pounds — the thing has
changed. Indeed, it has changed already a little in
the Second, liut in the Tbirtl, further work has

endowed the [Hirsonage with the air of a more visible



i-onmnce; and in the two sucfecding States this is
preserved, tliough the wear of course becomes per-
ceptible. It is well, by way of contrast, to possess
yourself of this more sentimental record — the Third,
if possible, in preference to the Fourth or Fifth state —
besides, of course, that subtler and far finer vision
of the personage which is ensured by the First State
alone. The time may soon be upon us when a First
State of Clement dc Jonghc will be worth, not thirty
or forty, but sixty or eighty guineas. It has always
l)een appreciated, but it has not yet been appreciated
at its true worth. Nothing in all the gi-eat etched
work of Rembrandt is in craftsmanship more unob-
trusively magnificent, and in its suggestion of complex
character nothing is more subtle.

It was well, perhaps, to insist particularly on the
desirableness, for study and possession, of these two
great branches of the etched work of Rembrandt, the
Landscapes and the Portraits. It would be ridiculous
to attack the authenticity of any piece that I have
mentioned. No one, so far as I am aware, has ever
thought of doing so ; so tliat with these, at all events,
as well as with many others, the collector is safe.
But my insistence on the things I have selected will
not deter explorers from adventures that interest them.
The unction, the, and the essential dignity
even of those Sacred Subjects from which he is at first
repelled by the presence there so abundantly of the
ungainly and the common, will in the end attract the

collector. He will recognise that there was pathos in



the life Rembrandt imagined, as well as in the life
that he obsened. And in the Academical studies, the
representations of the Nude, he will recognise that
there is Style constantly, and beauty now and then.
One or two of these, at least, he will like to have, if
he can. Two of them seem to me better and more
desirable than the rest. One is that study of a re-
cumbent woman — Naked Woynan seen from behind —
<vhich the French sometimes call Negresse couchee ;
but she is not " Negress "" at all, but only a stripped
woman beheld in deepish shadow. This is one of the
least rare. Five or six pounds will often buy it. The
other is the ]Voman with the Arrow. A slimmer,
lighter, younger woman than is usual with Rembrandt,
sits, with figure turned prettily, on the edge of a bed.
The drawing is not academically perfect, but the
picture is at least living flesh, graceful of pose, and
seen in an admirable arrangement of shadow and of
light. This Woman with the Arrow fetched, in the
Kalle sale, £9.Q ; in the Knowles sale, £2>%

The so-called "Free Subjects" are few, and the
iTjdest of them, Ledikant, which has yet a touch of
comedy in it (for Rembrandt was an observer always),
is fortunately of extreme rarity. With not a single one
of these ought the collector to be concerned. Some
French artists have known how to make their choice
of such subjects pardonal)le by treating them with
grace ; but the eroticism of Rembrandt — happily most
occasional — is, in the very grossncss of its obvious

comedy, reeking with offence.



In rcnjard to the avraiifijcnient of the prints by the
master wlio is the head and front of the Dutch school,
and the consummate practitioner of Etching — I mean,
the arrangement in the student's mind, and not only
the arrangement in the solander box — the question of
the artist's method of execution plays a not unimportant
part. Are you to classify your possessions in order of
date, or in accordance with subject, or with reference
to style and manner of work ? That third method,
however, would be found in its result not very different
from the arrangement by date. Broadly speaking, it
would have affinity with that. For, as Sir Seymour
Haden tells us in an interesting Lecture called
"llembrandt True and False," which the Macmillans
issued in 1895, the Burlington Club Exhibition was
itself sufficient "to disclose the interesting fact that,
dividing the thirty years of Rembrandt's etching career
into three parts or decades, his plates during the first
of these decades were for the most part etched —
"bitten in," that is, by a mordant — in the second,
that after having been so bitten in, their effect was
enhanced by the addition of " dry-point ; "" and in the
third, that, discarding altogether the colder chemical
process, the artist had generally depended on the more
painter-like employment of "dry-point alone." And
in regard to methods of work. Sir Seymour in this
I^ecture discredited the statement that Rembrandt was
full of mysterious contrivances, and that his success as
an etcher owed much to these. " All the great painter-
engravers, in connnon with all great artists, worked



simply and with the simplest tools. It is only the
mechanical engraver and copyist who depends for what
he calls his ' quality ' on a multiplicity of instrumental
aids which, in fact, do the work for him — the object
of the whole of them being to make that work as easy
to an assistant as to the engraver himself, and its
inevitable effect, to reduce that which was once an
art to the level of a metier.''''



Geddes, a link hetween Rembrandt and. the French
Revival — The Etchings of Millet — Charles Meryon's
work — 7'he best, accomplished in but few years — His
^'Paris'' — The Mtfryons the Collector 7vants — The
prices of some masterpieces — Papers — Mcryon Collec-
tors — Bracquemond's few noble things — Jides Jacque-
marCs Etchings — His still-life pieces practically original
— Jacqucmarl irderpreter, not copyist, of his snibjcct —
The " Porcelaine" — The " Gemmes et Joyaux" — The
dry-points of Paul Helleu.

Betwkkn the period of the work of Rembrandt and the
middle of the Eighteenth Century very little fine work
was done in Etching. The practitioners of the art,
such as they were, seemed to lose sight of its gi'eater
principles. What they lacked in learning and in
mastery, they made up for — so they probably thought
— by elaboration and prettiness. Only here and there
did such a man as our English Geddes — our Scottish
Geddes, if the word is liked better — and he not later
than the second and third decades of our own century
— produce either portrait or landscape in the true
method, with seeming spontaneity, with means econo-
mised. It was in landscape chiefly — most particularly
in Oft Pcrkham Rye and Halliford-oji- Thames — that
Geddes most successfully asserted himself, as, in his


smaller way, Reinbranclfs true follower, though in his
few portraits (his mother^s, perhaps, most notably) the
right decisiveness, simplicity, and energy of manner
may not be overlooked. In some measure, it may
be supposed, Geddes influenced David Wilkie, who
was his friend, and Wilkie, amongst several etchings
which were inferior at least to the dry-points of
his fellow- work man (for his small portfolio is not,
on the whole, worth nmch), produced one or two
memorable things : a perfect little genre piece, called
Tlie Receipt — an old-world gentleman searching in a
bureau, while a messenger waits respectfully at his
side — being by far the best, and obviously a desirable

But the middle of our century had to be i-eached
before the true revival of the art of Etching, anywhere.
Before it, Ingres, in a single plate, practised the art in
the spirit of the line-engraver. Just as it approached,
Delacroix and Paul Huet and Theodore Rousseau
showed, in a few ])Iates, some ap})reciation of the fact
that etching is often serviceable chiefly as the medium
for a sketch. But the middle of the century had
actually to an-ive before the world was in ])ossession of
the best performances of Millet, Meryon, Brac(|uemond,
and Jules Jac(juemart.

Jean Fran(;ois Millet executed but one-and- twenty

etchings, according to the Catalogue of Monsieur

Lebrun, the frienti and relative of Sensier, Millet's

biographer. Of M. Eebrun's Catalogue — originally

issued as an Appendix to the Paris edition of Sensier's



Life of the artist — Mr. Frederick Keppel, of New York,
has published a translation, with some additional facts
which are of interest to the precise student. The
etchings of Millet are, at the very least, masterly notes
of motives for his painted jiictures. But they are
often much more than that. Often they are entirely
satisfactory and final and elucidatory dealings with the
themes they choose to tackle. They are then, cjuite as
nmch as the pictures themselves, records of peasant
life, as the artist observed it intimately, and at the
same time vivid and expressive suggestions of atmos-
phere and light and shade. In effect they are large
and simple. In Etching, Millet was scarcely concerned
to display a skill that was very obvious, a sleight-of-
hand, an acrobatic triumph over technical difficulties.
Etching was to him a vehicle for the expression of
exactl}' the same things as those to which he addressed
himself in mediums more habitual. And so we have
his Glaneuscs and his Becheurs, his Depart pour le
Travail — worth perhaps, each one of them, in good
state, a very few pounds each. In America Millet has
of late years been particularly appreciated. I should
dare to say even that he has been oveiTated, owing to
a skilfully-worked craze about his painted pictures, end-
ing with the immense, ridiculous sensation of the sale
of the Angelm. But in France — which, in the appre-
ciation of all work of art, is certainly not less en-

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Online LibraryFrederick WedmoreFine prints → online text (page 4 of 16)