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lovers ; the young landlord and generous rival added his
good word ; and the schoolmaster of Farley and his pretty
wife are at this moment one of the best and happiest co j/tea
in his Majesty's dominions.



WISHING.

BY JOHN G. SAXE.

OF all amusements for the mind,
From logic down to fishing,
There is n't one that you can find

So very cheap as " wishing."
A very choice diversion too,

If we but rightly use it,

And not, as we are apt to do,

Pervert it, and abuse it.

I wish a common wish indeed

My purse were somewhat fatter,
That I might cheer the child of need,

And not my pride to flatter ;
That I might make Oppression reel,

As only gold can make it,
And break the Tyrant's rod of steel,

As only gold can break it

I wish that Sympathy and Love,

And every human passion
That has its origin above,

Would come and keep in fashion ;
That Scorn, and Jealousy, and Hate,

And every base emotion,
Were buried fifty fathom deep

Beneath the waves of Ocean 1



160 JOHN G. SAXE.

I wish that friends were always true,

And motives always pure ;
I wish the good were not so few,

I wish the bad were fewer ;
I wish that parsons ne'er forgot

To heed their pious teaching ;
I wish that practising was not

So different from preaching !

1 wish that modest worth might be

Appraised with truth and candor ;
I wish that innocence were free

From treachery and slander ;
I wish that men their vows would mind ;

That women ne'er were rovers ;
I wish that wives were always kind,

And husbands always lovers !

I wish in fine that Joy and Mirth,

And every good Ideal,
May come erewhile, throughout the earth.

To be the glorious Real ;
Till God shall every creature bless

With his supremest blessing,
And Hope be lost in Happiness,

And Wishing in Possessing 1



THE GREAT PORTRAIT-PAINTERS

By CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE.



THERE has never existed a great painter of History
or Poetry who has not been great in portrait. Even
Michael Angelo is no exception. There may not remain
any painted portraits of known persons by his hand, but
there are sculptured portraits by him, and it is impossible
to look even at the engravings of the Prophets and Sibyls,
without seeing that they are from a hand practised in
portrait, a hand, too, that had acquired its power by the
practice of literal exactness. " Fuseli distinguishes the
styles, epic, dramatic, and historic, beautifully," says Mr.
Haydon. But I think, as I do of such distinctions gen-
erally, that these are entirely imaginary ; and that the style
of Michael Angelo is distinguished, as are all others, by
the peculiar mind of the artist only. Haydon adds that,
" the same instruments are used in all styles, men and
women ; and no two men or women were ever the same
in form, feature, or proportion. After Fuseli has said,
' the detail of character is not consistent with the epic,' he
goes on to show the great difference of character between
each Prophet, as decided as any character chosen by Ra-
phael in any of his more essentially dramatic works. ' Nor
are the Sibyls,' continues Fuseli, ' those female oracles, less
expressive or less individually marked.'" Thus, though
Haydon was unwilling to abandon the classifications of
U



162 CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE.

Fuseli, the contradiction involved in them did not escape
him.

There cannot be a doubt that Michael Angelo, had he
devoted himself to portrait only, would have been a super-
lative portrait-painter ; for in his works we find everything
in perfection that portrait requires, dignity, the expres-
sion of character, the highest perception of beauty, in man,
woman, and child ; and not only in the unfinished marble
that adorns our Academy library, but in the smaller com-
partments of the Sistine ceiling, the most natural and fa-
miliar domestic incidents treated in the most graceful
manner. It is right this should be remembered, because
painters (as they fancy themselves) of High Art, who
really have not the talents portrait requires, must not be
allowed to class themselves with Michael Angelo, as long
as they cannot do what he, in perfection, could do.

Conspicuous as he stands among great portrait-painters,
Vandyke is not first of the first. The attitudes of his
single figures are often formal and unmeaning ; and his
groups, however finely connected by composition, are sel-
dom connected by sentiment. Fathers, mothers, sons, and
daughters, stand or sit beside each other, as they stood or
sat in his room, for the mere purpose of being painted ;
and it is therefore the nicely discriminated individual char-
acter of every head, the freshness and delicacy of his color,
and the fine treatment of his masses, that have placed him
high among portrait-painters. The Countess of Bedford,
at Petworth, his Snyders at Castle Howard, his whole
lengths at Warwick and at Windsor, the noble equestrian
picture at Blenheim, of Charles L, with its magnificent
landscape background, and the whole length of Charles in
the Louvre, are among the masterpieces of Vandyke ; but
he has nowhere shown such dramatic powers as are dis-
played by Velasquez, in his portrait picture of "The Sur-
render of Breda."



THE GREAT PORTRAIT-PAINTERS. 163

The Governor of the town is presenting its keys to the
Marquis Spinola, who (hat in hand) neither takes them,
nor allows his late antagonist to kneel. But, laying his
hand gently on his shoulder, he seems to say, " Fortune has
favored me, but our cases might have been reversed." To
paint such an act of generous courtesy was worthy of a
contemporary of Cervantes. It is not, however, in the
choice of the subject, but in the manner in which he has
brought the scene before our eyes, that the genius and mind
of Velasquez are shown. The cordial, unaffected bearing
of the conqueror could only have been represented by as
thorough a gentleman as himself. I know this picture but
from copies. *Mr. Ford says of the original, " Never were
knights, soldiers, or national character better painted, or
the heavy Fleming, the intellectual Italian, and the proud
Spaniard more nicely marked, even to their boots and
breeches ; the lances of the guards actually vibrate. Ob-
serve the contrast of the light-blue, delicate page, with the
dark, iron-clad General, Spinola, who, the model of a high-
bred, generous warrior, is consoling a gallant but vanquished
enemy."

Another great portrait picture, the conception of which
is equally dramatic and original, is at Windsor Castle. The
Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and the Prince of Spain,
mounted on chargers, are directing an assault in the battle
of Nortlingen. The conventional manner, sanctioned in-
deed by great painters, of representing commanders of
armies, whether mounted or on foot, quietly looking out of
the picture, while the battle rages behind them, is here set
aside. The generals are riding into the scene of action ;
and yet their attitudes are so contrived as sufficiently to
show their features. Nearer to the spectator are half-
length figures, the end of a long line of steel-clad infantry,
diminishing in perspective up a hill to the fortress they are
storming. All is action ; and though we are only shown



164 CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE.

the generals and the common soldiers, yet, as the horses
of the former are in profile, and have just come into the
picture, we may imagine a train of attendant officers about
to appear ; and though portrait was the first object of
Rubens, the picture is a noble representation of a battle.
The conception, as regards the foot-soldiers, has been im-
itated, though differently applied, by Opie ; and probably
Raphael's composition in the Vatican, representing David
gazing at Bathsheba, while the troops of Uriah pass below
him, suggested it to Rubens.

The pendant to this picture is the group of Sir Balthasar
Gerbier, his wife, and children ; which Dr. Waagen inclines
to attribute to Vandyke. But the arrangement and dra-
matic connection of the figures is entirely free from the
formality of Vandyke ; and a comparison of this fine com-
position with Vandyke's " Children of Charles I." at
Windsor, his "Pembroke Family" at Wilton, his "Earl
and Countess of Derby" belonging to Lord Clarendon,
or " The Nassau Family " at Penshanger, will show that
it is by Rubens.

Perhaps the noblest group of portraits ever painted, for
it is considered the greatest work of its class by Titian, is
that of the male part of the family of Luigi Cornaro. The
fine old man, whose life by an extraordinary system of
temperance was protracted to a hundred years, kneels be-
fore an altar in the open air, followed by his son-in-law
and grandchildren, except the three youngest, who are
sitting on the steps of the altar playing with a little dog,
an incident like some I have noticed in the works of Ra-
phael. The characteristic arrangement of the figures, the
noble simplicity of the lines, and the truth and power of
the color, unite in placing this picture on the summit of
Art. There is no apparent sacrifice of detail, no trick, that
we can discover, to give supremacy to the heads, which
yet rivet our attention at the first glance, and to which we



THE GREAT PORTRAIT-PAINTERS. 1 63

return again and again, impressed by the thought and mind
in the countenance's of the elder personages, and charmed
with the youthful innocence of .the boys. I have seen peo-
ple, ignorant of the principles of Art, and caring little about
pictures, stand before this one in astonishment, and I have
heard them express themselves in a way which proved that
little of its excellence was lost on them. Fortunately for Eng-
land, it belongs to his Grace the Duke of Northumberland.

There was a time when kings, warriors, and other em-
inent persons were painted, almost as a matter of course,
in devotional attitudes. It was, in fact, a fashion, and was
continued to a later date than the close of Titian's life. But
is not so much what the individual painted may be doing,
as its consistency with his whole life, and the look and man-
ner given him by the painter, which interests or offends us.
The piety of a kneeling hero may be ostentatious ; or we
might happen to know that devotion was all the religion he
practised, and that he was lifting to Heaven hands that had
been steeped, and were again to be steeped, in innocent
blood. Sir Thomas More was several times painted by
Holbein, yet never, that I recollect, in an attitude of devo-
tion, or accompanied by any symbol of that religion which
was the rule of his life ; and what would the memory of
More, or the genius of Holbein, have gained had he so
painted him ? Raphael flattered Leo the Tenth, as he was
directed, by introducing him, in the "Attila," as Leo the
First. But when he was to paint a more characteristic
portrait of the Pope, he represented only the sovereign and
the dilettante. Leo is examining with a glass a splendidly-
illuminated manuscript. He sits in a chair of state, at-
tended, not by saints, but by two princes of the church;
and the portrait is, as all portraits should be, biographical.
Even in copies (from which only I know it), I fancy I see-
faint indications of a love of fun, so characteristic of a
Pontiff who delighted in a practical joke.



166 CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE.

The admirers of devotional portrait object to the more
modern custom of indicating the deeds of the person repre-
sented, as savoring of vanity ; forgetting that acts of devo-
tion are deeds, and, as far as attitude and expression have
to do with devotion, the easiest of all deeds ; and when
consisting in these alone, the most criminal of all vanities.
The only portrait of that admirable woman Margaret Tu-
dor, represents her in a religious habit, with her hands
joined in prayer, and she could not have been so charac-
teristically handed down to us in any other dress or attitude.
Neither could Sir Joshua's portrait of General Eliott be
more happily conceived than it is. The key of the fortress
he is defending is held firmly in his hand. But commanding
as are the air and attitude, they have nothing of the vanity
of bravado ; indeed, if what is most honorable to the man
should not be painted, the world would not have possessed
the noble conception of Velasquez that has been described.

What may be called masquerading or fancy-ball portrait
is seldom happy; and though we do not object to Sir
Joshua's "Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra," or "Emily Bertie
as Thais," yet, as in such cases, let us be sure the assumed
character accords with the real one. Sir Thomas Lawrence
made a sketch of George the Fourth in the armor of the
Black Prince, but had the good sense not to carry the
matter further than a sketch.

Are portrait-painters, it may be asked, to paint the vices
of their sitters? Assuredly, if these vices exhibit them-
selves in the countenance. And Fuseli praises Titian for
expressing some of the most odious individual characteristics,
in portraits that he selects as works of the highest order.

Allan Cunningham accuses Reynolds of flattery, and I
apprehend Sir Joshua was just as much of a flatterer as
Titian. With a vulgar head before him, he would not, or
rather could not, make a vulgar picture. But I do not
believe that he would have given to Colonel Charteris " an



THE GREAT PORTRAIT-PAINTERS. 167

aspect worthy a President of the Society for the Suppression
of Vice," unless, which is not impossible, he had such an
aspect. In his whole length of the Duke of Orleans, the
debauchee was as apparent as the Prince.

No man can be a good portrait-painter who is not a
good physiognomist. I do not mean that he should know
Lavater by heart, or that he must believe in all that phre-
nology assumes. But he must be, what all of us are, in
some degree, a judge of character by the signs exhibited
in the face. A few of the broad distinctions of physiognomy
depend on the forms of the features, but all its nicer shades
have far more to do with expression ; and in this, indeed,
the real character is often seen where the conformation of
the features seems to contradict it. Socrates had the face
and figure of a Silenus, but the great mind of the phi-
losopher must have been visible, through the disguise, to
all who could read expression. There are some general
and well-known rules for the determination of physiognom-
ical character, as far as it has to do with the shapes of the
features ; the aquiline nose and eye, for instance, belong to
the heroic class, thick lips to the sensual, and thin to the
selfish; yet all these may be liable to many exceptions;
the first certainly are; for Nelson, Wolfe, Turenne, and
many other heroes, will occur to our recollection who had
nothing of the eagle physiognomy. It is natural to asso-
ciate beauty with goodness, and ugliness with wickedness ;
and children generally do this. But an acquaintance with
the world soon shows us that bad and selfish hearts may
be concealed under the handsomest features, and the highest
virtues hidden under the homeliest ; and that goodness may
even consist with conformations of face absolutely ugly.
We then begin to look for the character in the expression
rather than in the forms of the features, and to distinguish
assumed expressions from natural ones ; and so we go on,
and, as we grow older, become better physiognomists, though



168 CHARLES ROBERT LLSLIE.

we never arrive at that certainty of judgment which seems
not to be intended we ever should.

The best portrait-painters, though they may not have
penetrated through the mask to all beneath it, have, by the
Melity of their Art, given resemblances that sometimes
correct and sometimes confirm the verdicts of historians.
\Vho can look at Vandyke's three heads, painted to enable
Bernini to make a bust, and believe all that has been said
against Charles L? Or who can look at Holbein's por-
traits of Henry VIII., and doubt the worst that has been
said of his selfish cruelty ?

Among the many excellences of Holbein, his treatment
of the hands is not the least ; and it is evident that in his
whole-lengths of Henry, they are portraits, and so are the
legs, and that the king stood for the entire figure in that
characteristic, but by no means graceful attitude, in which
he set the fashion to his courtiers. We feel that we could
swear to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, of such portraits.

Among the pictures at Hampton Court attributed to
Holbein, few can be relied on as genuine. I cannot be-
lieve that those historical curiosities, ' ; The Embarkation of
Henry VIII. from Dover," "The Field of the Cloth of
Gold," " The Meeting of Henry and Maximilian," or " The
Battle of the Spurs," are his works; neither do I believe
he painted the picture that includes Henry, Jane Seymour,
Prince Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, nor the life-sized
whole-length of "The Earl of Surry." According to the
general custom of attributing the portraits of every age
to the greatest master of that age, Holbein is made answer-
able for these, and many others, greatly inferior to the
picture, certainly by him, belonging to the Surgeon Barbers'
Company ; a work rivalling Titian in its color, and in the
finely-marked individual character of the heads. It i.
remarkable that, although it has hung in the very heart of



THE GREAT PORTRAIT-PAINTERS. 169

London for more than three hundred years, it has not in
the least suffered from smoke ; and if it has ever been
cleaned, it has sustained no injury from the process. Dr.,
Waagen urges the importance of so fine a picture being
removed to the National Gallery, and thinks an arrange-
ment might be made to that purpose, between the Govern-
ment and the company that possesses it ; "a consummation
' devoutly to be wished." There is not a Holbein in the
National Gallery.

While speaking of this great painter, I must not omit
to notice the interest given to his picture of the family of
Sir Thomas More, by making the background an exact
representation of an apartment in More's house. This
example might effect a great improvement hi portrait, and
it would often be found easier to the painter (as well as
far more agreeable) to copy realities, than to weary him-
self with ineffectual attempts to make the eternal pillar
and curtain, or the conventional sky and tree, look as well
as they do in the backgrounds of Reynolds and Gains-
borough.

The question relating to the degree in which personal
defects are to be marked must, in every case, be settled
by the taste of the painter. Reynolds has not only shown
that Baretti was near-sighted, but he has made that defect
as much the subject of the picture as the sitter himself,
and Baretti's absorption in his book strongly marks the
literary man. But near-sightedness is not a deformity,
and there can be no doubt that Reynolds abated whatever
of malformation he might not for the sake of individuality
think it right to exclude, and that he also invariably softened
harshness of feature or expression, and diminished positive
ugliness, as far as he could do so without losing character.
Chantrey did the same ; but Lawrence softened harshness
so much as often to lose character. The portraits of neither
of the three could ever be called ridiculously like, an ex-



170 CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE.

pression sometimes used in the way of compliment, but in
reality pointing exactly to what a portrait should not be ;
and Wilkie felt this so much that he went to the other
extreme, and even deviated into unlikeness in his portraits,
from the dread of that un-ideal mode of representation which
excites us to laugh.

We undervalue that which costs us least effort, and "West,
while engaged on a small picture of his own family, little
thought how much it would surpass in interest many of
his more ambitious works. Its subject is the first visit
of his father and elder brother to his young wife, after
the birth of hor second child. They are Quakers ; and the
venerable old man and his eldest son wear their hats,
according to the custom of their sect. Nothing can be
more beautifully conceived than the mother bending over
the babe, sleeping in her lap. She is wrapped in a white
dressing-gown, and her other son, a boy of six years old,
is leaning on the arm of her chair. "West stands behind
his father, with his palette and brushes in his hand, and the
silence that reigns over the whole is that of religious medi-
tation, which will probably end, according to the Quaker
custom, in a prayer from the patriarch of the family. The
picture is a very small one, the engraving from it being
of the same size. It has no excellence of color, but the
masses of light and shadow are impressive and simple, and
I know not a more original illustration of the often-painted
subject, the ages of man. Infancy, childhood, youth, middle
life, and extreme age, are beautifully brought together in
the quiet chamber of the painter's wife. Had he been
employed to paint these five ages, he would perhaps have
given himself a great deal of trouble to produce a work
that would have been classical, but, compared with this,
commonplace ; while he has here succeeded in making
a picture which, being intended only for himself, is for that
reason a picture for the whole world ; and if painters could



THE GREAT PORTRAIT-PAINTERS 171

always thus put their hearts into their work, how much
would the general interest of the Art be increased !

Among the many great lessons in portrait composition,
by Rembrandt, are "The Night Watch," at Amsterdam,
" The Group of Surgeons assembled round a Corpse," in
the Musee at the Hague, and the picture which Mr. Smith,
in his " Catalogue RaisonneY' calls " Ranier Hanslo and his
Mother." A sight of the two first is well worth a journey
to Holland. The last is sometimes described as " a woman
consulting a Baptist minister," and at others, "a woman
consulting an eminent lawyer, or an eminent physician."
As there are large books on a table and in the background,
and the expressions of the heads are earnest and serious,
the subject might be either of these. I saw the picture
(which belongs to the Earl of Ashburnham) many years
ago, and have ever since been haunted with the wish to
see it again. Indeed, I was about to make a day's journey
for that sole purpose, when it was sent to London for sale.
The persons it represents are unknown, the heads of neither
are remarkable for beauty, or any other interest than that
marked individuality that carries with it a certainty of
likeness ; and yet it is a picture that throws down every
barrier that would exclude it from the highest class of Art ;
nor do I know anything from the hand of Rembrandt in
which he appears greater than in this 'simple and unpre-
tending work. I remember being surprised to hear Sir
Thomas Lawrence object to its treatment, that though the
man turns towards the woman, and is speaking earnestly,
while she is listening with great attention, yet they do not
look in each other's faces. I was surprised that he should
not have noticed how frequently this happens, in conversa-
tions on the most important subjects, and oftenest, indeed,
in such conversations. Rembrandt has repeated these at-
titudes and expressions, in the two principal personages in
"The Night Watch," with the difference only, that tho



172 CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE.

figures are walking as they converse. There is an engrav-
ing of the " Hanslo and his Mother " by Josiah Boydell,
which, however, fails in giving the breadth of light on the
female head, the color of which is as near to perfection as
Art ever approached.

The hands in Rembrandt's portraits, as in those of Hol-
bein, do everything required of them in the most natural
and expressive way. But very different are the hands
of Vandyke, which have an affected grace, adopted from
Rubens, though carried further from Nature, and which may
be traced from Rubens to Coreggio. The hands in Van-
dyke's portraits are always of one type, thin and elegant,
with long, tapered fingers. He was followed in these par-
ticulars by Lely with still more of affectation, who carried
a corresponding mannerism into his faces, losing nearly all
individuality in that <wie style of beauty that was in fashion.

A nobleman said to Lely, " How is it that you have so
great a reputation, when you know, as well as I do, that
you are no painter ? " " True, but I am the best you have,"
was the answer. And so it is ; the best artist of the age
will generally, while living, have a reputation equal to the
greatest that have preceded him. Lely, however, was a
painter, and of very great merit. His color, always pearly



Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 12 of 66)