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or not. On the right of the Virgin, a little in the foreground, stands
Joseph in a plain red dress, holding his hat in his hand, and looking
with as air of simple astonishment at his magnificent guests. All the
accessories in this picture, the gold and silver vessels, the dresses
of the three Kings sparking with jewels and pearls, the velvets,
silks, and costly furs, are painted with the most exquisite finish and
delicacy, and exhibit to us the riches of the court of Burgundy, in
which Van Eyck then resided. (Munich Gal, 45.)

In Raphael's composition, the worshippers wear the classical, not the
oriental costume; but an elephant with a monkey on his back is seen
in the distance, which at once reminds us of the far East. (Rome,

Ghirlandajo frequently painted the Adoration of the Magi, and shows
in his management of the accessories much taste and symmetry. In one
of his compositions, the shed forms a canopy in the centre; two of
the Kings kneel in front. The country of the Ethiopian King is not
expressed by making him of a black complexion, but by giving him
a Negro page, who is in the act of removing his master's crown.
(Florence, Pitti Pal.)

A very complete example of artificial and elaborate composition may be
found in the drawing by Baldassare Peruzzi in our National Gallery.
It contains at least fifty figures; in the centre, a magnificent
architectural design; and wonderful studies of perspective to the
right and left, in the long lines of receding groups. On the whole,
it is a most skilful piece of work; but to my taste much like a
theatrical decoration, - pompous without being animated.

A beautiful composition by Francia I must not pass over.[1] Here, to
the left of the picture, the Virgin is seated on the steps of a ruined
temple, against which grows a fig-tree, which, though it be December,
is in full leaf. Joseph kneels at her side, and behind her are two
Arcadian shepherds, with the ox and the ass. The Virgin, who has
a charming air of modesty and sweetness, presents her Child to the
adoration of the Wise Men: the first of these kneels with joined
hands; the second, also kneeling, is about to present a golden vase;
the Negro King, standing, has taken off his cap, and holds a censer
in his hand; and the divine infant raises his hand in benediction.
Behind the Kings are three figures on foot, one a beautiful youth in
an attitude of adoration. Beyond these are five or six figures on
horseback, and a long train upon horses and camels is seen approaching
in the background. The landscape is very beautiful and cheerful: the
whole picture much in the style of Francia's master, Lorenzo Costa. I
should at the first glance have supposed it to be his, but the head of
the Virgin is unmistakably Francia.

[Footnote 1: Dresden Gal. Arnold, the well-known print-seller at
Dresden, has lately published a very beautiful and finished engraving
of this fine picture; the more valuable, because engravings after
Francia are very rare.]

There are instances of this subject idealized into a mystery; for
example, in a picture by Palma Vecchio (Milan, Brera), St. Helena
stands behind the Virgin, in allusion to the legend which connects
her with the history of the Kings. In a picture by Garofalo, the star
shining above is attended by angels bearing the instruments of the
Passion, while St. Bartholomew, holding his skin, stands near the
Virgin and Child: it was painted for the abbey of St. Bartholomew, at

Among the German examples, the picture by Albert Durer, in the tribune
of the Florence Gallery; and that of Mabuse, in the collection of Lord
Carlisle, are perhaps the most perfect of their kind.

In the last-named picture the Virgin, seated, in a plain dark-blue
mantle, with the German physiognomy, but large browed, and with a very
serious, sweet expression, holds the Child. The eldest of the Kings,
as usual, offers a vase of gold, out of which Christ has taken a
piece, which be holds in his hand. The name of the King, JASPER, is
inscribed on the vase; a younger King behind holds a cup. The black
Ethiopian king, Balthasar, is conspicuous on the left; he stands,
crowned and arrayed in gorgeous drapery, and, as if more fully to mark
the equality of the races - at least in spiritual privileges - his train
is borne by a white page. An exquisite landscape is seen through the
arch behind, and the shepherds are approaching in the middle distance.
On the whole, this is one of the most splendid pictures of the early
Flemish school I have ever seen; for variety of character, glow of
colour, and finished execution, quite unsurpassed.

In a very rich composition by Lucas van Leyden, Herod is seen in the
background, standing in the balcony of his palace, and pointing out
the scene to his attendants.

As we might easily imagine, the ornamental painters of the Venetian
and Flemish schools delighted in this subject, which allowed them full
scope for their gorgeous colouring, and all their scenic and dramatic
power. Here Paul Veronese revelled unreproved in Asiatic magnificence:
here his brocaded robes and jewelled diadems harmonized with his
subject; and his grand, old, bearded, Venetian senators figured,
not unsuitably, as Eastern Kings. Here Rubens lavished his ermine
and crimson draperies, his vases, and ewers, and censers of flaming
gold; - here poured over his canvas the wealth "of Ormuz and of Ind."
Of fifteen pictures of this subject, which he painted at different
times, the finest undoubtedly is that in the Madrid Gallery. Another,
also very fine, is in the collection of the Marquis of Westminster.
In both these, the Virgin, contrary to all former precedent, is
not seated, but _standing_, as she holds up her Child for worship.
Afterwards we find the same position of the Virgin in pictures by
Vandyck, Poussin, and other painters of the seventeenth century. It is
quite an innovation on the old religious arrangement; but in the utter
absence of all religious feeling, the mere arrangement of the figures,
except in an artistic point of view, is of little consequence.

As a scene of oriental pomp, heightened by mysterious shadows and
flashing lights, I know nothing equal to the Rembrandt in the
Queen's Gallery; the procession of attendants seen emerging from the
background through the transparent gloom is quite awful; but in this
miraculous picture, the lovely Virgin Mother is metamorphosed into a
coarse Dutch _vrow_, and the divine Child looks like a changeling imp.

In chapels dedicated to the Nativity or the Epiphany, we frequently
find the journey of the Wise Men painted round the walls. They
are seen mounted on horseback, or on camels, with a long train of
attendants, here ascending a mountain, there crossing a river; here
winding through a defile, there emerging from a forest; while the
miraculous star shines above, pointing out the way. Sometimes we have
the approach of the Wise Men on one side of the chapel, and their
return to their own country on the other. On their homeward journey
they are, in some few instances, embarking in a ship: this occurs in
a fresco by Lorenzo Costa, and in a bas-relief in the cathedral of
Amiens. The allusion is to a curious legend mentioned by Arnobius the
Younger, in his commentary on the Psalms (fifth century). He says,
in reference to the 48th Psalm, that when Herod found that the three
Kings had escaped from him "in ships of Tarsus," in his wrath he
burned all the vessels in the port.

There is a beautiful fresco of the journey of the Magi in the Riccardi
Chapel at Florence, painted by Benozzo Gozzoli for the old Cosmo de'

"The Baptism of the Magi by St. Thomas," is one of the compartments
of the Life of the Virgin, painted by Taddeo Gaddi, in the Baroncelli
Chapel at Florence, and this is the only instance I can refer to.

* * * * *

Before I quit this subject - one of the most interesting in the whole
range of art - I must mention a picture by Giorgione in the Belvedere
Gallery, well known as one of the few undoubted productions of that
rare and fascinating painter, and often referred to because of its
beauty. Its signification has hitherto escaped all writers on art, as
far as I am acquainted with them, and has been dismissed as one of his
enigmatical allegories. It is called in German, _Die Feldmässer_ (the
Land Surveyors), and sometimes styled in English the _Geometricians_,
or the _Philosophers_, or the _Astrologers_. It represents a wild,
rocky landscape, in which are three men. The first, very aged, in as
oriental costume, with a long gray beard, stands holding in his hand
an astronomical table; the next, a man in the prime of life, seems
listening to him; the third, a youth, seated and looking upwards,
holds a compass. I have myself no doubt that this beautiful picture
represents the "three wise men of the East," watching on the Chaldean
hills the appearance of the miraculous star, and that the light
breaking in the far horizon, called in the German description the
rising sun, is intended to express the rising of the star of Jacob.[1]
In the sumptuous landscape, and colour, and the picturesque rather
than religious treatment, this picture is quite Venetian. The
interpretation here suggested I leave to the consideration of the
observer; and without allowing myself to be tempted on to further
illustration, will only add, in conclusion, that I do not remember
any Spanish picture of this subject remarkable either for beauty or

[Footnote 1: There is also a print by Giulio Bonasoni, which appears
to represent the wise men watching for the star. (_Bartsch_, xv.

[Footnote 2: In the last edition of the Vienna Catalogue, this picture
has received its proper title.]


_Ital._ La Purificazione della B. Vergine. _Ger._ Die Darbringung im
Tempel. Die Beschneidung Christi.

After the birth of her Son, Mary was careful to fulfil all the
ceremonies of the Mosaic law. As a first-born son, he was to be
redeemed by the offering of five shekels, or a pair of young pigeons
(in memory of the first-born of Egypt). But previously, being born
of the children of Abraham, the infant Christ was submitted to the
sanguinary rite which sealed the covenant of Abraham, and received
the name of JESUS - "that name before which every knee was to bow,
which was to be set above the powers of magic, the mighty rites
of sorcerers, the secrets of Memphis, the drugs of Thessaly, the
silent and mysterious murmurs of the wise Chaldees, and the spells
of Zoroaster; that name which we should engrave on our hearts, and
pronounce with our most harmonious accents, and rest our faith on, and
place our hopes in, and love with the overflowing of charity, joy, and
adoration." (v. Bishop Taylor's Life of Christ.)

The circumcision and the naming of Christ have many times been painted
to express the first of the sorrows of the Virgin, being the first of
the pangs which her Son was to suffer on earth. But the Presentation
in the Temple has been selected with better taste for the same
purpose; and the prophecy of Simeon, "Yea, a sword shall pierce
through thy own soul also," becomes the first of the Seven Sorrows.
It is an undecided point whether the Adoration of the Magi took
place thirteen days, or one year and thirteen days after the birth of
Christ. In a series of subjects artistically arranged, the Epiphany
always precedes, in order of time, that scene in the temple which
is sometimes styled the Purification, sometimes the Presentation and
sometimes the _Nunc Dimitis_. They are three distinct incidents; but,
as far as I can judge, neither the painters themselves, nor those who
have named pictures, have been careful to discriminate between them.
On a careful examination of various compositions, some of special
celebrity, which are styled, in a general way, the Presentation in
the Temple, it will appear, I think, that the idea uppermost in the
painter's mind has been to represent the prophecy of Simeon.

No doubt, in later times, the whole scene, as a subject of art, was
considered in reference chiefly to the Virgin, and the intention was
to express the first of her Seven Sorrows. But in ancient art, and
especially in Greek art, the character of Simeon assumed a singular
significance and importance, which so long as modern art was
influenced by the traditional Byzantine types, modified, in some
degree, the arrangement and sentiment of this favourite subject.

It is related that when Ptolemy Philadelphus about 260 years before
Christ, resolved to have the Hebrew Scriptures translated into
Greek, for the purpose of placing them in his far-famed library,
he despatched messengers to Eleazar, the High Priest of the Jews,
requiring him to send scribes and interpreters learned in the Jewish
law to his court at Alexandria. Thereupon Eleazar selected six of
the most learned Rabbis from each of the twelve tribes of Israel,
seventy-two persons in all, and sent them to Egypt, in obedience to
the commands of King Ptolemy, and among these was Simeon, a priest,
and a man full of learning. And it fell to the lot of Simeon to
translate the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he came to that
verse where it is written, "Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear
a son," he began to misdoubt, in his own mind, how this could be
possible; and, after long meditation, fearing to give scandal and
offence to the Greeks, he rendered the Hebrew word _Virgin_ by a Greek
word which signifies merely a _young woman_; but when he had written
it down, behold an angel effaced it, and substituted the right word.
Thereupon he wrote it again and again; and the same thing happened
three times; and he remained astonished and confounded. And while he
wondered what this should mean, a ray of divine light penetrated his
soul; it was revealed to him that the miracle which, in his human
wisdom he had presumed to doubt, was not only possible, but that he,
Simeon, "should not see death till he had seen the Lord's Christ."
Therefore he tarried on earth, by the divine will, for nearly three
centuries, till that which he had disbelieved had come to pass. He was
led by the Spirit to the temple on the very day when Mary came there
to present her Son, and to make her offering, and immediately, taking
the Child in his arms, he exclaimed, "Lord, _now_ lettest thou thy
servant depart in peace, according to thy word." And of the Virgin
Mother, also, he prophesied sad and glorious things.

Anna the Prophetess, who was standing by, also testified to the
presence of the theocratic King: but she did not take him in her arms,
as did Simeon. (Luke ii. 82.) Hence, she was early regarded as a
type of the synagogue, which prophesied great things of the Messiah,
but, nevertheless, did not embrace him when he appeared, as did the

That these curious legends relative to Simeon and Anna, and their
symbolical interpretation, were well known to the old painters, there
can be no doubt; and both were perhaps in the mind of Bishop Taylor
when he wrote his eloquent chapter on the Presentation. "There be
some," he says, "who wear the name of Christ on their heads, to make
a show to the world; and there be some who have it always in their
mouths; and there be some who carry Christ on their shoulders, as
if he were a burthen too heavy to bear; and there be some - who is
me! - who trample him under their feet, but _he_ is the true Christian
who, _like Simeon_, embraces Christ, and takes him to his heart."

Now, it seems to me that it is distinctly the acknowledgment of
Christ by Simeon, - that is, Christ received by the Gentiles, - which
is intended to be placed before us in the very early pictures of the
Presentation, or the _Nunc dimittis_, as it is always styled in Greek
art. The appearance of an attendant, bearing the two turtle-doves,
shows it to be also the so-called Purification of the Virgin. In
an antique formal Greek version we have the Presentation exactly
according to the pattern described by Didron. The great gold censer is
there; the cupola, at top; Joseph carrying the two young pigeons, and
Anna behind Simeon.

* * * * *

In a celebrated composition by Fra Bartolomeo, there is the same
disposition of the personages, but an additional female figure. This
is not Anna, the mother of the Virgin (as I have heard it said), but
probably Mary Salome, who had always attended on the Virgin ever since
the Nativity at Bethlehem.

The subject is treated with exquisite simplicity by Francia; we have
just the same personages as in the rude Greek model, but disposed with
consummate grace. Still, to represent the Child as completely undraped
has been considered as a solecism. He ought to stretch out his hands
to his mother and to look as if he understood the portentous words
which foretold his destiny. Sometimes the imagination is assisted by
the choice of the accessories; thus Fra Bartolomeo has given us, in
the background of his group, Moses holding the _broken_ table of the
old law; and Francia represents in the same manner the sacrifice
of Abraham; for thus did Mary bring her Son as an offering. In many
pictures Simeon raises his eyes to heaven in gratitude; but those
painters who wished to express the presence of the Divinity in the
person of Christ, made Simeon looking at the Child, and addressing
_him_ as "Lord."


_Ital._ La Fuga in Egitto. _Fr._ La Fuite de la Sainte Famille en
Egypte. _Ger._ Die Flucht nach Ægypten.

The wrath of Herod against the Magi of the East who had escaped from
his power, enhanced by his fears of the divine and kingly Infant,
occasioned the massacre of the Innocents, which led to the flight
of the Holy Family into Egypt. Of the martyred children, in their
character of martyrs, I have already spoken, and of their proper place
in a scheme of ecclesiastical decoration. There is surely something
very pathetic in that feeling which exalted these infant victims into
objects of religious veneration, making them the cherished companions
in heavenly glory of the Saviour for whose sake they were sacrificed
on earth. He had said, "Suffer little children to come unto me;"
and to these were granted the prerogatives of pain, as well as the
privileges of innocence. If, in the day of retribution, they sit at
the feet of the Redeemer, surely they will appeal against us, then and
there; - against us who, in these days, through our reckless neglect,
slay, body and soul, legions of innocents, - poor little unblest
creatures, "martyrs by the pang without the palm," - yet dare to call
ourselves Christians.

* * * * *

The Massacre of the Innocents, as an event, belongs properly to the
life of Christ: it is not included in a series of the life of the
Virgin, perhaps from a feeling that the contrast between the most
blessed of women and mothers, and those who wept distracted for their
children, was too painful, and did not harmonize with the general
subject. In pictures of the Flight into Egypt, I have seen it
introduced allusively into the background; and in the architectural
decoration of churches dedicated to the Virgin Mother, as Notre Dame
de Chartres, it finds a place, but not often a conspicuous place;[1]
it is rather indicated than represented. I should pass over the
subject altogether, best pleased to be spared the theme, but
that there are some circumstances connected with it which require
elucidation, because we find them introduced incidentally into
pictures of the Flight and the _Riposo_.

[Footnote 1: It is conspicuous and elegantly treated over the door of
the Lorenz Kirche at Nuremberg.]

Thus, it is related that among the children whom Herod was bent on
destroying, was St. John the Baptist; but his mother Elizabeth fled
with him to a desert place, and being pursued by the murderers, "the
rock opened by a miracle, and close upon Elizabeth and her child;"
which means, as we may presume, that they took refuge in a cavern,
and were concealed within it until the danger was over. Zacharias,
refusing to betray his son, was slain "between the temple and the
altar," (Matt, xxiii. 35.) Both these legends are to be met with
in the Greek pictures, and in the miniatures of the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries.[1]

[Footnote 1: They will be found treated at length in the artistic
subjects connected with St. John the Baptist.]

From the butchery which made so many mothers childless, the divine
Infant and his mother were miraculously saved; for an angel spoke to
Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, and take the young child and his
mother, and flee into Egypt." This is the second of the four angelic
visions which are recorded of Joseph. It is not a frequent subject
in early art, but is often met with in pictures of the later schools.
Joseph is asleep in his chair, the angel stands before him, and, with
a significant gesture, points forward - "arise and flee!"

There is an exquisite little composition by Titian, called a _Riposo_,
which may possibly represent the preparation for the Flight. Here Mary
is seated under a tree nursing her Infant, while in the background is
a sort of rude stable, in which Joseph is seen saddling the ass, while
the ox is on the outside.

In a composition by Tiarini, we see Joseph holding the Infant, while
Mary, leaning one hand on his shoulder, is about to mount the ass.

In a composition by Poussin, Mary, who has just seated herself on the
ass, takes the Child from the arms of Joseph. Two angels lead the ass,
a third kneels in homage, and two others are seen above with a curtain
to pitch a tent.

* * * * *

I must notice here a tradition that both the ox and the ass who stood
over the manger at Bethlehem, accompanied the Holy Family into Egypt.
In Albert Durer's print, the ox and the ass walk side by side. It is
also related that the Virgin was accompanied by Salome, and Joseph by
three of his sons. This version of the story is generally rejected
by the painters; but in the series by Giotto in the Arena at Padua,
Salome and the three youths attend on Mary and Joseph; and I remember
another instance, a little picture by Lorenzo Monaco, in which Salome,
who had vowed to attend on Christ and his mother as long as she lived,
is seen following the ass, veiled, and supporting her steps with a

But this is a rare exception. The general treatment confines the group
to Joseph, the mother, and the Child. To Joseph was granted, in those
hours of distress and danger, the high privilege of providing for
the safety of the Holy Infant - a circumstance much enlarged upon in
the old legends, and to express this more vividly, he is sometimes
represented in early Greek art as carrying the Child in his arms, or
on his shoulder, while Mary follows on the ass. He is so figured
on the sculptured doors of the cathedral of Beneventum, and in the
cathedral of Monreale, both executed by Greek artists.[1] But we are
not to suppose that the Holy Family was left defenceless on the long
journey. The angels who had charge concerning them were sent to guide
them by day, to watch over them by night, to pitch their tent before
them, and to refresh them with celestial fruit and flowers. By the
introduction of these heavenly ministers the group is beautifully

[Footnote 1: 11th century. Also at Città di Castello; same date.]

Joseph, says the Gospel story, "arose by night;" hence there is both
meaning and propriety in those pictures which represent the Flight
as a night-scene, illuminated by the moon and stars, though I believe
this has been done more to exhibit the painter's mastery over effects
of dubious light, than as a matter of biblical accuracy. Sometimes an
angel goes before, carrying a torch or lantern, to light them on the
way; sometimes it is Joseph who carries the lantern.

In a picture by Nicolo Poussin, Mary walks before, carrying the
Infant; Joseph follows, leading the ass; and an angel guides them.

The journey did not, however, comprise one night only. There is,
indeed, an antique tradition, that space and time were, on this
occasion, miraculously shortened to secure a life of so much
importance; still, we are allowed to believe that the journey extended
over many days and nights; consequently it lay within the choice of
the artist to exhibit the scene of the Flight either by night or by

In many representations of the Flight into Egypt, we find in the
background men sowing or cutting corn. This is in allusion to the

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